Prodigy, Pariah, Pedophile or Prince?

If the death of Michael Jackson could be summed up into one word, it would be disbelief. But it is impossible to sum anything with Michael Jackson into one word. To say that he lived a full life would be an understatement. Michael Jackson was not just the Prince of Pop he was the venerable pillar of the music of this generation. Some of the children who grew up listening to his music would eventually become stars themselves, and if one looked closely they would see the inspiration of Michael Jackson in their music.

He was only 11 when he appeared on TV for the first time, as a part of the Jackson 5, but already he was making a mark for himself. After a string of hits with the Jackson 5, now the Jacksons, Jackson decided to venture on his own into the world of music.

Before he recorded his first album, Jackson starred in The Wiz (1978), a re-imagination of The Wizard of Oz, with music by Quincy Jones. The two of them formed a bond that would last a lifetime and after the movie, Jones co-produced Michael’s first album Off The Wall. The album went on to generate four US top 10 hits, including the chart-topping singles "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You".

That album would eventually sell 7 million units, but Jackson felt the album should’ve had more impact and was unsatisfied with the result. He went hard to work on what would become the biggest selling album of all time; that album was Thriller. It spawned seven top ten hits, featured a sold out documentary directed by John Landis, a music video that was literally a short movie, and has since sold an estimate of 109 million units; a record that remains untouched to this date, even by his own future efforts.

It was shortly after the release of this album that Jackson appeared as a solo artist for the first time. It was during this performance that the people saw him perform his signature dance move, the moonwalk, for the first time. After that, Michael Jackson was everywhere. From newspapers to magazines, to toys and lunchboxes, if there was something else Michael Jackson was good at; that was building an image and marketing it.

But not all the coverage he got was good. During the mid eighties his eccentric habits would often grace the covers of tabloids. Whether it was sleeping in an oxygen chamber or befriending a chimpanzee called Bubbles, Michael Jackson single handedly helped spawn the tabloid magazine era. He is quoted to have said, “Why not just tell people I'm an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They'll believe anything you say, because you're a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, 'I'm an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,' people would say, 'Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He's cracked up. You can't believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.’” And these words summed up his relationship with the tabloids. But they weren’t done with him yet. After the weirdness allegations, there were the child molestation charges—some say that Michael might have recovered from being called Wacko Jacko, but he never recovered from being called a pedophile. His fans never left his side. They had kept a vigil outside the Santa Maria courthouse during the whole of Jackson's trial in 2005. When it was announced that he had been cleared of all charges, they released 14 white doves to celebrate his acquittal.

His foray into movies was not sizable, but whenever he did it was a moment unto itself. He starred in Moonwalker, Ghosts, Thriller and Bad, which were music videos to singles but movies in their own right. He starred in the TV show Simpsons and guest starred in Men in Black 2. For the most part, Michael knew that although he could've gone in and made movies, they would not have been a good business decision.

Few people realize how adept Jackson was in terms of his own image and marketing. Even fewer realize the shrewdness of his ability to do business. It was Paul McCartney who would tell him about the benefits of owning record catalogues, rights to other musicians' music; McCartney himself was earning millions every year by owning a music catalogue of his own. Jackson listened to McCartney's advice and bought out the entire Beatles song catalogue for $47 million; a move that created a rift between the once friendly artists.

His extravagance did not end there. In 1987 he bought a 2,800 ranch for $14 million and named it Neverland. There he created a theme park and a zoo, a few notable establishments bringing the cost of running the entire facility every year to a staggering $4 million.

His death on June 25th, 2009, leaves a gaping hole within the music industry. He had not released new music in a while, but his presence was always there. It would be an understatement to say he was a part of the music industry. Some say that the best selling album of all time, Thriller, single-handedly saved the entire music industry. His contribution to the music industry, whether it was his music or the inspiration he gave to the many music artists of today, can never be measured nor equaled.

He started off as a prodigy in music. He was also called a paranoid, a pedophile and even a pariah. Call him what you will, and each historian will remember him in their own words—and none of them will be alike, except of course, Michael Jackson’s own words.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make a change