By Kevin O’Sullivan
So in the midst of all of the talk, what can we say about Michael Jackson? Well, how about asking how future generations will remember a man who, we should not forget, among his all-too-apparent faults, had a keen sense of how to model his own legacy before it slipped away through his fingers – career retrospective called HIStory: Past, Present and Future coupled with a giant statue of yourself floating down the Thames through central London or planned fifty-night run at London’s O2 arena anyone?
Which Michael Jackson will we remember? A man held up as a symptom of an age of celebrity excess, the victim of the spread of global media, remembered more for the accusations and scandal that haunted him throughout his life? How about an example of a new age of media corruption and the destruction of a childhood played and re-played in front of a worldwide audience? Or will he – the inane posturing of ‘It don’t matter if you’re black or white’ aside – be viewed as someone who transcended racial boundaries on his way to becoming a superstar, a case study of changing cultural stereotypes, as one of the first true embracers and torch-carriers of the MTV generation and at the cutting edge of a new cultural movement, one of the last icons of an industry that died along with him?
Anything, I’m willing to bet, but the simple fact that among all the posturing, all the hubris, all the overblown nonsense (I’m pointing in your direction, ‘Earth Song’) and all of the mistakes, the man (heavily aided by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, it has to be said) did make some of the best pop music of his generation.