Saturday, June 27, 2009

R.I.P. Farrah Fawcett & Michael Jackson

On Thursday, June 25, two pop culture icons of my youth passed away. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. This article on MSNBC's website, "Jackson and Fawcett deaths: Bad Day for Gen X" describes the cultural import of these two figures for people in their late 30s, like me, who grew up watching Charlie's Angels on t.v. and listening to Michael Jackson, first on the radio and eventually his music-movie videos on MTV.

This is the picture of Fawcett that everyone refers to when they talk about her as a pin-up girl/sex symbol. It's pretty tame by today's standards, but back in the day it was really quite provocative:

As for Michael Jackson, what can I say? I was loved "Off the Wall" and appreciated "Thriller." But I don't know that I would call myself a fan. Yet in watching VH1 replay his music videos I realized how much I had grown up with Jackson's music playing in the background--that if there is a soundtrack to my life, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s, his music would be threading its way throughout different moments of my adolescence--watching him perform the moonwalk dance live on TV, the premier of the "Thriller" music video directed by John Landis, the Captain EO ride at Disneyland (and for all of you who missed that, it was a unique experience!), hearing all the bizarre rumors emerge about the Never Land Ranch--which was half-an-hour away from Santa Barbara, so our local media was first on the scene to cover all the strange reports coming out of there--and since I didn't leave Santa Barbara until 1995, there was A LOT to cover. In fact, when I would drive home from college to the Bay Area, I took a short cut through the Ojai Valley, and I could see the top of Jackson's ferris wheel from the road around Los Olivos (that's for all you SoCal/ex-UCSB folks!).

So in honor of the King of Pop, let me leave you with a few of my favorite videos from the best of the Jackson music era:

"She's out of my life"

[A soft-rock staple, this music video shows how young he was when he made "Off the Wall"--it also shows how handsome he was before all that plastic surgery and skin stuff]

"Billie Jean" -- performed live at Motown 25

[This is the moment Jackson really stepped out of the shadow of the Jackson 5 and established himself as a music icon]

"Smooth Criminal" -- performed by Alien Ant Farm

[If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then this cover by Alien Ant Farm really pays homage to the enormous influence of Jackson's career. The quality isn't that great--the best version--one with the kid wearing a mask while moonwalking on the sidewalk--has been disabled by Universal, but you can google it and see a better res version on YouTube]

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