I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, but having grown up in the 80s, it’s hard to deny how big of a phenomenon he was. For those of you who are too young to remember his heyday, it’s hard to imagine how big a single celebrity could be.
Michael Jackson was everywhere in the 80s. Almost everyone had heard his music, seen his videos, or owned a copy of Thriller. Kids did the moonwalk and dressed like him. Remember the jacket from ‘Beat It’? That was a coveted fashion statement in the early 80s!
Just an anecdote to relate how big MJ was — I remember walking into a department store in 1983. Right inside the front door was a display stocked with the Thriller album. There was a small TV playing the Thriller video. What’s more — there was a crowd, watching the Thriller video on this small TV screen, in the front of a discount department store.
In today’s fragmented pop culture, it’s no longer possible for a musician to attain the level of fame that Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson once did. (And to a lesser extent, Nirvana). Of course, that level of fame has a sinister dark side.
Elvis died on the toilet an overweight drug addict. John Lennon was shot by a crazed fan. Kurt Cobain took heroin and killed himself. And Michael Jackson steadily grew weirder and whiter until he died of as-of-yet unknown causes. Maybe it’s better that we not deify our celebrities so much.