The world was shocked by the sudden death of Michael Jackson in the early summer of 2009. Even though Michael Jackson’s legal problems were infamous and he was constant fodder for the tabloids people still loved and idolized him. People overlooked his eccentricities because of his troubled life, his contributions to charities around the world, and because of his unmatched talent. Still holding the Guinness Book record as the “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time” and still one of the best selling musical artists in history he made an indelible mark on pop culture, music, and the world.

In the early 1980s when Michael Jackson split from his siblings, the Jackson 5, to pursue his own solo career there were very few African American artists that were highly visible in popular music. His pop hits and his innovative videos reached across racial lines and earned him millions of fans all over the world. His most famous video, “Thriller”, is a bona fide piece of pop culture history. At the time when the Thriller video was made it was the most expensive music video that had been made to that point and it was longer than any other music video. Thriller became an instant Halloween classic because of its mimicry of classic horror movies, “Zombie” dance, and the voiceover done by horror icon Vincent Price.

Michael Jackson was as much of a fashion icon as he was a musical one. His unique personal style brought items that are iconic today into the mainstream consciousness. The red leather jacket he wore in the Beat It video, the black fedora hat he wore in several videos, and his military themed outfits all found a place in 80’s fashion. But what he will always be remembered for the most is his trademark white sparkly glove. That glove has come to symbolize the 1980s Michael Jackson who was a hitmaker, extraordinary performer, and an entertainer who was beloved by millions. Despite the problems he had later in life more than a billion people around the world tuned in to watch his memorial and say goodbye to the King of Pop.

As time goes on the legal troubles and financial troubles that he had, his troubled childhood and eccentricities will fade into the background. What will be left is the music.  Even after the 80s he continued to produce solid hit songs and albums, although he will always be known the most for his 80s hits.  His music and style have influenced several generations of African American performers who came after him, all of which credit him as being an inspiration for them to pursue their dreams of becoming entertainers.  Because there were so few visible African American entertainers who were successful enough to be called icons his presence in the pop culture world made it possible for thousands of African Americans to believe that mainstream society was ready to accept them and that they too could have a place in the entertainment world that wasn’t limited to just one segment of society. The King of Pop proved that talent will always be the most important factor in determining success.


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