Friday, June 26, 2009

A Sad Day

We didn't just lose two popular celebrities yesterday ...

We lost two absolute pop icons ... in every sense of the word.

In their individual moments in the sun, there wasn't ANYBODY on the planet more famous than Farrah Fawcett (her 1976 poster launched her career into the stratosphere) or Michael Jackson ("Thriller" remains one of the biggest selling albums of all-time ... and will sell even MORE copies now after his passing.)

Since this is, after all, a MUSIC publication, we'll direct our attention to Michael this morning ... our regularly scheduled piece will bump into tomorrow followed by The Sunday Comments.

I never personally bought into the whole self-proclaimed "King of Pop" thing ... and my first reaction to hearing the news this afternoon was that it had to be some sort of a publicity scam ... Jackson had, after all, just sold out 50 European dates in a matter of hours for his comeback tour ... a tour that would have earned him MILLIONS (if not BILLIONS) ... and, let's face it, he's been having some financial problems lately. Jackson spent the bulk of his career taking great enjoyment in shocking and amazing us ... was this just another one of his "David Copperfield Moments", trying to drum up more publicity for the tour?

Quite honestly, SO many things flew through my head in those initial numb moments ... was this whole thing just a big "put on" so that he could finally enjoy a life of anonymity (although with that scary mask of a face of his I wasn't sure where or how) ... I mean, six months from now were there going to be Michael Jackson Burger King Sightings ala Elvis, the rock icon he admired and aspired to SO much that he had to christen himself "The King Of Pop" and marry "The King Of Rock and Roll"'s daughter??? Had he done another last minute plastic surgery in prep for the tour that went completely astray ... turned him hideous ... or maybe even wiped off what was left of his face all-together? Maybe this was a last minute panic attack, realizing that he really wasn't ready to go out and do a massive tour of this proportion just yet??? Or had he worked himself SO hard in preparation of making this the greatest comeback of all time that he simply overdid it and trained himself to death? (Until the coroner's report is released, we won't know for sure ... but this last consideration just may turn out to be a real possibility.)

The really CRAZY part about all of this is that NONE of the scenarios described above were beyond the lengths that Michael would go to fuel the publicity machine. The truth is he was both his own greatest promoter ... and his own worst enemy, often feeding the tabloids outrageous stories about himself and then paying the penalty when more and more of the public became turned off by his beyond-crazy antics.

Despite ALL of this, there is no denying the impact that the phenomenon of Michael Jackson has had on the entire world of music and its fans. His fanbase literally spans the globe ... he just may have been the most recognized man on the planet ... EVERYBODY knew who Michael Jackson was and was familiar with his music, his dance moves and his generosity when it came to stepping up to the plate for a good cause.

He has given us SO much great music over the years ... from his boyhood days fronting The Jackson Five to the thriller that was "Thriller" ... the moonwalk at Motown's 25th Anniversary Show when he performed "Billie Jean" ... the pure artistry of "Off The Wall", "Bad" and "Dangerous", his back-to-back-to-back-to-back assault on the pop album charts. But my ALL-TIME favorite Michael Jackson song ISN'T one of the ones that garnered so much attention for its disco / pop / rock cross-over appeal ... or for virtually single-handily reinventing MTV with his ground-breaking videos ... it was a heartfelt ballad from the "Off The Wall" album that quietly snuck into the top ten ... and literally bared the very essence of his soul. To this day, I cannot listen to this track without feeling emotionally overcome. Yes, he made better records ... and he certainly had bigger hits ... but once Michael Jackson's voice cracks at the end of "She's Out Of My Life", I'm done for. Always have been ... always will be.

Radio will be airing his music for the next several days ... interestingly, you haven't heard a whole lot of Michael Jackson music on the radio lately since all the controversy virtually derailed his career. And there will ALWAYS be stories of Michael's indiscretions throughout his legacy ... but I believe history will choose to view him as an artist first and foremost ... and what an artist he was.

Think of the money he raised through his "We Are The World" / USA For Africa campaign ... his "Heal The World" campaign ... and what about all the other money that Jackson raised and donated,including MILLIONS and MILLIONS of his OWN money to "make this world a better place".

As a solo artist, he placed nearly 50 songs on Billboard's Pop Chart, including 38 that made Billboard's Top 40. 28 of those made The Top Ten ... and 13 times he hit #1. Add in his 30 other hits with his brothers (including four more #1's and 11 more Top 10's) and you'll find that only a handful of artists have EVER achieved these kinds of statistics.

The Michael Jackson Hit List:
Here is a list of Michael Jackson's Top 20 Billboard Hits, both as a solo artist, as a member of The Jackson Five and as a duet partner:
(Titles shown in red were #1 Billboard Hits)
1970 - I Want You Back / ABC / The Love You Save / I'll Be There
1971 - Mama's Pearl / Never Can Say Goodbye / Maybe Tomorrow /
Got To Be There
1972 - Rockin' Robin / I Wanna Be Where You Are / Ben / Sugar Daddy /
Little Bitty Pretty One / Lookin' Through The Windows / Corner Of The Sky
1974 - Dancing Machine
1975 - I Am Love
1977 - Enjoy Yourself
1979 - Shake Your Body / Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
1980 - Rock With You / Off The Wall / She's Out Of My Life / Lovely One
1983 - The Girl Is Mine / Billie Jean / Beat It / Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' /
Human Nature / P.Y.T. / Say Say Say
1984 - Thriller / State Of Shock / Torture
1987 - I Just Can't Stop Loving You / Bad
1988 - The Way You Make Me Feel / Man In The Mirror / Dirty Diana /
Another Part Of Me
1989 - Smooth Criminal
1991 - Black or White
1992 - Remember The Time / In The Closet
1993 - Who Is It / Will You Be There
1995 - Scream / You Are Not Alone
2001 - You Rock My World
2002 - Butterflies

I will admit to ALWAYS being a fan of Michael Jackson's music ... I think he's one of the most creative and talented artists of this or any other generation. Yeah, the whole "Wacko Jacko" thing wore me down a bit ... but the music stands alone. (Sadly, those crazy antics cost him all kinds of credibility as an artist, and that's a real shame. In the big picture, there aren't too many people who could play in the same arena as Michael ... he was a true genious in every sense of the word ... but all the tabloid stuff greatly diminished his universal appeal and quite a few people dismissed him at this point and never came back. Honestly, this was their loss ... Jackson's music is amongst the best ever recorded.)

Many, many years ago I saw The Jacksons perform at a small "Theater In The Round" setting where they literally could not sell out one third of the venue. It was the early '70's, during their non-hit period and the show was average at best. (I took my little sister who was a BIG Michael Jackson fan at the time.) But I never got to see the glamour and the glory of something like the "Victory" tour (NOBODY would go with me to see it ... they all thought I was nuts for even CONSIDERING going!!!) I remember they were performing at Sox Park and I ended up at a family birthday party that night instead, resenting the fact all night long that I had missed what would most likely be Michael's last appearance with his brothers. Ditto a brief Simon And Garfunkel reunion a few months later ... but I digress!!! (lol)

Now is the time to remember the music ... you're going to hear a whole lot of it over the next several days ... just four hours after the news broke, ABC and NBC were already interrupting their regularly scheduled evening programs to air specials on Jackson's career ... how many times have you seen THAT done for someone other than a President or something?!?!? A fitting tribute to an artist whose worked affected so many of us. Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson ... maybe now you finally can.