Mention the name Michael Hutchence, or the band itself, and what do you get from people? 'Oh, the guy who hung himself while jacking off.' The fact that this was a band with a long, long history with a rather extensive set of hit singles--all of them bolstered by Hutchence's distinctive vocal tones--never, ever enters into it. Yet if you ask people about Michael Jackson right now, he's exulted as 'The King of Pop' (a phrase used to refer to him only because it was in every contract he signed in the last fifteen years of his life that he had to be referred to as such in all publicity materials) who's an 'Icon Of Music' (I'd argue that Prince had a bigger influence on the direction of pop music). There's no mention whatsoever of the bizarre behavior that included an addiction to plastic surgery (skin disease, my rosy rear end; a skin disease doesn't cause your nose to thin out like that), a pathetic desire to not be black, and pedophilia--something the man as much admitted to on National Television back in the 90's! It's as if everyone believes that the second before his heart stopped, the grotesque of today suddenly switched places with the Michael of 1987, before the man's mental illness took over his life.
(and before the cries of racism come up, I looked askance at the way Elvis suddenly went from being a fat, drug-addled man who paid underaged girls to wrestle in their underwear with a stool sticking out his butt to Comeback Elvis when he died on the toilet in the 70's...and I expect the same disgust to come over me when Jerry Lee Lewis finally dies and his history of erratic behavior and spousal abuse gets ignored. I can respect the art while damning the artist, that's for sure)
So why does one artist get defined by his sin while the other gets off scott free? I think that maybe, in Hutchence's case, his death defines him because its so unlike his music. Listen to this, a single from INXS' first album; its message is decidedly pro-life, arguing for action over discussion, for finding your way under your own power rather than letting others guide you.
And we also have to take into consideration that, at least here in America, Hutchence's time in the spotlight was relatively brief. Even though alt-rock fans like myself knew of INXS' jazz-touched beats as far back as the dawn of MTV, where "The One Thing" made eating fun again, most people only became acquainted with the band with the advent of their one major hit, "What You Need"--I'm sure most of these same people look at INXS as a one hit wonder regardless of all the other magnificent sax-heavy songs they've put out. And maybe because of that limited time in the spotlight, the weirdness of his death is all people know about him.