Bubbles – Liner Notes

Posted by: The Professor of Rap on June 21, 2010

Everything about Michael Jackson’s life was problematic: his relations with his father, mother, siblings, fans, promoters, producers, financiers, investors, celebrities, record companies, Neverland employees. I believe that he was as loathed by the people who had to deal with him on a daily basis as he was anonymously loved by billions. People say he himself was brilliant and a perceptive and savvy businessman. Yet when he died he was worth less than Art Linkletter, the host of the nineteen-fifties game show, “People Are Funny.” His most deliberate business decision was to acquire the Beatles’ catalog and not to sell it back to them.

Artist to Artist, it was reprehensible.

So when Mr. Jackson died, how to approach his death became problematic. How do you eulogize a public figure about whom people only cared in the abstract? Whatever you say about Michael or think about his art, one thing is certain: he was allowed to die. And there are levels of culpability. No one intervened because he was too golden a goose. His best friend, Elizabeth Taylor and his ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, I believe, really cared about him, yet didn’t have a point of meaningful entry into his life. His family, his children, his doctors, his fans had to see his extreme physical degeneration. And yet, it was like watching a ritual sacrifice. He didn’t die for his art; he died because he was neglected. The world killed its neglected child.

So who cares about those whom the world neglects? Animals. Dogs, cats, guppies or in this case a chimpanzee. But the Bubbles story itself poses many problems. It is not a simple symbiotic pet tale. Bubbles was his child for much of the later, turbulent years. And yet he did to Bubbles what was done to him. Bubbles was dis-affected: first by the Neverland boys and later by his own children. I think what probably happened is that Bubbles did what Jackson was never able to do: grow up. As Bubbles entered a testosterone-laden teenage animal aggression, Michael moved farther and farther away. Bubbles was inconvenient and so Bubbles was moved ever farther from the inner circle. What did Bubbles see? What did Bubbles feel? If chimpanzees possess a young child’s intelligence, they most likely have a young child’s sensitivity. It’s a twin tragedy: Michael’s death and Bubble’s exile.

“Bubbles” was my third performance piece, premiering at the Rochester Contemporary Arts Center performance art competition on December 9, 2009. It is a silent piece. Originally, Brandon and I each dressed ourselves in gorilla costumes while the song played. The performance was criticized for having unpleasant racial overtones (“You got the bro’ to dress in a monkey suit. Good going.”) I thought about this a lot and modified the performance so that I only silently don the gorilla suit during the song. I still maintain that the source of the discomfort is Jackson’s decision for an African-American male to pal around with a monkey. I’m just the reporter. I did the modified performance at Record Archive’s Record Store day on April 17 , 2010. I’m still criticized for it, but the feeling of dressing in the suit in front of an audience was quite remarkable. I felt like a monkey in a zoo. People watched my transformation and laughed. I was in a performance cage– the apotheosis of the performer as zoo animal.

“Bubbles is mostly retired as a performance piece. I will only agree to perform it on the anniversary of Mr. Jackson’s death (June 25th) and his birthday (August 29th).

I have absolutely no personal feelings about Michael Jackson. But Mr. Jackson and I are locked in an unholy alliance. I am sure that no matter how many rhymes I write, “Bubbles” will be the one that I am remembered by. It is my most downloaded and requested song.

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