Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson

January 15th, 2012

“I’ve always been fascinated with Michael Jackson’s music and given his cultural impact it is remarkable how little information about his body of work is available…I wanted to help shift the discussion back to what made him famous in the first place, which is his music,” said Joseph Vogel, a doctoral candidate in the University of Rochester’s English Department and author of Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson (Sterling Press, 2011).

“Mr. Joe Vogel has brilliantly cracked the DNA, the code of the work, the artistry of Michael Joseph Jackson. I want to stress the word ‘artistry’ because people have forgotten or never understood that’s what MJ is, that’s what he worked at day and night. This is the book I have been long awaiting – a pointed, intelligent dissection of an epic body of work. Mr. Joe Vogel breaks it down album by album, song by song.” ~Spike Lee

Producer Rodney Jerkins Remembers Michael

November 21st, 2011

Innovative, successful and remarkably young record producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins had the pleasure, and the honor, of collaborating with Michael on numerous recordings in the United States and in Europe spanning many years starting before he was 20.

Rodney shared some heartwarming memories with Entertainment Tonight in the months after Michael was taken from this earth.

And entertainment journalist, Pearl Jr. gleaned some insights from Rodney in an interview he gave her awhile before Michael died.

Rodney posted on his blog site in August, 2009:

Michael Jackson Instrumentals

“When the word Michael Jackson comes to mind, a variety of stereotypical images play come to mind. Thriller, Bubbles, The Moonwalk, even an eccentric man-child. But tell one thing that doesn’t ring a bell, and I would answer back “classical music!”

Now in all honesty, he did compose a moving An Ode To Free Willy and even a heart-wrenching tune about a neglected little girl in Little Susie. But who would have thought the King of Pop would settle for soothing soundscapes in Pop retirement? Who knows, this may have been it or at least one of his last Pop studio albums.

Had Michael not died, he would’ve continued with the project throughout the duration of this new chapter and then released the composition well after his new album release! But as it appears now, I’m afraid the work is incomplete in production hell (but not permanently).”

Rodney went on to describe the project that Michael was working on with classical music producer, David Michael Frank, in the months before his passing.

You, dear valued reader, can look for more on that topic in my upcoming post…


Let This Message Not Become Cliche

September 30th, 2011

Thank you, Maria from St. Petersburg ~ YouTube Channel mmarishkaa1

Robot Mime Man

September 27th, 2011

When Michael Jackson was living out his first decade of life in Gary, Indiana, young people were being introduced to prehistoric and space-age inventions, delivered on after-school TV. In the early 1960′s, long after the dinosaurs morphed into buffaloes, and well before Neil Armstrong thrilled the world with the first real moonwalk, The Flintstones emerged from their cave. Being a future back-to-the-lander, I was intrigued by Fred and Wilma, who were parents of a Stone Age family. They were a perfect “down-to-earth” model of Mom and Dad. They were more fascinating than Beaver Cleaver’s parents, but whether they were more primitive than Ralph and Alice Kramden on Jackie Gleason’s, The Honeymooners is debatable.

My guess is that young Michael Jackson was more likely impressed with the space-age ideas and robotic movements of The Jetson’s.  I can imagine his little frame practicing robot moves early on.

33 second robot/mime in private home studio

The Jetsons launched on the tail of The Flintstones, and according to Wikipedia, “at the time of its debut, it was the first program ever to be broadcast in color on ABC-TV…While the Flintstone family lived in a world with machines powered by birds and dinosaurs, the Jetsons lived in a futuristic utopia in the year 2062 of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions.” The Jetsons presented an exciting, imaginative vision of the future…a future not exactly of this world, but one waiting to unfold. I used to imagine that by the time I had children of my own, we might benefit from the services of a humanoid robot-maid like “Rosie” who the Jetson family acquired as a discounted floor model. Over the decades following my after-school education in TV-Land, I have, in fact, witnessed the Jetson family’s lifestyle coming to life before my eyes.

