• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Micheal Jackson -compressed


I was in the United Kingdom on an unduly short (!) vacation with my two older kids when on Thursday breaking news on BBC started reporting that Michael Jackson (MJ) had been rushed to hospital; that he was unconscious at the time; that CPR had been administered on him. We immediately became glued to the TV until the website TMZ reported he was dead. I was at first inclined to wish this away as a false alarm-another MJ stunt, but deep down I feared that no credible media would take such chances with so big a story. The BBC was of course more conservative-reporting the TMZ report, then mentioning that MJ’s sister Latoya had been seen running into the UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles (where he was rushed to) in tears. It was when the BBC reported that the Los Angeles Times, a mainstream news media based right on the scene had also reported on its website that MJ was dead that I knew MJ was probably gone!
Most people in my generation and those above and below ours cannot be indifferent to Michael’s demise. MJ was not my first musical icon. For some reason, my first remembrance of a music star was Sir Victor Uwaifo and his guitar boy song. The second was James Brown. My family had our own in-house James Brown, my elder brother Bolaji who many later knew as Simple-today a New York resident. His affinity for James Brown endured through university and beyond! When we were young, he won many dancing competitions mimicking James Brown and he wore a JB hairstyle through his youth. After Uwaifo and James Brown, I went through many other heros-Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey, Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Barry White, George Benson and a stream of rhythm and blues singers. But through it all MJ was there, first as the handsome, sweet-looking, lead singer of the Jackson Five and The Jacksons and then simply Michael Jackson!

Read Also: Michael Jackson: Iconic life, mysterious death

He was a musical genius, an extra-ordinary dancer and probably the greatest performer in this age. He was James Brown, The Beatles and Elvis Presley rolled into one, truly as he became known, The King of Pop. The lyrical quality of his songs was exceptional and his musical videos were truly imaginative, even if as we later saw he began to drift into horror and the unusual. And even when he sang blues, the melody and soul was mind-lifting. The number of his hits is just unbelievable whether as part of the Jacksons (I want you back; blame it on the boogie, etc) or particularly after he went solo (Don’t stop till you get enough; The girl is mine; Rock with you; Billie Jean; Beat it; Thriller; Wanna be starting something; Bad; The way you make me feel; etc). According to a review I read in the UK Independent, MJ had 13 number 1 singles, 750 million worldwide record sales (leading the Guinness Book of Records to declare him the most successful entertainer of all time) and three hundred million pounds estimated total career earnings. His thriller album sold 65 million copies worldwide and is clearly the most successful music album ever. MJ had already sold 750,000 tickets for his 50 comeback concerts in London which he declared the final curtain call a concert the world alas would never witness!
Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album in 1979 coincided with (or perhaps played a part in provoking) the period my generation began to rock. Off the Wall and Lord Kitchener’s (was that the right spelling?) Sugar Bum Bum were songs I remember as sign points of our generation’s disco era as it used to be called, except that Lord Kitchener and the others disappeared and MJ stayed behind to entertain our children as well three decades later! The Independent described Off the Wall as a masterwork of funk, pop, disco and even jazz, drawing on all areas of Quincy Jones’ vast experience as a jazz and R & B producer/arranger.
But then like all stars, Michael had his problems. He had never been allowed a normal childhood forced to grow up on stage and in TV cameras. He was a little child who perhaps would have given up all the fame and wealth in return for the pleasures of childhood and youth which we all take for granted. In a way, he was the victim of an unfeeling world, which took away his childhood and then called him Wacko Jacko as the limits of his socialisation became obvious. Like many who achieve wealth, fame or power, he stood no chance against sycophants and manipulators who changed and then destroyed him. And then MJ was a Black American superstar at a time when beauty was defined in white American terms-a fair skin, a thin nose and a slim and slender body. MJ had achieved the remarkable distinction of fusing white pop music and black soul and his music appealed across races. Soon MJ would want to look like his white audiences and then followed the plastic surgery, skin grafts and nose adjustments turning the beautiful Michael Jackson into something that resembled a scarecrow! Fortunately future black stars will not have such complexes-Barack and Michelle Obama, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith among others haven proven that black is truly beautiful. And then the allegations of child molestation, the quickly arranged marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, the court cases and the financial problems reminding us all that when success does not have a spiritual compass, it becomes destruction.
But these are not what the world will remember Michael Jackson for. He will be remembered as the musical genius, a legendary performer and entertainer, a super star who delivered excellent music to the world from the 1960s to the 2000s and the source of some of the best dances and videos ever seen. Our great grand children and many future generations will listen to Michael’s music.