Friday, June 26, 2009
Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett - With Elvis On the Road to Kingdom Come
Three stars who helped distract the world during the turbulent 1960's and 1970's with Viet Nam and Watergate, the worst economy since the Great depression and a world caught up in turmoil. Each was born in three consecutive decades, Elvis in the '30's, Farah in the '40's and Michael in the "50's. Each helped America to get through one of the toughest periods in our history.
In the 1970's the three converged on the American conscience and there was the passing of the baton from the first King of Rock 'n Roll Elvis, to the new King of Pop Michael. At the same time there was the emergence of the beautiful young woman from Texas, Farah Fawcett with her million dollar smile.
History often works in threes and between the Bicentennial celebration of America in 1976 and 1979 these three all helped turn around a nation. In 1976 Farah Fawcett was introduced to the world in the television classic Charlie's Angels. That year Life Magazine published the Farah swimsuit pose in this article which became the best selling poster in history with over 12 million sold.
It was also the year the Jackson 5 left Motown Records over artistic differences and that Michael began his separation from his brothers with his solo career. In 1977 Elvis died suddenly at age 42. The crown of King of Rock 'n Roll was vacant for the first time. Michael stepped into the void as the new record label gave him artistic control and first The Wall, in 1979, followed by Thriller in 1982 firmly established him as the King of Pop.
The Wall was the first album to have four songs in the Billboard Top Ten. Thriller set a new standard for success that has never been matched since with seven Top Ten hits and over 109 million album sales and there was no longer any doubt he had inherited the title of King.
In time there would be an even stronger tie between the first and reigning Kings of Rock 'n Roll as Jackson would marry Elvis's only daughter Lisa Marie who helped him through some of his darkest hours. Even after their divorce she remained a good friend.
In death we have a tendency to make people bigger than life, as we let adoration and sorrow not to mention the news media make up stuff about them that never was true and that had nothing to do with their real contributions to the entertainment industry. Michael Jackson did not bring down the walls of racism in music any more than Elvis was responsible for the edgy and provocative direction Rock 'n Roll first took.
Here are a few undisputed facts. In pop and rock music only the Beatles and Elvis have sold over 1 billion records. The Beatles said Elvis was one of the strongest influences on their music. Jackson was close behind as he was approaching a billion in records sold. Ironically, any hope for a Beatles reunion vanished in 1980, between Jackson's release of The Wall and Thriller when Lennon was gunned down in NYC.
Elvis, Michael and even John Lennon were revolutionaries in the music industry as they achieved levels of artistic control never before achieved by artists. Elvis and Michael were benefactors and probably victims of strong managers and handlers who kept them isolated from the world and probably drove them to death with abusive quantities of prescription drugs. Both only wanted to keep their fans happy and seemed to tire of the demands on them to "stay on top".
They were both generous to a fault. Both had strong fathers but managed to isolate themselves from them as their careers unfolded. Michael was never able to experience a childhood as he was performing from the time he was 6 years old and it seemed he spent the rest of his life trying to capture what he had been denied.
Abusive parents were replaced by abusive managers but the music never stopped. Both introduced electrifying dance routines to their performances. Both elevated the choreography and staging of concerts to levels never before seen. Their performances became events, their endurance legendary. But in time both would physically breakdown because of the incessant pressure to be number one. Both were kept from contact with people. Both became trapped in their own creations of Graceland and Neverland.
If adversity built success, super stardom came from the heart and soul of the entertainers doing what they do best, performing before their adoring legions of fans. On stage they created magic. They never got enough of concerts and touring and never stopped trying to increase their contact with fans. But alas they were never able to break free of the incredible parasites who surrounded them and viewed them as a commodity and meal ticket.
What they gave us need not be bigger than life because it was hope, inspiration and knowledge that here was someone who made it, their way, and who left a legacy of their body of work that will survive the ages. Honor them for what they gave, not who they were. Two shy kids from poor backgrounds and struggling towns became King of the world of music and set the standard for success for all time.
Let us hope now that Michael and Farah have joined Elvis on the Road to Kingdom Come and in that Kingdom they find what they never had in life, the peace and love they so richly deserve. They have touched the world and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have done.