While many people are aware of Jackson’s tremendous commercial success
in terms of units sold or concert attendance records broken, serious analysis of his art has perhaps been impeded by these very facts. The question goes something like this: is it possible for great art to be wildly popular, and embraced on such an enormous scale? Is it possible to be a serious artist, and also be the “King of Pop”?
Apparently it is. Efforts are now being made to understand both the meaning and the impact of Michael Jackson’s art. Examples in the past few years include symposia at Duke, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia College Chicago, Schomburg Center, the Louvre, Lincoln Center and other institutions of learning. Michael Jackson, as well as Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Jimi Hendrix were discussed as part of a presentation about virtuosity in music at the Louvre. His music has received classical treatment by symphonies around the world. “Thriller” is the only music video to be selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, and Jackson himself is likely to remain the only pop star inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame--alongside other distinctive architects of American dance heritage like Astaire, Graham, and Balanchine.
Michael Jackson, unlike, say, the Beatles, is an American original and made a supreme contribution to popular music as high art.