Skip to main content

  This diary is not about Michael Jackson, since I didn't know Michael Jackson, there is nothing I can say about him with certainty, although that doesn't seem to stop everyone else. Instead, it's about his work, his music, and a few observations about pop culture.
  It could as easily be titled, 'What I learned from being (nearly) famous.'
Michael Jackson made some very popular music, just like Marilyn Monroe made some very popular movies, and Elvis made some of both. But after the tragic and early death fades from memory, after the mourning ends, will the work endure? The answer is already in about Elvis' movies, but what about Jackson's music?

  The test is, will his songs outlive his current fans? Will they transcend pop? I really have to say I doubt it.
Thriller is a great song, but can anyone seriously compare to say, Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition', to which it obviously owes a great debt?
What in Jackson's work can we compare to Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come', or Marvin Gaye's 'Inner City Blues'?
  Michael's greatest song, in my opinion, is 'Billie Jean', but is it on the same level as James Brown's 'It's a Man's World', or 'Funky Drummer', the single most sampled song of all time? It's hard to make that argument. Michael Jackson was a pop phenomenon, a great dancer, as precise as Fred Astaire, as cool as Sammy Davis, but a great musical artist? No.
  The same can be said of Elvis, and I say that as a lifelong fan. His best work by far is his gospel albums; very moving, but not an original song or arrangement in the entire collection. He was a pop star, not a musical artist.
  It's easy enough to name musical artists we already know have transcended their times and genres to become immortal; Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, even Stevie Wonder. We could name more, but not many more, it's  a finite list.
What do Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley have in common?
  They were immensely gifted people who shared the celebrity sickness; they lived their lives under the delusion that if only enough people you don't know love you, you might come to like yourself. Of course, it is a fool's errand, and I wish everyone could become a least a little bit famous, just so they could see how futile it is.
  The always frustrated quest to get from the audience what can only come the single person not in the audience is the great disease of our time, the disease of pop culture.
  It seems it's the enemy of great art, as well.

Originally posted to AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:43 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  What's a Tip Jar? nt (19+ / 0-)

    The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

    by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:43:42 PM PDT

  •  A lot of Monroe's films... (21+ / 0-)

    ...have aged quite well.  "Some Like It Hot" is one of the absolute classics of comedy.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:47:19 PM PDT

  •  750 ++ million records sold-- no comparison (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda, AWhitneyBrown, dotalbon

    not to mention how many records will be sold after his death.

    Stevie Wonder never moonwalked.

  •  Sam cooke never moon walked ! (5+ / 0-)

    Michael Jackson's work was more than his lyrics.

  •  You're crazy as a fish with tits (8+ / 0-)

    Whats bigger than sam cooke?  Here let me give you a few visual examples of someting.

    You think people are dancing to Sam freaking cooke, let me see if you can see jail house rock done like this

    or like this

    Today we are all Iranian!

    by Adept2u on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:56:04 PM PDT

  •  How stupid.. Michael is literally the biggest (6+ / 0-)

    artist of all time... he songs have ALREADY stood the test of time spanning over 40 years and touching 3 decades of fans!! the biggest selling artist of all time!! You obviously don't know anything about Michael or his music! From man in the mirror to Human nature, to beat it to smooth criminal his songs will be around forever! And not to mention Michael was a HUGE humanitarian and philanthropist giving millions upon millions of dollars to organizations. fighting for a cure for aids in africa and putting and end to hunger!

    There's a reason why the WORLD stood at a shock yesterday at the news and the internet as a whole crashed and all his albums have sold out on itunes/amazon alone in one day is because he is the ULTIMATE ICON and there will never be another like him!

    You may not be a fan and that's fine but you can NOT deny his impact, genius, and impeccable talent!

    "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

    by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:56:36 PM PDT

    •  Please name for us the biggest selling popular (6+ / 0-)

      musician of the 19th century.

      Without Googling.

      Yeah, me neither.

      So, Michael Jackson is going to escape this same fate how exactly?

      •  are you kidding me? do we not remember beethovan (4+ / 0-)

        and bach and others to this day? Elvis, lennon, beatles? your kidding right..That's why their called LEGENDS, and Michael is THE legend of all legends of course he will be remembered...

        "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

        by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:00:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So, you can't remember the 19th century "legend" (5+ / 0-)

          either.

