Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson, 'King of Pop,' African, American

Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop” is the musical mega icon who opened the door for African-Americans to conquer the popular culture scene. Succumbing to cardiac arrest a month before commencing his sold-out "final curtain" series of 50 London concerts, MJ's death has been mourned by the world. It is, perhaps, ironic that MJ's rather premature death came during the first year in office of President Barack Obama, the first man of color ever elected into the United States presidency.

Jackson, who is credited for shattering the race barrier in American pop culture, is recognized as one of the most successful, revolutionary, and influential popular music artists of all time, in the league of the Beatles band and Elvis Presley. He began singing when he was around aged 5, initially joining his brothers as backup musician in the 'Jackson 5.' As part of their group act or as solo act, he hit the Billboard charts and gained influential success in the 1970s. He was first inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997—as part of the Jackson 5 band. MJ was a legendary concert dynamo, credited with elevating the energy of pop concerts to high level. A superbly creative songwriter, an innovative and technically impressive dancer, and singer extraordinaire, and yes, an "insightful businessman."

King of Pop
MJ ruled most of the 1980s musical scene, reaching his commercial peak with his 1982 "Thriller" album. Even when taking the considerable expansion of the music market in the 1980s into account, Jackson's commercial success was perhaps no less equal with those of the King of Rock n Roll, Elvis Presley, and the most successful band of all time, The Beatles, whose (US) careers spanned from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, and the 1960s, respectively. In terms of artistry and influence, MJ arguably rivals these two pop-culture greats that came before him.

As solo artist, he is perhaps the most successful in history. He clocked in 13 No. 1 hit singles. Five of his solo albums--“Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous” and “HIStory,” are considered some of the all-time best-sellers. MJ sold a total of some 750 million records in the world during his over-40-year career. The Guinness World Records considered his "Thriller" album, which posted a total of more than 104 million sales worldwide, as the Biggest Selling album of All Time, and named him as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time. In 2001, he was inducted again into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this time as a solo artist. He won a total of 13 Grammy Awards. The American Music Award presented him with no less than the Artist of the Century Award.

Child Molestation scandals
MJ's career saw his thrilling and spectacular rise from the Jackson 5 stardom in the 1970s to cultural mega icon in the 1980s. The two decades that followed were not as bright as they proved to be a disaster for his personal life and public image. In the 1990s, while he was no longer as big a cultural force as in his "Thriller" days, he did continue to turn out hit singles and albums; however, a child molestation charge in 1993 marked his gradual falling out with the American audience appalled by his supposed indiscretion with minors in his Neverland ranch in California.He reportedly agreed to a settlement initiated by the father of the alleged victim to a whooping tune of over $20 million. Ten years later, he faced another child molestation charge, this time brought to court but which ended up in the singer's acquittal. The stress he suffered from the trial and the negative publicity the 2003 accusations brought forth reportedly got MJ hooked on prescription drugs.

Jackson was as much an icon of charity as he was a mega pop culture icon--at least before child molestation accusations dogged his persona for years. In 1984, US President Ronald presented MJ with an award for his support of charities dedicated to helping people fight drug and alcohol abuse. The same year, he donated the $5 million share he got from the 1984 Victory Tour of The Jackson brothers to charity. The year marked the beginning of some twenty years of charitable acts that included generous contributions to around 40 organizations that included the Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Heal The World Foundation. Dakar Foundation, The Sickle Cell Research Foundation, Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, and Transafrica. He also co-wrote with Lionel Richie the USA for Africa benefit hit single, "We Are the World." In the Millennium-Issue of the “Guinness Book Of Records, ” MJ is named as the Pop Star who supports the most number of charity organizations.

Amidst all his thrilling successes and impressive acts of charity, MJ began presenting eccentric behavior at some point during his career peak, the most obvious of which was his addiction to facial plastic surgery. The evolution of his face from a "normal" and cute African-American guy to a pale-skinned womanish one apparently involved a series of surgeries centering on his nose and cheek bone sculpturing. While he has admitted to only two rhinoplasty jobs—presumably the ones done after he accidentally broke his nose in 1979—plastic surgeons who studied Jackson's photos have reportedly ventured the opinion that the singer actually has undergone some 30-40 operations over a period of some than two decades.

Plastic Surgery Addict
His early non-medical transformation under the knife seemed to have begun around 1981 during his “Thriller” era. Initially, he only had his nose narrowed down and his eyebrows shaped. Later, his lips seemed thinned down and nose tipped up as his face seemed made feminine and his skin color whitened. During his 2002 courtroom appearance, he looked ghoulish and wore a plaster that seemed to hold the nose by its tip. By the time of his death, a more feminine and odd-looking Jackson had to have his "deteriorating" nose repaired by a German plastic surgeon who inserted a cartilage taken from his ear. Some attribute what was then MJ’s emerging odd behavior to the accident that inflicted second-degree burns to his scalp while filming a commercial for Pepsi Cola in 1984. The incident supposedly led the singer to acquire dependence on painkilling drugs. Whatever the cause was, it was clear that the pop icon developed an addiction for facial plastic surgery.

The famed singer's rhinoplasty beginning in the 1980s drew criticisms that he was having problems with his African-American look. It later became apparent, however, that his sculpturing issues involved something else, or perhaps both. His German surgeon reportedly said that Michael Jackson was obsessed with plastic surgery and wanted to change his looks from a black male to a white female.

Despite his physical transformation that moved away from his ethnic and masculine facial features—courtesy of the science of plastic surgery—it still cannot be denied that the King of Pop almost single-handedly tore down the wall that restricted the Afro-American penetration of American pop culture.

