First published on http://www.detroitnews.com
Michael Jackson died five years ago Wednesday. His music did not.
Jackson’s music continues to live on in ways it didn’t, in ways it couldn’t, when he was alive. His death freed his music and allowed it to be appreciated in ways it wasn’t in Jackson’s final years, when he was a tabloid curiosity whose personal baggage overwhelmed his entire artistic output.
Now it’s commonplace to hear “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” or “Billie Jean” as the warm-up music at any number of concerts, or “Rock With You” blaring out of a car passing by. In the years leading up to his death, Jackson’s music was appreciated but seldom heard in the public square, as his persona and allegations of child molestation hung over him and sullied his reputation — and his music. This presented a problem: How would younger generations ever understand Jackson and his talent, and would they be able to separate the music from the tabloid caricature he’d become?
But when he died, in the early afternoon of June 25, 2009, many of Jackson’s eccentricities were forgiven or forgotten, and people gravitated once again to his amazing body of music. The drama that surrounded his life hasn’t slowed in his death, through the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray — he was sentenced to prison for four years for involuntary manslaughter and was released last October — and in the Jackson family’s lawsuits over his death. The music, however, drowns it out and can once again be the singer’s ultimate legacy.
That legacy continues to grow. A new album of Jackson’s music, “Xscape,” was released last month, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. Songs were assembled from odds and ends left over by the singer and cobbled together by a team of producers, including Timbaland. It has sold 309,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and has been hanging around Billboard’s Top 10 since hitting stores.