Writing - Music & Music Business

Rob Rodell

It’s been over 30 years since young kids (and even some adults) around the world started emulating the crotch-grab, the glove, the hat and the moonwalk. June 2019 will mark 10 years since the King of Pop died. But the legend and the memory of Michael Jackson live on.

Born into a musical family, MJ started out as a lead singer at a very young age, and was an integral part of the Jackson 5. In the 70s he established himself as a serious solo artist, but it wasn’t until 1982 when he turned the world on its head with Thriller – at 115 million copies sold (about 42 million minus the hype), it’s the biggest selling album of all time. Rumour has it that Sony were none too thrilled with the album, and that he had to fight to get them to release it. The rest, as they say, is HIStory.

Madonna confessed that she wanted to be MJ, and made a concerted effort to turn his manager into hers. By the mid-80s, she and MJ were the two biggest stars in music, a fact that Pepsi quickly picked up on and tried to use to their advantage.

But in a strange twist of fate, it was Michael Jackson’s own obsession with Elvis (and The Beatles) that really captures the imagination. MJ was the King of Pop, Elvis the King of Rock. Elvis’ estate was Graceland, MJ’s was Neverland. Michael even married Lisa-Marie Presley, Elvis’ only daughter, so that he could emulate the King of Rock and be entangled with him. Of course, they often say that in order to become a truly iconic artist you have to die. Elvis’s star had begun to wane, and in 1977 he died of a drug overdose at the age of 42. MJ’s star had also begun to wane, and in 2009 he died of a pill overdose at the age of 50. And then of course there is John Lennon, who was shot and killed at the age of 40.

And speaking of his connection to The Beatles, it is said that the top 3 selling artists of all time are Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson. Perhaps as a way to ensure that his star was hitched to theirs, or maybe as a way to keep them close so that he could work with them or be like them, MJ was also inextricably linked to The Beatles and not just Elvis. He worked with Paul McCartney on ‘The Girl is Mine’ for Thriller, and later on ‘Say, Say, Say,’ while he also owned the catalogue of The Beatles’ music, which caused an upset between him and Paul McCartney. Perhaps he just wanted to be friends with people who shared his interests and knew what he was going through.

There is no escaping Michael Jackson’s effect on the world, both musical and in terms of popular culture. RIP MJ – we still luv ya…

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