"The only proof of strength is excess of strength" - Nietzsche
Just because someone's star burned bright, doesn't mean they don't flame out. We as an audience have a short attention span, thus making it near impossible for any one person or thing to stay relevant forever, and unfortunately continued productivity does not equal lasting relevance.
Perhaps the most tragic facet of the deaths of both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson is that each have seen their respective flames burn out over the past two decades. The past fifteen years or so saw little musical or social contribution from Jackson, the man who single-handedly provided a soundtrack to the 80's. In the absence of productivity and cultural resonance, it is sadly only natural that the public and the media feed our appetite for information by delving into the personal lives of such figures, often riddled with fiasco just as our own (albeit on a grander scale).
FormerEnglishMajor, at Gawker suggests:
It is the ones who die young, like Marilyn Monroe or, say, Elvis, who maintain their reputations. If Marilyn ended up looking like Shelley Winters; and Elvis continued what would have been an appalling slide, they wouldn't be so worshipped.
One day, Madonna will be the next great Rock and Roll death. By that point, however, will we remember her for trailblazing the pop landscape of the late 80's with social and political discourse? It seems more likely that the memory of her will be impossibly muddled with the public fiasco that is her recent love life.
Yesterday, I was disappointed to hear that Michael Jackson was the butt of a barrage of disrespect at a friend's workplace. Sure, Jackson faced his fair share of scandal, but at he was never found guilty, it is appallingly unfair to burn an unmatched and outstanding artistic legacy at this point.
It seems as though America has an issue with productivity. Our young country's Puritanical hangover induces a strong stench of what-have-you-done-lately fervor. Add to this a mass of people who lack the ability to connect with art on a profound level, and the personal hell that is celebrity is revealed.
Everyone loves "Beat It" and there is no denying that playing "Billy Jean" at the most unsophisticated of dive bars will still get people moving, but does the average Joe suffer chills upon hearing a classic Jackson riff? Unless subtle nuances in the music touches one on a spiritual or emotional level, the relationship between artist and audience is cyclic, vapid and voracious.
My friend Jordan Bach recently Tweeted on Jackson:
The same sad, lonely life that ironically made him a consummate entertainer. We've seen people like this before. Judy Garland. We used them?
Ultimately, we have been dealt a great tragedy. Unfortunately it is a passing that will unavoidably be marred by circumstance and shallowness. I only hope that in time, the complicated and vague details of Michael Jackson's private life will shrink to a short blurb on his Wikipedia, so that only the beat will go on.