Michael Jackson in the legendary "Thriller" video in 1984.
Margo Jefferson — Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer and author of the book, On Michael Jackson — says the entertainer wrote perfectly constructed pop songs. He also revived Motown, inspiring everything from a cartoon series to full-blown concert events. As she tells Renee Montagne in an interview, he also did something more:
"He gave black performers a vault into the main arena of pop culture," Jefferson says.
Jackson was in his early 20s when he released Thriller, the album that set him apart from the rest of the pop music world.
"He had the ability to combine and synthesize elements," Jefferson says.
In addition to his stellar songwriting and performance, Jefferson says he was also one of the great pop dancers of our century. He was a perfect combination of choreographed moves and improvisation. He looked startling onstage, but also mysterious, like a carnival — especially when he did his signature moonwalk.
Jefferson says Jackson's planned comeback would have been full of symbolism — 50 years old, 50 concerts — and was sure to be a huge spectacle.
"We'll never know what would have happened," Jefferson says. "We'll never know if he could have pulled it off. We won't have a chance to make fun of him if he doesn't. But we won't have a chance to see him all over again."