Friday Funday: Talking about Michael Jackson

Last night as we sat around, stunned, at the death of Michael Jackson, we began playing a game called "Bigger Celebrity Death." Who, if anyone, could top Michael Jackson’s death in terms of shock value and media coverage during what will likely be a week of retrospectives all over your TV?

Britney Spears, insisted one participant.
Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, another suggested.
Prince? I asked, and got shot down.

Much later in the night, someone threw down what is likely the winning answer: Oprah Winfrey.

Who do you think is a bigger celebrity death? Or even one that would equal the impact of MJ. And more importantly, is it time for Elton John to rewrite "Candle in the Wind" again? Here’s hoping. (Elton John also got a few votes for bigger celebrity death. As did Billy Joel).

And since we’re here: We should play top five songs by Michael Jackson, like every other Web site in the tri-planet area. I’ll start, but I can’t commit to an order:

* Billie Jean
* Thriller (but only when taken collectively with the video)
* Smooth Criminal
* Man in the Mirror (Just kidding, don’t count this one)
* The Way You Make Me Feel
* I Want You Back (Can’t forget Jackson 5)

But, honestly, it’s "Wanna Be Startin’ Something" that is stuck in my head today. Your turn. Respond in the comments to 1) Bigger (or comparable) celebrity death; 2) Top Five songs MJ performed.

12 thoughts on “Friday Funday: Talking about Michael Jackson

  1. Michael Jackson may have been bigger in terms of popular culture impact, but John Lennon’s death was way more of a shocker. And, when Bruce Springsteen passes away, I will shed a few tears.

  2. My top 5, in order of importance according to danceability, are:

    1. Thriller
    2. Scream
    3. Billie Jean
    4. Beat it
    5. Smooth criminal

  3. And if i can add a sentimental pick, “I’ll be there,” to pay tribute to the Jackson 5.

  4. Lennon and Princess Diana’s untimely deaths really blew me away, they were both so unexpected. I was thinking during the last show I went to that Springsteen performed, how sad I will be when he dies, and how I hope it’s not in the middle of a show, he really puts his all into it, and he ain’t no spring chicken anymore. J.K. Rowling’s death would also devastate me and my family to no end.

  5. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. I loved the music and continued to love the music over these many years, but Michael really disappointed me in the way he behaved in life. He needed deep therapy and should have sought some professional help instead of malesting children. I was shocked when Michael died, just like everyone else, but I was just as shocked when Elvis Presley died, and I remember I was at the Miller Mall at the time and it came over the intercom system they had back then.

  6. If Paul McCartney died yesterday under tragic circumstances, it would have been John Lennon all over again.

    My Favorite Mike tunes:

    1. Never Can Say Goodbye. (because it was in Taxi Driver.)
    2. ABC (because of the SIT DOWN GIRL, NO, GET UP GIRL line. It puts his relationships with women into perspective.)
    3. Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough (that “tinkling” percussion in the background? Beer bottles!)
    4. State Of Shock (an unreleased duet with Freddie Mercury.)
    5. Beat It (the fight scene in the video scared the pants off of me whne I was a kid.)

  7. I don’t think it could top MJ’s, but Bob Dylan’s death would definitely be up there. They’d be playing his music all over the place! And he definitely is a legend/icon, even if a little washed up.

    What about Dolly Parton? Cher? Okay now I’m just grappling.

  8. 1. The way you make me feel
    2. Billie Jean
    3a. Beat It
    3b. Thriller
    4. Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’ (though i never knew the words)
    5. Smooth Criminal

  9. 1. Dirty Diana
    2. Billy Jean
    3. I Want You Back
    4. Smooth Criminal
    5. Thriller

    One of the reasons Michael’s death is so shocking and awful to those of us in our 30s and late 20s is that it feels like the death of our childhoods. Gen X is the most nostalgic of all generations. (Douglas Coupland said circa 1994 that Gen Xers were already reminiscing about the “early 90s”) It’s not so much Michael Jackson we’re grieving, but our own feelings of immortality. It’s hard for us to face the fact that we aren’t young any more. And the idea that our favorite pop icon has lived out his entire life and is now dead of a heart attack — not a drug overdose, not a plane crash, not suicide — is hard to take. He was supposed to be Peter Pan for us.

    It isn’t the greatness of the music or the rank of his celebrity stature that would make us grieve as a nation like this again, but the importance of the idea behind the icon. Think about England’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death. They mourned the woman, sure. But more than that, they mourned what she represented to them.

    That kind of thing doesn’t come around very often, and I’m hard pressed to think of anyone else who fits the bill.

  10. Barrett totally nails it. Michael Jackson is almost my contemporary, only 3 years older than I. The death from natural causes of someone I literally grew up with — I even watched their cartoon show when I was a kid — makes me realize my own mortality. There but for the grace of god… I’m sad that another cultural icon from my youth also died Thursday, but that doesn’t pack a wallop like Jackson’s unexpected death did. I did feel Thursday evening pretty much the same way when Princess Diana died, as she too is my contemporary, alive and healthy one minute, and dead the next. It all just emphasizes the fragility of our existence.

  11. I think the only “celebrity” that would come close right now is President Obama.

    Michael had so much mystery and unanswered questions at the time of his death that it will likely be something that people continue to talk and speculate about for years and years. I’m already hearing people staring rumors about the possibility that he either a)faked his death, or b) died a while ago and was being impersonated. It’s nuts.

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