One of the most interesting things about Michael Jackson is that even though he died at the young age of 50, so many of us seemed to have grown up listening to his music and trying to copy his dance moves.
I guess that is what happens when you’ve been performing and making records since 1968 at the age of 10 – first as the lead singer of the Jackson Five and later as the world’s most popular solo artist.
But, while his iconic artistry and eccentric lifestyle are well known, I want to spend a few moments reflecting on Michael’s equally impressive record of service to humanity.
Born in 1958 in the steel-mill city of Gary, Indiana, Michael’s life and career paralleled generations of social and economic change. In 1967, just one year before the Jackson Five burst on the scene as Motown’s newest sensation, Richard Hatcher was elected Mayor of Gary, becoming one of the first African American mayors in the country.
Michael and his brothers first captured the nation’s attention in 1968, the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Their jubilant music brought people of different races together, some for the first time, at a moment when the forces of discord seemed intent on tearing us apart.
In songs like “We are the World,” and “Man in the Mirror,” Michael spoke to the hearts of people and made powerful statements about the need for greater unity, compassion and peace in the world.
Much of the proceeds of his records and tours were donated to charities devoted to African relief, college scholarships and HIV/AIDS. In 1992, he founded the Heal the World Foundation to relieve the suffering of children around the world.
His “Dangerous World Tour” that year gave him the opportunity, in his own words, to “visit children around the world, as well as spread the message of global love, in the hope that others will be moved to do their share to help heal the world.” In 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records cited Michael Jackson for holding the world record for the “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star.”
Michael Jackson takes his place among the greatest entertainers of all time. As his mentor and collaborator, Quincy Jones said, “In the 40s you had Sinatra, in the 50s Elvis, in the 60s the Beatles, in the 70s the innovation of Dolby—in the 80s you had Michael Jackson. He was the biggest entertainer on the planet.”
As we mourn his passing in these uncertain times, we might do well to remember the words to one of Michael Jackson’s most poignant songs: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer – if you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself then make a change.”
Our prayers go out to the Jackson family and Michael’s children. We will all miss the King of Pop.
- AIDS Project L.A.
- American Cancer Society
- Angel Food
- Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles
- BMI Foundation, Inc.
- Brotherhood Crusade
- Brothman Burn Center
- Camp Ronald McDonald
- Childhelp U.S.A.
- Children's Institute International
- Cities and Schools Scholarship Fund
- Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation
- Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
- Dakar Foundation
- Dreamstreet Kids
- Dreams Come True Charity
- Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation
- Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
- Love Match
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
- Minority Aids Project
- Motown Museum
- National Rainbow Coalition
- Rotary Club of Australia
- Society of Singers
- Starlight Foundation
- The Carter Center's Atlanta Project
- The Sickle Cell Research Foundation
- United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
- United Negro College Fund Ladder's of Hope
- Volunteers of America
- Watts Summer Festival
- Wish Granting
- YMCA - 28th Street/Crenshaw