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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael and Elvis

As everyone knows by now, Michael Jackson has passed away.

In my mind there are two people who forever changed the face of music by their popularity and by their unbelievable success and hard work. Those two people would be Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Now don't get me wrong, there are others FAR more talented and innovative than these two. Many others. However, for whatever reason Michael and Elvis struck a cord with the common folks and as a result catapulted to the most outrageous success and immortal status.

Their individual endings were nearly exact. Both had placed their trust in a doctor who, I believe, abused that trust and both paid the ultimate price for it.

Both of these men were simple men. I realize they didn't live like simple men but in their hearts they were ordinary men who had accomplished extraordinary things. By ordinary simple men I mean this: In all the tabloids and "news" programs throughout the years you have never heard anyone ever say that either Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley was rude or mean to anyone. Never. You also never hear that either of them ever refused to help anyone when asked. Never.

You hear about their excesses and their weird behavior and their weight issues (Elvis too big - Michael too small) but never have you ever heard that either one of them ever abused anyone.

That brings up the children issue with Michael. I, for one, never believed those stories. I always felt that they were made up to extort money from Michael. Now, I am the first to admit that his having kids over all the time for sleep overs was inappropriate and beyond weird, but I don't believe he behaved inappropriately with them. I believe he took that time to act as a child with them and do the things he never got to do as a child. I really do. IF anything untoward happened with these children, I blame their parents for it because their parents placed those children in that position. I liken it to my taking my young child to the zoo and then unlocking the door to the lion's den and putting my child in there and walking away. Then when I come back, my child has been eaten alive and I want to punish the lion??? I know that is rather simplistic but truly the responsibility for our children's safety ultimately lies with the parent.

I am most certainly not saying that if Michael did something wrong with the children that he should not be punished - not at all. However, I don't believe he did anything other than play with them as if he were their age. Last time I checked being weird was not against the law.

Then you have Elvis. He was an overly kind and gentle man who, like Michael, never seemed to grow up. He, like Michael, paid (in my opinion) too much attention to what his parents said and always obeyed them without question. He, like Michael, lost the ability very early on to go out and have fun like all the other young people and had to resort to paying stores and amusement parks and theaters to shut down so that he and his friends could have fun or shop or watch a movie without being bothered. It's a shame really. I don't understand people's need to intrude on a stranger simply because they've seen them on TV or in the movies or heard their voice on a record. I have never understood that and I never will. What's the purpose of bothering them? Will they remember you 2 hours later? No. Will they become your BFF? Hell, no. They will look at you as a bother and a nuisance that you are and will wish you to go away and leave them in peace.

I can remember seeing Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Four Tops, Booker T, Rufus Thomas, Johnny Taylor, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and others out and about in Memphis. I can remember seeing Elvis at the Cadillac dealership on Union Avenue where he bought his cars. No one bothered him. People would sneak peeks at him but no one approached him uninvited. No one invaded his space. The local folks loved him but we also knew that he wanted some space and we gave it to him. Elvis was very approachable and never was unkind to anyone who approached him but in my memory anyway, the only people I ever saw approach him were tourists.

I remember once sitting at the Arcade Restaurant on Main street in Memphis with my parents and my brother eating breakfast and Elvis walked in with Jerry Schilling and George Klein and some other older guy. They walked past us and sat in the booth behind us. My brother and I knew who Elvis was and we wanted to turn around in our seats and stare but our father put a stop to that quickly. He told us that Elvis was just another patron of the restaurant and that's the way he wanted it so we were to leave him to eat in peace and if he wanted to speak to us, he would. That was the opinion of everyone locally back then. And we respected that.

I hate it that Michael is gone. I remember when he was 6 and singing with his brothers. I remember when he was a teenager and came out with his first solo album (which I bought). I remember when he came out with Thriller (which I bought) I remember his entire life almost as if he were a cousin or something because we grew up together. Not together but at the same time. He was a year younger than me and I watched him from afar dating and marrying and falling from grace and climbing back up and I watched his successes and his failures. In a strange way, I will miss him. Even though I never knew him, I will miss him.

In a strange way, I miss Elvis. Whenever the world makes a genuinely nice person and that person is taken from us too soon, they will be missed as if we knew them intimately.

And in my opinion, both Michael and Elvis were genuinely nice people. May they both rest in peace.

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