          But I'm sure 19th centure sillycilla was convinced that person was the legend to end all legends too.

          Listen, Michael Jackson was a significant part of my musical life. He will be remembered as a musical performer much longer than his songs will last. In that, he's more like a movie star. And not that there's anything wrong with that . . .

          •  are you kidding me right now? You will always (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            realityworld

            remember a pioneer.. the music industry today, all you see is MJ wannabees! He's not a britney or a hot for the moment artist.. so us still knowing about beethovan and bach and others bare no significance?!?! MJ is the ICON of this generation and will be remembered I don't need to argue with your opinion when it's obvious history is going to remember him...

            "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

            by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:17:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, you're right. Obviously history is going to (7+ / 0-)

              remember him. We'll have to disagree about whether it's in the same breath as Beethoven and Bach or Madonna and Princess Diana.

              •  WOW Michael is BIGGER than Madonna.. (0+ / 0-)

                and you think she will be remembered and not him? The most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. he single handidly shaped a generation..

                "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

                by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:25:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  not to mention transcended race and (0+ / 0-)

                  pretty much created MTV and the music video as we know it today! Has the biggest selling album of all time, been invited to sit with kings and queens around the world, had an ARMY stand with him and run with him, millions upon millions of fans fainting, people grew up on Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.

                  "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

                  by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:28:13 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sillycilla has the perspective (6+ / 0-)

                    of the popular culture of her time. My question, of course is, when fans like Sillycilla are gone, what will be left? That is subjective to a large extent. But I think you can learn a lot by looking back to music that was popular before your own generation and see how it sounds.
                    For example, I would ask you, Sillycilla, what artists from before 1960 do you think have stood the test of time?

                    The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

                    by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:40:10 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  James brown, stevie wonder, aretha, tina, (4+ / 0-)

                      sinatra, Monroe, Judy garland I could go on and on... You really do become bigger in death which is the sad part but when he was alive there was no artist even in the "19th" century or "before the 60's" who had as much of an impact not just in the US but GLOBALLY... There's a plethora of artists who have stood the test of time but even so they've been remembered for a couple of things but Michael's career spans 3 decades each with it's own soundtrack "I want you back" "ben", "abc" is the soundtrack to many people's lives in the 70's... " don't stop till you get enough" "Billy jean" , "thriller", define late 70's -80's.. black and white, man in the mirrior, remember the time, bad, smooth criminal, the 90's...and influenced artists from heavy metal to grunge to country to hip hop to techno.... I'm just 22 years old, my first knowledge of music was Michael Jackson and having family come from another country most of their first english words were Michael jackson, the most known is Michael Jackson.. so it's not just oh I'm a huge MJ fan and therefore that's why I believe the way I do, to say otherwise is to deny his impact. We're always going to rememeber anyone who's made a difference and impact.. We have had 44 presidents but only a FEW really stand out right? Michael is one of those few in pop culture...

                      "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

                      by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:51:46 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Huh? (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    N in Seattle, AWhitneyBrown, LynneK

                    "...pretty much created MTV and the music video as we know it today!"

                    Honey, slow down before you hyperventilate. Trust me, self-inflicted death by hyperbole is no way to go.

                    1. Transcended race--well, I'd say Barack Obama wrote the book on that one and he didn't even bleach his skin.
                    1. Created MTV and the music video--well, he may have appeared on MTV, but I don't know that he had anything to do with creating it. As for music videos, I think you have the wrong Michael--I believe Nesmith has that one pretty well nailed.

                    I think it's generally accepted among historians that you need more than 24 hours to assess a life. Among histrionics, maybe not.

                    "Troll-be-gone...apply directly to the asshole. Troll-be-gone...apply directly to the asshole."

                    by homogenius on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 08:20:31 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  You say that's the most ridiculous thing you've (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  N in Seattle, pletzs, RonV, homogenius, LynneK

                  ever heard, and then say Michael Jackson single handidly shaped a generation?

                  I am that generation.

                  Come on now, fess up; you're either from Eastern Europe or a Sacha Baron Cohen character. Right?

                  •  You are that generation BUT that doesn't mean you (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    donailin

                    have to have been a huge fan... Michael is the 70's, 80's and 90's.. No bigger artist than him, even kids to this day know of Michael before they know of a elvis or beatles or madonna.  And it's not my opinion the world in mourning today speaks for itself not to mention pretty much every major musician say the same thing, the numbers, awards and charts speak for themselves as well.

