Posts Tagged Michael Jackson
For a short stretch of time in the early 1990s the most important rock band on the planet was Nirvana. Their 1991 album “Nevermind” shot to the top of the charts and forever changed the face of mainstream music. Many considered the album’s hit single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” an anthem for a generation. They followed that success with the multi-platinum selling 1993 album “In Utero”. Who would have believed that 30 years after the release of that fateful album, Nirvana would be forced to embark on a small club tour in order to help regenerate the lungs of drummer and war hero Dave Grohl?
Things started to go down hill quickly for the band after the success of “In Utero”. Singer Kurt Cobain struggled with substance abuse and made several failed suicide attempts in 1994. The band considered breaking up, but soldiered through the difficult times recording the much-heralded 1995 album “Venice Beach”. While “Venice Beach” was a major critical success, the albums slow pace and “post-grunge” use of only acoustic instruments failed to garner the commercial buzz of the prior two albums. With Cobain’s health and mental state deteriorating, the band took a year and a half long hiatus. Bassist Krist Novoselic and Grohl briefly worked on a demo for a side project called The Foo Fighters, while Cobain divorced from Courtney Love and traveled throughout India in the hopes of turning his life around.
Upon Cobain’s return to America in 1997, Novacelic and Grohl abandoned the Foo Fighters project and returned to the studio with Nirvana. The band attempted to move in a groundbreaking new direction with the 1998 release of “Lost in Olympia”, an album that integrated techno music, polka and bluegrass with Nirvana’s trademark grunge sound. The album was a complete disaster. Commonly acknowledged by fans and critics as The Worst Album of the 20th Century, “Lost in Olympia” barely sold 100,000 copies and became a joke within the industry.
Sensing their time had come and gone, the band again took time off from touring and worked on various projects. Grohl briefly toured with Canadian metal band Voivod before playing on Venom’s 2000 release “Resurrection”. Novoselic started a moderately successful alpaca ranch in Idaho. Cobain worked for four years on the script for a film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s novel “The Bell Jar” which he never completed, only to see another version of the film written by Will Smith win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2005.
In 2004, reunion fever swept the music industry in the wake of Guns’N’Roses release of the genre defining rock album “Chinese Democracy”, which is to date the fourth highest selling album in the history of music behind only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” and Testament’s “Dark Roots of Earth”. Once popular bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Green Jell-O and Nirvana got back in the studio in hopes of capitalizing on the wave of retro-nostalgia. Unfortunately for Nirvana, success continued to elude them and their 2005 heavily “Nevermind” influenced album “Fuzz Knuckle” was considered dead on arrival, barely even receiving airplay on college radio.
Nirvana worked sparingly throughout the next eleven years, appearing briefly on a Limp Bizkit tribute album, writing a jingle for an Arby’s commercial, and opening for pop superstar Kylie Minogue on the Asian leg of her 2009 tour. They began several projects that never saw the light of day, including a depression-ridden Christmas album called “A Season in Hell”, but were never able to put out a complete record. Cobain briefly made news in 2013 with his high-profile six-month marriage to Cher, but quickly faded from the public eye after a nasty divorce. Cobain became a recluse, putting on 200 pounds and spending his days translating the works of Robert Frost into Arabic.
2016 wasn’t a very good year for most people and Nirvana was no exception. The Polish invasion of Europe and subsequent limited nuclear war with the United States caused terrible destruction and horror. Music was the last thing on most people’s minds. The band barely escaped death as Polish tanks rolled into downtown Tupelo, Mississippi in the winter of that year. With most of the East Coast either destroyed by nuclear weapons or overrun by Polish soldiers, Nirvana headed to one of the domed cities in Montana in order to survive.
While in Montana, the band joined with other Polish invasion survivors and formed a militia, which eventually retook all of the US mainland and most of Quebec. Grohl received a medal of distinguished service for his bravery during the Battle of Cleveland in 2019. However, it was during that battle that the Poles released the debilitating biological weapon that has eaten away at his lungs and left him battling for his life.
