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Lost Childhoods: Charlie Chaplin & Michael Jackson

Posted on July 7th, 2009

MICHAEL JACKSON DRESSED IN CHAPLIN’S LITTLE TRAMP COSTUME
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Jackson was fascinated, if not in fact obsessed, with the trajectory of Charlie Chaplin’s life story.

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Like Chaplin, Jackson went into show business at a very early age.
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Chaplin in his first professional role as a child performer: he was a member of clog dancing troupe: THE EIGHT LANCASHIRE LADS.
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Referring to the profound emotional impact of that experience, Chaplin observed “my childhood ended at the age of seven.” Undoubtedly, one aspect of Michael Jackson’s deep emotional identification with Charlie Chaplin was their shared experience(s) of pre-maturely terminated childhoods. They both can be seen as cases of arrested development.

Over and over again, Chaplin’s friends observed that even as a grown man in his thirties there still was a hurt little boy in Charlie that never grew up .

While the intimate personal details of Michael Jackson’s early childhood are not known (at least to this author), it takes no stretch of the imagination to see some of the ways in which Michael Jackson (the chronologically “grown” man) yearned to create and permanently relive a Peter Pan-like childhood existence on his Neverland Ranch. (Named of course for the land of the lost boys in James Barry’s masterpiece).

If Neverland was Michael’s Xanadu, Charlie Chaplin’s life-story apparently served as a Rosebud-like reminder to Jackson of his own prematurely interrupted childhood as a workaholic show business performer.

The worldwide fame that came to Jackson was also accompanied by powerful emotional longings to recapture vicariously a childlike state of lost innocence. Unfortunately, those longings led (in the case of both “grown” men) to problematic relationships with youngsters that in turn became the source of sensational controversy, scandal and lawsuits for financial damages.

Jackson saw himself in Chaplin.

Like Charlie , Michael also went on to literally become a world historical figure– iconically beloved by worshipful fans and admirers the world over. And also like Chaplin, Jackson eventually became enmeshed in scandals that nearly destroyed his career. The nature of those scandals stemmed from the fact that Chaplin and Jackson each suffered from cases of arrested emotional development . In Chaplin’s case it was expressed in his alleged obsession with young girls while in Jackson’s it was his alleged obsession with young boys.

It is scarcely surprising that Michael Jackson felt so profoundly identified with Charlie Chaplin’s life story and star image.
It was reported (today in the LONDON EVENING STANDARD) that Jackson was in the process of rehearsing Chaplin’s song SMILE at the time of his death. The lyrics are:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

The haunting melody was composed by Chaplin. The lyrics were not by him but gave verbal expression to the mood of the song (which is quintessenially Chaplinesque).It was also reported (Drudge report) that JERMAINE JACKSON (Michael’s older brother) is planning to sing that song at today’s memorial service.

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