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26 Jun 2009 00:00
In the 50s there was Elvis. In the 60s there were the Beatles.
The 70s and 80s gave us Michael Jackson, the first black artist to become the number one global pop star of his age.
I remember as a student in Nottingham around 1982-83, when every weekend party had his Thriller album playing in the background. Not just the odd track, but the whole album. At our own party, back in those Betamax days, we even played the video.
When he toured Britain in 1988, the first question any friend would ask was: “Have you go the Jacko tickets yet?” Though Madonna and Prince were superstars by then, Jackson’s was still the number one show in town.
For black people, just as with Obama, his success was our success. The fact that the audience at his Wembley stadium concert that year was predominantly white did not mean that somehow his music was less true to his soul. It was just a sign that here was a black man who was so talented that people of all colours couldn’t help loving him.
By this stage the media was well into its “Wacko Jacko” obsession. And it is true that his skin-lightening was a problem—seen by many as a sign of his desperation for acceptance into a white world. Neither, during his peak years, did he stray into race or politics (apart from the bland message of Black or White).
But though it would have been easy to label him an Uncle Tom, even the most radical black folk understood that underlying all his weirdness, his idiosyncrasies, his strange lifestyle choices, was a uniquely gifted character whose story was inspirational. - guardian.co.uk
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