Michael Jackson some thoughts
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 27 June 2009
Like many people I am in absolute shock that Michael Jackson is dead. The only thing more shocking is if the Queen died. No actual this is more shocking, the Queen is old, Michael Jackson was only 50.
And for once I am not just in shock as a person, but as a black person.
Michael Jackson was the most famous black person in world history. It is impossible to underestimate his importance to black people. It wasn't just that he made incredible music created amazing videos and put on ground breaking shows, he also broke down barriers in a way that hadn't been done before and can't be done again.
It hard to believe it now but before Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, black entertainers were in a cul-de-sac. Black musicians were continually struggling to reach a wider audience outside of black communities.
Twenty five years ago MTV had an unofficial policy banning videos by black musicians. Herbie Hancock, an early pioneer of techno music, famously made a video in which he was not in it.
Jackson changed all that not by political statement but simply by producing material that was so vibrant, so kinetic, and so damn entertaining that it demanded to be shown.
Jackson worked in many genres. Strictly speaking from about the time of “Thriller” he was not an R n B musician. Rhythm and Blues isn't a genre, it's a marketing term for music which is popular with Black America. Jackson's music was popular with everybody. But his roots lay in African-American music of the 50's and 60's, in the dance routines of James Brown in song machine that was Tamala Motown and the youthful appeal and catchy melodies of Frankie Lemon and the Teenagers.
In recent years Jackson had managed to alienate many black people. As an African-American showbiz friend once said to me para-phasing one of Jackson's songs,
“It doesn't matter if you are black or white and Michael Jackson has proved that because he used to be black and now he is whiter that any white man.”
Yet even before his unexpected demise there was still good will towards him.
A story in the American press that the all the Jacksons apart from Janet had fallen on hard times with one stacking shelves in a supermarket, was greeted with; well-wishes, disbelief and anger at the “lying white media” in black-centric internet forums.
People were genuinely excited about his comeback, though it was clear that he was doing it for the money. He will be sadly missed.