                    "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

                    by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:34:33 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Right to the point of this diary. (5+ / 0-)

                That's exactly what I was wondering.

                The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

                by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:37:22 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Well, at one point (0+ / 0-)

            John Wilkes Booth was the most popular actor!

        •  Sure Michael will be remembered. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AWhitneyBrown

          A big chunk of that memory will be all the weirdness that was associated with him.  I'm certainly not discounting his musical contributions, which are huge by themselves, but no one can deny, part of his legend will be the non-musical aspects of his career.

      •  that musician never sold 750 + million records (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AWhitneyBrown, dotalbon
      •  If Mariah Carey joined the Eagles, (3+ / 0-)

        wore gold costumes and grabbed their crotches often enough, they'd get some kind of Nobel for sure.

        John Galt is the new Walter Mitty.

        by Bob Love on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:03:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Jenny Lind was one (5+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure if she was THE most popular, but I've certainly heard of her.

        "As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence." Benjamin Franklin

        by FLRealist on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:30:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Particularly interesting (0+ / 0-)

          is Hans Christian Andersen's account of hearing Jenny Lind in concert.  It's in his autobiography, The Fairy Tale Of My Life, and reading it really made me wish that Jenny Lind had been recorded for posterity.  

    •  Actually... (9+ / 0-)

      ...both the Beatles and Elvis have outsold Michael Jackson over time, with each selling over one billion records.

      Jackson is fourth, behind Bing Crosby.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:01:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  His music was not particularly original. (12+ / 0-)

      While in the midst of our times, they always seem like the greatest of times, but with distance, things get sorted out into a better prospective.
      Today, for example, Charlie Parker's compositions and improvisations are taught in music schools as part of every musical education.
      What Michael Jackson songs will still be played in 50 years? Only time will tell.
      Every thing you say about Michael Jackson I heard about Elvis, and even more about the Beatles. But their work is already fading among those not raised in it.

      The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

      by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:01:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is some truth to this... (5+ / 0-)

        ...but I also think about how there is no Bach without the popularity of Vivaldi, or how there isn't rock and roll as we know it if Elvis doesn't popularize the Sun Records sound.  Those people are historical too, although perhaps less for the brilliance of the music.

        The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

        by Jay Elias on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:10:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Umm he's always said he was inspired by MJ.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AWhitneyBrown, realityworld

        NO one is ORIGINAL but Michael stood out head and shoulders from visuals to changing music videos as we know them to PEFORMANCE!

        "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."- Bob Marley

        by sillycilla on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:11:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's apples and oranges to compare (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AWhitneyBrown

        Michael Jackson to Charlie Parker. You might as well compare Charlie Parker to Mozart.

        All western music is comprised of 12 tones. There are only so many ways one can arrange 12 things and not repeat.

        Some of the jazz greats you mention (and I love 'em too) weren't, imho, so great because of originality, but the heart with which they played and performed. Others could play the same notes... just not as well.

        I've often heard it put this way: Eric Clapton could say in 5 notes what it takes Eddie Van Halen to say in 60.

        I think Michael had the heart and he put it in the notes he sang. Whether those notes were particularly original isn't really the point, as far as I'm concerned.

        It's funny to me because I suspect most MIchael Jackson fans haven't a clue who Charlie Parker is. The latter is "famous" to you, only because you like his music. The same goes for a MJ fan, who probably will listen to him 50 years from now.

        This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

        by Snud on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:37:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'd Disagree About the Beatles (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Debby, AWhitneyBrown, Reel Woman, LynneK

        The Beatles are still covered by a lot of musicians and interpretations of their songs make one hell of a long list. Off the top of my head my favorite covers are by Earth, Wind, & Fire; Johnny Cash; Dionne Farris; and Aerosmith. Then there's Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Marley, Dave Mathews, and Phish doing the White Album one New Year's Eve.

        Walk into any music store and you'll find sheet music for dozens of Beatles songs. MJ and Elvis, not so much. My kids' violin teacher has 'em learning Beatles tunes.

        "Blackbird" and "All You Need Is Love" are  like Gershwin's "Summertime," songs that have creeped into the popular canon.

