Today marks the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009. His passing shocked a world which had largely written Jackson off as “Wacko Jacko,” bringing the Internet to a halt as millions tweeted, texted and Facebooked about the news. According to MTV.com, the 50-year old Jackson was about to begin a 50-concert comeback series at London’s O2 arena, which had sold out to the tune of $85 million in tickets. Yet, on the afternoon of June 25, 2009, news confirmed that Jackson had been rushed to a Los Angeles hospital and declared dead from cardiac arrest.
The furor which followed filled the media, Internet blogs and everyday life for months to come. Everyone wanted to know who was responsible for Michael Jackson’s death, and how it might possibly have been prevented. Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, became the center of the investigation and was eventually charged with involuntary manslaughter. The fate – and paternity – of Jackson’s children was also a hot topic of debate, as well as when and where his burial would take place, and how to allow the public its chance to say goodbye.
Few celebrity deaths in the past decades have resulted in such widespread public grief and outcry as occurred over Michael Jackson’s passing. One that I do recall clearly, although I was only 8 years old at the time, was the death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980. Lennon, too, was in the middle of an upswing in popularity after the success of his comeback album Double Fantasy when he was shot dead outside his home in New York City by Mark David Chapman (Wikipedia). His brutal murder shocked fans worldwide, including this 8-year-old lover of The Beatles’ music. None could comprehend how the man who’d asked us to “Give Peace A Chance” could be taken from us at such an early age. Thirty years later, fans still gather daily at the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, near Lennon’s home, leaving flowers, gifts, notes and spending time remembering the musical icon and peace activist.
Many Michael Jackson fans are planning activities today to mark the one year anniversary of his passing. Some will listen to his music and reflect privately on his work and legacy, while others will take part in online efforts of remembrance. The Official Michael Jackson Site is running the “One Michael Jackson. One Million Tributes” campaign, attempting to get one million personal tributes to Jackson by June 25, 2010. Remembrance parties and festivals are planned throughout the weekend, such as London’s Michael Jackson Fest on June 26. There will be more somber gatherings as well, including a tribute in Jackson’s hometown of Gary, Indiana, to be attended by Katherine Jackson and thousands of fans.
I plan on spending my day listening to my favorite Michael Jackson music, in particular his 1979 release Off the Wall. Tragically, it took Jackson’s death for many to remember what had made him such a legend not his bizarre personal life and emotional struggles, but his incredible gift of music, voice, and performance.
* Kaufman, Gil. “Michael Jackson’s Death: A Look Back At The First 24 Hours.” MTV.com, 25 June 2010. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1642332/20100624/story.jhtml
* “John Lennon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 24 June 2010. Wikimedia Foundation. 25 June 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon