The Thriller

If there was one bit of news I didn’t expect to wake up to yesterday, it was that Michael Jackson had died.

At first, I heard that “reports out of the US” were saying he died, or was in a coma. I didn’t want to believe it, but over the next half hour, the news was confirmed by more reliable sources, and so it was that a special artist’s life ended.

Michael Jackson was many things to many people, but it was his Black or White that was my very first pop song; it was the first one I can recall being a fan of, of racing to the radio to listen to. I had a tape of the album, Dangerous, that is probably one of the world’s most worn tapes around, particularly around the Black or White part. I watched the video clip a hundred times, as it stayed in the charts for weeks on end. Saturday mornings finished with Video Hits showing Black or White, and on Sundays it was up early to see it again on rage, which usually showed the whole clip, not just the music.

In short, I thought he was a genius, and given the outpouring of grief, emotion and the reactions of the last two days, I don’t think I was the only one. Jackson’s active career spanned 4 of his 5 decades, and at his height in the 80s the monkier “The King of Pop”, first said by his friend Elizabeth Taylor, stuck, and there are no heirs to the throne. From his start in the Jackson 5 to his best-selling solo album Thriller, and even to the mixed Invincible which never the less contained the hit You Rock My World, Jackson did what a performing artist should do best: entertain and thrill the public.

The name Jackson lives in the same echelon as Presley and Lennon, a genius in the musical world, as a singer, songwriter and perhaps foremost as a dancer. MJ’s sublime ability to control his body made perhaps his signature move, the moonwalk, somehow magical and special; no-one quite does it like he did.

I guess I was too young to know what was going on during the first accusations of child molestation levelled against him, but I certainly did when the issue reared its ugly head again in the early part of this decade. You got the feeling watching the documentary that raised the issue that Michael Jackson was really just a bit lost outside of the music world, never having grown up or being allowed to do so in a normal manner. It was the ultimate Peter Pan complex – he wanted to be a kid forever.

Whether the accusations were true or not, acquittal not withstanding, the damage to Jackson’s reputation and his continual strange behaviour led to his fall from grace, as seems inevitable for all child stars. For many though, as is abundantly clear today, this did not diminish his achievements as an artist, and so I would represent him – one of the most brilliant performers we had for years. It is a pity that his life should end so early.

I don’t know whether we’ll see the like of Jackson ever again – the celebrities with a genuine reason to be celebrated, the entertainers that achieve so much on a global scale; one would hope that perhaps someone will be inspired enough to produce music that appeals to so many. It would be a pity too if his music were to be overshadowed by his later days, and I would sincerely hope his music is held up as a shining example of popular entertainment.

Vale, Michael Joseph Jackson, 1958 – 2009.

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