|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
Today marked the death of two major cultural figures from my youth: Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. I think back and compare myself now to when I was younger; today I rarely watch T.V. (don't even own one although I sometimes watch Heroes and The Office on-line) but I LOVED T.V. when I was young. In fact I can still remember the days of the week and times (and channel/network) when most of my favorites came on, such as Happy Days (Tuesday at 8pm ABC) or Fantasy Island (Saturday at 10pm, just after Love Boat, ABC). Well before cable T.V. or VCR's (which we never had either growing up, even when they both became more ubiquitous in the general population), if I wanted to see it I had to sit down at the time given and watch (yes, I realize I'm talking about the Stone Age where we had to actually get up and change the channel with our own hands...). While I did watch and enjoy so called 'good' shows (All in the Family, Maude, Cheers, Family Ties, Mary Taylor Moore Show, Moonlighting, Bob Newhart Show (that opening theme was killin'),Carol Burnett Show, Taxi, and of course Roots was a must-see event) I was a fairly indiscriminate watcher, and I just watched whatever I liked including so called low brow shows (What's Happening, Dynasty, Battle of the Network Stars, Mork and Mindy, V, Welcome Back Kotter, Different Strokes, The Smurfs, SuperFriends, The Facts of Life, Three's Company, Space 1999, and MANY others I could easily fill a post with). I loved the Six Million Dollar Man also and later, The Bionic Woman (the original, please). Sometimes sneaking a peak at my mom's Enquirer newspaper I knew all about Mr. Six-Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors and his wife Farrah Fawcett-Majors, they definitely had that "it", glamor stardom like Angelina and Brad have today. I also remembered Farrah from her role as Holly in one of the few movies I actually went to the theatre to see at that time: Logan's Run. So while I wasn't much into Charlie's Angels when it aired, I of course watched it. I loved how the opening of many shows from the era told you/showed you the show's premise upfront (check out the pilot opening for Charlie's Angels--at over two minutes, it isn't the same musically or visually as the later and more classic opening nor is it slick by today's minimalist standards, but it is charming nonetheless). I was always intrigued by who Charlie really was; it seemed like such a mystery to me even later when I started watching Dynasty and it took awhile to make the connection between Charlie and Blake Carrington (or if I had known about Hitchcock back then, I might have made the connection between Charlie and Sam Marlowe from The Trouble with Harry). Now I was a bit too young (and not interested anyway yet) to have any kind of crush on the Angels, but you couldn't help noticing how beautiful they were. Back then, as now, my favorite of the originals was always Jaclyn Smith who not only was gorgeous (even now), but seemed the most approachable even to a young pre-adolescent boy like me; but Farrah came in a close second. And when Farrah left the show, I don't remember watching much after that. Leaving the show at the height of her popularity and hype (much as Suzanne Somers did on Three's Company years later), Farrah went on pursing other celebrity activities and she really didn't register again much on my radar until her stunning performance in the movie The Burning Bed in 1983 and lately and sadly with her losing battle with cancer.
After hearing about Farrah Fawcett this morning, I came home this afternoon to the news of Michael Jackson being found unconscious at his home and taken to the hospital where he later died. His iconic music and persona has been in the background of my entire life: his early songs with the Jackson 5; his solo album Ben; the movie musical The Wiz (another movie I actually saw growing up--still remember playing an arrangement years later of "Easy on Down the Road" in high school jazz band, 1st Alto!); his great triumvirate Up Against the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987) and subsequent videos; the Motown 25th anniversary special of 1983 (this I remember watching live and while Michael's "Billie Jean" was truly breathtaking, Marvin Gaye's performance was a highlight for me as well); the Pepsi Super Bowl commercial hair fire; Bubbles; Michael and Michael (video for "Jam" from 1992's Dangerous featuring the other MJ, Michael Jordan); friendship with Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis and Macaulay "Home Alone" Culkin; oxygen chamber; child-molestation charges; Neverland ranch. It is hard to believe that he died so young, suddenly, and tragically. The album Thriller was such a pervasive presence and influence in the early 80's from dance, clothing, music video production, it touched so many things from that time. It is hard to imagine now, over 25 years later, that it was such a unique and stunning musical statement. It seemed as if almost EVERYONE of the time (black, white, young, old, rich, poor, European, Asian, jazzers, punks, guitarheads, technobeaters, animals-well, probably Bubbles at least) knew Thriller, heard it, saw the videos, and for the most part liked it (or at least grudgingly respected it). With the increased segmentation of society and culture today, it is hard to have that kind of universal appeal. I have fond memories of talking with friends about the album, about the way Michael dressed, and practicing my own moonwalk (and can still do it, thank you very much!). And it seems so strange now but I can't believe that there was a time (not really that long ago) when MTV did not show videos from Michael or any African-American musicians for that matter. Along with Quincy Jones, whose influence on Michael's best musical work can not be overstated, Michael, like I said in an earlier post about Prince, was able to combine elements of pop, rock, R&B, jazz in such a way which touched people from all backgrounds and races. Of course later Michael became the musical Jackie Robinson, opening up not only MTV but the broader mainstream cultural world a bit for accepting music from the African-American world, including Prince and later Run DMC, of course 'Yo MTV Raps, and much of the hip-hop of today.
As I sit here and write this post, I'm thinking of many of my favorites: the funky pop and grooves of "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough", "Rock with You", "Jam", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Remember the Time", "Billie Jean"; the more jazzy "I Can't Help It"; the more rock oriented "Beat It", "Dirty Diana"; the soulful ballads "Human Nature", "The Lady in my Life"; and the cinematic "Thriller". Earlier a car passed my building and from their radio came the Doppler'ed sounds of "Thriller" floating into my apartment on the evening breeze. Here's hoping that Michael Jackson's pop music genius will always be on someone's iPod or radio or whatever new device Steve Jobs and Apple will come up with next.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 7:25 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.