Whenever we lose someone we care about, it’s nice to be with friends. Like many of you, I ended up in a bar late Thursday night, laughing and talking and listening to Michael Jackson tunes. It was nice, too, to hear from so many of you the next day, calling or e-mailing to chat about Michael and wondering how we got a mention of his tragic death onto the cover of last week’s Indies issue — indeed, Jackson’s passing was confirmed about an hour before the book was to go to press.
In the days following, I became a bit of a talking head. Talk shows, news programs, radio shows, newspapers, music channels… many wanted Billboard to quantify the greatness of Jackson, and I was happy to be able to bring some context to his prolific chart and sales accomplishments. Indeed, it was almost as if, after too many years of people associating Jackson with his controversies, they had forgotten what had made him a superstar in the first place: his amazing music and performances. Many news anchors confessed, off-air, to “not getting it.” They’d literally ask, “Why did he have so many fans who were so loyal?”
Billboard hopes to bring some unique and comprehensive light to this and other Jackson-related topics by the end of this week, when we publish our next issue with Jackson owning the proper cover. It will be an issue dedicated almost entirely to the music and business history of Michael Jackson. Right now we’re planning comprehensive charts, as well as special features on key moments from his career, to leverage Nielsen data in more ambitious ways than we’ve ever attempted — and more.
Perhaps most importantly, the issue will showcase you — his friends in the industry, those who have worked with him over the years, those who helped him to create and publish and sell and tour, and those who were singularly inspired by his work. Please, if you have stories you want to share, reach out to me at email@example.com — I read each message personally, every week.
Ten-plus years unto my journalism career, I can say that the process of gathering such stories and tributes is always bittersweet — reliving greatness serves to remind us of the talent we’ve lost. In Jackson’s case, that talent was prodigious, perhaps irreplaceable. If what we’re able to aggregate, analyze and report this week brings some better understanding, a little healing and, yes, maybe some smiles to those who knew Michael, well, we’ll feel like we’ve done our jobs.
Thanks, Bill Werde
Editorial Director, Billboard