Friday, July 03, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

Two years ago, in an interview with Ebony Magaz-ine to mark the silver jubilee of “Thriller,” the world’s most successful music album, Michael Jackson declared: “I always want to do music that influences and inspires each generation. Let’s face it, who wants mortality? You want what you create to live, and I give my all in my work because I want it to live.”
Even as the king of pop music closed his eyes forever in death last week under controversial circumstances, his art will continue to live in the minds of billions of people touched by his magical music.
His was truly a fairy tale life, one that elicited the admiration of millions of people across races and continents and, at the same time, the disdain of many others. But a proper understanding of Mike Jackson’s life is needed to give him his deserved place in history. Born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson, he joined the family band at five years old and soon became the lead singer of their group, Jackson Five, in the late 1960s and 1970s, the fact of being the youngest among his siblings notwithstanding. Together, they ruled the pop genre of their time as they secured juicy signings with Motown and later Epic Records.
Like a man responding to the call of fate to step out and be counted among the world’s greats, he went solo in 1979. His debut album, “Off the Wall” sold over eight million copies. And that was only a prelude to what would go into the Guinness Book of Records as the highest selling album ever: Thriller. It contained 10 single hits and sold 104 million copies, making it the highest selling musical album ever. The outstanding choreography of the album’s videos was also to change the face of video recording forever. Fellow-up albums like “Bad” (1987), “Dangerous” (1991), and “History” (1995) were successful, even by Michael’s standards. With 13 Grammys and 750 million copies sold worldwide, Michael Jackson’s position in world music is guaranteed for a long time to come. He easily became the first cross-cultural music icon and the first person to successfully blend R&B with pop.
Michael’s mystique stretched beyond his laurels to include his almost magical stage performances. He was arguably the most captivating musical entertainer of his generation. His backward-sliding moonwalk, electric dance, high-pitch voice and highly creative gesticulations made him an idol across the globe. He easily stood out in the midst of other international stars – in concerts and other public appearances. He brought joy to the hearts of those who looked up to music for succour.
Sadly, however, his critics do have ready tools for writing this undisputed icon off. After hitting super stardom as a black person, Michael undertook unprecedented steps to change his physiognomy and skin to alter his racial identity. But surgery and cosmetics did poor jobs on him and his face collapsed literally.
A once handsome, innocent-looking boy then became ghost-like up to his death. Also, the scandals, notably his alleged sexual abuse of boys, did not help his image. So was the steep decline of his stupendous wealth. He was broke at death. How the money spinning concerts that were lined up for him later this year would have led to his financial restoration is now left to the imagination.
However, nobody can take the fact that Jackson was an enduring phenomenon from him. The eulogies that have trailed his demise attest to the diversity of his cult following. And the suicide committed by some of his fans in reaction to his departure from this world are proof of the depth of his entrenchment in the souls of even those who never met him.
Yes, his flaws, like those of tragic heroes, have sought to diminish his achievements. But as a human being who exploited and utilised his talents in ways not many people before him did, Mike Jackson is set to be interminably engraved on the world’s consciousness. A mortal, imperfect man can indeed become everlasting.
Adieu, Mike.