With the death of Michael Jackson comes the passing of one of the most exciting show business luminaries of all time, a superstar to whom all superstars can only hope to be compared. I grew up on the music of Michael Jackson, and hearing of his death at age 50 shocked me speechless. The sheer number of people blogging, Plurking, Tweeting, and Facebooking about him is only testament to his phenomenal talent and profound effect on three generations of the world’s population.
Michael’s creative genius and knack for a pop hook made him one of the world’s most sought-after singers, a global phenomenon who bridged borders and transcended race, age, and gender. Today’s stars may be better dancers, better singers, better actors, but there is no doubting that Michael Jackson paved the way. Well before hiphop met rap, there was Michael Jackson. Well before disco became dance became house, there was Michael Jackson. All roads in entertainment, sooner or later, lead to Michael Jackson. There are reasons why Thriller is the best-selling international album of all time; there are reasons why Michael Jackson is arguably more famous than any politician or entertainment figure; there are reasons why Michael Jackson deserves to be remembered for his entire legacy.
Thankfully, I will not remember Michael for Bubbles the Chimp. I will not remember him for the descent of his personal life into scandal after scandal. I will remember Michael Jackson for his music and his effect on entertainment today. That is what he deserves.
What can we learn from Michael Jackson?
1) Treat our kids right. Michael claimed he was abused by his father when he was younger, and many attribute his unusual adult behavior to how he was treated as a child. Michael was robbed of a normal childhood; such was the price of fame. We see it echoed today, from Britney to Lindsay. Children deserve a life too, a life of love, of parental love and attention, and discipline. We, the parents, need to know when to set our feet down and say, “Enough.” On the other hand, one can make an argument that if Michael were treated as I am recommending, he would not have emerged to become the superstar he was. Fair enough. I do think, however, that Michael’s genius was a combination of a lot of factors coming together. (See Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell to better describe how I feel about talent + hard work + luck.
2) A quality legacy will last. I haven’t read any harsh words yet about Michael’s death. Hopefully, when the smoke clears, twenty years from now – when Michael would’ve been 70 – people will remember his talent and not the scandals. The music will live on. Michael’s legacy will live on. This much I know.
3) Surround yourself with people who love you for you. I don’t know much about Michael save for what media has told me, but I do know this: a true friend is someone who is there for you good times and bad, and I don’t know of too many friends Michael could’ve had. At one point, Michael was so vilified by the media that he became a laughingstock. His fans stood by him – heck, I bought copies of every album of his on cassette, and eventually CDs – and so did a few of his friends. I don’t know how he handled fame in his later years, but I imagine Michael would’ve been a lot more solid if he were surrounded by people who genuinely cared enough for him to tell him like it T-I was.
4) We can pray for people we don’t know. Hearing of Michael’s death, my heart went out to his millions of fans. Even now on Amazon, 1/5 of the Top 50 bestsellers in music are his albums. That’s going to skyrocket in the next two days, and the world will be united, once again, by Michael Jackson. We can help those grieving by praying for their peace and comfort in this difficult time. I cried at the passing of Luther Vandross; I know what it’s like to hurt so much when someone you look up to or love so much has passed away.
Rest in peace, Michael.
Just for fun, my Top 10 favorite Michael Jackson songs, after the jump.
1. We Are the World (co-written by M Jackson and featuring him as a soloist) – Single
2. Heal the World – from Dangerous
3. Rock With You – from Off the Wall
4. Black or White – from Dangerous
5. The Way You Make Me Feel – from Bad
6. Man in the Mirror – from Bad
7. Blood on the Dancefloor – Single
8. Scream – from History
9. You Rock My World – from Invincible
10. Human Nature – from Thriller