As you undoubtedly know, music legend and cultural icon Michael Jackson passed away this afternoon at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., after suffering cardiac arrest. The singer was 50 years old and is survived by his three sons.
America has had a strange relationship with Jackson over the past few years. A literal shell of the cultural phenomenon he once represented, the King of Pop had become little more than a living embodiment of weirdness during his final years, his legacy overshadowed by his eccentric nature and extensive legal troubles. A significant portion of the population will remember him primarily as a “freak,” and that is unfortunate.
Michael Jackson earned his crown as the King of Pop. For an unparalleled stretch in the 70s and 80s, he owned the charts and sold records in numbers that will never be duplicated. He kick-started America’s pop culture obsession and almost single-handedly made MTV with his masterful music videos that now define the art form. Yet, even more so than his commercial success, Jackson should be remembered for one simple fact: the man made great music. Beginning with his Jackson 5 work at the mere age of 10 and continuing through his successful solo career, Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack for an entire generation. Those who grew up listening to him — or those, like myself, who were fortunate enough to discover his music later, despite the ongoing media circus — should consider themselves truly lucky to have been blessed with the presence of a legend.
While Michael Jackson may be gone, he will never disappear — the 28 million copies sold of his Thriller album refuse to be ignored. The negativity of his late public persona will fade with time, but his legacy will continue to live on through his art, to move and inspire future generations.
Steve Pierce is the co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He still gets giddy every time he watches “Thriller.”
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