Far from being unusual, Mr. Jackson was quite common for a talented creator who spent much of his life, self destructing. Just as love and hate live side by side, creativity lives in disharmony with destruction. Many creative people have terrible trouble dealing with impulses, money and fame. Yet pursue these three things all the way to the bitter end. Often, finding true fame in a sordid, early death. The truly tragic cases are those who have or buy children to haul along on this downward death spiral.
First, Mr. Armstrong, the cyclist with a very unsettled life, is driven to recreate his past over and over again, like Sisyphus doomed to roll his rock uphill over and over again, each time, it crushes him and he must begin again. The Rolling Stones are an example of old, worn out men attempting to recreate their glory over and over even though they should have grown up long ago.
Discarding wives, ignoring the needs of children, this army of Peter Pans and White Bone Demon females who use the dark arts of doctors and make up artists, the ones who survive their depravity get to age in all seriousness. Eventually, they look mummified and dead, inside and out. Like Marlene Dietrich, just for example, living in total isolation, afraid of being seen as old and ugly, they die alone.
The glories of youth must be transcended if one wishes to live a full and useful life where there is some sort of mental/philosophical advancement as time passes: the accumulation of events leading towards a greater understanding rather than a retreat to the retreads of the past.
He won’t and can’t stop. He will madly pedal away until his heart finally gives up. Instead of happiness, he is filled with despair. He is trying to beat the Grim Reaper and we all know who will win this race against time. No matter how hard he might try to appear young, his body knows time is passing and eventually, the truth will be obvious even to Armstrong, as his heart thunders in his chest and the grave yawns at his feet. Time to exit.
Instead of trying to prove he is number one, he has to sit down and figure out who he really is. Is he a heroic athlete? Or is he getting old? I remember being nearly 40 years old. I didn’t feel old at all. But the first signs of age were there. Now, I can’t ignore the arthritis in my right shoulder due to a lifetime of hard work and even more active play. I did sword fighting for many years, for example, and my arm feels it in spade.
Armstrong is doomed to chase younger and younger women just like all those many rock stars and other older men. The illusion of being sexy is easy so long as there is lots of money. But the money gets harder and harder to get as the guys age. Each divorce leads to a smaller and smaller estate as the Beatle, Paul, discovered.
Jackson made it to 50 years of age which is miraculous considering that most people like him die before that age. The power of modern medicine is amazing, isn’t it? The stories about how he abused the children he purchased is coming out in the news now that he is dead. For example, none of them ever had any teachers at all and were dragged all over the earth, from place to place, literally camping out like gypsies. It is all very sad but quite common. The history of his type of creative genius/chaos loving personality is always terrible when it combines with helpless children. It didn’t take me very long to think of dozens of similar people in the past, most of whom were immense cultural giants, far above Jackson:
Mozart’s physical appearance was described by tenor Michael Kelly, in his Reminiscences: “a remarkable small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain”. As his early biographer Niemetschek wrote, “there was nothing special about [his] physique. […] He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius.” His facial complexion was pitted, a reminder of his childhood case of smallpox. He loved elegant clothing. Kelly remembered him at a rehearsal: “[He] was on the stage with his crimson pelisse and gold-laced cocked hat, giving the time of the music to the orchestra.” Of his voice Constanze later wrote that it “was a tenor, rather soft in speaking and delicate in singing, but when anything excited him, or it became necessary to exert it, it was both powerful and energetic”.
Mozart usually worked long and hard, finishing compositions at a tremendous pace as deadlines approached. He often made sketches and drafts, though unlike Beethoven’s these are mostly not preserved, Constanze having sought to destroy them after his death.
Sounds like a Jackson clone, doesn’t he? The same taste in clothes, the utterly out of control finances. The need to find money and that being a goad for more creativity. In the case of Jackson, he was showered with obscene amounts of wealth which allowed him to completely goof off for a decade at a shot. Which means, his legacy is actually much, much smaller and less significant that that dynamo, Mozart.
