This is kind of a tough one for me. I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, though I own The Best of The Jackson Five and a copy of Thriller. It’s definitely not time to talk negatively of the deceased, but I can’t think of anything past 1984, when he was absolutely the King of Pop, that I can point to that pumps me up about Michael Jackson. He was, however, right there with the titans of that mid 80′s era alongside Prince, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Those were the five biggest acts of the 80′s as far as I can tell. It goes well beyond record sales and concert revenues…these five acts overshadowed all comers. Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller catapulted him into the stratosphere, as if he wasn’t already famous and successful enough. It remains one of the best selling records of all time to this day. By the time MTV began playing his Thriller video, complete with a reading from the venerable Vincent Price, Jackson had no place on this earth to hide from his fame. His legendary moon walk is probably one of the most mimicked dance steps of our generation. A TV performance of “Billie Jean” on the 25th Anniversary of Motown special was flat jaw dropping. Michael Jackson was an incredibly talented performer. One of the greatest the world has ever seen. He apparently died of cardiac arrest today at age 50. What a shame. Even though his music is not necessarily our charter I felt like it was important that The Giant Panther should acknowledge his passing.
There were rumblings that Jackson was thinking about making a comeback and that several shows had been scheduled for London in the fall, but I wasn’t much interested in that potential spectacle. His eccentric behavior and insistence on maintaining a childlike persona seemed to eventually derail any scintilla of sanity in his world. Here was a striking young African American male with the world at his feet and somewhere along the way he just seemed to come unglued. They call Joan Rivers the Queen of Plastic Surgery or some such thing, but Michael Jackson had to lead the league in completely unnecessary surgeries. As far as I was concerned, Jackson was a good looking man, but he obviously didn’t see it that way. I have to believe the stress of being Michael Jackson just overwhelmed him. He sold a lot of records after Thriller and was still in the news, mostly for all the wrong reasons unfortunately, but he never did attain those heights ever again. We can’t imagine what it was like to be the son of an allegedly abusive father and a pop star by eight years old or whatever it was. The Danny Bonaduce story doesn’t even scratch the surface here.
I was an AM Gold guy in the late 60′s and early 70′s. I got on quite nicely with The Love You Save, ABC, I Want You Back, Rockin’ Robin, I’ll Be There and Never Can Say Goodbye. I started to lose it when he had the hit “Ben” about the friendly rat and as popular as Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough or Rock With You were I couldn’t stand them. I was never much for so called “Dance Music.” My ears perked up when I heard Eddie Van Halen’s solo on “Beat It,” but I still wasn’t completely sold. “Billie Jean” was a brilliant pop song though. I remember we played it on WBCN, a rock station, and that was amazing. Like Prince, Michael Jackson’s music was color blind and crossover format friendly. I even liked “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” but I was back on the outside looking in when P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) became a hit. WBCN played this record until nobody could stand it anymore. It had the same type of “Legs” as ZZ Top’s Eliminator, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Prince’s Purple Rain and John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow. Whether it was four, five or six singles radio just kept playing all of these records for over a year…almost until the artist’s next record came out!
I guess what I came to say is that Michael Jackson was a true icon. Larger than life. A supreme talent. I didn’t always like his music, but I was clearly in the minority. His legal troubles, the opulent Neverland Ranch, the multiple facial reconstructions, the rumors about his sexual preferences, the endless stories about his financials and mental status, the inexplicable marriages, and the bizarre footage of him hanging a child out of a hotel window? You can have all that stuff. At the end of the day the world lost a world class entertainer at a very young age and it is kind of a shame the way it all ended for him. He seemed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but that doesn’t change what he accomplished. I hope he can rest in peace now. He’s earned that much. Best wishes to the surviving members of the Jackson family and all of his heartbroken fans.
Before I go I wanted to mention Farrah Fawcett’s passing as well. She was 62 years old. The sex symbol of the 1970′s, Farrah ended up overcoming her “handicap” of being gorgeous and went on to prove herself a serious actress when nobody thought she had it in her. Charlie’s Angels and one fantastic poster might have put her on the map, but she took it from there. I’m glad she is no longer suffering and will remember her fondly until my turn comes.