Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

For an analysis of Jackson’s iconic status, see my more recent review of his memorial service.

At his height, he was the biggest thing in the world. For a generation of young people–my generation–there will never be another.

Michael Jackson will be remembered for many things–his time with the Jackson 5, Thriller, the worldwide phenomenon he was, as well as the controversies of his molestation trial, financial troubles, and appearance–but to me and millions of others he will always be the “King of Pop.”


It’s not that I excuse the man’s failings and shortcomings, whatever those were. But he was always more than a person, more than what can be contained within the limitations of a human being.

Michael Jackson was music.  He was dance.  He was, for a time, the biggest thing in popular culture.  He was girls and boys screaming, sweaty crowds reaching, flashes of light and human ecstasy.  In the U.S., in Europe, in Latin America, in the so-called Third World, wherever he went, it was the same spectacle.

The person behind this cultural phenomenon is dead, but that amazingly rare commercial beast that he embodied will never die.  It’s time has passed, but we all did bear witness to it.  We, too, will pass, but future generations will still know the name Michael Jackson.