Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. King of Pop

In music, there are a few, very few personalities who become bigger than the music. They become so popular that they are recognized all over the world and worshiped decades after their death. They become icons.

Elvis. The Beatles. Frank Sinatra.

Michael Jackson.

Michael died today at 50 years of age. Time will judge his entire career, such as it was, but he was insanely successful as the lead singer of the Jackson Five and even more insanely successful as the face and voice of MTV in the 1980s. Michael Jackson was 80s music. He was the first to discover the true potential of music videos and creating an image. It's that image that most will remember him by - the glove, the moonwalk, the dancing. He will also be remembered for the incredible music he made, at least through his first three solo albums. He stumbled a bit after that, and although he continued to release music, none of it became as popular as the music on Thriller.

Unfortunately, he will also be remembered for being truly one of the strangest, most bizarre, most controversial figures in music history. In the 1980s, he was a musician. In the following decades, he became a celebrity. In the last twenty years, he was known more for his trials, accusations, publicity stunts and just plain weird behavior than for his music. He tried and tried again to stage a 'comeback,' but it never really happened. It probably never would. Michael simply became too famous to be taken seriously as a musician no matter what quality his output.

I was never really a fan. I like some of his music as a kid, but mostly he intrigued me and disgusted me. Eventually, I got tired of him. I was tired of hearing about the latest lawsuit or the latest promise for a benefit single that never got released. I suppose it's part of my disdain for the whole celebrity culture in general. There are few celebrities more notorious than Michael Jackson. Even the name seems less a name than a brand.

I was completely surprised to hear about his death. I think that's because no one knew what would happen to him. Would he stage another comeback? Fade away? Live thirty more years? Or would he die at 50? Well, he died at 50. Now we know. No matter what he did, made, sang, he will always be a legend. People will always tell stories about him and read about his life and career.

I feel sorry for him. The poor guy did not have a normal life, not one bit. I hope he at least enjoyed his successes, and I hope he finds peace now that he's gone from the world of the living.

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