Friday, June 26, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson

There were two sides to Michael Jackson.
One one hand, there was the singer-dancer-songwriter who recorded a score of good albums in the 1970s and 1980s; the so-called King of Pop whose heyday was, in truth, long ago.

There was also the admittedly-freakish, troubled and hard-to-look-at "Wacko Jacko" (the name given to him by the tabloids) who admitted to sharing a bed with children, wore a surgical mask, was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley and had an odd interest in exotic animals.

For my part, I will focus only on his music since the celebrity-driven media will focus on the tragic side of his life. I might be the odd man out/music critic who lost interest in Michael Jackson's music after 1982's "Thriller." That album, as well as his previous solo album "Off The Wall" (1979), were masterworks. But in retrospect, with the benefit of 25+ years of hindsight, I think the endless comparisons of his recordings with The Beatles and other music icons is a stretch.

The Beatles wrote and recorded an amazing number of now-classic songs while having an incredible impact on society. Michael Jackson is best remembered for dangling his infant son over a hotel balcony in Berlin back in 2002, his Neverland ranch, dancing on top of a car outside a courtroom, and a handful of music videos directed by others (John Landis' "Thriller," Steve Barron's "Billie Jean" and Disney's "Captain EO" immediately come to mind).

His best-remembered musical moment is likely a 1983 appearance in connection with the 25th anniversary celebration of Motown, which featured his moonwalking and brief reunion with his brothers. His musical recordings for the most part, whether it were his poor duets with Paul McCartney or co-writing credit for "We Are the World," simply can't match the excitement and power of pop music's best records.

Until his death yesterday, I truly can't remember the last time I've heard any music he has recorded after 1982 on the radio or television. And until a brief video clip was run yesterday, I had forgotten completely about his song "Ben." Much of his music doesn't hold up when played today.

Time will likely sort all this out, but don't count me among the many who will run out and purchase/download Michael Jackson music this week.

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