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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day the Music Died

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Michael Jackson

By now there is probably some corner of every part of the planet that has heard the news: Michael Jackson is dead.

Global pop icon, and arguably the most famous man in the world, Jackson died aged 50 after suffering a cardiac arrest in his Los Angeles home, leaving behind a legacy of highs and lows - and a financial crisis that saw him deepening in debt - highlighting the damaging nature of celebrity.

In what seems like celebrity deaths coming in threes with US TV personality Ed McMahon passing away alongside 1970s icon and Charlie's Angels actress Farrah Fawcett losing her fight with cancer, Jackson's death, it must be said, eclipses them both.

As worldwide tributes pour in, when someone is a real star you know it because on the day of their death, the world seems to turn more slowly and feels as though it is just a little further from the sun.

Often cited by one of Turkish pop music's own great idols Tarkan as a great influence in his life and of his childhood wish to "moonwalk" with him, Jackson's life is one comparable to no other.

Wacko Jacko: The King of Pop

His eccentric character, the distortion of his facial features, and apparent asexuality gave him the less complimentary tabloid moniker "Wacko Jacko", but as Julian Marshall, Newsbeat online editor for the BBC explains, if we look simply at his music, the phrase "The King of Pop" - coined by close friend and actress Elizabeth Taylor after presenting Jackson with the Artist of the Decade Award at the Billboard Music Awards in 1989 - does Jackson justice.

After decades of gossip, rumours and child abuse allegations, it might be hard for new generations to remember a time when Michael Jackson was first and foremost a pop star, however Marshall writes that a massive live comeback was due to start in London in July for the iconic artist of the seventies and eighties.

Beginning his career as a child in family group The Jackson 5, he went on to achieve global fame as a solo artist due to his partnership with Quincy Jones, whom he met on the set of film musical The Wiz (1978). It led to the release of landmark albums Off The Wall (1979) and Thriller (1982) on Epic Records. A slew of awards ensued and the global phenomenon of Michael Jackson was launched. The fusion of R&B and guitar-driven rock snared both black and white music fans in hordes. Thriller was the number one record in the US for 37 weeks and is easily the most successful album of all time with at least 55 million copies sold to date.

Add to that his dancing, his live shows and his pioneering use of music video, it all helped catapult him into a universe of his own - and yet, after the great music trilogy ended with the album Bad (1987), Jackson was never quite the same again, leaving many to reflect the irony that his early death has probably saved fans from watching a copy of his former self facing old age, disappointment and financial ruin.

With the last decade of his life marred by further negative publicity - his erratic behaviour, appearance and addictive spending all put down to his difficult childhood, his father and the lack of a normal life - his loyal fans, the Jackson faithful, have never left him however, calling June 25 the day that music died. Ironically though, that had probably died years before.

As is the way of celebrity, with Jackson dead his estate will start to generate the millions he so desperately needed when he was alive - but it can be hoped that, with his sudden loss, his endearing legacy will now be that of his music when he was at his peak.

Jackson is survived by three children, a few less famous siblings, and a world that loved but could never quite understand him.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
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