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Greg Tate on Michael Jackson

I was reading a bit about Greg Tate, the influential writer & cultural critic who passed away recently and in his obituary I came across a link to his old Village Voice review of "Bad" the album by Michael Jackson. The link I'm sharing includes his review, another piece on Jackson by Guy Trebay and a rather stern rebuttal from the writer Stanley Crouch.

It's a fascinating little time capsule in which you can see some really insightful points brought up and some really intense back and forth between writers, both of whom definitely have something truthful and useful to say. Especially when reading this with the knowledge of Jackson's death and the revelations of his sexual assault of kids, it seems that there is so much about this man's life that gets lost (white-washed?) under the heading "King of Pop".

There is some through line for me about the relationship of black cultural forms (jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop) to American culture as a whole. There is always some kind of strain or tension on the most successful black artists (those who crossover into "mainstream" popularity). I think of Duke Ellington's idea that the greatest compliment would be to be considered "beyond category". And in these writings, the authors are struggling with that very concept of category and one's ability/wish to transcend it.

Anyways, I find myself not coming down on either side of this Tate, Crouch debate, but I found it worth the read (and not that long) so I thought I'd share.


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