Forgive me, for a minute, the exercise of going back in time to 1979. The young and multi-talented singer Michael Jackson releases his first solo release for Epic, with what should be the record of the year in Off the Wall. It's a critical success, and the first album to put four singles in the top 10, and the album reached #3 on Billboard, which should be enough, right?
Jackson is not happy and vows for his next album to be the biggest release ever. This is the point, it seems, that MJ begins stepping outside reality. We get his first skin-whitening, nose job (necessary at first to fix a broken nose, but done w/ looking less African American in mind nonetheless) and hair straightening. You can't help but think Jacko believes that this is what it takes to cross over. Musically, he and Quincy Jones take what sold well with Off the Wall and tried to make that even bigger with Thriller. Jacko is rewarded with huge album sales for his tinkering, reinforcing his skewed ideas helping to serve as a blueprint for his life going forward.
I can't help thinking that if Jackson would've been even just a little bit more satisfied with Off the Wall he still would've risen to the King of Pop, but also had a longer richer career. That's why I'm stopping at Off the Wall in my rememberance of Jacko.