Michael Jackson: Wealth, Fame, & Corrosive Friendships

Michael Jackson: Wealth, Fame, & Corrosive Friendships

When rap burst on the scene, many people thought it was a passing fad. In the 1980s, the New York-based group Whodini emerged with hard-hitting lyrics that imitated life. One of the classic Hip Hop hits was a song called Friends: “Friends. How many of us have them? Friends . . . And if you ask me, you know, I couldn’t be much help. Because a friend is somebody you judge for yourself. Some are okay, and they treat you real cool. But some mistake kindness for being a fool.” Unfortunately, many people have not developed the instinct to know true friendship.

On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died at the age of 50. Everyone started absorbing this tragic reality. The radio stations had already begun playing Michael’s famous hits. Cable stations had already begun dissecting his life. In fact, in less than 24 hours, Michael’s so-called “friends” were coming out with innuendos about him. Search the Web and you will see headings such as “Jackson’s Advisors Speak Out.” Michael was a very talented entertainer. Yet, many people will only remember his miscues. Jackson was associated with (a) child abuse, (b) criminal allegations, (c) debt, (d) drug abuse, and (e) body alteration by plastic surgery and medication.

Like so many stars, Michael was surrounded with wealth and fame. Yet, there is something that even the most common of people can understand. A person must surround themselves with genuine friends. Some individuals may wonder why no one reached out to Michael. The answers may revolve around the fact that he was surrounded by some corrosive friendships. CNN analyst Jeff Todbin noted, “He was surrounded by thieves and jackals.” Unfortunately, many people will profit dearly as a result of his untimely death. This article examines Michael’s life as it relates to his corrosive friendships so that readers can gain valuable lessons from his story.

Personal Background
Michael lived a life most people could only fantasize about. Born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana, Michael emerged from simple beginnings to become a mega Superstar. He and his four other brothers formed The Jackson Five, which became a Motown Records icon and a landmark for teens across the world. In fact, Michael took his stardom a step further by embarking on a solo career. In 1982, his album Thriller sold 21 million copies in the US (27 million worldwide). Michael has received 13 Grammy Awards and numerous professional awards. His lifetime record sales are estimated to be over 750 million. Michael had become the King of Pop. He was also one of the most generous celebrities in Hollywood. He raised millions of dollars through his Heal the World Foundation.

Yet, the storyline of the King of Pop is disturbing. His eccentric ways, transformational looks, spending sprees, and financial troubles gave fuel to his critics. Additionally, his continual battles regarding child sexual abuse severely damaged his public image. In an interview Jackson admitted, “There is a lot of sadness about my past.” To individuals concerned with this image, Michael was an individual to keep away from, even if you were supposed to be his friend. Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton denounced Michael’s fair weather friends that praised him now but had abandoned him during the bad times: “It’s amazing in the last hour to see how many people are praising him, that wouldn’t go near him in the last several years and condemned him. He [Michael] talked about how many people had let him down . . .” Michael understood better than anyone the isolation of being a child superstar.

The Friendship Definition
Many people have not developed the instinct to know true friends. According to the
Urban Dictionary, a fair weather friend is someone who is only a friend when circumstances are pleasant or profitable. At the first sign of trouble, these capricious, disloyal people will drop their relationship with you. An enabler is someone who allows another person to persist in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences.

Within minutes of Michael’s death, individuals seized this opportunity to attract media attention based on their past relationships with him. For example, Michael’s mother Katherine Jackson and his family are fighting for control of his empire. On July 6th, a Los Angeles judge gave temporary control of this estate to Michael’s long time associates, John Branca and John McClain. This action was done contrary to Michael’s family wishes. Katherine’s attorney argued, “To award unfettered control to the other side wouldn’t serve justice.” Therefore, the greater the media hype, the greater the financial gain.

Furthermore, enablers were also a part of Michael’s life. According to varying reports, Michael took a host of prescription drugs to ease his pain and anxiety. Some drugs were considered narcotic. Several former friends and employees spoke out that Michael was surrounded by medical staff that enabled him. Grace Rwaramba, former nanny to Jackson’s children, also suggested that individuals who attempted to intervene about the drug abuse were fired or isolated from Michael. Lisa Marie Presley, Michael’s first wife, acknowledged the reality of Michael’s corrosive friendship: “I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.”

Many superstars surround themselves with “yes” people. Who wants to hear opinions that may contradict his or her own? In this regard, celebrities are not alone.

Few people can deny the special abilities of Michael Jackson. Surprisingly, even in death, Michael manages to break records. Just a few weeks after his death, Michael became the first artist to hold 8 of the top 10 slots on a Billboard chart. Michael sold a combined 422,000 albums (241,000 were downloads). Therefore, his star power has proven immortal. Even so, the tragic truth remains, as his brother Jermaine Jackson stated, “Michael became the victim of his own success.”

Even the King of Pop could not escape the connection with negative influences. This darker side of his reality places him alongside other high-profile celebrities such as Anna Nicole Smith. Jackson’s critics may use this opportunity to tarnish his legacy. In spite of his oddity and miscues, Michael Jackson remains a music genius. However, he is also an example of what can happen when an individual surrounds himself with corrosive friendships. Let’s hope we can heed this lesson from the King of Pop. © 2009 by Daryl D. Green

Dr. Daryl D. Green writes on contemporary issues impacting individuals, businesses, and society across the globe. With over 18 years of management experience, Dr. Green’s expertise has been noted and quoted by USA Today, Ebony Magazine, and Associated Press. For more information, you can go to http://stores.lulu.com/darygre or http://www.darylgreen.org/.

Photo Credit- Michael Jackson website: