Michael Jackson’s Death: Did London Concert Pressure Kill Him?

Michael Jackson Dead

I’m just heartbroken over Michael Jackson‘s death. I know he became a deeply divisive figure in his later years – a few of my friends are appalled that media outlets seem to be candy-coating those abuse allegations – but his worldwide impact was enormous, especially for 1980s babies like myself.

He paid the price for that. He became a genderless, raceless android and a deeply paranoid, isolated figure. He was a projection of the whole world’s fantasies and fears, and in trying to be all things to all people, he made himself into an odd collage of a human. He was a living art project, and the members of the public were his sculptors. His life was sad and fascinating, and, through all of the madness, he still managed to make some great music and bust some great moves.

So what ultimately killed the guy? Were those sold-out concerts he was planning for London’s O2 arena just too much for him to handle in his fragile state? That’s what his family says, according to Evening Standard:

A post-mortem examination was being held today amid claims that Jackson, the greatest pop star of his generation, may have suffered a cardiac arrest, triggered by an injection of the painkilling drug Demerol ahead of his comeback concerts, due to start in London on 13 July.

Family lawyer Brian Oxman today blamed “enablers” for pushing Jackson too hard physically in preparation for the 50 shows. Former Jackson 5 publicist Arthur Phoenix, said he had warned his family that Jackson was too frail to perform at the O2 – and claimed they agreed with him.

The Sun mentions Jackson’s anger over concert promoters booking more London dates than he had previously agreed to do:

The singer was left fuming after concert promoters booked 50 gigs.

He told fans earlier this month: “I don’t know how I’m going to do 50 shows. I’m not a big eater – I need to put some weight on.

“I’m really angry with them booking me up to do 50 shows. I only wanted to do ten, and take the tour around the world to other cities, not 50 in one place.

“I went to bed knowing I sold ten dates, and woke up to the news I was booked to do 50.”

So what about all of those ticketholders for those concerts? Well, the concert promoter, AEG, has to refund $85 million to those fans:

With Jackson’s death, AEG will have to refund the $85 million worth of tickets that were sold. Gone are the company’s expected profits – an estimated $115 million, according to Billboard – as well as plans for a global three-year tour that the company had predicted would gross $450 million.

“They are taking a big hit,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert-tracking publication Pollstar.

Karma, anyone?

Anyway, I’m posting one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs below. It’s from his 2002 album Invincible, and it’s a love-making jam that rivals anything Al Green or Prince put out. Yes, MJ could bring The Sexy:

And for an Anglo touch, one of Jackson’s great duets with Paul McCartney:

By the way, you can read McCartney’s statement on MJ’s death here.

And finally, one of Jackson’s last No. 1 hits in the UK, which many Americans might find surprising. (It didn’t even chart in this country.)

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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