    •  Bigger than Jenny Lynd? nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AWhitneyBrown, MT Spaces

      John Galt is the new Walter Mitty.

      by Bob Love on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:03:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Liszt, Pagninni, Buffalo Bill Cody ... (8+ / 0-)

        ... Annie Oakley, Sarah Bernhardt, come to my mind, and I was born after WWII.

        Superstars DO affect popular culture in many ways, long after their departures -- imitators and subsequent innovators can be traced too.

        Not to be too serious, but off the top of my head -- Lillian Russell (Burlesque Queen) is echoed in Mae West's "Diamond Lil." Howard Hughes, in a moment of lucid marketing, tags capable actor Jean Harlow as a new movie archetype, the "Blond Bombshell," based very much on West's successful Broadway productions. Betty Grable plays this type after Harlow's passing, and the public LOVES Marilyn Monroe after Grable retires.
        (I'm a kid while she rides high, then falls. Kim Novack quits while she's ahead, but Jayne Mansfield's integrity is devoured by the monster of celebrity.)
        If Goldie Hawn counts as a Blond Bombshell, she was the funniest. Natural brunette Madonna Chiccone comes along in the 80's, and revisits the role several times.
        Gwen Stefani, Christine Aguileria, Britany Spears add to, and steal, from the archetype among others -- some just plain "bomb," like the overexposed Simpson Sisters. I'm fond of another brunette Italian-American who is touring the world as Lady GaGa, an ultra-blond, for now.

        Day-um! The legacy of the Drews and Barrymores is even continuing into it's third calendar-century.

        I'm not going to bother to trace Elvis in the continuity of popular singers, but he was in line with Enrico Caruso, for going 'way back, and he made some awesomely good recordings.

        Michael Jackson will endure as long as there are song-and-dance performers, no matter which record of his is better or worse than another.

        ... public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself, it's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients.

        by MT Spaces on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:53:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's funny you have Bob Marley as your signature (4+ / 0-)

      because I think HE has had a bigger cultural impact than Michael Jackson. It was Marley who attempted to bring warring political factions together in Jamaica and nearly paid for it with his life. He is considered an icon in Africa when Zimbabwe changed from Rhodesia. His album "Legend" is still one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

      I traveled through Europe and I've seen his image as much as Michael Jackson's.

      Don't get me wrong, MJ has a significant impact worldwide, but so has Robert Nesta Marley.

      I've learned something today. Americans DO care about the world outside America. Their media just doesn't. -Anonymous Iranian Twitter

      by Nedsdag on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:58:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's more to Michael J than song-writing. (6+ / 0-)

    I mean aside from the spectacle, the dancing, the moonwalking and crotch-grabbing and all that (much of which was groundbreaking itself.

    I would add his musical and engineering collaboration with Quincy Jones, which raised the technical level of musical accompaniment to a new level much as the Beatles did a decade before.

    But Elvis didn't become an icon simply for being a singer, nor Marilyn for looking good on the big screen. All those you name (and more) have become iconic because they applied their particular skills and  talents to their moment and worked at it until their achievement brought them head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries.

    What people do with their time in the spotlight is up to them. For every famous person who goes weird, there are many who don't. You're not going weird, are you?

    John Galt is the new Walter Mitty.

    by Bob Love on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 05:59:10 PM PDT

    •  No, but I'm not really famous, either, (8+ / 0-)

      So I can go weird normally.
      I guess my point is that these icons are indeed hugely important to those who grow up with them, but future generations just don't really 'get it', when all that is left is the work, instead of the force of personality that drove them.

      The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

      by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:03:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Quite true, and yet (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RonV, AWhitneyBrown, Reel Woman, LynneK

        the apparently innate human desire for spectacle and celebrity is not to be satisfied by the qualities that secure historical recognition, especially by qualities like sobriety, wisdom and depth of feeling.

        Which is why next to nobody read Milton but everyone knows Michael.

        Now that the squirrelly little guy is gone, I realize his life was one hell of a spectacle, and I frankly enjoyed a good deal of it. It was a show, and now it goes into reruns.

        John Galt is the new Walter Mitty.

        by Bob Love on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:44:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Basic Features of Music Don't Endure (6+ / 0-)

    American music was melody driven for out entire history until after the 60's. Melodies are important because music isn't easy for most people to remember, and melodies give them the key piece they can carry with them between moments of hearing live music.

