Canadian photographer, Kevin Statham sent an email to a group I subscribe to and it is the best piece I have seen written on just how influential Michael Jackson was and offers a great comparison to Bob Dylan. Thank you to Kevin for giving me permission to reproduce this email. It’s worth visiting his website www.shotbykevin.com and checking out his portfolio – he does some great work.
I think that Dylan, although hugely revered, is somewhat overrated. I agree that he is an excellent songwriter and has written some classic songs that will live forever. I think the biggest thing that Dylan accomplished was to develop a huge cult of personality. People trip over themselves to praise the ground that he walks on. Dylan’s best years were over by….maybe 1967 or so. Except for the odd highlight since then, Dylan will forever be connected to the 60’s and hippies.
I don’t think that using an electric guitar at a folk festival had the same cultural significance as Billie Jean being the first video by a black artist played on MTV. That one video caused a huge racial shift in the US. Without that event, we might not have had an artist like Prince. People like James Brown may not have had a resurgence in the late 80’s. Would Run DMC have “walked that way” if Michael Jackson hadn’t used Eddie Van Halen on Beat It? Michael Jackson was miles ahead of everyone else on so many levels it is mind boggling.
I also think that Michael Jackson had a rare talent that is seldom seen. His singing was incredibly good. His dancing was amazing. With the help of Quincy Jones, his attention to detail in the recording studio led to some of the best recordings of all time. Thriller was a total monster of an album.
I think Michael Jackson had a vision of what he could do with his talent that was beyond compare. Even as a little boy his talent was apparent. I don’t think Dylan could compete with that type of musical talent. Dylan could pen a tune, but really, unless you were stoned, could you really listen to him for very long (oi, that nasally voice…).
However, as reality goes, the bigger the rise, the bigger the fall. It is unfortunate that Michael Jackson became a child molesting, surgical disaster, monkey loving, demerol addicted mess. It seems to have been inevitable that this would happen. Much like the later years of Elvis, Michael Jackson¹s last years will haunt his legacy.
I do think that at the end of the day History will be kind to Michael Jackson and that all of the weirdness will just be a footnote to a stellar life lived totally in the public eye, for better or for worse.
So yes, I don’t think it is right that Michael Jackson died without having one last chance at reviving his career while Bob Dylan get to plod on preaching to faithful bowing at his feet yet again.
Another reason that Michael Jackson will be remembered well is because I can write this email acknowledging his talent and I am a middle aged redneckish white guy from Canada. That is how wide reaching his music and talent became.