Friday, June 26, 2009

Last Days of Michael Jackson: Aug. 29, 1958-June 25, 2009

It could be said that Michael Jackson died long ago.

Sometime around the first accusation of child molestation, guilty or not, Michael Jackson, the megastar with the highest-selling album of all time, became Michael Jackson, world-class oddball.

Gone was the white glove. Gone was the Sgt. Pepper coat. Gone was the awe-inspiring moonwalk.

What we had left to devour was a scarecrow with an eroding face, piles of financial trouble and questions about his sexual preferences.

Still, the disturbing news that one of pop music's greatest ambassadors died from what appears to be cardiac arrest is a sad conclusion to a strange tale.

Michael's legacy, like Elvis', will always reside somewhere in limbo. Here was a personality and a fame worth noting.

His musical output, spotty in the latter years, remains the strongest testament to his greatness.

MJ needed only three albums and a bucket of jaw-dropping music videos to make the 1980s his playground. His peak LP Thriller redefines chart-topping, thanks to three massive smash singles in "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billy Jean."

The three tracks run back to back to back on the album. By the time you turned that record over, MJ had already laid the blueprint for the perfect pop song and made one of the greatest party songs laid to tape (I'm looking at you "Thriller").

The music deserves a thorough analysis, and it's gotten it many times. But considering MJ on his LPs and singles alone isn't enough.

Check out the music videos. Mini-movies with professional actors, sets, costumes and rigorously practiced choreography.

It's not hard to look at every popular dancer after Thriller and see something of MJ.

His career as a world-conscious philanthropist set the standard for generous celebrities, and the millions he donated in his arc have done untold good.

Yes, there are the messy issues. MJ fit the profile of a child molester to the tee, and his free-spending lifestyle leaves millions in debt behind.

But if we are to look at life as an equation, MJ probably comes out on the positive end, and the only thing about his mysterious life not bookended with question marks is his output.

That tremendous, stellar musical output. Pour one out for Michael and put on "Thriller," you'll probably never hear a pop song that breaks more generational and racial boundaries than this one.

As a reminder of his greatness, here's MJ's performance of Billie Jean at Motown's 25th anniversary celebration in 1983. The dancing around the 3:40 mark is nothing short of magical.


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