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Rebuttal: No, Michael Jackson was not more popular than the Beatles

recycled.jpg

   Mark Kessler, owner of Recycled Records in Springfield, Ill., shows off
   a Michael Jackson album he is auctioning off on eBay. Jackson, 50, died
   in Los Angeles on Thursday. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

It's really not a question we wanted to ask. Ultimately, we know who is the most popular between Michael Jackson and the Beatles.

The answer, of course, is the Beatles. You know that. We know that.

 Our SF Music Examiner thinks it's Jackson. Her right to do so.

We can't let that go unchallenged. So here's why she's wrong.

First, the Beatles had a much bigger impact overall than Michael Jackson. Though both had a huge cultural impact, no denying that, the Beatles' impact on culture, politics and society was much more visible. The Beatles literally transformed the '60s into their decade. It was all about their hair, their clothes, their styles and most importantly, their music. (Even Elvis' influence was more wide-ranging in the '50s than Jackson's was, overall, because Elvis pushed the boundaries of music, clothes and sex, all of which were restrained before he came along.)

Not to say Jackson didn't: Watching some of his videos clearly shows his music and dance styles influenced many performers. And not saying Jackson didn't have a white hot period. He did -- the "Billie Jean" moonwalk video from the 1983 Motown 25 TV special was when the full impact of the Jackson explosion hit. 

But the Beatles' influence was much more wide ranging. It still goes on, even today. Michael Jackson's glow faded in the wake of his personal troubles. He rarely recorded and performed in recent years. He had finally decided to do live shows this year, while Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney have been consistently doing records and concerts. Not to mention the marketing of the Beatles by Apple Corp. in "One," "Love" and now "The Beatles: Rock Band." (Jackson was the subject of a Sega Genesis game called "Moonwalker," profiled by the NY PC Games Examiner.)

There are songs and albums of Jackson's that will never fade.

But it's the Beatles that will always rule. You just can't beat that argument.

Update: A second rebuttal  


Comments

  • Jamie 5 years ago

    This is terrific! Thanks for the rebuttal. I do realize it was a completely ridiculous comparison, and there's no REAL way to prove anything considering that you can't compare the 80s music industry to the 50s/60s industry but it was certainly fun to think about.

  • JJ 5 years ago

    Totally with you Steve!

  • Rock Singer 5 years ago

    Oh Please !!! not even close enough to win a cigar.

  • al-Asadi 5 years ago

    Coming from an older guy I get that. Michael was only 1 person and the Beetles a group. There is no way to compare a group to a single person. Michael touched billions of people around the globe and from all walks of life unlike the Beetles. His range of music spanned disco, rock and pop. He may not have released any music recently only because so many leeches have tried to suck him dry and leave him hopeless. But his music is timeless and his works both charitable and musical were amazing for a single person. Both Michael and the Beetles were tremendous influences in their own right but, for a person that listens to all genres of music, I must say that Michael was in deed the most popular.

  • Allan 5 years ago

    Sorry al-Asadi , but Michael's popularity is exaggerated compared to the Beatles.
    Yes they were four guys compared to one, but even Elvis who was one,beats Jackson by a long shot.
    I understand respecting the nearly departed,but comparing Jackson to the Beatles (which is ea not ee) is like comparing a salt grain to a pound of sugar.
    Jackson had his fans and was very influencial,but nothing like the Beatles.

  • mjforeverking 3 years ago

    Allen, if you believe that the beatles or Elvis are in the same league as Michael jackson, you need some serious help. Michael jackson influence and cultural impact is second to none. Michael in his peak years was like a god. The man change radio formats, fashion, global pop culture, music videos and dance like no other performer in history. He has inspired nearly every mucian of the past 35 years stretching across several genres of music which include rock, pop, R&b, country, and even hip hop. Here are the names of several major musical artists from various genre of music who cite michael as a major influence. Mariah Carey, Britney spears, Chris Brown, usher, madonna, bobby brown, justin timberlake, fall out boy, ludacris, jay z, beyonce, kaye west, marylin manson, celine dion, lady gaga, missy elliot, Ciara, John mayer, alien ant farm, Brandy, Christina Aguilera, justin bieber, new edition, boyz 2 men, Alicia keys, Janet jackson, Nick lachey, the black eye peas,hanson, the veronicas,eric durrance, joe nichols, dierks bently and jimmy wayne to name a few. Could you name this many artist or more that have been inspired by the beatles or elvis. If Michael was white this wouldn't even be a debate would it? Stop trying to play the my guy is better than your guy game card becuase it's ridiculous. No one can ever be greater than michael jackson no matter what color, how iconic or popular. there will always be one true king and his name is Michael Jackson period.

