Death of a Pop Star

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 . . .

4 thoughts on “Death of a Pop Star

  1. K L says:

    Claudia,
    It must be the chemical changes occurring in my brain that comes with getting older. It seems like every day brings a new revelation…a sort of spiritual flowering of the mind. You brought that to me again today, I never was a Michael Jackson fan but when I listened to his song that you chose…..guess what? The closed door of my mind cracked open a little wider and in came a little more light. I think that preformance revealed alot about him and it should do the same for anyone who watches/listens to it. Thanks.

    • artmodel says:

      KL,

      Doesn’t it feel good when the mind opens, even a crack? Seeing things differently or from new perspectives? I love it when it happens to me. I wish it happens more often!

      I found this performance from Michael Jackson very affecting, sensitive, and earnest. Clearly, you saw it that way too. How wonderful! Yes, I agree that it revealed a lot about him. As an artist and performer he was the real deal. I also liked it because it’s just him, without a glitzy costume, pyrotechnics, or an elaborate stage production. Just a talented guy in a shirt and pants, with a microphone, an audience, and his voice. That’s all a genuine performer should ever need.

      Thanks for you comments KL.

      Claudia

  2. Lori Gordon says:

    Wow. Your comment “Thanks for the memories” hit home to me, not because of my memories specifically, but because it just hit me that he created perhaps billions of memories in people’s souls all over the globe. Memories that are there forever, memories that millions of people will be remembering 20, 40 years from now — when we’re 80. That’s powerful. He’s etched in history.

    And I agree, he performs his heart out in this one.
    -Lori

    • artmodel says:

      Lori,

      He sure does. It’s so honest and heartfelt, qualities that are lacking in many of the current pop stars.

      It’s all about the memories. And yes, it’s powerful. Oh man, I’ve been recalling how many times I danced to “Billie Jean” in my bedroom! I wore out the “Thriller” album! I think that the most enduring memories are the ones formed in the teen years. When something is associated with your “coming-of-age”, it holds a unique power. Those memories trigger distinct emotions that are more poignant than adult memories, in my opinion.

      I vividly remember unwrapping my brand new “Thriller” LP. I placed the needle on the record, and the first track started to play, which was “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. Lori, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that song, but it ROARS. The groove is insane, and Michael Jackson’s vocals are phenomenal. I was up and dancing within seconds. Worked up quite a sweat too. It was fun!!

      Thanks for your comments.

      Claudia

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