Life has returned to normal throughout most of America in 2023. Music is again a major part of American life. Cobain and Novoselic have worked tirelessly since the war ended two years ago to raise enough money to bionically regenerate Grohl’s lungs. With his daughter Francis Bean on drums, Nirvana began a 9-month tour of the cities in the Southwest and on the West Coast that are still functional. At a concert last week in Provo, Utah (the new Capital of The United States), Grohl briefly returned to the stage using a set of temporary plastic lungs. The band’s encore of “Come As You Are” sent the 100 or so spectators into fits of wild cheering and screaming. Just for a moment, it felt like 1991 again.
Last week, I got a chance to catch up with one of my favorite artists, Michelle E. Fusco (aka Libertina Grimm). She has a unique talent for creating enchanting visions of enigmatic musicians. Her subjects in the past have included Alice Cooper, King Diamond, Jim Morrison and Dani Filth. She manages to capture the magniloquent beauty of these artists in a way that is both memorable and uncanny. Recently, she has turned her attention towards rendering the image of Michael Jackson in a respectful and deeply loving manner.
What was the moment you discovered you had artistic talent like for you?
I was about 11 or 12 & mostly I remember being happy to have made my father proud of something I did, because he was very hard to please.
Why do you choose to create art?
Once I discovered I could do it, it became my strongest mode of self-expression, and a very effective escape from troubles, stress and reality.
What artist or artists do you feel the deepest connection to?
I feel the deepest connection(s) to Mozart, Michelangelo, Rene Magritte, Michael Jackson, and Stephen King.
You have created art based on many well-known musicians over the years. What makes you settle on a certain subject to work on?
I am only truly inspired by performers that are “outside the box” and seem to have something speaking through them. Like they’re mad to create or something… I’ve explored music in search of these true artists, to whom creating their music is truly an extension of themselves and their lives. Once I find someone who seems to be REAL in that fashion, I feel I must portray them in some paintings, as if somehow to express my appreciation for their efforts in being real artists.
What about Michael Jackson, your current subject, do you most connect to?
My first thought on this one was ‘what DON’T I connect to?’ . I had a difficult childhood and this leaves one feeling like it was stolen away. I identify with Michael’s eternal child-like qualities and attempts to create his own dream world around himself, and stubbornly (needed to) live there, despite the ‘real’ world’s repeated attempts to tear it down. He had to live in his own reality because no one really understood him. I definitely connect to that. The feeling of isolation, creativity needing to be shared with the world, but yet no one truly understanding it.
Have you ever felt as if you created something that was perfect?
I have never created something perfect. I sometimes have thought I was working on a perfect drawing or painting, or at least one I would be satisfied with, but invariably, somewhere along the way, I end up feeling like I let myself down yet again, didn’t do as well as I had hoped to, & must set my sights on the next project, because apparently the next one is always the best one.
What is beauty?
To me it is some sort of otherworldly aura or essence that is shocking in it’s perfection, whether it’s Dani Filth as a flawless Gothic vampire, or Michael aspiring to the heavens, the wish to create something with a perfect effect is there and is beautiful. Like Michelangelo’s “David”. Perfection of form and grace, but also with a deeper meaning.
What environment are you most comfortable creating in?
I always work at the same old work-desk with a great stereo so I can hear my subjects. I always must create a music program to accompany each project, to create an appropriate ambience/atmosphere. I’ve been doing that since childhood and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t draw anything without the accompanying soundtrack.
If you could no longer create art, what would you do?
If things were as they are now and I could no longer create art, I would die. But if I could have any career as a replacement, like if I had a genie or something? Then I would be a dancer.
What about raising chickens appeals to you?
