For the last 48 hours Michael Jackson’s Do You Remember the Time has been firmly stuck in my head. Oddly enough I don’t actually think I’d heard the song in over a year, even though it is entirely possible that it may have been slipped into any of the multiple montages of Jackson’s music that have bombarded the radio and television ever since his passing. The fact that I couldn’t shake this song, along with the staggering estimation that over a billion people world wide viewed his memorial service on television got me thinking about the impact that this man has had.
No matter your opinion on the man himself and the firestorm of controversy that surrounded him, everything from addiction to drugs and cosmetic surgery to multiple child molestation charges, one thing is undeniably clear…Michael Jackson truly was the King of Pop. Again I found myself pondering his impact on music and pop culture not just over the last 30 plus years, but his place in history. So the question I ask today is, is Michael Jackson the single greatest performer of the modern area?
Now when comparing artists, bands or art in general everything becomes very subjective. After all music isn’t baseball where everything is measured in stats, how can you measure the joy that an entertainer brings a person? By records sales or how many stadiums a band sold out on their last tour. Some of the most memorable performances I’ve ever experienced have been in a tiny club, or alone in my car or bedroom. One of the amazing aspects of music is that it is not only has the power to unite people in a sweaty mosh pit or on the ultra shinny American Idol, it also has the ability to bring joy or comfort to the individual. So how then can any person say who the single greatest musician is?
Still it seems that every new generation has that artist who the masses look to as the voice for their era. Frank Sinatra dominated the charts for years before Elvis rose up to reshape the landscape of music forever. Then along came the likes of the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, and so on. When MJ started dropping hit after hit almost half a life time had passed since rock n’ roll had taken over the charts.
Was Jackson the new Elvis?
Without getting into any arguments on who actually started rock n’ roll, it is undeniable that Elvis is responsible for bringing rock ‘n roll to the masses. When he broke there was nothing to compare him to. The exact same can be said of MJ. He danced like no one before him ever had. His voice was smooth as butter. He created the modern version of what we not call the music video.
Is it any wonder that over a billion tuned in for one last look at spectacle that followed MJ and his tragic life and untimely death? He was more a pioneer that musician or performer.
So back to the question; was MJ the greatest solo artist of all time? I personally can’t answer that for any other person. However when over an 7th of the worlds population tunes into say their goodbyes, you have to wonder if it was silly question to begin with.