While The Flintstones juxtaposed modern antiseptic reality with prehistoric dinosaur culture using bones for kitchen utensils, The Jetsons offered fuel for a child’s imagination that someday Earthlings could meet Martians, or at least we might exercise on running treadmill belts, or share face-to-face communication through a TV-like screen while talking on the telephone. These animations gave youngsters food for thought about the modern 1960′s culture outside the boob tube. I feel certain that Michael Jackson was influenced like the rest of us.

Michael was less than 5 years old when The Flintstones and The Jetsons first aired, so he was likely exposed to reruns. Keep in mind, this was before UFO was a household word, and before the likes of E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not-to-mention Star Wars. Since the topic of this post is related to robots, and I have already illustrated the notion that robots in Michael’s day were a pretty far-out concept, let’s explore robotic moves in dance.

The history of Robot dancing spans over a period of about 60 years through an evolution of jazz moves into funk and rock inspired by Elvis’ loose legs and knee-knocks and Chubby Checker’s Twist. In the late 60′s and early 70′s Michael would have been profoundly influenced by the newly developing street-dance form calledLocking” or “Campbellocking” that started with improvisational steps called locks created by Don Campbell in the nightclubs of Los Angeles, and on the streets of Watts in LA. Campbell organized a group called, “The Lockers” which became one of the most dynamic, influential groups in the history of street-dancing. It has been said that these West Coast underground dance masters changed the world forever. Locking, and it’s subculture where modern rap finds it’s roots, became the rage of the new Afro American owned television dance show called Soul Train. A dancer named Charles “Robot” Washington was an original member of “the Soul Train Gang.” He had developed the robot moves which fourteen year old Michael and his brothers, as The Jackson 5, popularized by their appearances on Soul Train. No doubt Michael developed relationships with many of the accomplished Soul Train dancers, thereby honing and further refining his skills.

MJ has been mesmerizing his audiences with robotic moves since his teen years in the early 1970′s. The biggest contribution the Jackson5 made to choreography began when innovative Michael started making what has become his signature “robot” moves. While singing “Dancing Machine” in 1973 on Soul Train, Michael greatly popularized this dance technique, which catalyzed a whole new era of dance, and eventually led to hip-hop, popping, break-dancing and countless sub-genres.

Play videos simultaneously with the LEFT video sound OFF

Michael continued to expand and refine these moves, eventually incorporating them with mime.

Everybody knows, or ought to know, that nobody’ll ever do it like “THE MAN”, but there sure are a LOT of people who enjoy trying. MJ used to take great delight in watching people imitate him, just like his mentors were honored by Michael glorifying their innovations.

“I’ve always loved to dance. When I was just real little I used to watch Sammy Davis, Fred Astaire, James Brown… and just dancing about the house.” ~Michael Jackson

Michael learned a lot from the greats who paved the way before him. He worked diligently to expand on their unique styles.

“I don’t wanna be just another can in the assembly line, you know? I want to, you know… create. Do something that’s totally different and unusual.” ~Michael Jackson

Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin are also major inspirations behind Michael’s robot moves. Their influence surely lit a fire under his dancing feet. 

These short clips are power-packed:

“The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.” ~Michael Jackson

Marcel Marceau with Michael in NYC 1995

“And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.” ~Michael Jackson

Marcel Marceau’s influence on Michael’s dance

“You can’t teach that, you can’t teach it. It has to come from inside. It’s a gift.” ~Michael Jackson

Live in Copenhagen–GREAT robot moves

“That’s what drives me. It’s the medium, it’s the art. I love it. And that’s the world I’m most comfortable in.” ~Michael Jackson

Various innovative dance moves

“I don’t know if it’s the psychology, whatever or what. I just love working hard on something, putting it together, sweating over it and sharing it with people and having them love it. And I always pray that they like it. And that’s what give me great satisfaction as an artist.” ~Michael Jackson

Little Mike joined the ranks with the great dance masters very early on.

