Lisa Marie Presley, who was married to Michael Jackson for a brief time in the 1990's, has suggested on her blog that Michael was afraid he was going to "end up like Elvis". I was researching this notion and stumbled across this fascinating article.
MEMPHIS - The death hadn't even been confirmed, the body not yet cold, before the comparisons were being made.
The passing of Michael Jackson on Thursday afternoon re-ignited the occasional debate between the King of Pop and Elvis Presley, "The King" of rock and roll.
In the hours after Jackson's passing, Canadian songbird Celine Dion claimed it felt "like when (President John) Kennedy died, when Elvis Presley died. We are not only talking about a talented person dying, it's an amazing loss."
The articles analyzing the similarities between Jackson and Presley have been ubiquitous and inevitable over the last 72 hours. Even Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde declared, "The world just lost the biggest pop star in history, no matter how you cut it."
But is there really a case to be made that Jackson's and Presley's places in the pantheon of popular culture were as similar as some suggest?
Certainly, parallels between the two do exist. Both were born poor and became massive music icons on a global scale (though Jackson may have the slight advantage there as Presley never performed outside of North America.) Each sold hundreds of millions of records and reached unimaginable levels of fame and wealth before experiencing rapid personal and professional descents (and, of course, there's the matter of Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie, who was married briefly to Jackson in the mid-'90s)
"Like Elvis, Jackson unified black and white listeners, (ya hear that, Jamie Foxx??) and made startlingly important, memorable, and era-defining music," says writer and music historian Alanna Nash, author of several Elvis books, including a groundbreaking biography of Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker. "Jackson was also a completely luminous performer - you couldn't take your eyes off of him - and part of it was because you sensed that this was an extraordinarily damaged boy-man, again, like Elvis, a Peter Pan, a puer aeternus (Latin for "eternal boy")."Beyond their impact in life, the question now is whether a cult will spring up around Jackson in death similar to the one that grew around Presley.
Given the particular nature of Jackson's legal and personal troubles over the past decade, it's hard to imagine millions of tourists visiting Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Ind., or his former Neverland Ranch complex in California the way Presley pilgrims - young and old - turn up at Graceland each year.
"There will always be throngs of people who will mourn and revere (Jackson)," says Nash. "But because his personal life was so outsized, peculiar, and tainted with scandal far more lurid than Presley's drug abuse, I can't see him morphing into the Disney-zed figure that Elvis has become. (I can.)
"It's far easier to overlook Elvis's peccadilloes than Michael's," she adds. "Elvis was beautiful, sexy, and fun. Michael was sweet, strange, and sad. Who wants to see that on a lunchbox?" (Like it or not, these products probably will begin showing up on store shelves again.)
Bakke also points out that the worlds in which Presley and Jackson lived and died in were dramatically different.
"In general people weren't interested in (Elvis) personally or that interested in their pop culture figures the way they are now. It was a big deal when one of the networks actually led their newscast with Elvis' death. Compare that to what you're seeing with Jackson - it's totally night and day."
Like Jackson, Elvis' reputation had, by the end of his life, been damaged to some extent (by his divorce, rumors of drugs and diminishing commercial success). But Presley's image was rehabilitated posthumously. Due largely to the continuing efforts by the Elvis Presley Enterprises and RCA records, he's remained a relevant, romantic and iconic figure for successive generations of fans. (Through a spokesman, Elvis Presley Enterprises declined to comment.)
While Jackson's later years rarely saw him create or put out new music, Elvis continued recording up until his death, amassing a voluminous catalog of material - touching on rock, pop, country and gospel - that could be released and repackaged for years to come. "Suddenly after Elvis died, there was a vacuum," notes Bakke, "and there was plenty to fill up the void: RCA started packaging and marketing to those interests."
The opportunity for Jackson to be remembered and rehabilitated will be more complicated given his chaotic family and financial circumstances. Elvis had strong supporters in Priscilla and Parker, as well as a small army of business interests eager to keep his flame burning. Who will step in and play the same custodial role for Jackson? At this point it's hard to say.
The only thing that's clear now is that the tragedy of Jackson's life and death might prove mere foreshadowing for what awaits his legacy.
By: Bob Mehr
Again, interesting, but seemingly a bit biased, seeing that the author is from Memphis. If Michael is indeed buried at Neverland Ranch, it remains to be seen if he will have the same "draw" that Elvis continues to bring to Graceland.