In the wake of the death of one of the world's most recognizable figures, the media coverage has and will continue to be voluminous. Tributes to Michael Jackson abound, as does speculation about the circumstances surrounding his death. In the midst of all this, I find myself drawn to the more thoughtful and reflective writing online that puts the man, his life, and his musical legacy into perspective. Here are two insightful pieces I've read that add some context to this sad event.
First, a piece by Slate's Stephen Metcalf. He writes about how, in 1982, Michael Jackson and his moonwalk ushered in a very specific American era that is all some of us have ever known. The entire thing is a great (and short) read, but here's a start:
The moment I heard he died I watched the Motown appearance on my iPhone. It is thrilling. It belongs to eternity. But it also belongs to something else. It belongs to 1983, an annus mirabilis, in its way, in American life; a year of economic recovery that, in addition to prosperity and the King of Pop, brought us Madonna, Oprah, Jay McInerney, Tom Cruise, Michael Milken, Vanity Fair, and the resurrection of Andy Warhol, downtown impresario behind the Limelight nightclub. Thus Jackson was a central figure in the re-creation of a viable American mainstream, a mainstream dominated by the larger-than-life, if you're being polite — or credulous. I prefer the noun form of "grotesque."
One more selection, just
This piece in The New York Times explores some interesting questions about the differences between Michael Jackson the superstar and Michael Jackson the recluse:
Which Michael Jackson will be remembered? The unsurpassed entertainer, the gifted and driven song-and-dance man who wielded rhythm, melody, texture and image to create and promote the best-selling album of all time, Thriller? Or the bizarre figure he became after he failed in his stated ambition to outsell Thriller, and after the gleaming fantasy gave way to tabloid revelations, bitter rejoinders and the long public silence he was scheduled to break next month?