“I was a veteran, before I was a teenager.” ~Michael Jackson

Warrior Extraordinaire

September 22nd, 2011

Michael Jackson was cautioned by the elders of his childhood church about the pitfalls and difficulties of fame and notoriety. According to many interviews and reports by those who knew Michael well, he conscientiously strove to uphold honorable behavior throughout his private and public life. I can only imagine how undoubtedly difficult this must have been for him to wade through the mire of rampant criticism and sometimes harsh, unfounded ridicule which followed him like a stalking enemy for most of his adult life. Michael’s caricature generated bundles of greenbacks for greedy gremlins and mean, media moguls at the expense of his reputation and dignity.

When Michael went on the BAD World Tour in 1987, he agreed to answer one question from PEOPLE magazine journalist Todd Gold. Todd asked Michael what misconceptions the public had of him.

Michael Jackson gave this written reply:

Michael's handwritten note, published in People Magazine ~ 12 October 1987

Like the old Indian proverb says, Do not judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins. Most people don’t know me, that is why they write such things in which most is not true. I cry very, very often because it hurts, and I worry about the children, all my children all over the world, I live for them. If a man could say nothing against a character but what he can prove, his story could not be written. Animals strike not from malice, but because they want to live, it is the same with those who criticize, they desire our blood, not our pain. But still I must achieve. I must seek Truth in all things. I must endure for the power I was sent forth,  for the world,  for the children. But have mercy,  for I’ve been bleeding a long time now. MJ.“

It makes my heart bleed to read Michael’s tender and vulnerable plea. The thought that his heart was bleeding long before the two malicious extortion attempts occurred is sobering. As if these false allegations of child molestation against him weren’t trouble enough for one man to endure, let’s briefly examine the suffering that he experienced during his entire adult life.

Go back in time to the early 1980′s when Michael was in his young 20′s, just embarking on his solo career. This is when he discovered his inherited skin disease called vitiligo, which ultimately resulted in the complete loss of pigmentation over his entire body. I can imagine it took much humility and courage to accept his rapidly changing appearance. This would be especially difficult for an entertainer with naturally dark skin, whose career hinged around being admired by millions of people around the world. Michael was a very private man, so he kept this condition under wraps, figuratively and literally.

Now, let’s fast forward a few years to 1984 when Michael’s hair caught on fire while filming the infamous Pepsi commercial when the pyrotechnics malfunctioned. Several surgeries and skin grafts were needed to treat the severe burns to his scalp . This resulted in permanent hair loss and scarring that would force Michael to wear wigs for the rest of his life. More humility and more demands for acceptance challenged him. This photograph was taken in the ambulance with bandage on his head, and trademark, sequined white glove, which he initially began wearing on the right hand to cover up his blotchy, fading skin.

In his early autobiography, Moonwalk, he described the accident, “…bombs went off on either side of my head, and the sparks set my hair on fire. I was dancing down this ramp and turning around, spinning, not knowing I was on fire. Suddenly I felt my hands reflexively go to my head in an attempt to smother the flames.”

As a result of this technical malfunction Pepsi gave Michael $1.5 million dollars, which he donated to to the burn unit of the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California. Henceforth the unit was named the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children. For the rest of his life, Michael showed a special compassion to burn victims, especially children.
                                                                        It is important to note that these extreme set-backs occurred during the time when Michael’s star was rising, and brilliantly lighting up the entire musical skies with his unparallelled talent. Michael Jackson was a giver. He sacrificed his pain to give joy to others by singing and dancing, and generously donating money and gifts. For two decades he gave gifts of compassion to hundreds of thousands of children worldwide by visiting orphanages and hospitals while on tour. Over the span of the same 20 years, Michael invited hoards of disabled and ailing children to visit his marvelous and magical Neverland Valley Ranch in the foothills of the San Ynez mountains of southern California.

Michael was an extraordinary warrior of L.O.V.E.

Twila Paris’ song, The Warrior Is A Child, is sung in this video by Gary Valenciano.
The lyrics remind me of Michael Jackson.

