David Lister: The man who created modern pop's template

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The Independent Online

Back in the eighties and nineties there was a saying in the music business: "There's showbiz, there's rock 'n' roll, and there's Michael Jackson."

It was true. Michael Jackson redefined the pop show as he redefined pop itself. His mixture of high energy dance, high octane pop melodies and androgynous sex appeal set the template for the next 20 years. His mega celebrity inflamed by a private life which was at best surreal and for many more than a little creepy sadly served to deflect attention from the fact that in his pomp he was a bolt of lightning in the world of pop, not just rewriting the record books with phenomenal album sales, but achieving a global success that included all races.

Jackson was one of the first pop stars to use striking video clips to help market an album, the 65m-selling album Thriller in 1982, and used an urban producer to give a hip-hop feel to his 1991 album Dangerous. He tended to be ahead of the game. The talent, for songwriting at least, may have faded in recent years, but the fascination with him remained.

There has been much private speculation in the industry recently about whether Jacko could manage his planned 50 arena shows in Britain. No one seemed to ponder the fact that he could still sell out 50 arena shows.

Those shows now will not happen. But it will be pleasing if in all the dredged-up memories of court cases, allegations of abuse, changing skin colour and Neverland that will fill the column inches and TV bulletins around the world, there is also recognition of why he unarguably merited the title "King of Pop."

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