Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today we celebrate .....

..... the life of "the king of pop" Michael Jackson 1958-2009.

On Thursday June 25th, around 4pm eastern time we learned of the passing of the greatest icon of our generation. I can remember listening to Michael Jackson all the time when i was young and getting his album Dangerous for the 8th birthday, on cassette by the way :-) One tradition, for me, will forever live on and that is listening to Thriller every Halloween!!! Hopefully this year i will be able to listen to it with baby Liam in my arms.

From MSN

The King of Pop is dead.

Michael Jackson, the world's most successful entertainer, died Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles of apparent cardiac arrest. He was 50 years old.

There is no questioning the gifts Jackson gave millions of people around the world. His humanitarianism is well documented, going back decades. (In 2000, he made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Charities Supported By a Pop Star." The number was 39.) His sales figures -- records, videos, concert tours -- are unparalleled. He never underestimated his audience or lived to any standard higher than his own. His music was always joyful, even at its darkest, and smart, even at its most accessible. It was the pinnacle of populism, the source of his royal title.

Over the past decade, Jackson fell victim to America's orgiastic cult of celebrity -- a gutless opportunism he unwittingly helped spawn. Personal problems and public scrutiny overshadowed the image of pop genius he cultivated during the 1980s. For the last year or so, Jackson was a recluse and an invalid, shepherded via wheelchair by a phalanx of handlers, seemingly enlivened only by his three young children. But for all the exaggerated reports of weirdness and allegations of sexual deviance, Jackson, or at least the idea of him, remained magnetic. Earlier this year he sold out 50 concerts at London's O2 Arena -- some 1 million tickets -- in a matter of hours. Whatever the news, his fans believed him still capable of magic.
In considering the meaning of MJ, the difficulty is that, over the course of one of history's most public lives, the individual became inseparable from the myth and the myth became inseparable from the media machine that fostered it. In this sense, Jackson's life is both a catalyst and mirror of American cultural habits over the last 30 years, fraught with all the associated triumph and dysfunction and isolation. An entire nation watched him grow up before a live studio audience, foreshadowing the voyeurism/narcissism hardwired into the age of Facebook.

His first No. 1 hit, "I Want You Back," came out on the Motown label in 1970 with his band of brothers, the Jackson 5. Michael was 11 at the time. He followed with several successful solo albums throughout the '70s, but it was 1979's "Off the Wall" that put him on an unmatchable ascent. From there, he achieved colossal stardom during the Golden Age of Pop -- an age he came to define. That Golden Age brought our other remaining pop icons, Madonna and Prince. It also brought MTV, where his video for "Billie Jean" was one of the first by a black artist to air in regular rotation. From there, Jackson's rise coincided with the channel's, his big-budget, radically choreographed concepts like "Beat It," "Thriller," "Bad" -- which was directed by Martin Scorsese -- and "Smooth Criminal" forever elevating the production standards for music videos. Along the way, MJ let loose some of the baddest dance moves known to man.

The '80s were Jackson's heyday, and it's accurate to view the decade as a simpler time. Celebrity journalism hadn't devolved into the lowest-common-denominator turkey shoot it is now. Rumors of Jackson's eccentricity -- a pet chimpanzee, a hyperbaric chamber, the Elephant Man's bones -- were spread playfully by Jackson himself. During this period, pop was in its primacy and Jackson truly was the king. It's an overlooked fact that his music was effortlessly progressive: from the disco-pop doubletime of "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" to Eddie Van Halen's hard rock riffs on "Beat It" to the electro-goth of "Thriller" to the astro-soul of "Smooth Criminal." Now entwined in the pop music canon, these songs stood out as wildly innovative at their vintage.

Though Jackson still produced great music, videos, and concert performances through the mid-'90s, he never fully recovered from 1993 accusations of child molestation. He felt betrayed by the public -- his public -- and the greater his exposure, the deeper his reclusion. Music changed in the '90s: Alternative rock altered the perceptions of mainstream success, and gangsta rap offered criminality as entertainment. Culture in general changed, and we, as consumers, changed with it. By the time of Jackson's second child molestation trial, in 2005 -- which found the singer not guilty -- he had become a punch line. Oversaturated, underempathized, cynical, we were cowed by sensationalism and unproven allegations. Heedless to truth, we wanted the tabloid story, mainly because it was all that was offered. If we danced to his music, it was with an ironic wink. But we still danced.

Even his death is a reflection of our age. The news was first reported on tabloid-style gossip Web site TMZ.com; His name was his name instantly elevated to Twitter's top hash-tagged search item; capsule tributes were posted on blogs and Web sites minutes after his passing.

Last year, on the occasion of Jackson's 50th birthday, biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli wrote a heartbreaking piece for the British newspaper The Daily Mail. He quoted Jackson: "It all went by so fast, didn't it? I wish I could do it all over again, I really do."

Michael Jackson's music speaks for itself. It's some of the most infectious, ebullient pop music ever made. Michael Jackson, for whatever reason, failed to speak for himself. His legacy, greater than words or numbers can convey, is entangled within our own media-fed obsessions and assumptions. We will always celebrate his art, but we should also learn from his life.

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