When Contemporary Christian songwriter Twila Paris was 22 years old, she wrote the lyrics to her popular song, The Warrior Is A Child.  These were inspired after being counseled by the pastor in her home church. Twila was cautioned, as was Michael Jackson by his church elders, about the stresses of her growing fame in the music industry. In an interview with Christian Music Magazine she explained that her pastor talked about the notion of vulnerability. She said, “He used the metaphor of the army, God’s army. No matter if we’re a general in the army and have been serving God for years, and have all this experience, and He’s given us lots of responsibility, before Him we’re still a child. So boy, I took that to heart and I went home, and with just the beginning experiences, and the little bit of understanding I had, I wrote that song.”

Initially Twila said she considered that this song would be just for her. She felt it was “too depressing” and that “everyone is going to misunderstand it, and they’re not going to like it.” It became a famous classic, crossing over into other music genres.

The Warrior Is A Child ~written by Twila Paris

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
Never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
‘Cause deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

True Man Behind the Myth

September 6th, 2011

It is encouraging to me that factual information continues to come forth, by way of books, interviews, articles and videos, created by people who knew Michael intimately throughout his entire life, in both personal and professional capacities. He was a profoundly simple man.  He was as simple as he was creative, which implies a huge, almost unfathomable, degree of simplicity.

Videos, such as the one below, serve to promote Michael’s legacy by exposing the hypocrisy, and damage to his reputation, generated by unethical people who call themselves journalists, but who, in fact, are driven by greed, and a voracious appetite for recognition, money and ratings.

I am fed up with coercive media marketing sold under the name of “journalism.” It is ruining people’s minds and hearts like poison ruins the body.

There is no doubt, based on endless evidence throughout his entire life, that Michael Joseph Jackson was a loving, conscious, intentional, sincere, sensitive and deeply spiritual human being.

I encourage people who have even just a minimal interest in learning about who this brilliant man truly was, to base their search on factual TRUTHS, rather than getting caught in the pervasive web of lies and sensationalized, fictitious conjecture about the mysterious and weird caricature that haunted Michael throughout much of his adult life.

The following sentiments could have been written by myself because every word rings true within my mind and heart. In fact, these words were expressed by Linda Higgins, Director of Community Development at the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. The excerpts below were taken from her article titled, A Star is Born – Michael Jackson. You may read Linda’s full article by clicking HERE.

“A star is a person who shines so brightly, who gives their gifts so fully, who loves so completely that everyone is drawn by the light of this star to find the way home.”  ~Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts It Isn’t Love

“When someone purposely inflicts hate upon another person by attacking the integrity of their character, they are doing a huge disservice to humanity. Not only is the person on the receiving end of the hatred being negatively affected, so is the person doing the hating, because when you treat another person in a hateful way, you learn you are a hateful person. When you invite others to share in that hatred, you are teaching them that they are a hateful person as well.

“Michael Jackson was the most famous person on the planet, known in every country in the world and millions of people were invited to bring hate into their minds regarding him. Many lies were written about him. Name calling, ridicule and judgment were usually the norm when people talked about him. Some even went as far as inviting their audiences to laugh at his expense.

“The hate inflicted upon him (and therefore humanity) was so prevalent and widely accepted, that publishers wouldn’t even consider publishing books about him unless they were negative! If that’s not a sign that something is wrong with our world, I don’t know what is.

“It took Michael’s death for me to realize that I can no longer sit back and tolerate a society with no heart, one in which a lack of compassion allowed the inhumane treatment of another human being. His death was a wake-up call for humanity, showing us what we must do in order to make the world a better place; to change the world, we have to change the way we treat each other and that involves opening our hearts to love.

“I believe love is the creative force of the Universe. It is as important to life as oxygen is to breathing. When it is present in our lives we feel happier, more optimistic and fulfilled. Life becomes more meaningful. Without it, we become angry, cynical, resentful people, critical of ourselves and others, effectively squashing the greatness that exists in us, diminishing our own light. Yet, ironically, that’s all Michael wanted to do for the world, bring a little bit of light into it.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who came and brought light to the world.” ~Michael Jackson.