  • steve 5 years ago

    interesting .. as someone who grew up with the Beatles, Elvis through to Michael Jackson there is no comparison Michael was a megastar there is simply no one alive or dead that was/is on his level .

    As a musician i find him to be the worlds greatest entertainer and to come out of the greatest musical label Motown .

    Also Elvis never toured outside of the USA while the Beatles went to predominantly western countries . Micheals music was heard in townships in south africa , south america , pakistan to being the first western star superstar in china ..

    Rest In Peace Michael you changed music forever !

  • Allan 5 years ago

    If you grew up with the Beatles and Elvis Steve, then you know that Jackson was third and that's being very kind even saying that.

  • David 5 years ago

    Personally, I'm a modest MJ fan but an avid Beatles one. The real question is, who's had the greater influence?

    Consider the dominant popular music of the past 25 years -- hip-hop, rap, dance. More closely related to Billie Jean than Billy Shears.

    Look at the music videos. More like Black or White than Penny Lane.

    Now consider the music industry itself -- dominated by visuals as well as extensive production and songwriting teams. The triumph of celebrity and style over talent and substance.

    By these measures, Michael Jackson's influence has been far more pervasive than the Fab Four's. The Beatles were the greatest, but no one (with the possible exception of U2) could follow in their footsteps.

    By contrast, Jackson provided an accessible, easy to adapt template for commercial success for those with more modest talents and aspirations.

    In a nutshell, thanks to MJ, nowadays almost anyone can be a star.

  • Rob H. 5 years ago

    Rest in peace Michael, but you were never as good as Elvis and the Beatles ,and that's a fact.
    Michael was another Hanson.

  • Paul Ramon 5 years ago

    I'm a regular visitor of your great News Website (Abbey Road Beatles News for about 10 years and this Examiner page since it's up). I'm quite surprised to see this article published today. I found it totally inappropriate and pointless. Is this a competition ? Is this a reaction of jealousy because of the worldwide tribute ? Does everyhting need to be compared ? "Mine is bigger than yours !".

    It made me very sad to find such content this morning. Of course you are forgiven but I'm still surprised and stunned. I wonder who cried for Lennon in Ethiopia, Thailand, Morocco, China, Sweden, Ecuador and Borneo simultaneoulsy in 1980 by the way ? Shoot, I entered the competition myself.

  • Tanja 5 years ago

    I am sorry to say that...but I think the comparsion is totally bad timed....You could have done this in a few weeks...but for now it´s about mourning a legend...who cares then wether or not the Beatles or Elvis were bigger? They are all legends......Thank You Michael for 40 years of fun and joy Your brought to the world.

    Rest In Peace

    Tanja from Germany

  • Andy 5 years ago

    The Beatles are only behind Eminem in albums sales in the decade of 2000's. They were amongst the first to do video's also. The Beatles changed the way we recorded, wrote, and even played music.

    The Beatles ability to marry studio experimentation with a strong pop song structure is such a profound influence that it's taken for granted. I'd say it's their most important contribution. It's the very foundation of how music is still made, so I'd say their influence is very much evident today, even if not everybody knows it. I still say to this day the most prophetic record of the Sixties wasn't "Yesterday" or "Satisfaction" but "Tomorrow Never Knows," which sums up most of where music has gone. Minus the vocals, it's virtually an big beat/techno and modern electronic record that's as much Public Enemy as it is Philip Glass. Today's music is mostly about sound texture and the group that got us thinking about it the most is the Beatles. Some love to dismiss "Sgt. Peppers," and especiall

  • Andy 5 years ago

    CONTINUE especially "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," if all that random splicing up of tape and punching it into a song for sound effects can't be found in Kanye West or many hip-hop crews of the last 25 years or so.