Chickens are great! They’re funny and sweet, and generally misunderstood. Probably my favorite thing about them is that if you raised them from babies, they’re your friends for life. I have full grown hens that still insist I’m their mother. They bond for life if treated right, which of course makes them excellent pets! I also like to rescue them from bad situations with people who don’t understand and give them proper shelter. It can be very rewarding. One of my older hens, Ivy, was left without food when her owners moved and couldn’t take chickens to their new place. They just abandoned her. I found her wandering in the road. I took her home and now she’s one of the family. Chickens need more people who understand that they are intelligent, compassionate creatures worthy of respect and love.
Being dead wasn’t what he expected it to be. By the end of what had become his life, he was completely overwhelmed and inundated with all of the venomous scorn that The Great American Hate Machine could produce. He had become a walking nightmare. A cautionary tale. The punch line of every inarticulate joke told by the stumbling rabble that thought that he belonged to them. Because he was wealthy, because he was famous, because he was different, they felt they had the right to turn him into something less than human. He used to pull the strings, but at some point, he lost control. He became property of those who despised him the most. He loved the fame and the attention, but he never asked for the hate. They buried him under it. So, he died.
Two and a half years after his death, he stood alone in the living room of a small bungalow on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific. He was one of the few residents of one of those rare and unique places where even the most popular celebrity in the world could be ignored. Where he was, no one cared about his identity. It helped that the massive plastic surgery he had undergone made him look remarkably like the man he was in the late 1980s.
Science was a gift to Michael. It allowed him to be whoever he wanted to be. What he had once used to remake himself into the greatest attraction on earth now made him the world’s most famous stranger. At first, he reveled in the anonymity. Conversations with people who didn’t want to ask him about his baby hanging over a balcony or Bubbles the chimp or the Elephant Man’s bones or the latest Trial of the Century. Conversations about the sunset. Conversations about the weather. What is least available to us is often what becomes what is most prized. And to him, it was normalcy.
The routines of existence were, at first, poetry to him. He awoke at 7 AM and took a walk on the beach. He got home and fed his chickens. He read extensively. He listened to the beautiful sounds of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson howling away on his record player. He closed his eyes and sat peacefully in the sun. He needed no sleeping pills or locked doors to create a brief and artificial quiet. Real quiet was everywhere he looked. Real harmony, at last.
For the first year, it was like heaven on earth. About halfway through Year Two of his life as a dead man, a strange feeling began to well up in him. It was a longing for something that he could not name. Something was unsettling about his life. He was far from lonely. He had made friends with a few of the locals and was able to contact the ones that were closest to him. He wasn’t exactly bored. There was much to do, even in his idleness. He missed the music.
One morning he caught himself signing along to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It occurred to him that he had not sung in what felt like an eternity. By the end of the song, he was so moved he felt himself begin to weep. He had forgotten what the music could make him feel when it came out of his body.
A steady need began to develop…the need to share this great gift that was given to him with others. He remembered that night on stage in Japan where he looked into that woman’s eyes and had seen the most pure love that had ever existed. To know that his voice, his music, could create that love in a person was something beyond words. He missed that feeling, that connection. When he was onstage and his voice exploded out of his slight frame and filled the theater with orgiastic light it was a feeling that transcended anything that he believed possible.
As he looked deeply into the endless horizon, he began to understand what he had to do. Sometimes, the whole of a person’s being changes in an instant and there is simply no going back. He purposefully walked to his bedroom closet. Above his clothes on a white wire shelf was an oak box. He took the box down from its perch and laid it on the nightstand.
A cold feeling gripped him. Nerves? Fear? He opened the box. There, staring back at him with quiet intent was his white glove. The white glove. The glove had come to symbolize everything he loved about his old life. It was glamor, it was beauty, it was ecstasy, it was uniqueness, it was innocence, it was joy….all together in one perfect icon.
He picked the glove up and slipped it on to his right hand. He stared silently at it for what seemed like an eternity. The sheer magnitude of the instant radiated hope and inspiration as brightly as it had ever shone for him. He had reclaimed himself. In this moment, he had been reborn.
