On the Passing of Michael Jackson
Written by admin on June 26, 2009
Like virtually everyone who heard the news of popular music icon Michael Jackson’s sudden passing at age 50, I was a bit taken aback. Jackson was in the middle of a comeback after his criminal allegations and financial woes forcing the sale of his “Neverland.’ He was gearing up to start a European Tour and a concert with his brothers for a Jackson 5 reunion. Jackson was also very young in relation to America’s current longevity trend. While he is more of a mainstream artist as compared to the format of this radio program, Jackson’s contribution to music, videos, the entertainment business and the lives of 80s fans must not be understated.
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Firstly, anyone who was a teen in the early to mid 1980s grew up listening to the soulful sounds of the Jackson 5, as they constantly charted with their timeless tracks still played today on classic hits radio stations all over the world. The young boy and his brothers were an amazing story, coming out of Gary, Indiana, one of the poorest parts of the entire United States (and, incidentally, around where “Wendy” in Andy Prieboy‘s “Tomorrow Wendy” song lived) to become international stars. In a time where most child-fronted bands were mostly novelty acts (Frankie DeFranco and the DeFranco Family, anyone?), the Jackson 5 were legitimate hit-makers and earned legendary status. They were featured on several variety shows, had their own cartoon and became virtual friends to young people who followed them in their most impressionable years.
In his most immediate post-Jackson 5 career, Michael’s star potential showed in his Off the Wall album, which preceded his mega-success Thriller. Jackson broke records with unprecedented sales numbers and number one chart hits out of Thriller. He also took the “mini movie” music video concept to another level with the title track, which became an inspiration for David Bowie to do the same thing for his single “Blue Jean.”
Perhaps one of Jackson’s most famous non-performance contributions to music was allowing the great “Weird Al” Yankovic permission to parody “Beat It” with his biggest chart-hit “Eat It,” thereby propelling Yankovic’s career and making him the most successful comedy musician of the 1980s and beyond. Yankovic was able to make the charts throughout his career thanks in part to the notoriety he earned from “Eat It.”
Jackson also inspired the forgettable “Oh Michael” song by Facts of Life actress Kim Fields. Her character in the song mirrored the thoughts of various obsessed young female fans of the famous singer.
Jackson was also extremely charitable and giving of not only his money, but himself: he, Quincy Jones and Bob Geldof teamed up to put together USA for Africa, which was the American response to Band Aid to fight hunger in Ethiopia, and has been a noted philanthropist. Jackson also opened hid “Neverland” ranch to several underprivileged children who otherwise might not have seen the outside of their own neighborhoods. While the latter led to controversy and accusations over inappropriate behavior with children, his heart had always been with children — many of whom loved him, his music and what he stood for.
His death may have been sudden, but his health problems over the years have been well-reported. It was, however, interesting to watch the family’s lawyer on television last night expressing some anger and disappointment over the possibility of drug addiction or abuse playing a part in his death. There was genuine concern and sadness coming from his comments and declaration that he would “not keep quiet” if his speculation turned out to be true. Hopefully, some good will come out of all this; judging all the things Jackson tried to do in his lifetime, he not want any of his young fans to make some of the mistakes he made.
Millions are mourning the loss of Michael Jackson right now, and some of you have already asked me to play a song from him when the program airs tonight. I will take the advice of one of my own favorite artists, Louise Robey, and play something from his Off the Wall album.
Rest in peace, Michael Jackson; the world is a better place because you were here.