By Diane Williams
Michael Jackson have brought irrevocable changes worldwide. It was he who helped dissolve racial prejudices constructed by MTV in its early days, when up until that time black entertainers were seldom seen on the small screen.
His voice transcended race; he appealed to the black community, yet at the height of his Thriller fame, 109 million of the 6.706 billion people living on the planet have owned a copy of his record breaking album. That’s one in every 61 people, worldwide. There are more Thriller fans than Jews worldwide. That’s more people than there are currently living in the countries of Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Swaziland, and Trinidad & Tobego combined.
Allow me to reiterate; if you added up all the people who bought thriller, you could distribute them equally to replace the populations of seventeen countries. Since its founding in 1982, The Nation of Thriller has grown to outnumber the populations of 221 countries worldwide. And that’s not all; Jackson as a philanthropist later went on to raise $63 million dollars with the help of his celebrity and musician friends with the album “We are the World,” which not only made a huge impact on famine relief in Africa, but also soared to the top of the Billboard charts placing #1 in twenty countries worldwide.
With all of his success, why is it that some people only see his flaws? A man who created his image in the tabloids by pulling bizarre stunts such as self-started rumors that he slept in an oxygen tent, and has had hormone therapy to keep a boyishly voice is going to seem weird. But it’s his weirdness what we know him for, his weirdness that we respect.
He is an oddity, a public figure who could command attention and knew how to work the press, a true genius of the limelight who knew how people think about celebrities and used that knowledge to create a legendary image of himself- the zany man-child who lives with animals in an amusement park, who can dance without gravity, and shatter record sales with his unhuman showmanship. Michel knew he was weird but made that weirdness work for him, and maybe, just maybe, that’s where his genius lies.
His ability to moonwalk the line between the Mozart of Pop and the Dali of social situations made him that much more great but also, that much more weird. It’s that greatness and weirdness that made us all want be him when he was up, yet pretend not to care about him when he was down- and unlike other celebrities, Michael knew this. He rode the waves of fame, but as time, and the weight of his crown laid heavy on his poor head; he collapsed under the tremendous weight of his own genius for his heart could take no more. And now, that nation of fans he founded on stage as a five-year old afro’d entertainer in a family band has transcended into myth and self-created legend. We pay our respects for we know his tragedy, we saw his frailty, yet we shook at his power.