Remembering a Legend: Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
It's hard to believe that it is a year since the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. It seems everyone can remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out he had died. (I know I can). It still shakes and saddens some to the core to even bring up his name in mundane conversation.
His life was filled with more twists and turns than an amusement park ride. He was destined for greatness; his innate talents took him to heights very few performers have yet to achieve. But like many tragically fallen performers before him, his shocking death left many wondering... how did this happen, and why?
This is not a blog post that will not attempt to answer those inquiries. It simply is a mini retrospective to remember the man he was, his philanthropic contributions, and his lasting legacies left to entertain and inspire.
To truly understand his stellar career, and tragic personal life, his music often provided a glimpse into who he was at various points in his life. It is prudent to look past his eccentric lifestyle and personal issues and recall him for the talented perfomer he was.
Some of my favorite Michael Jackson career highlights include...
Featuring an all star cast (Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor, to name a few), this version recreates the classic version, to an African American urban perspective. One of the more memorable moments within the film is when Dorothy (Diana Ross) chases her dog in a snowstorm and is sucked into an alternate universe... the locale of the film... the urban jungle called 'Oz'.
His self biography provided readers a background on who he was and how he came to be 'The King of Pop.' It also provided some details on the strained relationship he had with his father, Joseph Jackson... the one who some consider to be the catalyst behind some of Michael's dislike with his appearance, and his strive towards personal and professional perfection.
This remastered version contains remixes of some of the original songs with some of today's most popular artists (Kanye West, Fergie, Akon). All of the tracks from the original version are included in this compilation. Hearing the tracks takes listeners back to a time when music was not created so much by 'sampling', but by pure genius.
OK, I know what you may be thinking. What does this show have to do with Michael Jackson? Well, here's some trivia. In the episode "Stark Raving Dad," Bart throws a red baseball cap into the laundry, and it turns Homer's white work shirt pink. He wears it to work, and is subsequently sent to a mental hospital for an evaluation. It is here where he meets a fellow patient, Leon Kompowsky, who thinks he is Michael Jackson (voiced by Michael himself, under the alias 'John Jay Smith.') This allowed audiences to see Michael performing in a new fashion altogether... as a comedic voiceover actor.
Michael's premiere solo work was a masterpiece. Spearheaded by superproducer Quincy Jones, it spewed out hits, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You." To many, this is considered an R&B classic to have in one's musical collection. It would spark a long lasting collaborative and personal bond between Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.
This is a slight deviation from his usual work. It is more dance driven, and a bit on the dark side. It is rare to locate, but once you listen to it, you will either like it... or not. I loved it. Not as heavily publicized as his earlier works, it is a piece that is remarkable.
This presentation, narrated by Jane Fonda, talks in depth about the song, the artists involved and its impact on the 1985 Ethiopian famine. Michael, along with Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones, were some of the musicians who spearheaded this project for the subsequent Live Aid performance.
One has to wonder what could have been for him had he still been alive. Would This Is It really have been his final performance? Were there any other musical works he had archived and planned to release at a later date? Did he want to collaborate with any other performers? It had been said that he wanted to work with Lady Gaga. The thought of MJ and Gaga on a track... now THAT would have been a collaboration that I would have loved to see.
But alas, Michael joined a roster of talented performers who have 'gone too soon'... died before their time (John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Selena, Richie Valens, Aaliyah, just to name a few).
He left a multitude of works for all of his fans (myself included) to enjoy. Of course, the New York Public Library has many to select from, so go and see for yourself.
MJ, you will be missed.
Previously: Michael Jackson: Icon