Michael Jackson is dead. I found out the moment I woke up on Friday, and it’s been all everyone’s talked about ever since. Internet usage was five times higher than ever before, and websites including Twitter, Google, and MJ’s own fan-site crashed trying to cope with the outpouring of tributes. It’s a given fact that everyone is remembered fondly in death, but this man was something else entirely.
He was called the King of Pop; the greatest entertainer we’ve ever seen; but that doesn’t even begin to do him justice. A cultural icon, a man who revolutionised entertainment and fired the imaginations of... how many people? I don’t think you can put a number to it.
In recent years he became a joke. A punch line. People lost sight of what it was that made him famous to begin with, what made him truly great. He was seen as a disfigured lunatic has-been, and it kills me that that might be the last idea people have of him. Put aside for a moment the crippling unhappiness that plagued him his entire life, the kind that most of us might never be able to overcome. Put aside the way the world media hounded and demonised him, branding him a freak and a monster. Let me tell you how I shall remember him.
I was sitting and watching the concert video of his Dangerous Tour with my friends when it dawned on me; nothing would be as it is today were it not for him. He pushed new boundaries in everything he attempted. The moonwalk is legendary, and people still argue about how he did the anti-gravity lean in Smooth Criminal. He re-invented his musical style, his very voice with each new album. Oh, and he created the music video. There was no such thing before he came along. So I think I’m entirely justified when I say that nothing would be as it is today, were it not for him.
Here was a man whose words touched a greater number of people than any artist before or since. (He holds the record for the highest selling album of all time, Thriller. The second-place album sold less than half as many). He managed to reach across borders and languages and connect with people of all races. He always appealed to the best in us, made us feel that we could and should make a difference. More than anything else, he lived for his fans. You can see it in every moment he’s on stage, every moment of every one of his spectacular videos. He’s determined to give you the show of your life. And boy, did he.
I’ll remember him gliding backwards to the thumping bass line of Billie Jean. Erasing racial differences in Black or White. Defiantly shouting They don’t really care about us in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, stepping into the middle of a knife fight in Beat It. And striking a pose, one fist thrust high into the air as the music stops for the last time. Curtain call, MJ. Rest in peace.