Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maybe Michael Jackson Died From Overuse

Being away from home, I talked on the phone about Michael Jackson's death for an hour plus tonight with my teen-age daughter KC.

It's KC's first BIG celebrity death and she was eager to talk about Michael Jackson's early career, Thriller, The Wiz, and his seeming decline over the last twenty years.

Anything I might have known about Michael Jackson.

All 0f her friends were texting about it and she was sure one of her friends would cry and wasn't it interesting that Michael Jackson's death upstaged the death of Farrah Fawcett?

And . . . And . . .

And I talked it out with her because I try to be a better dad than your average Republican governor and because I know KC wants and needs to test her smarts, wit, and ideas against her college-professor father.

So I hung in there.

But it was tough.

That's mostly because I've thought that Michael Jackson was a very sad, damaged person whose life was primarily defined by the fact that he never recovered from being deprived of his childhood.

When I think of Michael Jackson, I think of someone who should not have been put on stage at age 6 and should not have had a record contract and been doing tours before he was a teenager. I remember Jackson himself saying that he built the Neverland Park as a way to compensate for losing his childhood. But I wonder if the rest of Jackson's strangeness doesn't go back to that sad fact as well.

I also can't help but wonder if Jackson's years as a child star didn't end up killing him.

It's well known that a lot of professional baseball and football players die at fairly young ages--in their late forties and early fifties.

The basic thought is that what kills them is the enormous amount of stress that sports puts on a person's major organs.

Generally speaking, a professional athlete will start with competitive sports when they're six or seven and are sports veterans of ten or eleven years by the time they graduate from high school. I started playing competitive tackle football in a "small fry" league when I was seven and had played for eleven years by my 1972 graduation. If NFL players finish a ten year career at age 33, they will have played competitive football for 27 years.

The same with baseball and basketball. I've read stories of guys saying "I've played this game a long time" even though they've just out of high school.

For somebody who's a professional athlete into their thirties, that's a lot of stress for a lot of years.

And they just kind of wear out.

I'm sure there's going to be a lot of investigation into Michael Jackson's death. There was already speculation that he was taking steroids to prepare for another "comeback" tour. Maybe he was a pill-popper or had some other addiction. Perhaps he had some kind of congenital heart disease instead and was lucky to live as long as he did.

But until the facts come out, I can't help but speculate that all the tours, rehearsal, recording, and other things connected with the music biz didn't wear Jackson down physically and ultimately cause his early death.

By the time Michael Jackson was 41 years old in the late 90's, he had been a professional musician for thirty years and had been performing with his brothers since age 6.

Perhaps that often daily routine of peak performance just wore him down and ultimately killed him.


a said...

I'm really surprised that teenagers are that affected by Michael Jackson's death. I can see them being caught up in the excitement of it all, but it's weird to think of them being really torn up about it (more than just fascinated by it). By the time they were born, much less aware of pop music, his best years were LONG behind him and he was mostly known as a tabloid freak. Interesting.

Personally, I became aware of pop music because of MJ and that whole era of early-eighties video stars. I like to think of that MJ more than the one with which the teenagers would be more familiar.

- Amanda M.

Ric Caric said...

For some reason that I've still to figure out, Miss Teen and her friends become fans of 70's and 80's bands even though they're super over the hill. Miss Teen's friend became a Michael Jackson fan even though it's been almost 20 years since Jackson did anything worthwhile. Miss Teen likes Journey for god's sake. Curse those ipods.