    Whether we're talking Radiohead, Coldplay, U2, L.A. Reid or Raphel Saadiq, to mention a few, they still mention or show the Beatles' influence. The Smithereens recently covered the entire "Meet the Beatles" album. Phish has performed all of the "White Album" in concert. Whose songs are more covered and rememeber the Beatles sold over one billion albums and they broke up in 1970. The Beatles still have what five the greatest albums of all time.

  • Sally 5 years ago

    Thriller"? No, it's not one of those records that change your idea of what music could be. It's not "Revolver" or "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Compare Elvis and Michael Jackson to each other they were both freaks. The Beatles were on another level above them.

  • mamunia 5 years ago

    You can't compare the promo films the Beatles did to what Jackson did because the technology for the outlets in the 1960s were broadcast TV vs MTV/cable/satellite which accounts for more exposure and a wider reach during Jackson's hey day. You have to look at it in context. And you have to look at what touring and travel in the 1960s was vs what it was in the 1980s and beyond, which are two very different things. And of course there is the emotional element as the passing of Jackson is so recent.

    But with all due respect to Jackson and anyone else that followed in the Beatles wake, if the Beatles hadn't changed the face of the music business making it into a HUGE industry with multiple artists crossing cultural lines, those other artists that followed would not have enjoyed the careers that they have. Not only did the Beatles change music, pop culture, fashion, etc they changed the music business.

  • Tod 5 years ago

    Is that jealousy speaking? Why compare in such sad times? Give the man some peace!

    Besides, Michael's popularity was a phenomenon, you can't compare it with anybody else. I don't believe that most of the people in Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. know about Beatles, but they do know about Michael. And he also owns Beatles...

  • mamunia 5 years ago

    actually people in those places do know the beatles; go watch the beatles anothology where it is discussed.

    Back in the 1960s song publishing was very different, third parties published music, not a company owned by the artist themselves. This has changed because of the Beatles. When Jackson was cash rich after Thriller he was copeting against Yoko and Paul for the catalog rights (Yoko having been the reason why they did not outbid Jackson, go look it up). Michael Jackson knew the value of the Beatles and their music and bid and won that catalog, which in his later years was his saving grace financially. He recognized their global popularity to know enough that the purchase of the Northern Songs catalog would insure his financial future.

    And many times I had heard Jackson give the Beatles their props in interviews. That says it all for me.

  • Paulina 5 years ago

    MJ didn't "own the Beatles". He, and now his estate, owned the Northern Songs catalog of Lennon and McCartney songs. That's very different than "owning the Beatles". And now it seems that Bank of America may own MJ's piece if the estate cannot pay off MJ's loans as they hold it in collateral.

  • Matt Talvi 5 years ago

    There's always this period of mindless over-praise when someone who is an Icon dies. For a couple of weeks, they were "THE BEST MOST INFLUENTIAL BLAH BLAH BLAH IN THEIR FIELD." If Peter Noonan died tomorrow, some dope would write in some syrupy tribute that "he was more influential than John Lennon!"
    Let idiots take the stage for this period of Michael Mania. When it all dies down, these same people will prepare nasty, revelatory, gossippy NEVERLAND expose pieces.
    I guess I've lived too long. I've seen this movie too many times. Sigh.
    For the record (at least in my mind): The Beatles were MORE influential than MJ. Much more. So much more, the discussion shouldn't even be held.

  • Betty 5 years ago

    Such a stupid thing to do. Why compare one rock legend with another. They both were legends and Icons. Both had a profound impact on the music industry. Michael is dead. Please let him rest in peace.

  • Michael Ruled 5 years ago

    It took 4 people to make just one of Michael. The Beatles are only popular with white people. Michael was loved by everyone. Seperately, none of them came close to Michael. Elvis was no Michael either.

