The Death of Michael Jackson is a significant milestone, if not quite a Kennedy moment. Thriller remains the highest selling album and video ever, and cutural historians may well see him as the Elvis of his generation.
However repellent and bizarre the Sun’s “Wacko Jacko” had come to look and sound, with his strange colour, weird childish ego and nose jobs, Jackson was an astonishingly able entertainer. For all his undoubted personal and musical eclipse, he still managed to sell out a run of 50 O2 concerts next month.
Jackson’s stage act defined a central strand of a whole generation’s culture. His seamless song and dance fusion and OTT stage effects had astonishing visual impact, delivered to audiences at one fell swoop and largely without computer graphics, fusing talent, hard work and meticulous craftsmanship. Fred Astaire once phoned him to compliment him on his dancing. Along with Freddie Mercury’s performances, Jackson’s were the popular entertainment phenomenon of their age, and his videos defined the field for a new art form.
Parents may well wag their fingers and draw attention to the ludicrous aspects of Jackson’s strangely blessed and stangely cursed fifty years — they certainly give pause for thought to any pushy mummy tempted to shove her little darling onto the stage at age 6. Good news — you become an icon. Bad news — your whole life is messed up. Just say no.
Driven by a desperate need to be loved, combined with an inability to grow up, Garland’s Law still applies, in good ways and bad: “Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else” Jackson’s ability and inability to do that, musically and personally, were the rub. It’ll make a hell of a movie, someday.