Unlike Jackson, who was trying to ride his own tattered coat tails in the end, Mozart even composed one of the world’s most amazing Requiems before dying.
When I was a child, we moved from Yerkes Observatory to McDonald Observatory. On the way, all of my mother’s record collection got warped by the sun except for one: Mozart’s Requiem. So, she played only this for six months. It is pretty much part of my memory systems. It was Bruno Walter conducting, which meant it was utterly divine.
Although there is a lot of hysteria about how great Jackson was because he could dance in odd ways, his influence was mostly negative, I fear. The imitators swarm all over the place. But the dancing isn’t uplifting but rather, is the final outgrowth of the rock/street dance. It is certainly a cultural artifact. But it doesn’t lead one down the path to other things that are of a ‘higher’ nature.
Speaking of true revolutionary dancers, there is the amazing and utterly self destructive Isadora Duncan:
By the end of her life, Duncan’s performing career had dwindled and she became as notorious for her financial woes, scandalous love life, and all-too-frequent public drunkenness as for her contributions to the arts. She spent her final years moving between Paris and the Mediterranean, running up debts at hotels or spending short periods in apartments rented on her behalf by an ever-decreasing number of friends and supporters, many of whom attempted to assist her in writing an autobiography, in the hope that it would be sufficiently successful to support her….
Duncan was a passenger in the Amilcar automobile of a handsome French-Italian mechanic, Benoît Falchetto, whom she had nicknamed ‘Buggatti’ [sic]. Before getting into the car, she said to a friend, Mary Desti (mother of 1940s Hollywood writer-director Preston Sturges)…”Je vais à l’amour” (“I am off to love”)…
Whatever her actual last words, when Falchetto drove off, Duncan’s immense handpainted silk scarf, which was a gift from Desti and was large enough to be wrapped around her body and neck and flutter out of the car, became entangled around one of the vehicle’s open-spoked wheels and rear axle. As The New York Times noted in its obituary of the dancer on September 15, 1927,
Isadora Duncan came onstage, literally alone, just herself, barefoot and clad in a light, loose gown…when women didn’t dare show their ankles, and never went barefoot. Even the dancers wore shoes. Ballet dancers did wear very provocative dresses and showed their well-formed legs in public. But were considered ‘dirty’ and were not socially admired but were the love of the males who gathered in the lower seats to get a good look at the knickers while the ladies sat in the balconies and saw only the stiff, spreading dresses.
Then onstage came this strange American girl, defiant and aloof at the same time. Blazing with intensity, she showed the ballet dancers that women could be choreographers. All the top ballet dancers rushed off to see her and learn from her and she inspired a tsunami of changes not only in the dance world, but in the entire culture. Women who wore corsets from 1500 to 1900 suddenly began to throw them away.
Fashion designers flocked to see this girl trip and skip about the stage and left with their heads filled with a heady wine. Her personality was imprinted upon the entire Edwardian Age and when WWI came crashing down on everyone’s heads, she changed into a revolutionary and took dance to yet another, deeper stage of expression which again, the ballet choreographers rushed to catch up with her.
Tragedy dogged her dancing feet. Unable to have stable relationships, she also suffered the loss of her beloved children and this pretty much broke her inner self and she was increasingly desperate to distract herself as her body declined. She died an amazing death at the same age as Michael Jackson. Jackson, by the way, did not invent an entirely new style of dancing. He enlarged the MTV-style of dance but he didn’t burst into it from nowhere. That was done by others, many years earlier. He was one of a number of similar dancer/singers and was very polished.
