Frozen in time.
James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, JFK. They never age. The good die young. They leave a good-looking corpse, so to speak.
Can’t really say that about Elvis. He did go Lardo Baldo toward the end there.
But everybody remembers The King from his “Hound Dog” days — the rockabilly Elvis the Pelvis who added shake, rattle and roll to the buttoned down Eisenhower era.
So what’s the deal with Michael Jackson.
What image will be lasting.
As a kid singing “A-B-C, it’s easy as 1-2-3″ with his brothers?
As solo artist putting an exclamation point on the disco years in 1979 with “Rock With You” from his best album, “Off the Wall.”?
Maybe MTV Michael who broke new ground with “Thriller” that seemed to play on that network for hours at a time throughout the decade of the 1980s.
Finally as ‘Wacko Jacko” who didn’t change his music style as much as he changed his face.
Jackson seemed to think of himself as Elvis — as far becoming the most famous music star of his generation.
He succeeded at that — and really didn’t have to go through that mock marriage to The King’s daughter, Lisa Marie.
That’s got to be a tough gig married to her. She could look at you and say, “My daddy was Elvis. What have you done with your life.”
Jackson even had the brass to proclaim himself “The King of Pop” — because, of course, The King had already been used.
Is that title appropriate? Probably. But it might have been a little more acceptable to people not necessarily sold on his music if someone else beside himself gave him that title.
As far as popular music goes, in post-World War II America — and beyond — there have been three musical acts that could be credited as changing music forever.
The first was Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes was a teeny-bopper (called bobby-soxers) sensation who matured into a masterful singer who had a good ear for what would eventually become classics. He influenced a generation of singers around the same time Marlon Brando became the acting legend many even today emulate.
Next up was The King. He didn’t invent rock ‘n’ roll, but there have been generations since he first broke out in 1956 who couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
Elvis didn’t mature as much as he could have as a singer. He had great range — but that whole Vegas Elvis may have made him age well before his time.
And his movies sucked.
Still, there’s no denying “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Jailhouse Rock.”
Finally there was The Beatles. Because they weren’t from the U.S., a lot of would-be music aficianados think it automatically eliminates them from musical influences.
That’s nowhere, man. From their meteoric rise with silly love songs like “She Loves You” to their mind-bending “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” we’re talking real strong influences to the music of the world.
There have been many pretenders to the throne since:
The Rolling Stones. Great band. Great music. Stayed on stage for too long. It’s gotta be tough being in your 60s and have fans in the audience old enough to be your grandkids trying to buy you singing “Satisfaction.”
Elton John. Sold a lot of records by eventually did become one of his idols — Liberace.
Then there’s Michael Jackson. Pretender to the throne?
If he is, he’s The Great Pretender.
I’ve given this a lot of thought since hearing of his death yesterday.
He is the Elvis of Generation X, Y or whatever the bloody media terms them nowadays.
I remember when John Lennon was gunned down. Different set of circumstances, death-wise than Jacksons — but devastating nevertheless.
I remember telling my father Lennon’s death had the same effect on the nation as JFK’s killing.
My father thought that was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard.
I remeber thinking to myself, I hope I never think like that.
I’m a lot older now, and I still can’t think like that.
Admittedly, Jackson’s bizarre lifestyle and, yes, the accusations of child molestation, gets in the way.
But in the end it’s the music. It’s always the music.
With Jackson’s death it’s not exactly “the day the music died” as Don McLean sang about Buddy Holly’s death in “American Pie.”
But it did lose a great deal of its soul.