Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009, leaving behind a lot more unanswered questions than bad debts. Time has been kind to his legacy though. His music has been revived, introduced to and welcomed by new generations around the world.
US pop star Michael Jackson sings with children on stage during the eighth World Music Awards ceremony in Monaco on May 9, 1996. Pic/AFP
His estate earns more money than most living celebrities do. And, as for the unanswered questions, there have been attempts at answers made by everyone from his family members and former business partners to casual acquaintances, conspiracy theorists, and even a couple of bodyguards hired by him in his fading years.
It was with a certain amount of trepidation, then, that I picked up Steve Knopper’s attempt to make sense of the Jackson phenomenon. Was there anything left to say? It turns out, happily, that there was.
MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson, Steve Knopper, Simon & Schuster, Rs 699. Available at leading bookstores and e-stores
What this contributing editor at Rolling Stone has done is marvellous for two reasons: first, he separates fact from fiction, gently steering us away from how tabloids covered Michael Jackson all his life. Second, he manages to remind us all of why we were so enamoured by — and stayed enamoured by — Jackson’s incredible music to begin with.
It’s fair to point out that Jackson was possibly the world’s last megastar, recognised even in corners of the world where his music wasn’t. Knopper takes a clear-eyed approach to this fascinating, oft-told story, stopping along the way to repudiate some of the sordid stories that sometimes tended to obscure Jackson’s magic.
For fans, the book will reveal new facets of a fairly familiar story, embellished with interviews and anecdotes. For the odd person who picks it up simply to figure out what made Jackson such a loved, yet polarising figure, Knopper’s well-balanced approach will be hard to beat.
What emerges is the indisputable fact that Jackson was a perfectionist who worked harder than most people, to make sure his music and dancing would endure long after he did. It doesn’t answer all questions, of course, considering how complicated its subject is. What it does do, however, is remind us of what we lost back in 2009. They just don’t make stars like him anymore.