June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died suddenly yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles at the age of 50.

I've made no secret of my love for 80s music, and there is no one from the 80s as iconic as Jackson. Already famous as a member of the Jackson 5, his 1982 album Thriller turned him into a superstar.

I "predicted" about 15 years ago that Jackson, like Elvis Presley, would be undone by his own celebrity. Sadly, that appears to be the case. Both Elvis' and Jackson's careers were at their peaks about 20 years prior to their deaths; both grew increasingly eccentric over time; both had unsuccessful marriages (Jackson's, coincidentally, to Preston's daughter); both died untimely deaths at roughly the same age.

Jackson's genuine talent has been overshadowed in recent years by his personal, financial, and legal troubles, as well as his personal eccentricities, most notably his constant changes of appearance due to cosmetic surgery. I won't minimize those problems - "he's a celebrity, and celebrities are known for doing weird things" is really not an excuse for anything - but it's easy to forget that before he became a walking freakshow, Jackson was an R&B legend of considerable talent. I will still spin Thriller regularly, because it is a near-perfect pop album. This 1983 clip, from the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever television special, introduced viewers to Jackson's phenomenal dancing talent, including his signature dance move, the Moonwalk:

RIP, Michael Jackson.