Thursday, July 9, 2009

King of Pop

On Tuesday afternoon I was one of the more the 31 million who turned on the television to watch a portion of the memorial service for Michael Jackson (and who knows how many more were watching online). I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into the heart and mind of pop culture.

I grew up with the Jackson 5 and then the solo careers of various brothers and sisters. MTV was launching as I was starting college (and actually was 24 hours of music videos in those days). Martha Quinn was my favorite VJ, the BugglesVideo Killed the Radio Star (which was the first video played on MTV) is still one of my favorites and when the videos for Michael Jackson’s Thriller album began to appear I was hooked. His previous album Off the Wall was great but think of all that Thriller contained beyond the title cut: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Billie Jean, The Girl is Mine (with Paul McCartney) P.Y.T., and Beat It. It was music made for video. (I also remember losing Kim’s Thriller cassette – a media for music between vinyl and cd – I still owe her a replacement).

Whether you like the music or not and regardless of your opinion of how Jackson lived his life there are lessons in how the world responded to his death and celebrated his life. Here’s what I “learned” about pop culture watching the memorial for the King of Pop.

We believe in life after death.
Even while remembering the past, almost every speaker or entertainer spoke of Michael in the present and with some sort of acknowledge of heaven. Stevie Wonder captured it most succinctly, “As much as we may feel we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more.

We believe that helping others is important.
Much of the service was about music but Jackson’s charitable work was equally celebrated. One speaker noted that he holds the Guinness World Record for Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star. We care that people care about people

We believe that we are each born with a purpose.
Martin Luther King III, quoting the eloquence of his father, noted that each of us is born with gifts and a challenge to use those gifts to please God. His sister, Bernice, added the only reference to Jesus I saw (though I missed Lionel Richie’s Jesus Is Love) with a wonderful paraphrase of Romans 8.

I’m sure there were lots of other insights I could have gathered – but I didn’t watch the entire service and honestly was paying perfect attention to what I did watch. I will confess that after watching I downloaded Thriller to my iTouch.

For those of you who watched the service – I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

N.T. Wright suggests that we live in a world where there is an echo of a voice that speaks of beauty and justice and joy. It is what stirs in our hearts a “longing for things to be put right.” We hunger for something “just around the corner, out of sight, the echo of a voice.”

There were echoes of the voice throughout a memorial for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, but no one named the voice as that of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.


  1. I am curious, however, as to what God's greater need for Michael Jackson would be. Moonwalking shortage in heaven? Overpigmentation? Not enough mixing of lions, lambs, and little kids?

  2. I learned we are also curiosity seekers and like to dress in Versace.