By Brenda Robinson
Where were you June 25, 2009? Just as most Americans remember what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, most Americans also remember when the King of Pop died. Michael Jackson died of a fatal overdose of an anesthetic, commonly used to put patients to sleep, prior to surgery, on June 25, five years ago.
Since June is designated Black Music Month and Jackson died in June, appropriately, we honor and memorialize the man whose music thrilled and inspired Americans from ages eight to 80. His music, as the “Jackson Five” and “Michael solo,” spanned four decades. Michael’s solo hits broke down color barriers and his songs were popular on every continent. Most people can recall footage of teens and young adult females fainting at Jackson concerts. Jackson’s music exemplifies the importance of Black Music Month.
Black music has a rich history in America. Reportedly, In June 1979, Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright and Dyana Williams met with the President Jimmy Carter at the White House to discuss the state of black music. These three music enthusiasts were songwriters and music insiders who believed the culture and financial contributions of black music must be rocognized and become main stream. They convinced President Carter to host a reception for black artists. The president complied and Black Music Month was established. During the month of June, networks present black music programming and the White House holds a jam session featuring black artist. Black female artists were highlighted at the White House last month. In the year 2000, a U.S. representative from Pennsylvania sponsored House Resolution 509, formally recognizing the cultural significance and economic impact of black music.
The Michael Jackson story is rooted in the very fiber of Black America. The Jackson family was typical of the 1950-60s midwestern African American family: two-parents, a factory working father, children subjected to strong discipline, and church affiliated. Some people criticized, including some of the Jackson children, the father’s (Joe Jackson) disciplinary methods. Yet, whippings were common in that era.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, blacks had not yet totally broken the color barriers in sports. Becoming professional artists were viewed as the way to gain wealth and popularity. The Jackson family was musical and Joe Jackson seized the opportunity for fame and fortune. All six of the brothers became involved in the quest for musical fame. Cousins of the Jacksons were also involved in this strategic format to anchor this family for a successful musical career.
Before settling on the singing group name, “Jackson Five,” this group was called Ripples and Waves, followed by Jackson Brothers. In 1966, the Jackson Five won a local talent contest. In 1967, the group competed in an amateur talent competition at the Apollo Theatre. The group was now on the radar and noticed by super entertainer Diana Ross who arranged an audition with Motown’s Berry Gordy. In 1969, the album “I Want You Back” reached the top of the charts, followed by “ABC,” followed by “I’ll Be There.” Although the group never formally separated and made appearances through the years, by 1979, Michael’s solo releases made him the King of Pop.
However, of all the accomplishments aforementioned, the most significant musical accomplishment was the recording, Thriller. Let’s examine the Thriller reviews. It was MTV’s first world premiere video, voted as the most influential pop video of all time. In 2009, the video was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, the first music video ever to receive this honor for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. Michael’s musical impact on the world is unmatched.
Michael had some difficult times. He was plagued by debts, drug addictions, charges of sexual crimes against children and bizarre intimate relationship dealings. However, these matters neither deterred his musical genius nor diminished the love of his worldwide fans.
June, 2014 celebration of Black Music Month has ended and the celebration will resume in 2015 and perhaps continue throughout time. Michael’s death was out of control of mere mortals, but since he died, June was the perfect month for his departure. He will forever be remembered side by side with Black Music Month.
Here’s a tribute to Michael is lyrics from one of his own recordings: “Born to Amuse, To inspire, To Delight. Here One Day. Gone One Night…. Gone too Soon.”