Michael Jackson and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Similarities?

I recently watched a documentary on Mozart’s life and I was amazed at how similar it was to Michael Jackson’s.  Both enjoyed fame as children, and then later as young adults, both had fathers who controlled their careers, both went bankrupt and both died young (35 for Mozart, 50 for Jackson).  Both also strived to be accepted by society.  Really, the only difference between the two is that one was long forgotten, while the other enjoyed an increase of fame upon death.  Honestly, the only reason why this difference exists is because of media.  There was no recorded music, Internet or television in Mozart’s time.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 27:  The oil painting 'Mozart in Verona,' painted by Saverio Dalla Rosa in 1770, and on loan from Jean Cortot, is seen at the residential house of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the opening of Mozart week January 27, 2006 in Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

It’s interesting.  While the documentary did not say anything about what Mozart was like as a person, anyone who has seen the movie or play, Amadeus, would know that he was a little…strange.  People have long thought that Michael Jackson was…strange, too.  They were both creators of works involving magical characters (Magic Flute (Mozart) and Thriller (Jackson)) and were probably influenced by the lack of real playtime they had as kids due to the constant touring. I kind of knew about Mozart and his issues long before watching the documentary.  I had studied music when I was younger and my music education included its history.  In an upper-level music class in high school, my teacher would mention that Mozart had issues as an adult as he was basically a child star.  Of course, this was long before Michael Jackson’s death, but he already had “issues” by then.  It was the late 1990s, just a few years after the child abuse allegations. 

 

Entertainer Michael Jackson gestures upon arrival at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, California in this May 13, 2005 file photo. June 25 marks the one year anniversary of Jackson's death. REUTERS/Phil Klein/Files  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT PROFILE OBITUARY ANNIVERSARY)

What I find interesting was that media didn’t really connect the two, or at least, I don’t recall if.  Perhaps it’s because the typical American (and Canadian, in fact) doesn’t know too much about music from so long ago.  Most aren’t exposed to this as young children or even as teenagers.  However, I think this would have been a great opportunity to discuss how being a child star wasn’t too different in the eighteenth century and perhaps even educate Joe Public about classical music.

Comments

  1. Actually, this is not a new theory at all: although not widely discussed, it has been addressed during the late 80s not long after the release of Amadeus (the film) in late ’84. Both were indeed child prodigies and performers. And both grew increasingly eccentric in their “later” years. (Mozart had taken to hushing people on the street when he was wife was pregnant!) Perhaps this was why Mozart came to be the most popular composer in the late 1980s/90s, overthrowing Beethoven.

    There are just a few things I’d like to point out: Mozart was far from being immediately forgotten. In fact, he was still quite popular after his death. Rather, what changed was the perception of his music: he went from being regarded as somewhat of an avant-garde composer to a light, bright sparkling composer.

    What I personally find most striking about the similarities between Mozart and Jackson is their revolutionizing of the foremost art forms of their respective periods: namely, the opera and the music video. Both introduced new levels of realism and imagination in their story telling. Mozart was truly the first to breathe life into opera while Jackson was arguably the first to create credible plots within the music video.

    Much of this leads us to wonder if their experiences on the outside–rarely ever having peers their age–helped them “see” more comprehensively. After all, we all know that sometimes it’s more effective to observe from the sidelines than from within the midst. And we might wonder too if the sheer fact of never having fully matured also allowed them to retain their childlike powers of perception and to develop their powers of imagination all the more.