Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," -that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. -John Keats
As with Judy Garland and with Elvis, it did not end well for Michael Joseph Jackson, the best thing ever to come out of Gary, Ind., otherwise a U.S. Steel company town named for a hard-hearted former CEO of that former colossus. But that's a story best told in a minor key.
All we need to know is that Jackson was perhaps the crossover artist in race as well as genres, completing for post-Boomers the work begun by Louis, Ella, Miles and other giants of previous generations. That despite his improbable youth, he was the lead singer among his siblings in the Jackson 5, the most successful of the "bubblegum" rockers. That four of his solo studio albums - Off The Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995) are among the world's bestselling records; and that 27 years after its release, Thriller (1982) remains the bestselling record of all time. That while the likes of Duran Duran pioneered music videos, Jackson's huge fan base and his own gifts of choreography and storytelling made such videos a compulsory part of every promising new artist's repertoire. And that a 60-something U.S. music critic, whose ambit covers Mozart to Mel Torme, was not alone among a half-dozen critics to name "Billie Jean" as one of the previous century's five most important musical compositions in an Esquire survey earlier this decade.
Below is a decent amateur history of the Jackson 5, its soundtrack "Got To Be There"; and a Jackson live performance of "Billie Jean" in a 1980s tribute to Motown's 25th year.