The LeBron Hate Machine has officially been cranked up to 10. Welcome to The Narrative, sir! Here’s how the next five years of your life are probably going to go. Most of the mob will hate you today, that is for certain. They’ll say you’re no Kobe, they’ll say you don’t have Nowitzki’s heart, they invoke the ever looming specter of MJ. They tell you you’ll never be as great as the ones that they remember. You’re not old school. You’re not committed enough. You’re arrogant. You called your own press conference. You left the folks in Cleveland high and dry. You think you are bigger than the game. You need to be taught a lesson.
This will go on for a little while. Then, you will win. The Narrative will shift. You’ve learned your lesson. You’ve been humbled. You went back to basics. You did things the right way. You overcame the odds. You have been redeemed. You are a champion.
Once you’ve seen the puppet show once or twice, the strings become remarkably annoying. We’ve done this dance so many times before. Remember when Kobe was an obnoxious, spoiled kid who didn’t know his place? Remember when Dirk was a soft-boiled choke artist? Heck, do you remember when Muhammad Ali was a dangerous, radical anti-American draft dodger? What did they do to rehabilitate their image? They won.
Redemption awaits anyone who can help his or her team score more points then the other team when the big spotlight is blaring. Redemption is a pretty easy formula. Time plus rings. Not exactly calculus. If you doubt the truth of what I’m saying, just watch the lovefest that is waiting just down the road if Tiger or Michael Vick get to the Promised Land. It makes you wonder what OJ could have done if he still had a good 40 time.
Maybe this time it will be different. LeBron has an opportunity to do something that has never been done. There is one trick left that they haven’t seen. They need to be introduced to the true Man in Flight. The Running Man. The person who finally takes the Narrative by the throat and squeezes. LeBron James can become the first Post-Rational Superstar.
At first, LeBron would have to follow some very well-travelled ground. He could start on the path that trailblazers like Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley journeyed before him. He could become the zany, outspoken Bad Guy. The Heel. The difference between these guys and a Post-Rational Superstar is that they stopped there. They found their niche and they road it to the bank. What I am suggesting would be far more radical.
Next season LeBron starts the show by cursing at a few fans, hanging with some edgy celebs, coloring his hair blue, punching a reporter, whatever. Once the mob gets used to that, he flips the script. He becomes a highly pious, deeply caring man. Donates a year’s salary to charity. Gets photographed helping an old lady across the street. Donates a kidney. Whatever gets them to start loving him again. Then, when everyone is comfortable, he slams on the brakes! LeBron joins the Communist Party, starts quoting radical Islamic clerics, gets a backwards cross tattooed into his forehead, and becomes every red-blooded American sports fan’s worst nightmare.
Once there have been enough Bill O’Reilly interviews calling him a monster, he flips it again. Begs the forgiveness of the mob. Saves a child from a burning building. Donates the other kidney. Starts a mission in Peru that saves victims of toxic megacolon. Gets himself photographed with the Pope. Figures out a way to cut unemployment below 5 percent. Captures and kills an Al-Queda leader. Once they get comfortable with the New LeBron…..BAM! He joins the Church of Satan, projectile vomits on a referee and pour yaks blood over his head after each win. He keeps flipping and flipping and flipping until people want to get off the ride.
And here’s the best part, LeBron….No matter what you do, if you win, they will find it in their hearts to rationalize your actions. They don’t see you for your game or your stunning personality or your greed or your kind heart or your selfishness. They aren’t watching you at all; they are watching what you represent. Your biggest fans just love you because they want to be associated with your victories and your worst enemies just want to take some measure of credit for your defeat.
Turn the mirror on the mob. Let them see them see the carnival in all of its venal absurdity. Don’t let them rationalize you. Run The Narrative off of a cliff. When they say they’ve had enough, give them more. Make every icon equally worthless. Destroy any logical assumption that can be made about you or anyone who comes after you. Give them everything and nothing all at once. Confuse them to death. Leave nothing standing. The one thing a superstar can still provide the sports world with is an understanding of how insane its basic cultural assumptions and beliefs are. And the best part is, if you win, they’ll still love you.