ichael Jackson “took the world on a journey like no entertainer ever has or ever will,” said Mark Davis in The Dallas Morning News. And his death, at 50, leaves many of us with “mixed feelings.” He gave us “amazing musical gifts”—the Jackson 5 hits (watch Jackson sing "Ben"); “Off the Wall,” an album that “changed music history”; “Thriller,” that unmatchable “burst of pop culture” (watch the "Thriller" music video); “Bad”—but also a “grotesque and tragic” sideshow featuring unshakable child-molestation allegations.
Michael Jackson’s life will always be split into “epochs of before Thriller and after,” said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald. With that album, “he redefined the very meaning of success.” But “Thriller” is also his “great tragedy.” He tried to, but never did, top it, yet it made him a star “no one could say no to”—not when he ruined his face with plastic surgery, not when he overspent, “and not when he began sharing his bed—innocently, he always said—with little boys.”
Without his “extravagant eccentricities” and the “sad stains” of alleged abuse, Michael Jackson would be a “B-list has-been,” said Richard Kim in The Nation. “He’d be John Oates.” We loved the Elephant Man bones, his pet chimp Bubbles, his weird oxygen chamber, Neverland Ranch, and his “ambiguous, obsessive” relationship to race and childhood. He was a “human freak,” and we couldn’t get enough.
Look past the “bizarre, freakish spectacle of his rather tragic life,” said Mark Moford in the San Francisco Chronicle, and you get a inkling of Michael Jackson's huge, joy-inducing impact on the world. “Countless millions of people worldwide” have listened, danced, laughed, and loved to his “gift of music.” We may all disagree over politics and religion, “but everyone knows what the moonwalk is.” (watch Jackson debut the moonwalk in 1983)
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