The grim reaper made a double play today, with two extraordinary iconic celebrities from the 1970's passing away within hours of each other. One was expected, as Farrah Fawcett succumbed after a long battle with cancer at the age of 61. Click on the link for an excellent tribute posted by Lisa on The Flaming Nose.
The other was shocking to most, as news trickled in around 3:30pm pacific time that Michael Jackson had died in Los Angeles supposedly of a heart attack, at the age of 50. Mr. Jackson had been rehearsing vigorously for an eagerly anticipated concert series in London. He was found unconscious in his rented mansion and rushed to the UCLA medical center, where they were unable to revive him. Crowds of bereaved fans immediately started gathering at the hospital.
Michael Jackson had a very long and accomplished musical career, that was often over shadowed by his "stranger than fiction" personal life. In the 1970's at the age of 11, he became a huge star for Motown records as part of a family singing group called The Jackson Five. They racked up a number of hit singles including "I'll Be There", "ABC" and "I Want You Back". More details can be found on the official Michael Jackson web site (linked above and now crashed due to an overload of interest from around the world). Additional discographies are available on Wikipedia,
which was updated with news of Michael's death only minutes after it was first reported on TV.
In the 1980's, Michael Jackson went solo and enjoyed enormous success as a pop star and MTV icon with his super platinum album "Thriller" (1982), which remained on Billboard's top ten list for 80 consecutive weeks and spawned the popular hit singles "Beat It", and "Billie Jean". It is sometimes cited as being the best selling album of all time and the title song has been a staple of Halloween parties for over two decades.
In 1983, Michael appeared on one of the most phenomenal live television specials of all time, NBC's "Motown 25" celebrating the 25th anniversary of Motown records. It was on this event that Michael Jackson unveiled his trademark moon walk dance, in which he appears to glide across the stage as if the floor was made of ice.
From the 1990's through the present, Mr. Jackson's extremely odd personal life started to overshadow his fame as a recording artist. The list of his eccentricities is almost longer than his string of musical hits. He started to alter his appearance with extreme plastic surgery until he looked more like Norma Desmond than a handsome African American man. He created his own Amusement Park and palace in the hills of Santa Barbara called "Neverland". He briefly married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the original King of Pop. He befriended a chimp named Bubbles, who became his traveling companion. Most infamously, he was accused of child molestation, (but acquitted) in a trial that became, like most of his life, a complete media circus. Although not convicted, his career never really recovered after the trial.
From a cute child star to a plastic surgery train wreck and worse, Michael Jackson was absolute cannon fodder for the paparazzi. Now that the glare of their flashbulbs will be dimmed forever, he might be remembered for his musical genius as well as for being as mad as a hatter. For a glimpse of that genius, here's his performance of "Billie Jean" on NBC's Motown 25 television special in 1983.