Drew Dixon Williams on Michael Jackson’s Legacy

July 7, 2009

Our dear friend Drew Dixon Williams has spent her life in the domains of politics and music, plotting the ascent of voices with the power to move us on all sorts of levels. She weighed in on Michael Jackson’s impact this week, on a website she recently launched called Second Ladies. Second Ladies is designed “to harness and sustain the enthusiasm about our phenomenal First Lady in order to build and support a community of similarly empowered women.” The site is an exciting platform, an explicit mechanism for fostering leadership, particularly among women.

A parade of commentators has tried to articulate Jackson’s influence over the last week, but Williams brings new insight to the discussion of how he changed music and culture forever. And while she says that she is “not altogether comfortable opining on a regular basis,” we hope this post is a sign of things to come. A taste below and the full link here:

As has been said many times in the barrage of media coverage following his death, MJ broke down barriers. He was the first black artist whose videos got played on MTV. His records defied the long-standing precedent of segregated airwaves to get airplay on rock and pop radio stations in the eighties. Those milestones were significant to be sure, but in my opinion, the biggest barriers that he broke down were psychological. His gift was so great that he transcended race, not just in terms of format, but in terms of feeling. All across the globe men, women and children let Michael Jackson get under their skin, even as his own skin morphed towards an ideal image of beauty that he himself was in the process of obliterating.