The death of Michael Jackson is the first time I have experienced celebrity death in Web 2.0. It will be true for many people that they discovered his death through things like Facebook or Twitter. There has been a constant barrage of information all morning and it has led me to think about a couple of things.
Michael Jackson is probably the first world pop star to die. I am sure you can make a case for someone like John Lennon, but in my modest estimation he did not have the same type of global following that MJ experienced in places like Africa and Asia. MJ became a global sensation at the beginning of globalization and that has a huge impact on his importance as a world figure. I had a couple of conversations with people in Korea today, where they talked about everything from his music to his plastic surgery. He is a symbol of a global age and global information.
He is a reminder that in death some people will choose to remember the good we have done and some will choose to focus on the negative. I have seen status updates and tweets about how he is a pedophile, and this is his justice delayed. I have also seen people deeply struck with grief over the loss of a hero.
Music is a drug, perhaps the most powerful drug in the world. In that sense, people all over the world are reminded of the different times they “got high” on the king of pop. I think about myself buying Dangerous as the second Compact Disk I ever owned and listening to it on my discman over and over again. I think about the longing it created in me for racial justice, before I could even fully understand what those words meant. His music had the ability to change your mood and your thoughts. Songs like Man in the Mirror make you reflective while songs like Bad make you want to get in a little trouble and have a little fun. Music is transformative and one of the most powerful musical creators of the last 100 years is no longer with us. That is why so many people are upset.
As far as the public fall from grace is concerned, there is not enough information for me to cast judgment on the man. Even if there was I wouldn’t want to. Here is someone that was abused by his father, was not “allowed” to have a normal childhood, had a disease that led to self image issues, and he had substance abuse issues and then we act scandalized when he grows up to be a little nutty, alright, extremely eccentric.
Some people have shown frustration with the fact that his death is such a big deal because of the fact that there are such greater issues going on in our world. While this is an easy argument to make by pointing to any number of issues, I think it misses the greater scope of what people are feeling. This is a defining moment. The world has experienced political uprisings before the recent one in Iran, but they have not experienced them the same way before. In the last week, how many of us have watched silent marching in Tehran, or a woman dying captured on a cell phone video camera? How many of us have watched countless youtube videos of MJ today and had some comment, for better or worse about his death. I remember where I was when both shuttles blew up in my life. I remember where I was when I found out about 911. I remember where I was when Princess Diana died. I remember where I was when the OJ verdict was delivered. And I will remember when I found out about the death of the King of Pop and I found out from a text.
I am truly sad about Michael Jackson’s death. Maybe his London concerts would have put him back in a better light, but oddly enough I think that his death has done that. It seems like far more of us went to youtube to watch Thriller or Beat It videos than we did to see him holding his child out of the window. In a way that gives me hope, because it tells me we still want to find the good in people instead of focusing on the bad. Instead of ending this post with an obligatory comment about looking at ourselves in the mirror or talking about how we can make the world a better place I just want to say that I hope people remember the good in me when I am gone and tell good stories that we shared in their status updates.