Before Jackson's time and inspite of the gains of the Civil Movement, the dominant society that earlier enslaved their ancestors and sent segregated black "Immune Regiments" to help fight the colonialist Philippine-American War was simply still very much discriminatory against the blacks. Before him, black music, and its black artists, were generally relegated to that produced by white artists.

In the 1970s, MJ was already a big name with his "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "Ben" hits during the period that he and his brothers were helping build the racially integrating Motown Sound. The Jackson brothers, with Michael as their band's lead singer, were the first Afro-American teenage idols that appealed equally to both black and white audiences. As solo star in the 1980s, the colossally huge sales of his records and his popularization of the moonwalk dance steps showed to the world that an African-American artist can become the largest Afro-American and crossover star in history. Moreover, his "Billie Jean" success forced MTV to lift its ban on featuring black artists during its regular rotation.

Thus was the door swung open for other black artists such as Prince to showcase their artistry, together with their dark skins, in the world of music videos. The then emerging image-and-sound music channel that was MTV proved to be a powerful vehicle not only for the popular acceptance of individual black singers but, moreover, for the effective Afro-American penetration of American consciousness. Other than by his superbly beautiful "feathery-timbered tenor" coasting into a daringly startling falsetto, his avant garde and technically superb moonwalk and robotic moves, the smashing success of “Thriller” that elevated the importance of albums, and his influence on hip hop, pop and R&B vocal styles, Jackson was able to revolutionize pop culture by forever altering the demographics of race color in the who's who of pop culture. The nonchalantly good number of Afro-American entertainment celebrities we have today in America actually owe their debt to the King of Pop.

Peter Pan is Caucasian
His contribution to the mainstream acceptance of the Afro-Americans in US society notwithstanding, no amount of denials by his camp can cover the fact that MJ transformed his facial features to become less Negroid (and male) in appearance. It is possible to explain the singer's particular obsession with his nose based on accounts of his less-than-normal childhood.

He is said to have had an isolated upbringing marked by the presence of a dictatorial and violent father. He missed out on real childhood since he started performing professionally in early grade school. The King of Pop swears to Peter Pan being a favorite cartoon character. Additionally, he claimed that his original broad nose was a butt of family jokes when he was young. Psychology experts are in speculative agreement that the singer's troubled and depraved upbringing might have had wrought in him lasting emotional scars. Combine these with his adult-period eccentricities that included referring to himself once as Peter Pan and turning his home into a children's fantasy haven he named Neverland, and MJ presents a profile of a man yearning for and stuck on childhood, including the wish of having a 'more beautiful' nose.

Still, the direction of his surgical transformation had been clearly away from the typical Negroid features of African-Americans. With or without verbal confirmation from his plastic surgeons, the evolution of Jackson's photographed/videod appearances unmistakably reveals the aim to look more feminine AND Caucasian. Speculations on his true sexual preferences aside, were the African-American purists, therefore, correct in charging that he had troubles accepting his race, or that he has shunned his genetic roots?

African, American
Perhaps, not. From the viewpoint of an African-American nationalist who screams "Black Power," and endorses ""Black is Beautiful," Jackson might indeed be perceived as an iconic brother who had unfortunately turned his back on his ethnicity. Cognition of his eccentricities, however, demands a more compassionate perspective that considers the King of Pop as a musical prodigy trapped not only in his childhood but in the discriminatory standards of beauty prevailing during those formative years.

Brought up by a frighteningly stern disciplinarian father, Jackson missed, and apparently yearned for what should have been his childhood phase—the period of the 1960s. The decade was a turbulent but important one for Afro-Americans, highlighted no less by the Civil Rights Movement that sought desegregation and the equality of blacks to the dominant white. Despite its transformational character, however, the decade was marked by vestiges of segregation, advances and setbacks in the cause of black civil rights and the resulting continuing prevalence of race-based discrimination in the national consciousness.

One could just imagine the market limitation of the Jackson brothers and other black musical artists back then, and the great struggles those who attempted to cross over to the white audience had to go through. African-American music of the period was influential and at times chart-topping, and black singers of particular genres were crossing over, but all the superstars then were simply exclusively white.

The 1960's--MJ's 'Lost Childhood'
Such was the decade of the 1960s—the setting of much of MJ's deprived childhood but, also, a decade of musical formation and growth. Could it be that the artist got stuck not only in the fantasies of his lost childhood but, as well, by the racist standards of art and beauty that doggedly persisted during the decade? Could it be that the famed pop icon was unable to grow out of the childhood impressions cast on him by a Caucasian-ruled society? Could it be that in a rather bizarre creative expression of conflicting ethnic and national identity of his never-ending childhood, the great artist of Negroid genes and skin relentlessly tried to physically transform himself to achieve an American's white ideal?

Perhaps, in a twist of national fate, the greatest-selling American pop culture icon who demonstrated the creative genius and greatness of a Afro-American male and, as well, the limits of plastic surgery science, died during the term of the first biracial-but-black-skinned US President. In an eccentrically racist sense, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop—born August 29, 1958 as an adorable infant of Negroid stock and died June 25, 2009 as a porcelain-skinned 50-year old man of Caucasian physiognomy—was both African and (white) American.


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Photo Credits:

Michael Jackson- Gone Too Soon (Tribute).

MICHAEL JACKSON "Gone Too Soon" Tribute 1958-2009 King Of Pop.



"Gone Too Soon" Tribute

The Sweet Mania for Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's Final Rehearsal at the Staples Center

Shows how BIG an Icon MJ was

Missing MJ?: Michael's ghost purportedly seen in CNN Neverland news clip


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