Is it OK to listen to Michael Jackson any more?

There was time, in an age long before drive-thru dry cleaners and stuffed crust pizzas, that I was something of a performer.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:17 am
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:25 am
Michael Jackson when announcing plans for a summer residency at the O2 Arena in 2009. (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

Not a very good one I hasten to add but a performer nonetheless and one that was often seen, microphone in hand in some of the less salubrious bars and pubs in towns and villages across the land.

If there was a karaoke on, I would be there, usually fuelled by a pint or six of whatever was pound a pint that week along with a year’s worth of pork scratchings or scampi fries. Singing would be to overstate it but old favourites would be belted out including hits from Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, The Rolling Stones and very occasionally I would do my best not to massacre the peerless works of Elvis.

But there was one tune above any other that would always be at the heart of my repertoire - The Leader of the Gang by Gary Glitter, a tune guaranteed to have people on their feet and stamping their feet to the famous beat. That was then because, as we know, the music stopped abruptly for Glitter when he was first arrested for possession of horrific images and ever since he has rightly become one of the most reviled figures in the land and is currently serving a 16 year jail term for sexually abusing young girls.

I have not heard one of his countless hits for well over 20 years because a) I don’t really feel comfortable tapping my feet to the music of a convicted paedophile and b) not a radio station in the land will play his tunes.

In the era of #MeToo, when light is finally being shone on heinous crimes of yesteryear, we now often hear the question whether the art can be separated from the artist, due to a fact that a number of high profile performers have found themselves in the dock. It is fair to say that popular opinion seems to be firmly of the belief that you can’t separate the two and that to appreciate the work is to appreciate the performer, even if they are accused of being a dangerous sexual predator.

RnB superstar R Kelly, who is facing multiple sexual assault charges, has been dropped by his record label and is being muted by music fans, following a recent explosive documentary which shook America.

Now, arguably the biggest star of the past 40 years, Michael Jackson, has been reportedly dropped from the BBC Radio 2 playlist following fresh revelations in another documentary, which focuses on allegations from two men who say they were abused by the late star when they were children.

Allegations against Jackson are nothing new and, even though the latest claims are contested by his family, it does appear that the world is listening to his accusers. At the time of writing, it is just one radio station, albeit the most popular in the UK, that isn’t playing his back catalogue of smash hits but it will be interesting to see whether others follow.

Throughout history there have been a number of well known public figures who have had huge question marks over their character, yet people don’t always shun their work.

It seems to be the trend currently that famous sexual offenders are systematically removed from public view but will it ever be acceptable to listen to or even sing their songs again?

The choice really is that of the individual.