  • Paulina 5 years ago

    Oh please, I have many black friends and relatives that are Beatles fans, Elvis fans and MJ fans.

  • Melissa Davis 5 years ago

    This site didn't start the debate. Since Michael Jackson's death, the media has been running these polls, so it's not inappropriate that this site offer responses to things like: Jackson changed the world or only old hippies like the Beatles (I've seen both comments in the past two days). With all respect to Jackson, and I did love Billie Jean and several other songs, exactly how did he change the world? I really want to know. Because I was alive when the Beatles changed it and I don't see the seismic shift that the Beatles wrought. I don't want hyperbole, I really would like to know what people are thinking. Huge, yes. Huge in 1984. At the center of his media circus trial, yes. Huge in the manner and suddeness of his death, yes. No denials there. But read a list of his albums. Plural. Over a period of 40 years. Would people in 2024 have reacted this same way if he hadn't died now?

  • BRUCE 5 years ago

    IS VERY DIFUCULT COMPARE MICHAEL JACKSON WHIT ELVIS OR BEATLES,BECAUSE BETLES AND ELVIS IS JUST SINGER S FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE AND IN AFRICA,INDIA AND IN SOME PARTS OF PLANET MORE THEN 1 BILLION OF THIS PEOPLE NEVER NO WHO IS ELVIS OR BEATLES EVEN TODAY,BECAUSE TEEY ARE SINGER S FOR THE WHITE PUBLIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON IS COMPARETE A GOD IN POPULARITY,AND EVERY PARTS OF THE PLANET THEY NO WHO IS MICHAEL JACKSON,AND DONT FORGET HE SELL MORE THEN EVERY SINGER S AND GROUPS OF SINGER S IN PLANET,AND HE CREATE HE S DANÇE ,AND POWERFUL IMPACT IN EVERY CONTRYS IN PLANET IN 80 AND 90,MORE THEN EVERY PEOPLE,NEVER COMPARE IS RIDICUL COMPARE MICHAEL TO BEATLES AND ELVIS,MICHAEL IS THE TOP FAMOUS PERSON AND ARTIST OF ALL TIME AND MAYBE FOR THE REST OF THE TIME,DEFENETLY IS TOP OF TOP S...

  • BRUCE 5 years ago

    THE MOST OF PEOPLE DONT UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE MUSIC,BECAUSE,IS RIDICUL COMPARE MICHAEL JACKSON WHIT BEATLES AND ELVIS,MICHAEL IS A SINGER WHO CHANGE THE MUSIC IN EVERY PARTS OF THE PLANET AND IS A ARTIST ,AND NEVER FORGET THIS: EVERY RAÇES NO WHO IS MICHAEL JACKSON AND ELVIS OR BEATLES THEY ARE SINGER S FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE BECAUSE IF THE PEOPLE TRY TO GO TO AFRICA INDIA AND SOME CONTRY S IN PLANET BEATLES AND ELVIS THEY DONT NO HO IS THIS GUYS AMD MICHAEL JACKSON IS A FANTASTIC PERSON SO FAMOUS THEN EVERY PEOPLE IS PLANET,IS REALY THE BOSS OF ALL BOSSES IN WORLD OF MUSIC,ALL RESPECT FOR THIS MAGIC PERSON...

  • Say Say Say 5 years ago

    Wow, for all the stuff Beatles said in the '60s like speaking out against segretation, and promoting the black artists who's music they covered and liked, the Beatles are only for white people?

    The Beatles played with black musicians onstage, and revered them.

    And Paul McCartney working with and helping Michael Jackson means he was only looking out for white people?

    As a whole the Beatles were more wider ranging than you think. Look beyond the surface of mainstream media, and read some books, because there's a whole lot of spin going on right now.

  • BRUCE 5 years ago

    I M WHIT YOU STEVE,MICHAEL JACKSON IS THE ONLY MEGA STAR IN PLANET MUCH MORE THEN ELVIS OR BEATLES,NEVER COMPARE ,MICHAEL JACKSON IS THE MOST NOTORIOUS SINGER OF ALL TIME AND THE MAGIC DANÇER EVER,JUST THE N1 ARTIST EVER,HE GIVE TO THE WORLD GREAT MOMENT S IN IN LAST 3 DECADES,TAKNS FOR EVERTHING,AND REST IN PEACE...

