Michael Jackson – A life in Pictures

Michael Jackson – A Life In Pictures
By Candice Bal
Pavilion – £25.00

‘’When you look out over the stage, as far as the naked eye can see, you see people. And, it’s a wonderful feeling, but it came with a lot of pain, a lot of pain.’’

So said Michael Jackson in 1995, which, in relation to his death and in hindsight, says an awful lot. Had he only listened to himself, perhaps things would have turned out differently. Had he only listened to himself rather than his huge entourage of sycophantic misfits, perhaps Michael Jackson would still be alive today.

As it is, it feels strange to be writing about the death of someone I grew up with. Not grew up with in the literal sense, obviously, but in the sense that he was always there. Like Coronation Street and The News.

Like Elvis, Michael Jackson fans loved him to death – literally. He was indeed, stupidly, quintessentially, and obsequiously revered beyond madness. But unlike Elvis, Jackson was surrounded by family – among them, both his parents and a menagerie of siblings.

So what went wrong and could his death have been averted?

As I write, the ongoing inquest still appears to implicate Jackson’s doctor; bus as is written herein: ‘’there are rumours of an overdose, suicide or a plot.’’ Perhaps we will never know. Perhaps we ought not to know. At the end of the day, what business is it of ours as to how and why Michael Jackson died?

Hadn’t he already given us enough?

Michael Jackson – A Life In Pictures shows how, from a very early age (perhaps too early) the so-called King of Pop, both developed and self-destructed before our very eyes. In the early photographs, we see a tender, wide-eyed and smiling little boy, shaking hands with Ed Sullivan in 1970. This is further supplemented with an array of black and white photographs, in which we continue to see the same innocent little boy, forever smiling, forever posing for the camera. A device, which when you think about it, was to deny Jackson of his childhood and ultimately, the one thing he so clearly craved throughout his much of his adult life: his privacy.

At the outset of the book, Candice Bal candidly writes of the singer’s renowned ‘Peter Pan Syndrome,’ in which she reiterates much of the above in no uncertain, yet realistic terms; ‘’In 1988 Michael Jackson turned 30 and reflected on 25 years of show business in his autobiography, Moonwalk. It described his stolen childhood, his passion for show business, his loneliness, the perennial thwarting of his ambitions, his mystical vision of existence and of his role as an artist. Between the lines, he revealed himself as both pitiably fragile and fiercely irrational.’’

Why those close to Jackson, couldn’t for themselves read between the lines, is a veritable mystery. One need only look at some of the pictures taken after 2005, to ascertain that all was not well. But as Germaine Greer so accurately stated shortly after the singer’s death, ‘’Michael Jackson led his life, akin to that of a lost deer, in the middle of a forest which had just caught fire.’’

Fantastic photographs aside, there’s honesty and a poignancy about Michael Jackson: A Life in Pictures that’s to be applauded. As a whole, it’s an impressive, albeit emotional photographic deconstruction of a star’s life – gone horribly wrong.

May he finally rest in peace.

David Marx


One response to “Michael Jackson – A life in Pictures

  1. “Had he only listened to himself rather than his huge entourage of sycophantic misfits, perhaps Michael Jackson would still be alive today.”

    Jackson didn’t have a huge entourage. It was just a few bodyguards for the sake of security (that he routinely changed every few years — nothing “sycophantic” about that) and sometimes a nanny and cook (but they weren’t constant either). I realise this is an older post of yours, but this is information that was known even before his death.

    “He was indeed, stupidly, quintessentially, and obsequiously revered beyond madness.”

    Over the past two decades he was basically seen as a human punching bag (yes, even by people who called themselves fans of his). He even felt intense pressure and criticism at what some call “the height of his fame” with Thriller. Yet those who knew him throughout the years consistently speak of how he remained humble.

    It’s a shame it took his death for Michael Jackson to regain respect as an artist again. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for him to regain respect as a human being. I’m continuously astounded by the lack of knowledge and assumptions people make about Jackson and his life. The real man (as opposed to the media caricature) was both compassionate and shrewd, and not the Peter Pan fruitcake people made him out to be.

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