In February 2001, the King of Pop was trying to heal the world, one father-son relationship at a time
Ten years ago yesterday, Michael Jackson cried in front of an auditorium of Oxford students. “Childhood has become the great casualty of modern-day living,” Jackson said in a speech to the British university’s debating chambers. “My father was scared of human emotion. He never said I love you while looking me straight in the eye, he never played a game with me. But despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that he must have loved me.”
Michael Jackson speaking out for kids’ rights struck his American audiences as a little odd, since it had been less than a decade since the King of Pop settled out of court with the family of a child who accused him of molestation. But he hadn’t completely fallen from grace yet: It would still be another year till Michael put his own child’s life in danger by dangling him out of a window. It would be the year after that, in 2003, that Michael would be hit with his second child abuse scandal.
But in 2001, Jackson was bordering on an odd precipice: He had already become the Howard Hughes-ian recluse that lingers in our memory — covering his face in a mask and restructuring his nose as often as some people buy new outfits — but he was still doing the occasional public appearance. He even joked at the Oxford gig, “I do not claim to have the academic expertise of other speakers who have addressed this hall, just as they could lay little claim at being adept at the moonwalk … Einstein in particular was really terrible at that.” Michael Jackson joking! It’s hard to even imagine. Even harder to imagine was how young Jon Stewart looked while mocking Jackson’s intentions that week.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Michael Jackson is the Nutty Professor|
Ha ha, get it? Because he’s weird-looking and touched children?
2001 was also the year of Jackson’s “Invincible” and his second time to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ten years since his last album, a bunch of craziness in between, and still, the title of Jackson’s 2001 comeback (and ultimately, his final full album) did not turn out to be ironic. Jackson’s music, if not his reputation, truly was invincible: Even as critics panned the album as “insipid,” it shot to the #1 slot on Billboard its first week in November.
But back to February, when “Invincible” was still just a gleam in the hype machine’s eye: What were we thinking about Michael Jackson? He had just signed on to be the best man at psychic Uri Geller’s wedding, and had begun speaking on behalf of the Heal the Kids section of the Heal the World foundation that he had begun with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. But perhaps it was this mention of Joe Jackson in his London speech that was most telling. Joe was a tyrant who destroyed his children’s lives and ruled over their success with a brutality Michael Lohan couldn’t touch. Suffice to say that by the time Michael was 42, he and his father were not on speaking terms. But the night before his speech, Michael had called his father in an attempt to repair the relationship. “‘He told his father he loves him,” said Rabbi Boteach to the New York Times “Michael’s family doesn’t do displays of emotion.”
What did they do a lot of? Beatings. Whippings. Abuse. Although Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 forever cast him in stone as weirdo Jacko, in 2001 he was still a man trying to come to grips to what had happened to him in his childhood, and, at least in his mind, prevent it from happening to anyone else.
More Related Stories
- How Dan Savage lost it
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11