by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
Anytime the name Michael Jackson hits the news, it has a way of pushing everything else completely into the background. And the news of his untimely death did more than push other news back. It completely shocked generations of people, from those who weren’t even born when Thriller was created, to the most elderly, no matter what their musical preferences.
And how is it that at a time when the Iranian “election” (I use the term loosely), North Korean nuclear ambitions and the economy has gripped the world, the death of a pop music icon could push all of that off the front pages? Does this say something about our skewed priorities?
Michael Jackson has been the flag-bearer of the music of at least two generations. For those in their 50s and 60s, Jackson is the 10-year-old superkid, lead singer of the Jackson 5, belting out hits like “ABC” and “I’ll Be There.” For 30 to 40-year-olds, the superkid became Superman, with “Thriller”, “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”. For anyone older or younger, even if it wasn’t their music, it was and is impossible to not to acknowledge that Jackson was different – greater than most. A true genius.
But does that really answer the question? Why do we care so much about our entertainment industry icons?
Part of the reason is that what Jackson, and all other super-performers do, is claim our emotional soul with their art. They don’t just appeal to our sense of aesthetics. They appeal to our heart, on a much more primitive level than aesthetics. Their music grabs us at a time in our lives (usually the teen years) when music is about all that can really describe our messed-up emotions. And the death of an icon like Jackson, for that reason, becomes psychologically hard to accept. For many of us, the death of a musical genius scares us, because it reminds us that even Superman dies.
Amongst the sadness generated by the loss of a musician like Michael Jackson, we can at least find solace in the fact that his music lives on. And that’s the thing to remember: creators of art will die, but the art they create is immortal. I truly believe that in 500 years, historians will still be discussing the genius of Michael Jackson. His music will live on.