    After the 60's there was such an increase of high quality playback equipment, cheap and portable, and then digital sound in the 80's, that the benefit of melody to make music memorable became the annoyance of earworms when you're hearing music over and over.

    The Beatles after their first crude rockish hits went through a period of incredible melody writing up through Sgt. Pepper, but I rarely see this discussed any more. I think it's because the focus has been driven along by the march of technology more to rhythm, chord structure and of course visuals in the case of pop music, and people aren't much interested in melody any more except to generally avoid some of what once defined great melodies in earlier ages.

    Society's about to go through changes of such magnitude that I don't think a comparison of artists of the past 2-3 generations is going to be very meaningful to average people for much longer.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:02:19 PM PDT

    •  On the other hand, some musical innovations (5+ / 0-)

      become classical in nature, like the jazz of the 50's and 60's. It will certainly still be played in 100 years, and is even now taught in music schools.

      The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

      by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:05:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good analysis (6+ / 0-)

      Music, especially American music of the last 100 years, is in a very odd place.  There are acknowledged masterpieces of pop writing -- the theater composers of the last century -- but they're rarely heard.  Yet they survive; if you walk into any jazz joint in the country you'll hear the standards played, and replayed, because they have such rich chords that beg to be riffed on.

      I don't think MJ's music, or most pop music of the last 50 years, is in this category.  But you could argue right back that jazz has become less "America's music" and more a niche art form.  

      If a song is great, but few people hear it, is it still great?      

      Randall Terry is an accomplice to murder.

      by dotalbon on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:07:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perfect example Rodger's 'My Favorite Things' (7+ / 0-)

        From Mary Martin to John Coltrane...even Bird's 'Cherokee' is a 1920's theatre song.
        Bop is just filled with those songs...looted for their harmonic structure, with lyrics and even melody, which were at the time of writing, considered the essentials, just tossed out like chaff...
        It's fascinating.

        The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

        by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:22:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  wrong on all counts in yr assess- (4+ / 0-)

    ment of the songs, but the man needs to be judged for the whole body of work--as dancer, as creator of spectacle, as choreographer and composer. And his ouevre (of COURSE) also includea his singing and dancing as a member of the J5, a body of work miraculous and beautiful unto itself.

    No, he was not a composer on the order of Stevie Wonder; no one is (I just spend two weeks reviewing Stevie's work, and no one--perhaps ever--has written so many beautiful ballads).

    But here's the thing I think the haters and naysayers fail to understand, and Michael is a lot like Elvis (no two performers, perhaps ever, commanded a stage like those two) and Marilyn--the tragedy can't be separated from the rest. You don't separate it in any great performer's work, why would you in this case? It, too, is part of the story that made them such a powerful influence on our lives. And the absolute ineluctable fact of their deaths goes with it.

    (I accept people's anger over the fact that he might have been a pederast--or abused some kids--but if you know how his own father abused him, it's hard not to feel tremendous sorrow over all of it.)

    Part of this is, of course, generational. Michael's life won't affect someone half his age as much as it has mine--I have sung and danced and tried his routines and falsetto with my little brothers since I was a little white kid only two years older than him. And I lamented what a beautiful kid he was and his failure to love himself and his blackness along with millions of others. It's cool if you don't connect with that; and it's cool if you want to assess his work under the cold hard light of whatever critical apparatus you bring to the table. It's the failure of empathy in the haters--and so often in Americans--that chills me. We call ourselves Christians, many of us. But that central, most compelling core of Christianity--the notion of forgiveness and redemption--is alien to our practices or beliefs.  

    "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil." Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?"

    by Matthew Detroit on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:05:38 PM PDT

    •  Not hating on Michael (6+ / 0-)

      I enjoyed his music. Just writing on the fleeting nature of fame, more than anything. And I don't know if he was a pederast or not.

      The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

      by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:09:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What on Earth did you read in the diary (8+ / 0-)

      that provoked this:

      It's the failure of empathy in the haters--and so often in Americans--that chills me. We call ourselves Christians, many of us. But that central, most compelling core of Christianity--the notion of forgiveness and redemption--is alien to our practices or beliefs.  

      The subtext here is that Michael Jackson's work can't even bear up to the mild critique presented in the diary, that MJ's work needs to be protected from it.  

