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The High Price of Success

In 2009 we flew into USA on the day of Michael Jackson’s memorial service on the 7th July. It was a surreal feeling. There was a sadness on the plane that it was hard to put your finger on. Looking back I suspect many on that flight were actually going to the memorial service. Michael Jackson was extremely popular here in Australia, as he was around the world.

Over 17,500 people crammed into the Staples Centre, Los Angeles while hundreds of thousands swamped the surrounding site for what many called the King of Pop’s sad farewell. Elvis Presley held the title of King of Pop before his untimely death on 16th August 1977. Elvis died because of a heart attack which was most likely brought on by his constant use of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics, all prescribed by a compliant doctor who eventually lost his license as a medical practitioner.

Michael Jackson idolized Elvis Presley and even married the late singer’s daughter – Priscilla Presley in 1994. Several doctors were implicated in Michael’s death which has all the similarities to the preceding King of Pop’s passing. His main doctor was eventually charged with involuntarily manslaughter. A leaked report from the autopsy said that Michael Jackson was severely emaciated, balding and covered with needle wounds.

Many news commentators have simply passed Michael Jackson’s death off as another episode in the tragic story of ‘Whacko Jacko’! It would appear from the many controversies surrounding the singer, that the epithet has more than a ring of truth to it.

What is the true story? Perhaps we will never know, but let me make a few comments as someone who has been involved in the music industry first hand and done his fair share of timeline crossings.

Fame from fans is a very hard thing to handle, and life on the road, especially travelling across timelines, can be hectic to say the least. When performing, the one thing you need most is rest and sleep. But sleep can be hard to come by as a touring musician. For this reason a lot of touring performers take downers to help them sleep, uppers to keep them going when they haven’t had enough sleep and narcotics to obliterate the emptiness of their fast-paced vaudeville life. That’s why they call it, ‘Sex, drugs and rock & roll’ and few survive the music industry unscathed from its onslaughts.

Michael Jackson certainly earned the title King of Pop. Up to his untimely death he had sold over 750 million recordings and was named in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful entertainer of all time. He scored 13 Grammy Awards and also 13 Number 1 singles. The ‘Thriller’ album released in 1982 took the record of bestselling album of all time. In the week after Jackson’s death his album sales shot up again to the top of the charts with nine of his albums occupying the top 9 places on the Billboards Top 10. Ironically Forbes Magazine credits him as the top earning dead celebrity for each of the last 7 years.

Michael Jackson, for all his faults, seemed like a compassionate soul looking for the childhood he never had. His father, Joseph Jackson, honed his musical family into a formidable music machine which became the ‘Jackson 5’. At nine years of age Michael and his brothers were playing the club circuit, sometimes opening for strip-tease acts. Michael has said that he owes his success to his father, but at what cost? Michael said that his father physically and emotionally abused him. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993 he said that during his childhood he often cried from loneliness and would sometimes start to vomit upon seeing his father.

According to many friends, Michael was a devoted father to his children. Dr Tohme, a close friend and advisor to Jackson over the last year of his life, said he has never seen a better father. “He was the father and the mother”, Tohme said. “He washed them and dressed them. I’m a father but I am not sure I could do what he was doing with his children. They loved him so much.”

It is easy to stand back and point the finger at Michael Jackson but I am loathe to do that. I believe that our pleasure seeking materialistic society must share much of the blame for Michael’s early demise. He was merely a reflection of our society. We can criticize Jackson for his obsession with plastic surgery, but did you know that people are now having Botox parties in order to inject themselves with the new plastic surgery wonder drug?

Others ink their skin incessantly and spend ten times the cost of the inking to get it all removed. It seems that no-one is happy in their own skin anymore. Our addictions are overtaking us. If it isn’t drugs, it’s alcohol, if it isn’t alcohol, it’s porn, and the list goes on and on and on. Switchfoot  was right to pose the question in their song, “We were meant to live for so much more?’

Sometimes I despair at our civilisation’s lack of progress. Michael Jackson’s sad passing seven years ago merely brought it into focus. Then I think of the song by Larry Norman:

This song won’t stop the world from going round

This song won’t stop the world from being unsound

But it might change a heart, change a heart or two

This song won’t stop the world but it might stop you.

And that is exactly what keeps me writing this newsletter every week.

Lovework

Talk to your children about Michael Jackson and how we all have a family history. Maybe it is time to share your family history with your children?

Tell them about the dangers of fame and point out to your children how few can survive that sort of hedonistic lifestyle unscathed.

Remind them of the words of Jesus, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”

Success can often have a high price. Especially when you have to sell your soul to get it.

Tell your children that you love them too much to even think about that sort of success.

Yours for Real Success

Warwick Marsh

PS. We again especially want to thank all those who have helped invest in the Dads Making a Difference end of year appeal.

We need a love revival in the families of our nation. Only then will we see healing come to our children. Only then will our society be healed, but it all has to start with you and me.

Thank you again for your kindness. Together we can make a difference!

 

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