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2009-06-26 - 8:36 a.m.

Disingenuous arguments I've heard in the past 16 hours :

"Lots of people died yesterday, not just celebrities. I don't understand what the big deal is"

True, lots of normal folks died yesterday. And those people will be mourned by the people who loved them. And you will be, too, when your time comes. (I think this is the anxiety behind that complaint.) Meanwhile, you gotta let people have their grief. Shared grief brings people together.

Your car mechanic's great uncle was a fine person, but he didn't sing the songs that defined our youth.

"It's not like he was Elvis."

I cannot think of an entertainer who was more like Elvis: the godlike fame, the genre-crashing, multi-generational hit songs, the weirdness, the narcissism, the lonely and tragic end. And Michael Jackson wrote his own songs and danced better.

"He was a child molester!!! We shouldn't be sad that he's dead!"

OK, grief police, duly noted. No one is praising his molesting talent, they are remembering the joy that he contributed to the world via his music.

I hated pop music in the '80s, with the kind of scathing contempt that only a teenage punk snob can muster. I listened almost exclusively to things ordered from the ads in Option magazine. And still...I know all the songs from Thriller word for word, through osmosis. I even bought the "Wanna Be Startin' Something" single...cuz it's just a cool song. And don't even get me started on the Jackson 5.

That's what people are grieving--their own youth, and the tragic loss of a very talented guy who died too young and too lonely.

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