      Isn't that just minimizing it, far more than the diary does?

      Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and a gorilla starts throwing barrels at you. -- Fry, Futurama

      by LithiumCola on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:20:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pop artists have been druggies, drunks, (6+ / 0-)

        wife beaters, genuine kooks like MJ, attention whores, you name it.  The same is true of artists in every genre.  Most of the time, we can separate out an artist's legacy from his/her life.  

        In any form of art, the test of time is the only test that matters in art.  Some people are claiming that MJ's already passed the test because he was in entertainment for 40 years.  I don't buy that at all.  Do people who grew up with "Thriller" still play it?  Will they play it for their kids?  I doubt it.  

        Randall Terry is an accomplice to murder.

        by dotalbon on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:27:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great comment. (4+ / 0-)

          People will always play the artists that were popular when they came of age sexually! Couples will always play what was on the radio when they were falling in love. But will their kids listen to it?
          More important, will their musically inclined kids actually play it on their own intstruments?
          We know the answer for some from the early part of the 20th Century. But it takes time.

          The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

          by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:33:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sometimes the kids find it on their own. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AWhitneyBrown, LynneK

          I was surprised to find out that my two younger daughters, 19 and 21, both know the words, the dance, and the spoken voice-over by Vincent Price in Thriller.

          I had no idea. And I'm pretty savvy about the music they usually know and listen to - mostly indie, some hip-hop, with some 70's nostalgia mixed in as they've neared adulthood.

          In music, what goes around, comes around. And this makes the "star" stuff, the popular stuff, regrow again and again.

          "We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other."
          Teilhard de Chardin

          by exmearden on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:40:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm playing it for my daughter, and she is diggin (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          churchylafemme

          it. Head to youtube for your answer.

          "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil." Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?"

          by Matthew Detroit on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:45:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well, actually I HAVE played it for my kids... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AWhitneyBrown

          Thriller came out when I was in college - I downloaded it onto my iPod months ago and have shown it several times to my kids.

          "As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence." Benjamin Franklin

          by FLRealist on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:35:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  hardly; you missed my point-- (3+ / 0-)

        that the body of work is a totality. And I stand by my assertion that there is a scary lack of empathy abroad in the land.

        And--yes--I am responding to several diaries I have encountered here over the last few days, though I was straightforward in saying so.

        "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil." Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?"

        by Matthew Detroit on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:49:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is the American Idol Generation. (9+ / 0-)

    The measure of talent is the volume of album and ticket sales.

    MJ gets credit for some things, like broadening R&B to encompass the pop world, and popularizing the concept video, for which he benefited from timing - the birth of MTV.

    But he is not the sort of transformative artist whose work deserves immortality. Neither was Elvis, who stole most of his work without giving credit. Marilyn may have been hurt by the marketers who wanted to exploit her. I don't think she was ever permitted to really demonstrate what she might have achieved.

    I feel sorry for Farrah Fawcett. She did have a couple of inspiring performances (i.e. The Burning Bed). But today, MJ got a moment of silence from the House of Representatives, and she just got...well, actual silence. And while MJ likely died as a result of his own self-destructive tendencies, Farrah fought a deadly disease for three years, and courageously allowed everyone else into her life to witness the struggle.

    ~
    ••• CELEBRATE with America's BAraCK Stickers And T-Shirts •••
    ~

    by KingOneEye on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:17:17 PM PDT

  •  Basketball analogy here--it might help (4+ / 0-)

    Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.

    Michael Jordan only did a FEW flashy moves he mainly stayed with the fundamentals.

    There are many basketball players who could shoot more 3 pointers - who had better shooting %, who had better dribbling moves, had better slam dunks, had better defense.

    But none of them mastered the fundamentals like jordan did nor did they do move the way Jordan did.

    My point is a simple one-- to be the greatest you have to do more than just being great.

  •  Short answer: Yes. (3+ / 0-)

    "He's like any other president -- he's a politician and he's got to do what politicians do." Rev. Jeremiah Wright

    by PhillyGal on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:18:24 PM PDT

  •  I guess that settles that then. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AWhitneyBrown

    OK, what's the next topic on the agenda?

  •  I agree (5+ / 0-)

    Jackson is more like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis than  Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bob Dylanm or even Stevie Wonder.

