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Contemplating the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death from Savannah, Ga.



Michael-jackson-filesjpg-66dcaa23cf85867b_large  I'm sitting in a homey cafe in Savannah, Ga., just one day into a long road trip up the side of the East Coast, wondering if we'll ever come to terms with the death of the King of Pop.

Unusual thoughts for a day which is likely to include a stop by Paula Deen's well-known restaurant and a walking tour by a "southern gentleman" known as Savannah Dan. But these thoughts come when they do, and all a writer really can hope to do is get them down with a minimum of misspellings.

I know there's an avalanche of TV programs coming this weekend to commemorate the awful day Michael Jackson died one year ago (talk about overshadowing; is there any media space left for Farrah Fawcett, who saw her tragic recent days compounded by dying on the same day as one of the only other people on the planet more famously troubled than she?)

Michael-jackson-ok-cover_365x495-new The relentless rhythms of modern media demand an orgy of "coverage": It's July, when already shorthanded TV staffs are challenged by vacations; until Stanley McChrystal opened his mouth to Rolling Stone, it was a slow news cycle, in which the continuing oil gusher was expected to be the biggest topic; and it's an easy story to tell through archival footage and such, cobbled together far in advance.

I just hope we manage to separate the very troubled man-child from the groundbreaking artist.

It's a difficult corner to turn, I know. There are some things artists do that make me run from their art, and the open question of whether Jackson ever actually molested children makes it difficult to hear any of his work without troubling, persistent doubts.

But, if you can stand to take a moment in the flood of interviews from former assistants, relatives and assorted hangers-on, turn off the TV and turn on what really mattered: his music.

Check out the electric thrill of funky jams such as Billie Jean, P.Y.T., Working Day and Night and 2000 Watts. Listen to the amazing vocal gymnastics on ballads such as Human Nature, She's Out of My Life and Stranger in Moscow. Sift through his ear for compelling sonic textures on Thriller, Liberian Girl and Smooth Criminal.

Michael-jackson-death-celebrity-reactions I was going to write a snarky column about NBC News' decision to build a Dateline NBC special around an interview with Katherine Jackson it bought from someone who co-wrote a book with her -- ensuring Mrs. Jackson gets no tough questions, creating an instant commercial for her book on Jackson, and leaving open the question of whether the interview subject gets a cut of the money.

But today, while sorting through Savannah's touristy sties, I'm just going to the think about MJ and his music. Perhaps this awful anniversary is reason enough to let the circus rest, at least for one day.

Expect light posting for the next two weeks as I complete my travels. 

[Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:15pm]


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