Monday, June 29, 2009

Death of an Icon

I was going to write about my Chicago trip but Michael Jackson died in the middle of it so I thought I would talk about that today and save the Chicago trip for tomorrow. It was easy to know something happened with Jackson since you couldn't walk a block in Chicago without hearing someone blaring Jackson out their car windows or through their portable sound system (80s-style) or out of nearby shops. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Jackson was quite a character. It was nearly impossible to listen to the radio in the 80s or early 90s without hearing a Michael Jackson song. Thirteen No. 1 hits and 5 No. 1 albums don't do justice to his musical contributions. He defined an entire genre of music, bringing incredible beats, energy and dancing with his voice. "Thriller" continues to be a musical marvel to this day.

Of course, you can't take the good of Jackson without the bad. The constant controversy surrounding him clouded his genius. Bizarre news stories about his daily habits were released at a pace that far surpassed his musical releases. He shot back at the tabloids in his song "Leave Me Alone," but his behavior was too eccentric to ignore. And the allegations of abuse was much more than most could handle. Whether innocent or guilty, Jackson's judgement was questionable, at best.

But I have to ask whether the public would be as mournful today if Jackson weren't so strange. His strange antics have kept him in the public eye far more than his music in recent years. If Jackson had simply grown old, looked normal and faded into retirement, would people be as moved by his death? Sure, they would mourn and listen to old Jackson tunes but would there be this type of out-pouring of grief? The public longed for Jackson's "crazy" habits as much as they longed for his terrific music. He became a reality show of sorts. His monetary woes, his custody issues, his ever-changing and more terrifying looks -- all part of the sideshow that was Michael Jackson.

I was in high hopes that Jackson would shock everyone and make a comeback following the 02 tour. I was in hopes he would actually be able to perform again. I had read several articles listing new artists, like Akon and RedOne, that were axiously hoping to work with the King of Pop following his concerts in the UK. That was all wishful thinking, I'm sure. But at least there was a hope of such a thing occuring. Now that hope is least Michael's music remains.

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