Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's memorial service was here in LA on Tuesday, at the Staples Center, our big indoor arena. There were 17,500 tickets, distributed free through an online lottery. 1.6 million people applied. People came from around the country; some people came from other countries. Streets were closed; buses were rerouted. But apparently it was not a mob scene, and very tasteful. The LA Times captured the mood:

In the end, they brought Michael Jackson to the one place where his life always made sense -- beneath a spotlight and in front of his adoring fans. The superstar, in a gleaming gold coffin, was celebrated in a Staples Center memorial service that was beamed around the world and, like the icon himself, strove mightily to be all things to all people.
I'm not a big Michael Jackson fan, although I like many of his songs. But as I was watching the "Beat It" video the other day, I realized something about him. It's a good video today, but it was a great video back then. It seems standard now, maybe even cliched, to see the singer leading a dance routine. But it was groundbreaking back in the day. Of all the great male rock and pop stars, Michael Jackson was far and away the best dancer, one of the only ones who had the natural talent to move with that kind of grace. Elvis, of course, was famous for his moves, but he was also mostly standing in one place while he shook his hips. The Beatles? Rolling Stones? The Police, Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin? Mick Jagger is very athletic and charismatic, but even he doesn't have the kind of rhythm Michael Jackson did.

Most lives worthy of celebration have their share of controversy, but death has a way of rebalancing the scales of fame. Michael Jackson was famous for his talent and his art, then he was famous for being famous, then he was famous for being weird. Now he's back to being famous for what he was originally known for; some damn good music.

Michael Jackson started on the road to stardom a long time before MTV was born, but he did it, and it did him, some very large favors. Like most people between the ages of about 25 and 55, I have long since lost interest in MTV. I'm one of those old-fashioned people who like music videos. This is why I like YouTube. I watched "Beat It" on, but then tried to find some other favorite videos, and of course was greeted with a message that they were somehow lost. But MTV was going to get them back! That's just sad.

But in honor of The Gloved One, I'm going to end this post with a link to

1 comment:

ITF said...

OK, so it took half a dozen facebook posts from friends of mine to finally get the whole MJ thing. Yes, his music was good Yes, his dancing was great. Yes, he defined what videos could do. None of that is the really big deal. He broke the color barrier on MTV with Billie Jean. He was the black artist of his (our) generation who was so talented that the mainstream media couldn't ignore him. THAT is why he's an icon.