The news channels, newspapers, websites and radio stations have all been reeling recently from the death of Michael Jackson. Flipping through the channels on TV, one cannot avoid the video montages that play on loop on every station or the heartbreaking photos of Jackson as a sad-eyed, adorable child in the days before plastic surgery and skin bleaching.
I feel that as a music blogger, I cannot neglect to write about the passing of such an influential pop icon and yet, as I sit at my computer in my small Midwestern hometown, I can't help but wonder how do I possibly address the death of such a monumental musical (and cultural) figure?
I guess for starters, I'm glad to see that Jackson's talent is taking the forefront in the media. Nobody will deny that Jackson's life wasn't without controversy or that he was downright strange sometimes; he led a hard life and was clearly dealing with a lot of inner turmoil. However, the man had talent. The influence that he had on music, dance and pop culture has left an indelible mark on the American (and international) psyche.
Although this is probably the case for many celebrities, one of the things that is so intriguing about Jackson is how little people could actually know of him from his public representation of himself. He was a true performer, and though he was constantly in the spotlight, even shoved down our throats sometimes, his public face revealed very little about who he was. His personal life was as shadowy and locked away as the grounds beyond the gates of Neverland Ranch. Between court cases and odd pictures sent to "The Enquirer," it was always hard to tell fact from fiction with Jackson.
However, it is in his art that we are able to see his true humanity and genius.
When Jackson sang, he sang with his whole body. Music didn't sound like something that he chose to do; rather, something that he had to do. He hit the emotional mark exactly in every one of his songs, and boiled each emotion down to it's most concentrated and intense form. The anger in "Beat It," the pain in "Billy Jean" and the lightheartedness in "Black or White" are - in a word - pure.
His dancing is otherworldly. As a former dancer, it is hard to even begin to describe or comprehend Jackson's skill. He has said that he was inspired by many artists, including Fred Astaire, but Jackson's style was all his own. He was at once natural and precise; fluid and explosive. Every movement he made was completely controlled, but he made it look as effortless as walking.
Michael Jackson's death is a huge loss for the artistic world, but he has left behind a legacy that shines through the videos and music he created and the numerous artists he inspired.
"Billy Jean" (1983)
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
"Man in the Mirror" (1988)
Man In The Mirror - Michael Jackson
"Black or White" (1991)
Black Or White - Michael Jackson
Videos - The youtube videos stated that embedding had been disabled by request, so out of respect, I am posting links instead:
"Smooth Criminal" (1987)
"Beat It" (1982)