  • Eric M. 5 years ago

    I don't think you can say MJ was as big, influential, or talented as the Beatles. Obviously he was a mega superstar in his own write. But he was a singer and he was a dancer. That in and of itself is not ground breaking.

    Plus, did MJ know how to play an instruments proficiently? How much impact did he have on the writing of his own music and lyrics?

    MJ was a star in his own right but The Beatles are on an entire different plain when it comes to talent and impact. It will take the world a much longer time to forget The Beatles before they forget MJ.

    In reality, MJ had about 20 really great songs as compared to The Beatles who had well over 100 songs that are exceptional. In every aspect the Beatles are bigger and better. RIP MJ.

  • jh 5 years ago

    There's no denying that MJ was a hugely popular and talented pop star at his peak, but I do not truly believe that he was more popular or influential than the Beatles. Even if we're just talking sales figures alone, he isn't bigger than the Beatles, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Still, he was an idol to many, and his passing is tragic.

  • TS 5 years ago

    Michael Jackson was the greatest. He had an impact all over the world. Beatles and Elvis were only known in the North America and few English speaking countries. Their influence was only in one part of the world, whereas Michael Jackson was known in every single part of the world. Michael Jackson was the King and is the King.

  • Marie 5 years ago

    Legends do not abuse young boys. I don't care how good he danced. He was great at 12. He was freaky in his 20s forward. Sorry, but I can't hear his songs without thinking about the children he abused.

  • TonyC 5 years ago

    Bruce. You're an idiot. Sorry.

    And a racist idiot at that.

  • 4 5 years ago

    for sure the beatles were great - but mj simply was the greatest!

  • Matt Talvi 5 years ago

    I can't help but respond again to this debate. There is so much nonsense being uttered here, by people like Bruce (and, if you want to post here, maybe you should learn to write a co-herent sentence, Bruce) and others, that I can see how history can be re-written and propoganda become such an important tool used to erase the truth and state falsehoods. This is just about legendary musical artists, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, so the impact of propoganda and ignorance is not life effecting or earth shattering. But, project this kind of thinking to it's logical conclusion, as used by governments and politicians to gain influence and grab power. It's scary.

  • Dre 5 years ago

    I'm sorry, Mike was bigger than the Beatles, and now that he has pass away, he will be even bigger. There are so many artist today that say that MJ was their idol, inspiration, etc. How many artist today say the Beatles was the reason they got into music? MJ took music to a level no one ever saw before or ever will see again.

  • Caruso 5 years ago

    This is a stupid debate. Why even do it? Absolutely no point to it whatsoever.

  • The Truth 5 years ago

    MJ was a freak and a child molester with some hit songs. Nobody will be listening to his music in 20 years.

    The Beatles changed the world and are still influencing new artists and composers.

  • Harry 5 years ago

    Well, my take is that Michael, was a great talent and his music was a inspiration to most all that listened to it. But, he was not a person to look up to. Each one of the Beatles were always interested in the betterment of man. I can't say that about Michael.

    I loved Michael's music but would never want to be like him.

  • Peter 5 years ago

    Somebody please take the keyboard away from Bruce. Especially the CAPS key. What an ignorant bore he is.

  • Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay 5 years ago

    I thought that I would not participate in this farce debate. However, after going through the postings of BRUCE, I decided otherwise. I'm an Indian living in Calcutta; and, I'm not white. And I very much love the Beatles, more than everyone except Tagore.

    I just don't understand that how can one compare dancer-singers with musicians? If one forgets about their personal life, MJ will be best remembered for "moonwalk", "band-aid", "thriller", and few ballads like "Black and White". Look at the performance of the Beatles as a group and each of their solo carriers. Look how they are still influencing the music world even today.

