I’ve always wanted to be able to tell stories, you know, stories that came from my soul. I’d like to sit by a fire and tell people stories—make them see pictures, make them cry and laugh,take them anywhere emotionally with something as deceptively simple as words.
– Michael J. Jackson from his autobiography Moonwalk
As I was organizing my albums (you remember those, right?) and DVDs (which are becoming more of entertainment for travel on my laptop than for routine use at home and office) this weekend, I began to go through my collection of music and music videos of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. This made me reflect on my musical education I had received from these Gary, Indiana natives that revolutionized the landscape of popular music forever.
While I was not present on Earth to have seen the Jackson 5 in their heyday in the 70s, my parents did in their youth and made it a practice to play the group’s music at home for my brother and me in heavy rotation when we were little. Listening to such trademark classics as “Rockin’ Robin, ” “The Love You Save,” “I’ll Be There,” “Sugar Daddy,” “Ben,” “ABC,” and “Dancing Machine” showcased catchy pop hooks, insightful lyrics, colorful harmonies and of course, the vocal delivery of the youngest Jackson who would grow up to be the King of Pop.
Even as a kid, Michael Jackson carried this kind of knowledge of storytelling in the songs that he sang with the Jackson 5. What did a 12-year-old know about heart-breaking regret in losing the woman he loved, wondering “Who’s Loving You” now? What did a child know about being conflicted in ending a relationship in “Never Can Say Goodbye”? What did a preteen know about being a “Sugar Daddy”? He was wise beyond his years, a quality I can definitely identify with.
This knowledge made the music come alive with feeling and authentic emotion, making the listener feel like little Michael was singing right to him/her. No wonder the female fans went crazy at the concerts, chasing the guys everywhere they went!
It’s important for artists always to maintain control of their lives and work. There’s been a big problem in the past with artists being taken advantage of. I’ve learned that a person can prevent that from happening by standing up for what he or she believes is right, without concern for the consequences.
– Michael J. Jackson in Moonwalk
But just as Diana Ross and Lionel Richie could not have become the meteoric superstars that they are without The Supremes and The Commodores, Michael Jackson was groomed to be a star through Motown’s Jackson 5.
As I listen to the later music of the Jackson 5 who was transitioning to being the Jacksons on Epic Records where the brothers had more creative control over their music, Michael’s vocal arrangement became more advanced in songs like “Can You Feel It” “Get It Together,” “Blame It On The Boogie,” “Enjoy Yourself” “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” and “Dancing Machine.”
There you can begin to hear the signature ad-libs and vocal styling that made Michael famous on the albums Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and beyond.
In his solo albums, you can hear his determined individuality in the arrangements he created, the producing mentorship from the SELFLESS musical genius Quincy Jones, the instrumentals he demanded, and the self-created vocal percussion he added to the tracks. He wasn’t the little kid being told what to do and sing; he was the polished and professional man who made his own decisions on the music he made. You have to admire that internal fortitude!
Michael Jackson set the bar in music, musical entertainment, choreography, musical film, the power of God, love, and true philanthropy for every musical artist and human being for generations to come.
I know that I have to carry the banners of God’s love and philanthropy that Mr. Jackson so eloquently addressed in songs like “Heal The World,” “On The Line,” “One More Chance,” “Another Part of Me,” “This Is It,” “We Are Here To Change The World,” “Fall Again,” “Man In The Mirror,” “We Are The World,” and “Earth Song.” I have been truly blessed to have my life enriched by his works and influence.
To me, every time I hear one of his songs, I am reminded that his spirit is resides there and in the world I live. I also remember having the blessed opportunities to see him perform that magic live on the Victory Tour (I was three so I watch the show for archives on YouTube) and Bad Tour a few years ago.
Love lasts forever.