Remembering Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
This past week we lost two of our dearest pop-culture icons. Farah Fawcett, the subject of the best selling poster of all time and Michael Jackson, the musical force behind the best selling album of all time. Their untimely passings brought their extraordinary achievements into focus, making me wonder, will anyone ever sell 12 million posters or 45 million copies of an individual album ever again? (Michael Jackson sold over 700 million albums during his lifetime.) It seems unlikely.

I am very sad that Michael Jackson is gone. He was gifted with talents that enabled him to accomplish things that no one in history has ever accomplished and, based upon the fragmented nature of consumer media, will never be able to accomplish again. Everything about Michael Jackson was extraordinary: his music, his dancing, his lifestyle, his wealth, his health and his problems.

During the 80’s, Michael Jackson “was” the music business. I remember when the certified numbers for Bad were announced. The 1987 album had sold about 23 million copies and, because it did not top the number for his world changing 1982 release, Thriller, it was considered a failure. Just to put this in perspective, go count up the number of albums that have ever sold 23 million copies … by anyone. During his time, there was Michael Jackson and then there was everybody else – none of his contemporaries even came close to his level of success. But the business side of the music business was only one part of the story.

While listening to his music this weekend, I was reminded how important Michael was to the musical side of the music business. For me, the Michael Jackson inspired transition of the pop music business started with “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground,” one of the singles from the Jackson 5’s 1978 album, Destiny. Although it was more of a mix of disco and funk, to me it stood out musically and foreshadowed Michael’s upcoming solo effort Off The Wall. I will never forget the first time I heard it. In fact, “Blame it on the Boogie,” the other single from that album had a super-solid rhythm arrangement by Greg Phillinganes that gave Michael a remarkable pocket to interact with. This early synthesis of pop, funk and R&B combined with Tom Tom 84’s semi-jazz-fusion horn and string arrangements truly set the stage for the world’s biggest crossover pop star to emerge. Anyone in the world who has ever heard an audio recording knows what happened next.

I hope that everyone can get past the theater of the moment and spend some time listening to Michael Jackson’s work. If you listen closely, you will hear him explain everything to you — in a profoundly personal way. May he rest in peace. Shelly Palmer

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit


PreviousThe Real Time Future of Television NextNews of Michael Jackson's Death Cripples Web: MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer June 29, 2009

Get Briefed Every Day!

Subscribe to my daily newsletter featuring current events and the top stories in technology, media, and marketing.