This past week has been a sad week for America with the death of two stars –” actress Farrah Fawcett and music icon Michael Jackson. Farrah’s death was not so sudden; she was suffering from cancer and it was a question of days when she would lose her battle. And she died on Wednesday.
But Michael’s was unbelievable! Simply earth-shattering, shocking! No one predicted that he was going to die this soon. He was only fifty years old with parents and siblings living. Well, he had his health problems and has been under physician’s care. But still he was healthy enough to rehearse for his upcoming July European concert “This Is It” tour just the night before. So, when I heard about his death in the evening news, June 25, I could not believe it. I listened for hours to understand how he had died and what people’s feelings were for him. If the reaction of the mourners is one way to measure how one has touched others emotionally, Michael definitely was immensely popular, in spite of the controversies that haunted him for the past two decades. He was not just a star that entertained and made money of his stardom. He was a megastar that touched so many through his superb entertainment since the tender age of five.
I remember when I had come for my studies to the United States, one of the first things I did was to buy his album –” the Jackson Five. Later I bought few other albums with his more popular songs. He had by then established himself as a highly gifted singer and a successful stage performer. Listening Michael was not enough to understand his impact on the audience. You had to see him perform; see how he glided backward with effortless grace in a move that would forever after be known as the moonwalk and his movement on the stage like a robot.
As a student at the University of Southern California, I lived a few blocks north of the campus and just within 20 yards of the Shriner Auditorium where he occasionally performed. I could not buy those expensive tickets. The closest I came to watching any of the Jackson 5 was when I bought a ticket for a charitable show for the LAPD where his sister performed a dance routine. Janet was not a star then.
Fortunately, for many of us, we had the videos to see his electrifying performances. By 1982 his singles –” ”Billie Jean,” ”Beat It,” ”Thriller,” and so many more had become very popular. The Thriller became the world’s best-selling album of all time. There were hardly enough hours in the day for the fledgling MTV network to show the iconic music videos he shot to promote what was quickly recognized as a masterpiece. The 24-year old kid had definitely by then become the King of the Pop. Those videos were simply sensational and wonderful to watch! No star, not even Madonna, could generate so much excitement as Michael was capable of. He was simply the best among all those entertainment stars.
Michael was a very soft spoken person. He had a soft and caring heart and used his extraordinary music talent to fight poverty and raise awareness for caring of children around the globe. He raised millions of dollars in 1985 to fight hunger in Africa through an album “We are the World.”
Although, Michael was past his youthful years, he remained a child in his heart and exhibited child like qualities who loved children much. He raised millions of dollars in charity for them. He developed the Never Land Ranch in 1988 and, with its museum and amusement park, tried to entertain children. And yet, his love for them became his greatest nemesis. In 1993 and 2005, he would be falsely charged by some greedy parents of improper mixing or activities with children. He was acquitted of all such charges. However, those false charges ruined him financially and mentally, and adversely affected his music career. He failed to repeat his successes of the 1980s.
In spite of all the popularity he enjoyed, Michael remained a very shy and insecure person. His marriage with Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of another music sensation Elvis Presley, fell apart in 1996 after just two years. He kept a very low profile in the 1990s. But his was an indomitable character that would not be subdued by such mishaps in life. He joined with Pavarotti for a charity concert to raise millions of dollars for global refugees in 1999.
With all the troubles in love, life and failed marriages, he would still seek out talented young musicians and help them launch their career. Many of today’s young American musicians owe their success to him.
Michael was the greatest and most successful music entertainer of all time. He sold 750 million albums, something that is unbelievable for any singer, and would probably never be matched in our lifetime by any musician. He was also a smart investor. It is, therefore, quite puzzling to learn that in his death he owed some $400 million in debt.
Michael was a mega-star by any measure in the entertainment industry. Our world has not seen a singer, composer, producer, dancer and choreographer of his caliber combined in a single individual. He earned millions and gave away also in millions in charity. Although he hasn’t sung lately, he was immensely popular everywhere. He is more known globally than any individual in our planet. Through his music, he will live for ages. To label him as the “King of Pops” is lowering his greatness. He was simply the unrivalled Emperor of popular music.
And yet, Michael was a very lonely person. The bad publicity had hurt his tender soul and forced him to seek solace and find the meaning of life outside America in the Middle East where he lived for months before returning to the USA recently. The only person that he confided in and felt comfortable about sharing his inner pains and thoughts was his brother Jermaine. It was all too natural that when he died, it was Jermaine who told the world that his loving younger brother, the most talented of the Jackson siblings, Michael had died at 2:26 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 at the UCLA Medical Center. With Michael’s death, we lost not only a music icon, we lost a caring, charitable brother. Like Jermaine, let’s pray – May Allah be with you always, Michael.