Like many people all over the world, I was quite surprised to learn of the untimely death of singer Michael Jackson. I got first indication of his death after reading an alert on my Google RSS reader. Shortly after news of his death was on the radio, TV and elsewhere on the internet.
Michael Jackson was not my favorite music artist. Still, he was one of the biggest icons in the music business. He made his mark not only in music, but also in dance, showmanship and video. He was the child star and lead vocalist of The Jackson 5, the music group put together by his parents and consisting of his brothers Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine. Their origins in the city of Gary, Indiana to hit making machine in the early to mid 1970s for Motown Records are legendary.
Michael Jackson became bigger than life well into his solo career. In 1979 his album Off The Wall became a dance floor favorite in the waning days of the disco era. I was there as a weekend DJ spinning cuts from this record that kept dancers happy and on their feet with the likes of “Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough,” “Rock With You”, and “Working Day & Night”.
When Thriller came out in late 1982, the album became a phenomenal success. I was still there during my last year as part-time dance floor DJ spinning nearly all of its tracks… “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Wanna Be Starting Something” and more.
Thriller broke new ground for Jackson and popular music. “Billie Jean” was the first song by a black artist to get regular airtime on MTV. The title track became a hugely successful long-form video utilizing the talents of top notch dancers, movie director John Landis and a rap by actor Vincent Price. Marvelous stuff!
Thriller became the biggest selling record album of all time and still is. Sales figures vary, but estimates put it somewhere between 65 to 107 million copies sold worldwide.
Michael Jackson’s career progressed well beyond Thriller, though he was never able to match the success of that album. Now with his sudden death, Michael Jackson’s music sales and memorabilia have spiked. All of his major studio albums and many singles are re-appearing on best seller charts. People are rediscovering his music and perhaps commerce has been handed a new industry.
Certainly Michael Jackson was not perfect. He had his personal, legal and financial problems. It is not in the scope of this blog to cover any of these, but only mention them in passing. In the long term, the scandals and problems will fade and only the music will live on.
Rest in Peace Michael Jackson. We’ll all be listening to your music for many years to come.
TOP 20 FAVORITE SONGS BY MICHAEL JACKSON
1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
2. Beat It – Michael Jackson
3. Rock With You – Michael Jackson
4. Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
5. Thriller – Michael Jackson
6. Shake Your Body Down to the Ground – The Jacksons
7. We Are The World – USA For Africa
8. I’ll Be There – The Jackson Five
9. Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson
10. Dancing Machine – The Jackson Five
11. The Love You Save – The Jackson Five
12. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
13. Who’s Lovin’ You – The Jackson Five
14. Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ – Jermaine Jackson (with Michael Jackson)
15. Say Say Say – Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
16. Black or White – Michael Jackson
17. Girlfriend – Michael Jackson
18. Ben – Michael Jackson
19. Got to Be There – Michael Jackson
20. The Girl is Mine – Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
MICHAEL JACKSON DOING “BILLIE JEAN” AT MOTOWN 25 (1983)
Photo composite: Center is the Honolulu Star Bulletin front page that appeared on June 26, 2009 one day after Michael Jackson’s death. The albums depicted on the composite are “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5” from 1969; Michael Jackson albums “Off the Wall,” “Bad” and “Thriller: 25th Anniversary Edition”. The red 45 is a collector’s pressing I got some years ago at Jellys’ Honolulu. At top right is a headline from U.S.A. Today.