Michael Jackson…”You Are Not Alone.”
We may have only shared the same first name, but I was fortunate enough to play catch-up with a musician who my parents were fond of. The closest I got to the phenomenon was after its peak; VH1 would air his movie Moonwalker regularly. It was unfortunate to see Michael Jackson unable to handle the pressures of fame and self-destruct, but before the freefall, he was a revolutionary, a man who opened many doors for musicians to come.
Need proof? Sales of Jackson’s hits skyrocketed after news of his death broke. His songs are currently dominating the iTunes top 100, a plateau he never cracked while he was still around (then again, iTunes wasn’t around in his prime). Radio stations and music TV stations have honored Jackson throughout the day. My peers on Facebook have found many ways to honor his accomplishments in the music industry. No one was unaware of his scandals, but The Beatles and Elvis Presley weren’t perfect either, and they continue to permeate through future generations. Going off the old adage, you don’t speak ill of the dead.
From a journalist’s point of view, I’ll be curious to see how coverage plays out in the coming days. His death came shortly after Ed McMahon, the iconic sidekick of Johnny Carson, and Farrah Fawcett, whose bathing suit poster and career on Charlie’s Angels made her a huge sensation in the ’70s. Not much has been said of those two, which may lead you to argue that they were left behind. On the surface, that would be the case. However, the way a reporter would see this, McMahon and Fawcett were publicized before with their age and/or health problems. Jackson’s death was a complete surprise; no one saw it coming.
I’ve read a few tribute articles on Jackson, including his impact on his hometown of Gary, Indiana and celebrities who tweeted and/or spoke with reporters about him. If you’re curious, he was the first African-American to be featured on MTV after a few strings were pulled to get videos from his Thriller album featured. MTV, hesitant to feature black musicians out of concern that they wouldn’t fit with a white demographic, took off as a result. While MTV has morphed since then, the station may not have existed the way it does now had it not been for him. Just think, there could have been no The Real World, no Laguna Beach, no episode of The Hills. You might want to give him your thanks.
As I mentioned earlier, other musicians were quick to recognize the things he did, and a few consider Jackson an inspiration for their own careers in music. No one cared about his ethnic background, fans showed their support because he did things that no other musician did at the time. Who knows how the music industry would be different had Michael not been a part of it.
While I would certainly tell my kids or other people to avoid the mistakes he made as they proved costly to his career, I’d also tell them that just like Michael, they have the capability to be trendsetters, to achieve what was once impossible. Some believe I’m doing the same for the autism community. While I certainly haven’t experienced A-list status and my fan base is quite short, perhaps Michael and I do have some parallels despite our perpendicular paths.
Judging by the response, it’s safe to say Jackson is not alone in death, and we’ll rock with him until our time comes.