And now there is only the music. There is no bleached, living corpse to ridicule, no mutilated goblin to speculate on; no daemonic, yet tortured soul to gossip over for years and years on end. There is nothing left but the beauty, the arresting, transcendent beauty that came out of him at his very best; a beauty as clear, yet unexplainable as December or June. Oh, people will talk still about the madness of the past quarter century that followed him, but those cases will fade into history. His music, the only thing that was permanent about him and the only thing that is left, will not.

So listen to it. Listen to Off the Wall and Thriller, where all of his gifts where at their full flux, unfettered by time, constraints, or the madness to come. Intricately created masterworks where Michael bedazzled the world with masterfully layered textures of disco, Philly soul, watercolor jazz and structures borrowed from the old Motown machine. Masterworks headed by a walking dictionary of black music: blending Stevie’s vocal stutter, Jackie ( Wilson’s) soaring grace notes, and Marvin sense of emotional bravura into a package all his own. This Michael, Sly, sensual but cool, will last beyond anything brought forth from his decline.

Writing this, I see the people at the Apollo, and I think of all the uncles, aunties and cousins who have mourned him for years before this afternoon. The history of black music, intertwined with the history of black people, has a special relationship with tragedy. Billie. Sam. Marvin. Donny. Minnie. Phyllis. If you have an intimate relationship with any hood in America, you know that these are ghosts that have not gone away, nor gone away from the record player. Michael Jackson is now one of them, a specter of such beauty and trauma so intense to think about that all you can do his mourn him and listen to the music. What the people at the Apollo are doing is just that, the right thing to do tonight. No TMZ. No Dateline. Just a home going. Michael Joseph Jackson’s great getting up morning. Fare thee well. Fare thee well.