For those of us who were teenagers in the 1980s, the death of Michael Jackson carries a special symbolism, one that those didn’t come of age during that era can’t fully grasp. Now I was always more of a Prince girl myself, but I was still a big Michael Jackson fan.
“Thriller” sold a mind-boggling 40 million copies, a number that is almost inconceivable. But there is a more significant aspect of Michael’s musical achievements that isn’t being mentioned enough in the TV and Internet coverage. It’s not about numbers. Allow me to explain. In the years before 1982 when “Thriller” came out, the pop music scene totally sucked. People weren’t buying many albums, mainly because there was nothing to buy! Think about it. Late 70s and pre-Thriller 80s? Nothing good. Nothing memorable at least. Crappy obnoxious punk bands, disco, you get the idea.
What Michael Jackson did with “Thriller” was single-handedly revive the music industry. He gave an entire generation music we would actually go spend our allowance money on. Music we would play constantly on our record players (remember those?), dance to in our bedrooms, sing along to. We had been waiting, since we were 11 years old, for someone to come along and deliver a soundtrack for our youth. Then Michael Jackson came along, and he delivered it. It may sound silly now, but it meant a lot at the time, especially if you were a 14 year old girl. For us, “Thriller” was OUR album. The seven number one hits were ours too. Our parents and grandparents had their music, and their icons. Now we had ours. And the floodgates were opened for more. Pop music was alive again.
I am just as disturbed and uncomfortable about Michael Jackson’s private behavior as anyone else. But you know, that kind of thing hasn’t stopped us from admiring Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, Caravaggio, and a host of other creative talents who were either known to or rumored to engage in pedophilia.
I wish Michael Jackson had sought help for his demons, coped better with fame, come to terms with his abusive childhood, or at least been blessed with one true friend who might have steered him toward a healthier, more responsible life. But like most superstars, he was surrounded by enablers and hangers-on. Like Elvis, like Marilyn Monroe. So often these people become lonely, isolated prisoners. The whole thing is very sad and tragic.
Michael Jackson’s music and electrifying performances touched millions of people the world over. Even my musician father, a man of very high standards, was a fan of Michael Jackson! He appreciated Jackson’s vocal talent, showmanship, and the quality production of his studio recordings.
Here’s Michael Jackson doing “Man in the Mirror”. I chose this video because he performs his freaking heart out. A great entertainer. RIP Michael. Thanks for the memories . . .