With the death of Michael Jackson, I’m reminded of an argument I’ve been making since I worked at the Utah Symphony. And believe me, it’s not a popular argument with the classical musicians.
The idea? That Michael Jackson is the Mozart of my generation. I know, everyone thinks I’m crazy when I make this statement, but just let me make my case. Then you can call me wacko.
Both Michael and Mozart were child prodigies. From their youths into the early parts of their careers they dazzled the music world, changing music forever. And those early songs were similar; happy, friendly, and infused with a popular sensibility. Both were asked to perform for kings and queens. Both were courted by the world’s wealthiest patrons. Both redefined the idea of a superstar.
But then they both went just a little crazy, if not a little creepy. As their careers progressed, they had financial problems, even though they gained fantastic wealth in their early lives. Their music grew more serious, more complex, more interesting, even darker—and yet it proved less tantalizing to the masses. And both men lost touch with the reality to become a little bizarre.
Now with the early death of Michael Jackson, it seems like the comparison is complete. Some would say that Mozart died much younger that MJ. But if you take into consideration life expectancy rates, both musicians died quite young for their times—in fact, Jackson may have died even younger considering the difference in life expectancy. (I couldn’t find the life expectancy for 1791 but in 1990 it was only about 48 years compared with about 75 today.)
I’m a fan of both Mozart and Michael Jackson. And I’m saddened that Michael died before he had a chance to at least attempt a come back. And I’ll bet we’ll be talking about both Mozart and MJ long into the future.