Michael Jackson was the most influential artist of the 20th century,First, with the possible exception of Prince and Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson simply had more raw talent as a performer than any of his peers. But the King of Pop reigns as the century's signature artist not just because of his exceptional talent, but because he was able to package that talent in a whole new way. In both form and content, Jackson simply did what no one had done before.
Louis Armstrong, for instance, learned music as a live performer and adapted his art for records and radio. Sinatra and Elvis were also basically live acts who made records, ultimately expanding that on-stage persona into other media through sheer force of charisma. The Beatles were a hybrid; a once-great live band made popular by radio and TV, forced by their own fame to become rock's first great studio artists.
Jackson, though, was something else entirely. Something new. Obviously he made great records, usually with the help of Quincy Jones. Jackson's musical influence on subsequent artists is simply unavoidable, from his immediate followers like Madonna and Bobby Brown, to later stars like Usher and Justin Timberlake.
Certainly, Jackson could also electrify a live audience. His true canvas, though, was always the video screen. Above all, he was the first great televisual entertainer. From his Jackson 5 childhood, to his adult crossover on the Motown 25th anniversary special, to the last sad tabloid fodder, Jackson lived and died for on TV. He was born in 1958, part of the first generation of Americans who never knew a world without TV. And Jackson didn't just grow up with TV. He grew up on it. Child stardom, the great blessing and curse of his life, let him to internalize the medium's conventions and see its potential in a way that no earlier performer possibly could.
If Jackson had only been a great musician who also invented music video, he still wouldn't have mattered as much. Madonna, his only worthy heir, was almost as gifted at communicating an aesthetic on-screen. The aesthetic Jackson communicated, however, was much more powerful, liberating and globally resonant than hers. It was more powerful than what Elvis and Sinatra communicated, too. Hence, that whole "Most Influential Artist" thing.
As years pass and history sanitizes his memory, Jackson's legend will only grow. One day, in addition to being the most influential artist of the 20th century, he may well topple Elvis become the most-impersonated as well. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertain...fluence/58616/