Considering how much attention the media pays to celebrities when they’re alive, it seems inevitable that the death of Michael Jackson will set a new precedent in wrangling over a legendary entertainer’s spoils.
In an age when pop stars come and go like mattress sales, Jackson was the immutable King of Pop and his photo hit the front page of newspapers across the world this morning as fans expressed their sadness at losing their icon. Even The New York Timeslooked a bit like a tabloid.
The frenzy around Princess Diana’s death most closely parallels the magnitude of Jackson’s farewell. The musician’s past, however, was a bit more checkered than the Princess’ and there is concern that in the desire to be part of a community or grieving, such as the one that followed Diana, we may obscure the less-than-shining facts of Jackson’s life.
(For those looking for the real Jackson, British journalist Martin Bashir’s 2003 documentary gave an intimate portrait of the entertainer’s life, warts and all.)
Despite the public throwing itself into the kind of collective response that typifies our viral age, it seems certain that, once the tears have dried, the notoriously fractious Jackson family will set down to the business of dividing the king’s estate.
While it is speculated that Jackson died deep in the red, potential revenue from his songs still signals a sizeable fortune. As for who will own the rights to the star’s future earnings, one Spanish music critic replied, “one hundred thousand American lawyers are sharpening their teeth.”