I was listening to a local radio station’s musical tribute to Michael Jackson this morning, grooving to the beat of the wonderful music of this incredibly talented man, songs that are so much a part of the culture, classics like Beat It, and Thriller, and Billie Jean, and I’ll Be There, and it occurred to me that the doctor who is apparently going to be charged with administering a lethal dose of what Jackson apparently called his “milk,” is not the only one who should be faulted or even perhaps charged in this case. This is so typical of what we do in this culture, focus on one convenient scapegoat to the exclusion of all others who should bear equal or even greater responsibility. What about the plastic surgeons who agreed to operate over and over on a man with a terrible dysmorphic disorder — to the point where his nose was falling off? What about the social workers and other authorities who allowed an obviously mentally ill man to be the primary caretaker for three young children, without even so much as an investigation? This last doctor, Dr. Murray, was only the latest in a long line of professionals who at the very least didn’t live up to their very clear professional obligations in connection with Jackson. Social workers, psychologists, and physicians are among those who MUST adhere to professional ethics, and be forced to do so by their own ethics boards. Why does celebrity and money seem to top all?
At the risk of seeming to pander to my friends who say they can’t take the whole “grief thing” of my blog (which by the way is only 34.682 % grief), I’d like to pay tribute this Monday morning to legendary record producer Jerry Wexler. This is NOT a grief post, even though death is involved, since Wexler died on Friday at the age on 91 in Florida. The thing is, I keep hearing his music being played in tribute on the radio, and let’s face it, the man essentially INVENTED “rhythm and blues” as well as “blue-eyed soul” and produced some of the greatest music EVER, including: The Drifters, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sonny and Cher, Dusty Springfield, Led Zepplin, Dr. John, Willie Nelson, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan , Carlos Santana, and Etta James.
Oh, how we grooved back in high school to the rhythm and blues, songs the likes of which have never been heard again, such incredible songs as “Respect”, “In the Midnight Hour”, “Mustang Sally”, “Chain of Fools”, “Dock of the Bay”, and so many more? It makes me swoon with memory just thinking about it. How do you ever forget stacking the records on the turntable, blasting the music and dancing until you danced yourself into exhaustion? How do you ever forget the soulful, imagination-stirring magic of “When a Man Loves A Woman?” How do you forget hanging out in cars with the radio turned up, listening to “I Say a Little Prayer” or “Respect?” Or going down the shore to Atlantic City long before gambling came in, when the landscape was graced by wicker pushcarts on the Boardwalk, and great hotels like the Ambassador and the Ritz rose behind you as you watched the sun rise and listened on the radio to none other than the Drifters singing, “Under the Boardwalk, we’ll be falling in love”? And fell in love. Ooooohhhh. So great.
Thank you Jerry Wexler. I’m glad your Mama couldn’t corral her wayward son.