I read an email yesterday that Bob Marley was more popular than Michael Jackson in the non-white world up to the time of Jackson’s death. The email was forwarded from a local paper but did not say if things had changed after Jackson died. It did not give figures about most of Africa for obvious reason as internet penetration on that continent remains low for the most part.
In all of this, when I got the email I smiled because I thought both were kings in their own right but to compare them was a bit unfair to both. And, while it was a good twist to the whole Jackson saga as well as something we should be happy for as Jamaicans and I am happy, I still maintain that to compare them is unfair to both.
Firstly, lest we forget both were loved by white audiences and both are legends. Both also have the adoration of non-white audiences too.
Bob Marley is the King of reggae. His appeal is universal and his music inspired and still inspires millions. He blazed a trail for others to follow and only began to receive most of his accolades in death – an unfortunate occurrence for a man whose work was a rallying cry for the Zimbabwe independence movement.
Similarly, Michael Jackson was the king of pop. He too had universal appeal and he inspired and still inspires millions. He raised the bar in many areas including music videos and broke down barriers where others before him could not.
So, to compare their popularity in my opinion is to compare apples and oranges. You see, I don’t think it is a fair comparison because to do so is overshadow the efforts that both worked to achieve. And, while the world tends to laud the efforts of both men, we should not forget that both had their flaws.
Bob Marley was a womaniser and up until his death did not live in Jamaica. Michael Jackson, well, he was accused of being a paedophile (and note I said accused because he was NEVER convicted) and was thought to have bleached his skin.
Nevertheless, both men should not be compared for more reasons than one. Their popularity, lifestyles and works are different and both will have works outlasting their years.
By Idi Amin