Michael Jackson and the fate of child prodigies
Shaheen Jafargholi, 12-year-old winner of Britain’s Got Talent thanks to the above rendition of the Jackson Five’s “Who’s Loving You,” I hope you realized the cautionary tale in the casket when you sang at Michael Jackson’s memorial Tuesday.
Of course, being a child prodigy is no guarantee you grow up twisted and die an untimely (and very ratings meter-moving) death. Stevie Wonder, who also sang at the MJ memorial, is an example of a child prodigy (from Motown Records, no less) who appeared to grow up to be at least some semblance of a functional human being.
But the whole vibe got me to thinking — who suffers the worse fate, the child sports prodigy, or the child arts prodigy?
Each comes on like a rocket, often pushed by a whack-job of a stage parent. Some, like Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters and the aforementioned Wonder, might have their quirks, but you don’t look at them like freaks. Some, like Jackson, Judy Garland and Bobby Fischer, grow up to be pinnacles of their field and complete basket cases in real life. Many never make it to a superstar level, leaving them to tell bitter, boring stories about when they were big, or fascinating tales of a young life, depending on what side you’re on in a debate best expressed in this exchange from the movie, “Hoosiers.”
Myra Fleener: You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god, er, uh, how can he ever find out what he can really do? I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.
Coach Norman Dale: You know, most people would kill… to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.
What do you think?