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Thoughts on The Passing of Michael Jackson
When I heard about Michael Jackson's passing a week ago, I was naturally shocked, but somehow the news did not really surprise me. I can't really say why I felt this way.
Although I can't say that I was a Michael Jackson fan (I never owned any of his discs save for Thriller and a handful of Jackson 5 tracks from Motown compilations), I must admit that his songs were an integral part of both my childhood and teenage years. I recall vividly the first time I saw John Landis' elaborate video for “Thriller,” and I still remember the controversy generated by the violence on the original version of his “Black and White” videoclip. However, as his strange behavior seemed to become more important than the music, I pretty much stopped following his career.
What drew me to Thriller back in 1983 (when I was 15) was Eddie Van Halen's twisting solo on “Beat It.” I was in a guitar band phase back then, and really admired what he did to that song. The fact that Paul McCartney was also on the disc was a bonus – even though I thought “The Girl Is Mine” was way below par (was never impressed by their second collaboration, “Say, Say, Say” either)
I think Jackson's music began to suffer because he just tried too hard to top Thriller, the record that would ultimately define his career. I mean, who but the devoted fan can name a memorable track from his last couple of discs? The only thing I can remember about Michael Jackson in the past decade is his slow transformation into a sort of pop-era Howard Hughes.
Hopefully when all the hysteria over his death passes and the tabloids find a new pet scandal to exploit, the public will be able to stop and really listen to the music. It is then that we'll know which legacy he's leaving behind: that of a highly talented musician or just another tragic superstar who was unable to cope with his own fame – or mirror image.