Isadora Duncan was very unpolished. She was seriously interested in the soul and trying to express some sort of moral and metaphysical belief system. She failed in this enterprise but at least, she tried to scale Mt. Olympus. Whereas, Jackson was content to cavort with the fauns on the lower slopes of that lofty mountain, home to Pegasus. Jackson’s biggest hits were all about urban street fighting or zombies. It was not very elevating. Here is another cultural giant who also died at 50 years of age:
The final impetus for Mahler’s departure from the Vienna Opera was a generous offer from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He conducted a season there in 1908, only to be set aside in favor of Arturo Toscanini; while he had been enormously popular with public and critics alike, he had fallen out of favor with the trustees of the board of the Met. Back in Europe, with his marriage in crisis and Alma’s infidelity having been revealed, Mahler, in 1910, had a single (and apparently helpful) consultation with Sigmund Freud.
Having now signed a contract to conduct the long-established New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Mahler and his family travelled again to America. At this time, he completed his Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), and his Symphony No. 9, which would be his last completed work. In February 1911, during a long and demanding concert season in New York, Mahler fell seriously ill with a streptococcal blood infection, and conducted his last concert in a fever (the programme included the world premiere ofFerruccio Busoni‘s Berceuse élégiaque). Returning to Europe, he was taken to Paris, where a new serum had recently been developed. He did not respond, however, and was taken back to Vienna at his request. He died there from his infection on 18 May 1911 at the age of 50, leaving his Symphony No. 10 unfinished…
Mahler’s widow reported that his last word was “Mozartl” (a diminutive, corresponding to ‘dear little Mozart’).
There are so many tragic aspects to Mahler’s short life! It is heartbreaking. For example, he wrote a series of intense and heartbreaking songs set to the poems by Rückert which he wrote upon the deaths of his own children. After writing this divine music, Mahler’s lovely little 4 year old daughter, who was born the year he composed this music, died of a fever. Like Isadora Duncan, he had to carry this burden that I think is unendurable. I am amazed that both continued to create despite this terrible, impossible, pain! It hurts to even think about what this did to such sensitive souls.
Hitler was a Mahler partisan in Vienna before WWI and after WWI, when Hitler came to power, he sought to eradicate Mahler, not only his music, but literally, kill his entire family. I always was very devoted to Mahler’s works ever since I found his symphony #4 when I was about 8 years old. Bruno Walter conducting, again. He was a personal friend of Mahler and his recordings are probably the most accurate interpretations of Mahler’s music. Certainly, his Symphony #9 is by far, the most exquisite.
Mahler, like Mozart, like Isadora, put out immense amounts of effort and produced much more than his own stuff. He was a great conductor and musical researcher. As well as a teacher and he was very engaged in the cultural debates of his day. Let’s go on to another tragic member of this generation, the explosion of creativity of the 1880-1914: Oscar Wilde…
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the lateVictorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day….
Though Wilde’s sexual orientation has variously been considered bisexual and homosexual, Wilde himself felt he belonged to a culture of male love inspired by the Greek paederastic tradition. In describing his own sexual identity, Wilde used the term Socratic. He had significant sexual relationships with (in chronological order) Frank Miles, Constance Lloyd (Wilde’s wife), Robbie Ross, and Lord Alfred Douglas (known as “Bosie”). Wilde also had numerous sexual encounters with working-class male youths, who were often male prostitutes.
Some biographers believe Wilde was made fully aware of his own and others’ homosexuality in 1885 (the year after his wedding) by the 17-year-old Robbie Ross. Neil McKenna’s biography The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (2003) theorises that Wilde was aware of his homosexuality much earlier, from the moment of his first kiss with another boy at the age of 16. According to McKenna, after arriving at Oxford in 1874, Wilde tentatively explored his sexuality, discovering that he could feel passionate romantic love for “fair, slim” choirboys, but was more sexually drawn towards the swarthy young rough trade. By the late 1870s, Wilde was already preoccupied with the philosophy of same-sex love, and had befriended a group of Uranian (pederastic) poets and homosexual law reformers, becoming acquainted with the work of gay-rights pioneer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. Wilde also met Walt Whitman in America in 1882, boasting to a friend that “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips”. He even lived with the society painter Frank Miles, who was a few years his senior and may have been his lover. However, writes McKenna, Wilde was at one time unhappy with the direction of his sexual and romantic desires and, hoping that marriage would “cure” him, he married Constance in 1884. McKenna’s account has been criticised by some reviewers who find it too speculative, although not necessarily implausible.….