    Strangely enough, I always see Jackson as representing the 'freedom and decadence of the West' at the time that Eastern Europe was choosing between continuation of the communist path and embracing capitalism. The communists emphasized the decadence, but what really came through was the energy and freedom. Jackson was arguably the most significant symbol of both at that time.

  •  Agree about Billie Jean. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, bustacap, annetteboardman, LynneK

    That is the closet Jackson got, or maybe was allowed to get, to expressing real passion in and through his singing -- at least of the songs I know, I'm not an MJ expert.

    And it is a really good song.  But it's not . . . well, it's not Crazy by Gnarles Barkley.  It's not Bobby McGee as sung by Janis Joplin.  And I don't expect either of those two to be around in 50 years, either.  These are examples of extremely well done expressions of artistic need through genres that are probably limited, to greater or lesser extents, to their time and place.

    The tricky part might be guessing which genres will be popular in 50 years, more than which particular artists.  I can imagine a quirk of cultural evolution in which stand-up comedy becomes as big in 2050 as sitcoms were in the 1970s-1990s.  If so some interest in Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor might still be around.  

    No one at the time thought Voltaire would survive his time.  I take it the reason that Candide survived as as much to do with the readability of the new genre as with the quality of the work itself.

    Having said all that, I doubt that MJ will be on heavy rotation in 2050.

    Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and a gorilla starts throwing barrels at you. -- Fry, Futurama

    by LithiumCola on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:36:37 PM PDT

    •  Who the hell knows what life is going (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LithiumCola

      to be like in 2050 ... but judging from the way scientists keep saying "oops, the global warming scenario is even worse than we thought," not great. :D

    •  I've thought the same thing about Candide. (4+ / 0-)

      But it's basically a (cleaned up) rewrite of Marquis DeSade's 'Justine', no? Or was Voltaire first? I think it survives because it expressed a very basic comic principle; good deeds never go unpunished! And I'm sure no one thought Swift would be remembered.
      Now for modern writers, I'm betting on Cormac McCarthy to survive, but you never know.

      The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

      by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:47:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  MJ's work was almost universally well produced (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, LithiumCola

      which does mean, to a certain extent, his stuff will always have a much better chance of being listened to.

      An artist's work survives because of either its technical skill or its artistry---and very rarely because of both. I'd say MJ's work will be listened to first because of his videos and his stardom, and then primarily because of its technical skill.

  •  All I want -- All I need (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love, AWhitneyBrown, LynneK

    The bridge on "I want you back" -- which he sings at age 11 -- is brilliant.  Brilliant.  I'll go out on a limb and say Mr. Steveland Morris -- a National Treasure, AKA Stevie Wonder -- thinks Michael's performance is pretty righteous as well.  Please stop comparing these two.  It's as intellectually tiresome as the whole Beatles vs. Rolling Stones argument.  Stop it!

    Hell hath no fury like the vast robot armies of a woman scorned

    by Mike E on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:50:15 PM PDT

  •  Thanks For The Comments, Everyone (7+ / 0-)

    This has been an elucidating conversation, one that I would have had with friends if I wasn't too sick to go out today, and I thank everyone for their comments.

    The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain

    by AWhitneyBrown on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:50:56 PM PDT

  •  The number one selling album, ever (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, annetteboardman, LynneK

    was Thriller. And Jackson was much more popular outside of the US than here at home.

    So, yeah, I think he'll do alright.

    BTW, he also owned most of The Beatles catalog, at least at one time. (Not sure if he sold it due to his financial troubles)

    I suspect the inner demons of some of these artists - and we might as well include Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and I'm sure a bunch more I'm forgetting, actually help their popularity and mystique.

    Lastly, while I agree "Superstition" was/is a great tune, for the life of me, I hear no resemblance to "Thriller". Superstition is quite a bit more complex than the 4-note riff that makes up most of "Thriller".

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:30:33 PM PDT

  •  This will be my only comment on this subject. (8+ / 0-)

    The man was a talented performer, with a keen musical sense.  Other than that, he was essentially a media creation and a PR phenomenon. He contributed very little in terms of music that will outlast his life. His music, although enjoyable, is already dated.  Nor was any of it particularly original, or creative, beyond the sense that any "catchy" tune is creative.

