It has been 10 years since the passing of the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, which left fans shocked at his sudden death at the age of 50.
In the decade since then, the nature of his legacy has been increasingly unclear. While his music is still celebrated, allegations about his personal life have persisted, having never fully disappeared following the 2005 trial, which saw him acquitted on all counts of child molestation.
While his music is still widely appreciated and his songs can still be heard almost everywhere, many who believe the truth of the allegations will never listen to his music in the same way again.
It is a significant anniversary of an unforgettable and extremely important moment in music history. You cannot simply dismiss it. Nobody has captured in the same way, the imagination of the entire world. If like me, you grew up with his music, there is still a part of you which is instantly transported to a time when you were younger, whenever you hear his songs.
However, after the allegations made in “Leaving Neverland”, is it possible to separate the man from his art? This question then opens up a whole other ‘can of worms’. If we can separate him from the art he produced, what does that say about other accused artists such as R. Kelly whose music was removed from Apple, Spotify and YouTube. In that case, we could not separate the man from the artist, but for Michael Jackson is it different? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame certainly thinks so.
After the documentary “Leaving Neverland” damaged Jackson's legacy, the Hall retained his place in the exclusive club. None of his display was changed at the Cleveland-based institution, while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognises Jackson for his excellence and talent and not for the allegations against him.
Jackson continues to remain an icon for many, as we remember not just his songs, but also his style and dance moves. People all over the world, like me, spent many hours in in their youth in front of the mirror practising that leg kick and moonwalk, while others owned the fedora hat and the one white glove trying to be just like him.
Fans have taken to Twitter to express their feelings on the anniversary of the icon’s death.
“His music is more relevant than ever!” one tweet read. “His lyrics are timeless and always fitting. His messages are important! They show his true feelings and he meant each sentence that he’s ever sung.”
“He is the King of music,” another said. “His legacy will remain and endure. He is the greatest artist of all time. Neither the lies of the press nor false accusations could destroy his legacy of love, peace and incredible talent.”
One fan simply wrote, “He’s the greatest entertainer of our generation”, a title for which there are few contenders (Madonna, Prince and David Bowie are among the only other names that come to mind.
Nobody is denying his extraordinary career achievements.
Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, won 15 Grammys and more American Music Awards than any other artist.
He was also the first artist to have a top 10 single on Billboard in five different decades.
For some fans however, the allegations are affecting their ability to enjoy the music. One Twitter user shared “ MJ had so much talent and so much creativity that it made me want to be creative. I danced to Michael, learnt how to dance like him and would pore over his lyrics and music videos. We loved him for his talent and artistry. These memories are mine and they don’t endorse his alleged misconduct with children.”
It seems Michael Jackson's legacy isn’t going anywhere, his West End musical Thriller has an indefinite residency, his music continues to stream on Spotify and Apple.
While fans may be upset and may have removed Michael Jackson from their playlists, it is hard to deny the impact he had on the world and on the music industry as we remember him 10 years on.