Monday, November 17, 2008

Michael who?

So we're riding in the car a few days ago, listening to some Christmas music that I had playlisted on the iPod. The usual stuff, of course, but I like to find some more obscure stuff if I can (how 'bout "Dominic the Christmas Donkey" or James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto"?). So a mashup comes on, mixing Lennon's "Imagine" with a very young Michael Jackson singing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." It's actually pretty well done; try Googling Santastic II; it'll take you to a bunch of interesting holiday downloads.

THe kids asked who that girl was that was singing in the song. Anya and I laughed, and thus began a rather long discussion about who Michael Jackson was, how he was a superstar both as a child and an adult, how he had been fabulously wealthy (we didn't go into detail about his rather spectacular fall from grace). The girls were particularly fascinated by his pictures that we showed them on the internet. Emma still has trouble understanding what happened to his nose and how can he still sing without a nose and why did he not want his nose anymore.

The saddest thing for me, though, was the fact that just a little over 10 years ago, Michael Jackson was wall to wall world famous. There wasn't a kid on this planet (and probably a few others) that didn't know who he was. And yet here were two little girls (4 and 8 1/2) who had no clue of his identity--none at all. What happened?

Obviously, Michael was a talented individual. Songwriter, dancer, performer--he did it all, and sold millions, if not billions of records. But was his talent that deep? Will he be regarded as a classic? Some hugely popular artists withstand the test of time. I predict that we will still be listening to the music of Lennon-McCartney "many years from now;" the same goes for the song stylings of Bing Crosby or Sinatra.
I am not so sure that Britney or L'il Wayne will be part of anyone's classic canon down the road. American cultural history is apparently littered with "sensations" that find themselves beached and forgotten when the popular tide recedes. Who really remembers Paul Whiteman, or George W. Peck?

I actually feel sad for Michael Jackson, as strange and creepy as he was (is). It is amazing what fame can do to people. Sometimes the changes aren't just internal.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Please teach Nika the importance of punctuation. Also, steer her in the direction of the Spacebar. It works wonders.