    And as far as BRUCE's reference to Beatles being popular to whites only, I'll just ask him to listen again to "Ebony and Ivory". Again, money from proceeds of "Concert for Bangladesh" is still helping Bangladesh. Please don't be racist in your comments; it hurts us. And I'm sure it would also hurt MJ. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Nabeel Aejaz 5 years ago

    The Biggest selling album of all time is of Beatles? Nope its Michael's. Enough Said.

  • Richard 5 years ago

    Beatles are light years ahead of Jackson, Thriller was a nice pop album, but it's nothing when compared to Revolver or Rubber Soul.
    As far as popularity look at the longetivety of the Beatles,they are still big sellers wait for September and see.
    Not taking anything from Jackson,but nope,he is not even in the same league as the Beatles.

    How many times do you listen to Thriller ?
    How many times to you listen to Revolver ?

    It was a Beatle's guest vocals that helped Thriller anyway, plus of course Vincent Price.

  • Aaron David Ward 5 years ago

    The question of whether who was more popular is a straw man thesis affected by peoples' perceptions based on when they were born and what years they consider to be their formative ones.

    For baby boomers born in 46 through 59, I would bet the Beatles are considered the biggest act of the 20th century.

    For boomers and Generation X born in 60 through say 75, I would guess more would say Michael Jackson.

    I'm overgeneralizing, of course, but the main point is it most likely depends on when you were born and what the culture was like at that time.

    Comparing artists of different musical genres as well as different ages, different approaches, and different target audiences, the arguments are numerous but mostly academic and meaningless.

  • TonyC 5 years ago

    >>>The Biggest selling album of all time is of Beatles? Nope its Michael's. Enough Said.>>>
    The MOST ALBUMS SOLD all time?? The Beatles, not Michael Jackson. One giant album and two big hits do not a career make.
    The question of MJ as a musical performer/composer/artist compared to the Beatles is fantastically absurd. It is not even close. MJ made some great pop songs. End of story. The Beatles made art that will be listened to hundreds of years from now. MJ will be seen as a great entertainer, NOT AN ARTIST.
    Debate settled!

  • RT TOK 5 years ago

    Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, The Beatles, Elvis, and Michael Jackson; the common thread, now they belong to the ages. History, and not us, will be the final judge on their contributions to humanity...

  • Wayneacp 5 years ago

    Michael had music you danced to. The Beatles made music you listened to. Michael was exciting. The Beatles were relevant. They were both great, but the Beatles are on another level over Michael and everyone else. I have Thriller, but I also have Sgt Peppers. You can't go by sales alone, otherwise McDonalds would be the best food in the history of mankind.

  • Ismail Khan 5 years ago

    The beatles mean nothing to anyone outside of the native english speaking world. MJ on the other hand is known and listened to the world over. In my country people can't speak, read or write english, yet they are fans of MJ's music. MJ's music transcends language, the beatles are restricted to english speakers.

    There is no question MJ is the world's most famous person. Go outside of your comfortable countries to find out what he means to people around the world.

    Steve Marinucci does not know what he is saying.

  • DJ Ron 5 years ago

    Who is bigger or better?
    Mozart, Beethoven or Bach ? And what`s about Haendel ? It 's just music! Listen to it and feel good. People have different taste. The music will live on, nothing else...

  • Mike 5 years ago

    When Rudolph Valentino died in 1926, he was one of the biggest stars of the era. His funeral was attended by mass hysteria, women weeping, dressed in black, throwing flowers at the hearse, etc.

    Today, Valentino is barely remembered. His impact on the film industry is negligible. The hysteria of his death has largely overshadowed his career (have you ever seen 'The Shiek'?).

    This will be Wacko Jacko's fate. The Beatles were innovators, who influenced and shaped a generation. 'Yesterday' and 'Imagine' may end up as standards, just as 'Stardust' or 'Over the Rainbow' are today. Can you honestly imagine anyone listening to 'Black and White' or 'Bad' in fifty years time? Children of every generation after the '60's rediscover the Beatles and make them their own. Jackson will take his rightful place among other big '80's acts like Men Without Hats and Duran Duran. And stay there.

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