Prison was unkind to Wilde’s health and after he was released on 19 May 1897, he spent his last three years penniless, in self-imposed exile from society and artistic circles. He went under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth, after the famously “penetrated” Saint Sebastian and the devilish central character of Wilde’s great-uncle Charles Robert Maturin‘s gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer….
Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on 30 November 1900. Different opinions are given as to the cause of the meningitis; Richard Ellmann claimed it was syphilitic; Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, thought this to be a misconception, noting that Wilde’s meningitis followed a surgical intervention, perhaps a mastoidectomy; Wilde’s physicians, Dr. Paul Cleiss and A’Court Tucker, reported that the condition stemmed from an old suppuration of the right ear (une ancienne suppuration de l’oreille droite d’ailleurs en traitement depuis plusieurs années) and did not allude to syphilis. Most modern scholars and doctors agree that syphilis was unlikely to have been the cause of his death.
He died younger than Jackson! And he went to prison on far less serious charges, nay, what he did is quite natural and his imprisonment was a crime. Unlike seduction of children, he had consensual adult sex. He wasn’t a towering figure like Isadora Duncan or Mahler, but he was extremely important because his defense of his own love life was the first step in a long, long, long road for gays to get social protection and civil rights. And he certainly inspired a firestorm of attractions. He was a MEDIA giant and thus, much closer to Jackson than any of the others.
Beardsley illustrated Oscar Wilde‘s play Salomé – the play eventually premiered in Paris in 1896. He also produced extensive illustrations for books and magazines (e.g. for a deluxe edition of Sir Thomas Malory‘s Le Morte d’Arthur) and worked for magazines likeThe Savoy and The Studio. Beardsley also wrote Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic tale based loosely on the legend of Tannhäuser.
Beardsley was also a caricaturist and did some political cartoons, mirroring Wilde’s irreverent wit in art. Beardsley’s work reflected thedecadence of his era and his influence was enormous, clearly visible in the work of the French Symbolists, the Poster art Movement of the 1890s and the work of many later-period Art Nouveau artists like Pape and Clarke.
Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, “I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.” Wilde said he had “a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair.” Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher’s in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.
Although Beardsley was aligned with the homosexual clique that included Oscar Wilde and other English aesthetes, the details of his sexuality remain in question. He was generally regarded as asexual—which is hardly surprising, considering his chronic illness and his devotion to his work. Speculation about his sexuality include rumors of an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried.
Through his entire career, Beardsley had recurrent attacks of the disease that would end it. He suffered frequent lung hemorrhages and was often unable to work or leave his home.
Beardsley’s emphasis of the erotic element is present in many of his drawings, but nowhere as boldly as in his illustrations for Lysistratawhich were done for a privately printed edition at a time when he was totally out of favor with polite society. One of his last acts after converting to Catholicism was to plead with his publisher to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings…by all that is holy all obscene drawings.” His publisher, Leonard Smithers, not only ignored Beardsley wishes, but continued to sell reproductions and outright forgeries of Beardsley’s work.
I loved Beardsely’s drawings and bought a book of his works when I was about 15 years old and copied some of his styles. He died half of Jackson’s age. He was certainly a fashion icon on many levels, personal as well as artistic. Like his friend, Oscar Wilde.
Modern media systems creates lots of hysteria as well as magnifying the services of various people so they loom much bigger than they deserve. Indeed, the ‘classical’ culture represented by Mahler and Duncan has shrunk down to nearly the vanishing point while glib, short, vapid fashionable fare is given the heft and weight. Far from a lifetime of putting out more and more mature, more amazing work, we see our cultural icons resting on ancient laurels and struggling to pen even one more song. This is nearly excruciatingly painful for them. So they return to drinking, drugs and abusing sex partners of all sorts including, totally illegal ones.