Monday, August 29, 2016

Michael Jackson's 58th Birthday

Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958. If he was still alive, he would turn 58 years old today.

Of course, he died in 2009, a victim of either incompetent doctors or his own hypochondria or some mixture of both. I am not a student of his life by any means; all I know is that he left behind three children and an amazing body of work.

To romanticize his life, it's almost as if it was fated that he would "die young," as, really, he "lived young." He signed with Motown when he was ten years old. By the time he was 12 he had four Number One hits. By the time he was 24, he had the largest selling album of all time.

"Original" Michael Jackson, circa 1972
Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana (yes, he was a Hoosier), the eighth child of Joseph and Katherine Jackson. Surrounded by musical talent, he and his brothers scored local fame in and around East Chicago before eventually auditioning for Motown and signing with them in 1969. Their first four singles all hit Number One: "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There." They were an animated cartoon show on Saturday morning TV. (Don't believe me? Check it out here: The Jackson Five cartoon opening & closing themes). They were millionaires. They could have been set for life.

However, Michael was an intensely creative person. He *had* to make music. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that he was also an intensely private person. He told in several interviews that he really only felt "alive" when he was on stage, entertaining people. This probably led to him having a tragic life.
MJ after his first rhinoplasty, circa 1980
Michael grew up teased (some would say harassed) about his nose. So when he reached maturity, he underwent a procedure called rhinoplasty; colloquially, he had "a nose job." However, he seemed embarrassed to admit it. Michael suffered from a rare skin disease called Vitiligo that marked his skin, changing it in splotches from brown to pink. Again, he was too embarrassed to talk about it. He hung out at his ranch home, Neverland, with llamas, chimpanzees, rats, and, most scandalously, young boys. He was accused of child molesting on atleast two occasions, agreeing to pay (with no admission of guilt) rather than face the public scrutiny of his private life.
In the end, Michael Jackson As Celebrity seems like a good example of how NOT to act. Have a problem? Call a press conference to admit it or deny it, taking away work from garbage skewers like The National Enquirer. Think about how much good Michael Jackson could have done if he had spoken out about Vitiligo when he first started suffering from it? How much good will would he have received if he admitted that he was more comfortable around pre-pubescent boys, but that there was nothing sexual about it? (Assuming, of course, that the charges of molestation were false.) We will never know.
Michael Jackson owned the 1980s. His album "Thriller" is still the best selling album of all time, having sold world-wide in excess of 65 million copies. He had 13 Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, coming in fourth after The Beatles (20), Elvis Presley (17), and Mariah Carey (15). If you add his four Number One hits with his brothers, however, he would be tied at 3rd Place with Elvis at 17. Truly, he was The King of Pop.

The first Michael Jackson record I ever had was his version of Bobby Day's hit, "Rockin' Robin," in 1972. My favorite Michael Jackson song, however, was "Man In The Mirror," from the album Bad (1988). The official music video is so powerful, even now it brings tears to my eyes. However, it doesn't actually feature Michael. So here he is doing the song live on the 1988 Grammy Award show.

Happy Birthday, and Rest in Peace, 
Michael Jackson! 

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