.Michael vs. Michael?
Have to admit, when I read this headline the other day in the Wall Street Journal, I thought it was a comparison of icons. Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan?
It wasn’t, so permit me to introduce the debate on this blog, with these parameters: Which of these two has affected the world more? Remember, it’s the world, not the United States, and it is not simply a music or sports debate.
People who think Jordan spread his sport to the four corners tend to be young, or don’t remember the Dream Team in Barcelona very well. The headliners that Olympiad were Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and Charles Barkley, and already by then there were professional leagues throughout Europe, in places like Spain and Greece.
But there is no question Jordan took that ball and ran with it. Shoes, clothes, movies, commercials – the silhouette of him with the ball over his head is still nearly as recognizable as the swoosh.
Jordan never used that power to champion a cause, to become the face of something like Jerry Lewis is the face of MS. Jackson did that to a degree. Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats should always be credited with igniting the campaign to stamp out hunger and Aids in Africa, but Jackson’s ``We are the world’’ song became its identity. Quincy Jones called it his best song (I’ll take anything from ``Off The Wall’’ over it.)
Jones wrote this on his blog the other day: ``Shortly after "Thriller" came out and simply chewed up everything in its way, I went to see Count Basie at the Palladium with Benny Carter and Ed Eckstine. Basie was like a father to me, having kind of adopted me when I was 13, and he wasn't in the greatest shape. He was in a wheelchair and when he saw me, he said with a sense of pride, `Man, [what] you and Michael did, me and Duke would never even dream about nothin' that big. We wouldn't even dare to dream about it.’ You can't imagine how proud I felt, hearing that from one of my idols, not realizing that it would be the last time that I'd see him alive.''
Jackson shut places down everywhere he went. Japan. Africa. Europe. I was in Ireland in 1988, doing the the bed and breakfast travel routine with my wife, and he was performing the next day in Cork. We were an hour from there, but we needed to get an hour further away to find a B&B that wasn’t full.
No doubt Jordan can and does create a stir. And today, he no doubt creates a more positive reaction.
My vote is for Micahel Jackson. I just think he cast a huger shadow over the entire world, owned an incredibly diverse fan base in his heyday.
But I could argue both sides.