‘Time to stop listening to Michael Jackson’

King of pop: Michael Jackson launched his solo career in 1971 aged 13.

In a new documentary, two men allege that they were abused as children by Michael Jackson. They are not the first to speak out against the star. Should we stop listening to his music?

Wade Robson was five years old when he met his hero Michael Jackson after winning a dance competition. Two years later, the Robson family visited Neverland, Jackson’s remote ranch and adventure park. According to Robson, this is was the start of years of abuse by the singer.

James Safechuck appeared in a Pepsi advert with Jackson when he was 10 years old. Safechuck says that he was abused by Jackson for the next four years.

Now, both men are speaking out in Leaving Neverland, a documentary from director Dan Reed that will be broadcast on Channel 4 tomorrow.

Michael Jackson, known as the king of pop, was one of the most successful artists in music history. Thriller is the best selling album of all time. In the US, Jackson had 14 number one singles — more than any other solo artist.

But for years rumours swirled about his strange private life. Jackson admitted to sharing bedrooms with young boys at Neverland but denied abusing them. Jackson’s family continue to insist on his innocence.

“I don’t care what people do in relation to Michael Jackson and his music,” says Robson. “Michael Jackson was incredibly talented, there’s no questioning that. But just because someone is talented doesn’t mean they’re not a predator.”

Time’s up

Should we stop listening to Michael Jackson’s music? If we reject Jackson, must we stop enjoying the work of all the artists through history who may have been bad people? So much culture would be erased. Can you admire someone as an artist while condemning them as a person?

But what message does listening to his music send? That enjoying some songs is more important than his alleged victims’ suffering? For music writer Oliver Keens, this is an opportunity to send a message to abusers: if an artist does wrong, “the scene will shun you. Period.”

You Decide

  1. Should we stop listening to Michael Jackson’s music?

Activities

  1. Time for a class debate. “This house believes Michael Jackson’s music should be banned.” Read the links in Become An Expert to help you.

Some People Say...

“A hero is someone we can admire without apology.”

Kitty Kelley

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The documentary is made by Dan Reed. He says that he decided to make the film because “Michael Jackson felt like one of the big unresolved stories out there.”
What do we not know?
We cannot say for certain whether the allegations are true. Jackson was never found guilty during his lifetime, as the first case against him settled and he was acquitted in the second.

Word Watch

Tomorrow
Leaving Neverland is being broadcast in two parts, tomorrow and on Thursday at 9pm on Channel 4.
King of pop
As a child, Jackson was in the Jackson 5 group with four of his brothers. He had three number ones with the group by age 12. Jackson was emotionally and physically abused by his father, Joe Jackson, in his youth.
Innocence
The Jackson Estate sued HBO, the network airing the documentary in the US, for $100 million, claiming that HBO was violating a 1992 non-disparagement agreement from when it aired a Michael Jackson concert.