Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Memorial day

Years ago my friend Rudy related the story of hearing of the death of President Kennedy. At the time she was a schoolgirl in Trinidad but even here, time stopped for a moment and people cried in the streets, it was a momentous occasion. This was an event that occurred before I was born, but had great resonance due to television. President Kennedy, in the early 70’s was still a household name, a shining beacon of hope who took man to the stars. That he was glamorous was undeniable, with his fashionable wife and relatively young age, Kennedy embodied the hope of a generation. Struck down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet, one wonders what the world would have been like if he’d lived.

The advances in global communications have pretty much made us a large village. The World Wide Web, once a tool used by some uber nerds at CERN in Switzerland is now ever present. We have immediate access to information and are constantly bombarded with even the most trivial of images and “news” twenty-four hours a day. So it is not surprising that today will probably become one of “those” days. You know, what were you doing when you heard Michael Jackson died? Did you watch the memorial service?

It brings to mind twelve years ago when Princess Diana, that other pop culture icon was killed in a car crash. Young and not so young women all over the planet wept for her. Her funeral was the most watched television event of the last century with 25 MILLION people around the world tuning in. Not even the Olympics come close to that. It is a testament to her appeal and the relentless press machine that operates today. Who can forget the sight of her coffin carried by soldiers, two wreaths balanced on top, the envelope tucked between the blooms with a heartrending “mummy” on one of them? Those glorious boys walking with their father and grandfather behind the hearse as it made its way to St. Peter’s indelibly etched in our memories. Elton John singing Candle in the Wind….

It comes as no surprise to see the public outflow of emotions following the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. In his words he went from,” where is he to there he is again”. For several generations, Michael was the defining voice, the original Brand, the ultimate in PR/Marketing, his life was played out across the media, but always, his music. Though at times he has been both vilified and revered he managed to continue to transcend boundaries. At any time, somewhere on this planet, someone is playing a Michael Jackson song. He touched our imaginations and our spirits in numerous ways and as the world gathers to say good-bye to the “King of Pop” it is with sadness but celebration that he lived and left such a rich legacy.

My ex-husband had a theory about shooting stars. When he woke me at 3:00 or 4:00 am to tell me that Princess Diana had died, I remember getting up in disbelief; it was almost like losing a family member. Or maybe it was that my sand unresolved issues so it was close to home. In those wee hours of the morning we talked about those people who lived so brightly and burned out in the prime of their life. We compared Diana to Marilyn, the other blond who’d also died at 36, what could have been, we will never know. And that’s the thing; I don’t think these people are meant to live forever and get old, fading away. They blow through our lives, make their mark and then are gone. They live in perpetuity in our minds, forever young.

In the aftermath of the memorial, Kenny Ortega did a great job, those of us who’d managed to keep it together through the musical tributes lost it when the back up singers et al sang “We are the world”, the tear filled family tributes and the moment that we’ll all remember, Paris Katherine talking about her daddy being the best in the world and the love he had for them.


Gabriela said...

What about James Dean, another icon?
I remember how everybody used to stop doing whatever they were doing when the radio played the very first notes of "We are the world".
That's the MJ I'll always remember: triumphant, successful, the man who held all the records he could hold. The man who made the world stop for some minutes just to hear a song in the radio.
May God give him all the peace he couldn't enjoy in life.

Jumbie said...

Her funeral was the most watched television event of the last century with 25 BILLION people around the world tuning in.

A remarkable feat, considering the world's population hasn't quite reached 7 Billion yet.

Coffeewallah said...

thanks for pointing out the typo Jumbie, it was supposed to be MILLION. Teach me to multi-task!

Jumbie said...

Most Welcome...