Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brother Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Television viewers in the days since Jackson's death have probably glimpsed the old video clip: the Jackson 5 auditioning for Motown Records in Detroit, a July 1968 showcase that led to the Indiana group's signing.
The tape is brief and grainy, but young Jackson's charisma practically pops through the screen as the 9-year-old twirls and glides through his best James Brown impersonation.
In the above excerpt from an article titled "Michael Jackson, brothers stunned Motown execs" I heard for the first time about the existence of this historical footage and here it is.

Wow! Just wow! There he is at age 9 in his full glory. Michael. Brother Michael. There are the mesmerizing spin moves that seem to defy laws of physics. And in some of his moves he seems to foreshadow the moonwalk that we all so strongly associate with him - the King of Pop.

I couldn't help but look up a video of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, doing his original version of "I got the feeling" to get some idea of where Michael was getting his inspiration from. Enjoy.

And then many years later we see Michael at his prime performing "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25 tribute. Absolute perfection.

Does it get any better than that? There is the signature moonwalk. And yet the spin moves are the same ones that the young 9 year old Michael had already mastered. And somehow it never gets old. You still can't quite believe what your seeing. The magician has perfected his act. Michael was magic. Pure magic. You almost expected him to suddenly disappear from the stage in a puff of smoke. And so he did.

Goodbye Michael - our real life Peter Pan. See you again in Never Never Land, where children never grow up.

Ben [Michael], most people would turn you away
I don't listen to a word they say
They don't see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I'm sure they'd think again
If they had a friend like Ben [Michael]

Goodbye dear friend. You will always be remembered.



I just found this video of Michael Jackson with James Brown that I think people will appreciate. I think it nicely closes the circle of these videos. It's a tribute to James at the time of his death in 2006. In it an emotional Michael Jackson says, "nobody has influenced me more than this man right here" while pointing at James Brown and then breaking into tears. To which James responds by embracing Michael. In the next clip we see James complimenting Michael on his career and ending with, "God bless the child that's got his own". A fitting tribute which reminds us of Billie Holiday. (Coincidentally Billie passed away in 1959, just a year after Michael was born.)

Watching this video reminds us of the struggles through the years of Black performers in America to be fully accepted and respected. Michael grew up during the turbulent civil rights movement in the 1960's. I'm sure he never took his success for granted. His success in turn opened new doors for the Black performers that came after him. He redefined music so that old labels like R&B (rhythm and blues) no longer seemed to apply. He briefly transcended his times, before he was dragged back down. Like all the saints, he had his imperfections - some major. But he brought joy into the world. And the world loved him in return.

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