You know that love survives
So we can rock forever, on"
- Michael Jackson
I was at work when a friend came by my desk and said "did you hear that Michael Jackson died?" and my first thought was hoax because I just couldn't believe that we could have two celebrity deaths in the same day and a 3rd in the same week. The news online stated that he was in a coma but quickly changed to confirm that he had passed away. I guess it's strange to say that you're "shocked" at the fact that anyone has died but sometimes you just can't imagine a world without them. It seems that millions were not prepared for a world without Michael even though his image has been greatly damaged from the molestation charges against him from years ago.
My earliest memories of knowing about Michael Jackson was when I was 8 and my parents used to go to some friends' house to play poker, usually Saturday nights. I would hang out in their "living room" which, back in the 80's, was a room with furniture you never sat on and existed strictly for ornamental purposes. They had an old console TV and a portable VCR, and their son had the "Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller" on VHS. I watched it nearly every time I went to their house, and I was pretty young but was more fascinated than I ever was frightened. The video was presented in its long form at 14 minutes, following the making-of documentary. I also remember laying in my room in the dark listening to Vincent Price's rap in the middle of the Thriller song and that actually did scare me pretty good; I always made sure to have the curtains in my room closed. I remember my sister having a special LP version of Thriller with the album cover on the album itself.
In 1987, some of the biggest albums in rock history were released. Albums such as Def Leppard's "Hysteria" and Guns N Roses' debut "Appetite For Destruction", "Kick" by INXS, Midnight Oil's "Diesel and Dust" and U2's "The Joshua Tree" were dominating the radio. Michael released his "Bad" album during this time and even though I was in rock mode I still got the tape. It seems that Michael was paying attention to the music around him because songs like "Dirty Diana" and "Smooth Criminal" had a more aggressive sound leaning towards rock more than pop, and are two of my favorite tracks of his. "Diana" features a rock solo by Steve Stevens, and Michael occasionally teamed up with GnR guitarist Slash for live performances of the song. The video for "Criminal" features some of Jackson's best dance moves including the anti-gravity lean. Not all of the album was aggressive though, as his "Man In The Mirror" ballad included a heartbreaking video that focuses on starved children and poverty overseas. Jackson was honored for the stunning visual creativity that his videos captured when MTV renamed their Video Vanguard Award, which celebrated excellence in music videos, to include his name.
For his next album "Dangerous", Michael released a string of videos that were full of cameos from popular stars, ranging from Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson to Naomi Campbell and Macaulay Culkin. The video for "Black Or White" debuted on prime-time network television, which was a new strategy for releasing a music video. I think the Dangerous album is Jackson's most edgy, creative, and diverse in his entire catalog and it's my favorite of his for many reasons. I'm listening to the album right now as I write this, and it sounds like it could have been released yesterday. The "rock" tracks are fast and aggressive, the ballads are strong and the sound is all 100% signature Michael Jackson. I know many prefer the early disco sound on "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" and those are two of my very favorite songs of his but I think he really tapped into his deep creative genius on the Dangerous album.
After the Dangerous tour, scandal plagued Jackson in the form of a molestation trial and his image never really recovered from it. His trial, in my opinion, was a repeat of the O.J. Simpson trial. In both cases, they were found not guilty on all charges and acquitted, yet the public completely changed their opinion of both figures. O.J.'s impressive career in the NFL started coming into question and Michael's music and talent became overshadowed by speculation that he was indeed guilty of molestation. Various online forums were filled by people posting rude messages celebrating the passing of Michael Jackson all focused on the allegations that were brought against him years ago, in spite of his being found innocent.
No matter what anybody says or wants to believe about Michael Jackson, regardless of his medical or mental problems, he will always be the King Of Pop and his catalog is one of the greatest in the history of music. "Thriller" continues to be the best-selling album in the world and may never be surpassed. In retrospect, that is exactly the lofty goal that Michael hoped that this album would achieve when recording began. Michael Jackson is an artist whose talent and vision are the likes of which may never be seen again.