"In the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else" – those were the words used by The New York Times in 1983 to describe the King of Pop, who passed away as a result of a heart failure on 25th June '09. Spanning a career with highs n lows, he was as widely known among the populace as the artist who "thrilled" the world, as he was for his acts of notoriety.
He had a tormented childhood with his strict father abusing him mentally as well as physically and his brothers bullying him for his "broad, flat" nose. May be that is the reason he came to detest his looks, later on in life. He started performing with his brothers as a band called "The Jackson 5", and although his brothers were good, he had exceptional talent since the very beginning.
He grew up to be rebellious, often alluding to it in his notorious acts of befriending a monkey or changing the colour of his skin by multiple surgeries. It was his way of breaking free from the shackles that he found himself in, during his childhood, as if to send across a lucid and loud message - "You cannot control me anymore!” As time passed, the media and the general public seemed more interested in his personal life, marred by ever-growing controversies, rather than his music. Allegedly, he always hated his looks, and over a period of time he changed his appearance from a handsome young black man to, as a tabloid described it disparagingly, a "white woman". The media came to notice the hefty rewards to be reaped by belittling him and eventually gifted him with the epithet that Jackson came to abhor later on - Jacko Wacko. During recent times, he was inundated with numerous arraignments and appearances in court for the various charges leveled against him. He was also in dire monetary straits. Sometimes it was hard to imagine how he stood up to all that.
He was at the zenith of his career in the early 1980s. He is estimated to have sold three quarters of a billion albums and has to his credit 13 number one singles in the Billboard Top 200 and 13 Grammy Awards. He became one of the very few artists to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Jackson as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time and "Thriller", which sold more than 100 million copies, as the Best Selling Album of All Time. On May 14, 1984, Jackson was invited to the White House to receive an award presented by the then American President Ronald Regan for his magnanimous support to charities, that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse worldwide. He, along with other venerable figures like Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela, helped America, and the world, erase the barriers of race and colour to a great extent at a time when racism was rampant.
His career was at its acme at a time when I was still a toddler, so I would not say that I have grown up listening to the music of Michael Jackson, but his evergreen hits like “Billy Jean”, “Black or White” and “Thriller” continued to enthrall me throughout my childhood, inclined as I was towards music. I was surprised when the news of his demise hit me with a sudden pang of overwhelming sadness. He was a genius, an icon who, I sincerely hope, will be remembered for the music he made rather than for what he did in his personal life.
"Why not just tell people I'm an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They'll believe anything you say, because you're a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, 'I'm an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,' people would say, 'Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He's cracked up. You can't believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.'"