Blog to Self

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Jackson (sort of, eventually): So Long

I was travelling recently, and didn't have time before leaving to put music on my MP3 player. Actually I realized right before I had to go that I had deleted the software that my MP3 player came with (while clearing memory to defrag my hard drive), and then discovered that I couldn't use iTunes to add some recently acquired music to my MP3 player. (As a librarian specializing in music, video, and web 2.0 stuff, I should know/foresee these things, but I lose patience with it in managing my own music, so it's stayed fuzzy in my mind. All I know for sure is that it's complicated. I was using iTunes by default, even though I don't like it, because I decided not to buy the Media Monkey software that I had been using, and now I think I will, since the Yahoo Music thing I had tried before was also annoying me with some weirdness relating to DRM I think. The whole fact that this is such an issue at all gives me a headache.)

Anyway, the main point is that I took some blank discs since I knew I wanted to burn copies of the new music I had acquired recently. One was Belle and Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress." Another was Michael Jackson's "Thriller." But mainly I wanted to burn the Belle and Sebastian. So there I am in the Detroit airport burning a disc on my laptop. I was in a little bit of a hurry since I had only just enough time before I had to board my connecting flight to burn the disc on my old laptop. Somehow when creating a play list to burn, I included some things I didn't intend along with the Belle and Sebastian. So I ended up with a disc (basically for use in my car) that opens with Simon and Garfunkel's tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright, "So Long," followed by the whole of Belle and Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress, " capped off by Michael Jackson's "Baby Be Mine" from "Thriller."

Which brings me to the whole point of this post. When listening to the disc in the car, then, later in the week, the disc came to an end, and then replayed, with the result that immediately after the infectious Michael Jackson song, I heard Paul Simon singing "So Long":

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I can't believe your song is gone so soon.
I barely learned the tune

This seemed a very fitting bit of synchronous happenstance. To me the spirit of the song was touchingly appropriate to the memory of Michael Jackson in spite of the asynchronous elements. The lines above, certainly. Even "I barely learned the tune," apparently ridiculous given the familiarity of Jackson's many hits, I think is appropriate, since Jackson's public identity was so fraught with sensationalism, scandal, and an air of unreality. Who would Jackson have become if he had had a more normal childhood, or managed to grow up more fully, before being subjected to the degree of overwhelming success he achieved very early in his life? Did we really "learn the tune" of who he was?

The "talk of the town" suggests that Jackson's downfall was prescription drug-related, and it seems all too likely. The sadness this brings to me, as a partial explanation of such a tragic end, seems well expressed by this wonderful bit of songwriting.

So long
So long