His passing is yet another reminder of how pop culture consumes its icons. At 50, Michael Jackson outlived Elvis by almost a decade, but neither was destined for the old age that Sinatra and Bing Crosby reached in an earlier era.
When Presley died in 1974, he was a grotesque caricature of himself, obese and drug-damaged, planning a comeback tour, but a cynic called his sudden death on a bathroom floor "a great career move" for an entertainer who was barely able to stand up while slurring his way through abbreviated concerts.
Now, amid all the outpouring of grief over a figure who meant so much to millions, there is the reality that Michael Jackson, emaciated and worn out, was dreading a comeback tour of his own and reportedly told fans after a recent rehearsal, "I don’t know how I’m going to do 50 shows...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."
Now, celebrity vultures like Jesse Jackson and Deepak Chopra are stirring the publicity pot for new autopsies and investigations of doctors who were prescribing the multiple pills that Michael Jackson, like Elvis, was using to try to sustain a life that had spun out of control.
Those who remember the joy he brought into their lives will not be consoled by the search for someone to blame for losing him. The cynic may have been right after all. When the book closes on such lives, the careers remain, complete and intact.