A Little Context

Miami Dade College students watch the Michael Jackson memorial services on a giant screen at Miami Dade College in Miami, Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) AP Photo/Alan Diaz

Ask anyone what their favorite music is and they'll usually choose the music that was popular when they were in high school.

For me that meant the likes of Elvis and Chuck Berry and Little Richard and, because I'm from Texas, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and, a little later, George Jones.

Maybe that's why I never got Michael Jackson's music - he was long after my salad days.

What I thought of when he died was not his music, but the weirdness - the grotesque facial surgery, the Halloween costume attire, the drug rumors and all the rest.

That's just me, of course.

Jackson and his music meant a lot to many people. Thirty-one million people watched his memorial service. It was news, all right.

But before we declare this some sort of never-before-seen outpouring of emotion and national affection, just a little context:

"American Idol" draws close to 30 million on a good night.

More people actually tuned in to see the burial service for Ronald Reagan than saw Jackson's memorial service.

A far greater audience watched the presidential debates.

And while it is true that an astonishing 1.6 million people registered for a lottery offering free tickets to Jackson's memorial service, a lot more people - more than two million - took the trouble to make their way to Washington to see, in person, the inauguration of America's first African American president, even though it was on television, too.

Somehow I find that reassuring.
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