    His truly memorable songs outside the rabid fan base number about eight or nine. Compared to Lennon and McCartney, to use just one example, his contribution to musical history was minimal.

    He elevated himself by PRing himself, much the way Madonna, another overrated talent did and continues to do. The media fascination was not, to his credit, all of his own making, but arose in sync with a gradual commercialization of American culture. The pop-hero superstar phenomenon fit well into the early eighties zeitgeist, and he rode it to a hilt.

    I'm certainly sorry he passed away at such a young age because I think of him as a tragic, if well-meaning figure. I did not expect him to have any more musical "breakthroughs". Realistically, given his failure to produce any memorable music in the last fifteen years I think most people felt the same way, even if they'd rather not admit it.

    I have a good friend who worked in a framing shop in Santa Fe. The shop was one of the most sought-out shops in the U.S. and was run by two guys from New York City. They did some of Michael Jackson's framing, including some works that were on display at his Wonderland ranch (or whatever its called). The painting I remember (from a photo) was one that depicted him as some sort of mythical God. It looked almost like one of Frazetta's works. He was wielding a Sword and looked like a wizard from The Lord of the Rings.  I just thought it was bizarre that one would want to have that type of depiction of onesself in one's home.  But that's apparently what he was about--lost in fantasy.

    Who was Bush_Horror2004, anyway?

    by Dartagnan on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:37:12 PM PDT

  •  thriller / superstition? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homogenius, LynneK, tardis10

    I don't hear that comparison at all but hey ... it's pop music so everyone's opinion is valid.

    MJs artistry is probably best expressed in the choreography of the dance routines. The sheer physicality of the line of the dancers in Beat It for instance.

    Will he be mentioned with Stevie Wonder in the future? No. For the record his death affected me a lot less than Lennon and more than Elvis but that's demographics for you.

    If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

    by jgnyc on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:53:27 PM PDT

  •  Hey, AWhitney-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AWhitneyBrown

    Glad to see you comment on this.

    As an aside, my first reaction to Princess Diana's death was that she would be in the pantheon of popular culture with Marilyn and Elvis. My second reaction was that the Queen must be thinking "Oh shit, now I'll never be rid of her".

    Yesterday my reaction was that I wish I could be in L.A. to see the space ship land when Elvis comes down to recover the alien symbiot from Jackson's body.

    I wonder if Diana Ross will lose money on the royalties for her face?

    And what about all the boys he's paid off--do their non-disclosure agreements survive his death?

    I would dare to venture only one prediction: that this story is far from over. I expect more twists and turns as we navigate through the autopsy, police investigations, probate, and requisite lawsuits. There are still a lot of unanswered questitons.

    But to get to your central thesis: I'm not sure how his work will hold up. My guess is that he'll be regarded as an innovative oddity. I think the dust will have to settle before anyone can assess. There's a lot of drama to play out before the work can be tested over time.

    But thanks for jumping in--I think this is the best MJ diary next to Hunter's.

    "Troll-be-gone...apply directly to the asshole. Troll-be-gone...apply directly to the asshole."

    by homogenius on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 08:37:15 PM PDT

  •  He'll be remembered more as a character and maybe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AWhitneyBrown

    as a dancer than as a singer. His music for the most part was good, but a lot of other people played a role in it.

  •  I think Jackson's legacy... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AWhitneyBrown

    ... is but a continuation of long story - the role of technology in sharing information.

    Thriller marked a tipping point in the promotion and distribution of music.  They say video killed the radio star, but it was Thriller that put the fine point on it.  It became clear that the rise and fall of music no longer rested with the local DJ.  The burgeoning cable television industry came to dominate this role.

    It was the internationalization of MTV itself that foretold the rise of global media that dominates our airwaves today.  And it found application beyond music.  News Corp owes a huge debt to Jackson/MTV model for the packaging and distribution of both its pop culture and poltico-news products.  To wit, see the "synergistic" distribution over print/TV/radio of the Glenn Beck's and Bill O'Reilly's of the Fox world.

    Jackson, to me, represents the intersection of great talent and great opportunity.  You are right, time will tell if the artistry of Jackson endures, but I think it is safe to say that the disruptive role Jackson played in the conveyance of information in a global marketplace endures.

  •  Speaking of the Funky Drummer (0+ / 0-)

    Clyde Stubblefield is in ill health.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:33:37 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site