26 June 2009

death of an icon

To a child of the 80s with the big hair and flamboyance, there are some things that stood out more than others. The first album I ever bought was 'Dangerous' - on tape - which still reminds me of the start of my incredible journey through music, which is a never-ending search.

Armies of Jackson fans are already calling June 25th the day the music died. For me, not a lot has changed because the music still exists. What has somehow been altered is a perception I cannot fully understand yet.

In the 90s when Michael was singing about environmentalism, it was new and radical. In many ways, it still is - but then there wasn't this sense of urgency we feel now. This is exactly what his songs were predicting: that the day will come when we look back and wonder why we didn't do anything about it then.

He was one of the few artistes in that era who sang about socio-economic-environmental issues in the wide, convoluted forum of pop music. He was an intelligent lyricist and a sensitive performer who often got ridiculed for portraying emotion in his songs. The material he chose to sang about always encompassed a lot more than what empty pop portrays today.

Setting aside (as if it is possible) the moonwalking and the thrilling and the unique voice and the incredible dancing and the 'wacko' image and the bling and the plastic surgery, there was a marked dichotomy between the man and the myth. There are those songs that cannot be forgotten and some that are still relevant and others that make us think and still others that make us feel. For me, apart from contributing the much needed originality to the 80s, the king of pop was the headliner of a mass environmental movement. Even if nothing else, it made people aware of socio-enviro issues through his songs.

Death is both dramatic and dramatized even if dying isn't. Heroes are born after they die and the way to immortality is what you leave behind. For someone who has been the icon of a generation, death will be hard to live down. For those of us who call themselves fans or claim to have cut their musical teeth on Thriller or Bad or Dangerous - forget about the images for a second and focus on the words that is still a much needed refrain.

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