In the early 1980s, he became a dominant figure in American popular music and culture. He was the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong crossover following on MTV, with videos such as "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and "Thriller"—widely credited with transforming the music video from a promotional tool into an art form—bringing fame to the relatively new channel. Videos such as "Black or White" and "Scream" made Jackson an enduring staple on MTV well into the 1990s. Beyond his success on television, Jackson popularized a number of physically complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, with his elaborate stage performances. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style influenced many hip hop, pop music and contemporary R&B artists across several generations.
Jackson "was and will remain one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived," Motown founder Berry Gordy said today. "He was exceptional, artistic and original. He gave the world his heart and soul through his music."
"He was not called Jacko the Whacko for nothing, with all due respect,'' MSNBC entertainment reporter Courtney Hazlett said today.
And therein lies the contradiction in the indisputable popularity and.alleged prurience of an unrivalled pop star. He was the greatest dancer of all time, according to Fred Astaire, the "Thriller'' of two generations, really, who elevated the art of popular music and motion to a standard that others have only mimicked. He was the perfecter of the Moon Walk, the king of MTV, and the father of a two-year-old baby whom he called a prince while dangling him from a balcony for unquestioning fans.
In his last stand, the publicity stunt promoting a "final'' tour starting in London this year, he insisted that this was it, he would be finished as a performer. The tour was sold out. Once the Los Angeles coroner has explained how the show closed, we will likely spend years reclaiming the memory of the nine-year-old Michael Jackson from Gary, Ind., whom we first met on the public stage, a singer whose songs will not soon be forgotten.
(The young Michael Jackson, at 13, is pictured above, in 1972. The performer Michael Jackson is pictured at a Madison Square Garden "Jackson Five Victory Tour" in 1984, photo by Ebet Roberts/ Redferns. The accused Michael Jackson, later acquitted, arriving at a courthouse in Santa Anna, in 2005, photo by Kimberly