“By definition of the quote at the top of this article, Michael is a star. He gave his gifts so fully and loved so completely that people all over the world were, and still are drawn to him, and he can definitely help us find the way home.”

Cirque du Soleil says “Happy Birthday, Michael.”

August 30th, 2011

August 29th, 2011

The entire cast of Cirque du Soleil’s “The Immortal World Tour” remember Michael today from Montreal with birthday wishes of admiration and LOVE.


Birthday Remembrances of 53 Years Ago Today

August 30th, 2011

Gary, Indiana was Michael Jackson’s birthplace 53 years ago today; and Gary, Indiana opened it’s arms wide to greet Michael’s children and mother who traveled there for a three day festival that ended today.

Musical acts, fireworks, and special events centered mainly around the Jackson’s childhood home, and the nearby Leonard Douglas Stadium at Roosevelt High School. The International Afro Centric Circus pitched its tent at Roosevelt Park, near the old home place. Hearsay has it that a cake, imported from Canada, was ceremoniously cut, and shared with the crowd.

The birthday tribute event was sponsored by the City of Gary, LGR Partners, Inc., the Jackson Family Foundation, and the Jackson Development and Marketing Corporation.

Jackson Street was closed to traffic between 23rd and 24th Avenues to allow for numerous vendors, and an entertainment platform dubbed, “The Legend’s Stage.” News reporters and fans thickly roamed the streets at key places on the Jackson family’s old stomping grounds.

Michael’s children, Prince 14, Paris 13 and Blanket 9 got a glimpse of their father’s early childhood roots. They posed for pictures and signed autographs for fans during the celebratory weekend.

Mama/Grandma Katherine reminisced about old times at 2300 Jackson St. “There’s a lot of memories that stand out in my mind from when we were here, like when the boys used to practice all the time… I remember Michael was so happy when he was young, and he used to take all his money and buy candy for all the kids in the neighborhood.”

Paris told a video crew, “We’ve adjusted over the past years.  And I think that coming here, seeing our dad’s old house, and all the fans coming out, I think it is really sweet they did that.”

Blanket, while normally very shy, willingly shared his perspective on the Gary visit, “It’s good to see the place where our dad grew up.”

“I am happy for this type of a thing not only going on here, but going on all over the world,” said Michael’s father, Joe Jackson.

A member of the Jackson family commented that seeing the community, and fans from everywhere honoring Michael, makes them feel wonderful as they vow to keep alive his music and legacy.

When asked how she wants her father to be remembered, Paris remarked with a sweet smile, “As one of the greatest and nicest guys ever.”

Seth Riggs Remembers Michael

August 28th, 2011

Seth Riggs was Michael’s voice coach for 32 years. He knew Michael very well. He loved Michael very much.

Seth’s tender anecdotal descriptions of his student’s character and personality are deeply touching, and incredibly insightful.


Make Me Wanna Scream

August 28th, 2011

Biased media journalism, coercive persuasion on the unwitting public and subtly deceptive marketing ploys make me wanna scream!

Today my son emailed me a Billboard Magazine link to what he called a “silly MJ animation.” I am somewhat sorry that I clicked on the video because it gave Billboard Magazine a little bit of coin… which they don’t deserve a penny of!

The “silly animation” turned out to be another example of the type of tabloid trash and media exploitation which Michael was subjected to for many, many years of his life. It makes my heart ache that greedy people target innocent people with such crass insensitivity just to make a buck. Unfortunately, it sells. They couldn’t get away with it if it didn’t. It sells to people who buy into the smug attitude which is actually the antithesis of what Michael himself believed in, and tried to promote. Michael Jackson’s humanitarian efforts were herculean, to say the least.

Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said, “They couldn’t get away with it if it didn’t [sell].” Well, as current events proves, this isn’t always true. Recently the influential media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, was recently exposed in the United Kingdom for deceptive journalism practices. “…he’s not afraid to use his media properties as weapons to further his vast -– and politically connected –- empire,” the LA Times reported a few days ago.In the United States, Murdoch has not hesitated to use his media holdings to advance the company’s business agenda. Case in point is the battle News Corp. waged against Nielsen, the company which provides television ratings used to sell advertising on cable and broadcast outlets, including those owned by Murdoch such as Fox News, FX, Fox, and local TV stations including KTTV in Los Angeles.” Full LA Times article HERE.

Aren’t we glad that Murdoch said he was “sorry.”

Barabara Kauffmann, founder of the Voices Education Project questions, “What social value is there in 7 inch headlines designed to bypass the brain and critical thinking, screaming labels like “freak,” “naked,” “evil,” fat,” “bizarre,” “gay,” “scandal” with an accompanying photo of someone now dragged to a public platform for dismemberment and humiliation? It both numbs and dumbs. What is heroic about clever linguistics and innuendo that plants labels or suggestions in people’s minds with “sources tell me” when there are no “sources”? What is honest about printing half truths or lies front page and later, a retraction in small print on the back page? Sensationalism doesn’t sell you news; it sells newspapers.” Read Kauffmann’s recent article about tabloid journalism at the Huffington Post HERE.

Billboard Magazine’s type of marketing made Michael want to SCREAM! His fans were thrilled when he turned his frustration into a huge hit. In retaliation to the media’s mean-spirited response to the false child molestation allegations hurled at him in 1993, Michael, with his successful sister Janet, produced his acclaimed song and music video, Scream.

“..well received amongst critics, it [the song, Scream] has been compared favorably to other accomplished pieces by Jackson. It went on to be nominated for a Grammy Award and an American Music Award. The corresponding music video remains one of Jackson’s most critically acclaimed pieces; it won numerous MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy. At a cost of $ 7 million, it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive music video ever made.” ~Wikipedia

Scream lyrics with music YouTube channel: GigaAkalan

Written by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, James Harris and Terry Lewis
Tired of injustice
Tired of the schemes
These lies are disgustin’
So what does this mean? (Daddy)
Kicking me down
I got to get up
As jacked as it sounds
The whole system sucks (Daddy it)
Peek in the shadow
Come into the light
You tell me I’m wrong
Then you better prove you’re right
You’re sellin out souls but
I care about mine
I’ve got to get stronger
And I won’t give up the fight
With such confusions don’t it make you wanna scream
Your bash abusin victimize within the scheme
You try to cope with every lie they scrutinize
Somebody please have mercy
Cause I just can’t take it
Stop pressurin me
Just stop pressurin me
Stop pressurin me
Make me wanna scream
Stop pressurin me
Just stop pressurin me
Stop pressurin me
Make you just wanna scream
Tired of you tellin the story your way
You’re causin’ confusion
You think it’s okay (damn it!)
You keep changin’ the rules
While I keep playin’ the game
I can’t take it much longer
I think I might go insane
With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream
Your bash abusin victimize within the scheme
You find your pleasure scandalizin every lie
Oh father, please have mercy cause I just can’t take it
Stop pressurin me
Just stop pressurin me
Stop pressurin me
Make me wanna scream
Stop pressurin me
Just stop pressurin me
Stop fuckin with me
Make me wanna scream
“Oh my God, can’t believe what I saw
As I turned on the TV this evening
I was disgusted by all the injustice
All the injustice”
“All the injustice”
(News Man)
“A man has been brutally beaten to death by
Police after being wrongly identified as a
robbery suspect. The man was
an 18 year old black male…”
With such collusions don’t it make you wanna scream
Your bash abusin’ victimize within the scheme
You try to cope with every lie they scrutinize
Oh brother please have mercy ‘Cause I just can’t take it
Stop pressurin me Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin me Makes me wanna scream
Stop pressurin me Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin me Makes me wanna scream
Stop pressurin me Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin me Makes me wanna scream
Stop pressurin me Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin me Makes me wanna scream