Michael Jackson: Common Name, Uncommon Life

Written 15 July 2009.

Hello Grievers,

It’s now been 19 days since Michael Jackson’s aborted attempt to recreate the more confronting scenes in Trainspotting, and not much has been written about his life, his death and his legacy. One thing I have learnt from the scant coverage is this man was not an eccentric freak, but rather a misunderstood genius. He lived a tormented life: thrust into the spotlight at an early age, incapable of making friends, hounded by the tabloids. Now he is gone, and it is time for your reminiscing raconteur to review his life and work in a typically crude and potentially libellous special edition.

Welcome to Michael Jackson: Common Name, Uncommon Life.

I like to think that Michael is now at peace. I picture him up in heaven, molesting entertaining Jayden Leskie and Madeleine McCann, waiting patiently for the Jonas Brothers to be killed in a car crash. No doubt his moonwalk is even more impressive when performed on a cloud, and I understand Jim Morrison managed to smuggle a sizable amount of prescription painkillers through the Pearly Gates. Best of all, Joseph Jackson is not on the door, he is still amongst us, the living, and it is with him that the story begins.

Joseph Jackson was born in a train carriage between Ohio and California in 1845, the son of carnie folk: she was the bearded lady, he was one of those guys who tattoos his entire body with a jigsaw montage. Unfortunately, Joe’s father hadn’t put much thought into his carnie career, and you couldn’t actually see the tattoos on his black skin.

Joe’s childhood was bereft of money and luxuries, but his ambition never stalled. He resented his father for wasting so much money on his indistinguishable tattoos, and his mother’s coarse skin was not made for tender kisses. He yearned to be free of them, and at age nine, while travelling through Indiana, he organised the purchase of a young piccaninny, rechristened her Katherine, and married her. This was Joe’s first experience of exploiting those closest to him for personal gain, and it was a trait that would continue for almost two centuries. That’s right: Joe Jackson is 164 years old.

Fast forward to 1958: Joseph and Katherine, proud Jehovah’s Witnesses have 18 children, 12 of which perform in a church based choir named Joseph’s 12 Apostles. After missing a note in practice, mostly because he was only six months old, young Judas Jackson was whipped severely. He blamed the star of the troupe, Jesus Jackson, for showing him up with some admittedly impressive dance moves involving bread, fish, a gerbil and half a tube of KY. Angry at the beating, Judas sold the management rights of Joseph’s 12 Apostles to Kyle Sandilands, forever condemning the band to ridicule and a total lack of sales.

Joseph was angry, so angry he disowned the entire group. That night he placed an order with Katherine for five more sons, and exactly 45 months later, on 29 August 1958, the fifth was born. He was named Peter Jackson. To avoid confusion with the cigarette brand, he was later renamed Michael Jackson.

By the late 60s, the Jackson 5 was the hottest band in town. The group was comprised of Michael, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, former US President Andrew Jackson, AFL footballer and battery enthusiast Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson, and actor and noted hard man Samuel L Jackson. Put together, the vocal harmonies were magical.

But Michael yearned for more, and sometime in the 1970s (I can’t be bothered looking it up), he cast off the shackles of his freeloading brothers to release his debut solo album, Colour Me Michael.  This was not a big seller, but its follow up, 1977’s Off The Wall, was a big hit. Michael was in the black. The 70s also provided Michael with his first romantic interest, with the heir to the throne of pop briefly dating the future Mrs John McEnroe.

Shortly after this, Michael teamed up with Quincy Jones to start working on a brand new album. Hearing that his son was making money, and wanting to garnishee most of it to support his $3,000-a-day moustache habit, Joseph Jackson returned to his son’s side, attending the filming of video for the new album’s title track.

Now Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly opposed to depictions of mythical, occult or supernatural themes, so imagine Joe’s chagrin when he sees his son dressed up like in red cellophane, using witch’s hats for shoulder pads and gyrating astride a man done up to look like Frankenstein’s Monster. Suffice to say he was not amused.

This was a seminal moment in the Michael Jackson story, because after Jehovah’s witnessing this atrocity, Joe did the only sensible thing: he went straight to Haiti to place a voodoo curse on his son. Remembering his father’s stupidity, recalling his son’s impatience, Joe hexed Michael so that the colour would drain from his skin, and the jigsaw tattoo would collapse, and the world would only see a broken man.

Joseph Jackson is not a nice man.

But Joe did not curse the music, he knew that Michael making money was good for his retirement plan (and don’t we all know how important super is now, what with the GFC and everything), and Thriller was a big hit. This album was followed by Bad, the only album in US history to contain five US #1 singles.

(CP: This record has since been equalled by Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.)

His next album was Dangerous, the biggest selling New Jack Swing album of all time. A now white Jackson celebrated this success by secretly marrying Macauley Culkin in a beautiful service in the Caribbean. I’m just making that bit up — they only ever lived in sin.

But marriage was now on Jacko’s mind, which proved an interesting contrast to his nose, which was now on his knee. Hoping to channel the spirit of a man with similarly peculiar mating habits (historical note: Priscilla was 14 when she met Elvis), Michael married Lisa Marie Presley. This marriage was based on love, mutual interests, shared goals and an intellectual connection. It was in no way used as a publicity stunt for Michael’s next album.

That album, which was part greatest hits, part not hits, part gigantic statue promotion was entitled HIStory: Past, Present and Future – Book 1. For the first time in his life, Michael sang with one of his sisters, the hugely successful track and field star Marjorie Jackson. This album also included the single, You Are Not Alone, which was the first song to debut at #1 on the US charts. Sales were spurred on by the music video, which when paused in the right place, reveals Michael’s left testicle.

Not long after, Michael released a remix and offcuts CD, the largely underappreciated Blood on the Dancefloor: HIStory in the Mix. It was after this release that Michael’s life began to unravel. Well, let’s be honest, you have to wonder whether it had ever been ravelled in the first place, but it was from here on in that it went from amusingly bizarre to totally bonkers.

On a tour of Australia, Michael married his nurse, Debbie Rowe. He then paid for her to carry someone else’s child, rinse and repeat, so that Michael became the father to two kids: Prince and Paris. After paying off Debbie, Michael did the same with another woman, and a third child, known as Blanket, but actually named Prince II, was brought into his happy little world. It’s no surprise the boys he’d been inviting over for slumber parties started feeling displaced, and in 2005, Michael Jackson went on trial for sexual assault. And although the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict, no one could forget just how bad Invincible was, and he was never forgiven.

But in death we are all equal.

You can get the truth about Michael from Wikipedia, and you can get the rumours from the Tabloids, and you can get a lot of chills listening to Joseph Jackson, but only I have the balls, the contacts and the temerity (but most of all, the time) to tell the whole story.

This has been Michael Jackson: Common Name, Uncommon Life.

Top 20 Michael Jackson Songs


Wanna Be Startin’ Something


Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough


You Are Not Alone


In The Closet


Billie Jean




Stranger In Moscow


Just Good Friends




They Don’t Really Care About Us


You Rock My World




Man In The Mirror




Beat It


The Way You Make Me Feel


Remember The Time


Blood On The Dancefloor


Black Or White


Smooth Criminal

As he came into the window it was the sound of a crescendo.

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