Deconstructing the Decomposing Jackson
Tripping Off The Light
One might expect a piece on Michael Jackson to find its home in the Music
section, over at the Right Brain area of this site. But the recent events
of Jacksons death as well as several that proceeded it
make the subject of Jackson one better suited for sociological
Im not really that much into the abbreviated short-form structures
of FaceBook and Twitter, outside of haunting the social networks of
other people I know. But, indeed, most of my inner circle absolutely
refuse to show their faces at such Internet locales, citing them as just
so trendy (they) could puke.
But with the passing of Michael Jackson, I would find a whimsical and satirical
use for my hyper-limited audience at FaceBook and Twitter that would be somewhat
reminiscent of my previous, talk radio site. I would chronicle not only the
death of Jackson, but moreover, the sociological response to the surprisingly
unexpected event. Some of the postings would include
NEWEST: Family of Elephant Man advances
bid for Michael Jackson remains.
10:06 AM Jun 26th from web
LATE BREAKING: Latoya Jackson NOT dead,
says friends ... "only looks dead", they assure.
12:09 AM Jun 26th from web
NEWS UPDATE: Sun rises in London ...
Michael Jackson now dead in Europe too, says Prime
11:22 PM Jun 25th from web
UPDATE: Religious leaders proclaim Jackson
as the 'Anti-Pinocchio', whereby the more one lied, the smaller one's nose
1:02 PM Jun 26th from web
CORONER: Can't decide what 'sex' and
'race' to file on Jackson death certificate.
10:56 AM Jun 26th from web
and so it would go for a couple of days
But all the while, I was watching the media response to Jacksons death,
inclusive of hopped-up appraisals of his life, talents, career
sociological significance. From Reverend Al Sharpton, to a writer from Rolling
Stone magazine. Several in between.
With this, I would feel compelled to set the record straight. Argue or reject
it, as you may
was not a musical genius. This notion should be put
to rest, buried along with his body. For there are truly so few musical
Mozart, yes. Stravinsky, perhaps. Beethoven, likely.
But even Lennon and McCartney, while absolutely extraordinary pop music
craftsmen, were not geniuses. And Jackson, far less so.
Indeed, when I first heard the Thriller release, back when, I
was already musically astute enough to identify it as a very good Quincy
Jones record with Jackson as the front man. In fact, its likely
no accident that the Michael Jackson releases that received the most acclaim
were all produced by
Quincy Jones. And when Jackson had employed
other producers, most things comparatively fell flat,
far short of previous mark. This, in itself, should be telling.
In fact, as far back as the 90s, I would often hear industry stories that
Jackson would come to the studio with the most vague of melodic notions,
hammered into shape by the producer and contributing studio musicians.
The word, vague, would pop up frequently in these accounts
That, as a (genius) writer, outside of a place to prop photographs,
Jackson seemingly only had the most vague familiarity with the piano
(or any other keyboard), and indeed, was far more lost on a guitar (which
he used to be photographed with as a child). One then, can only reason that
with a rainbow-colored glockenspiel,
traveling across the floor by way of four red wheels and a pull-string.
so the genius hummed his ideas to a producer. Now, with
this consideration, it can be said that with a limited prowess
Michael Jackson was an exceptionally fine performer. He would
have to be. But The Wiz did have extensive effects machinery
behind him and the curtain, didnt he?
genius not. Give me an orchestral arrangement scored by Randy
Newman and that may be close to genius. And yeah
can and does also conduct the ensemble
being responsible for every note and their ultimate
In short, anyone who cites Michael Jackson as a genius
of any kind
is a moron.
not entirely uncommon for people to favorably reassess ones life and
accomplishments with their passing. After all, with the earthly departure
of President Gerald Ford, he would be reevaluated as Churchill. But the hyped
appraisals of Michael Jackson often, yes, from spokespeople of the
African-American community are not only over the top,
but further indicate just how little knowledge they have of their own people,
as well as the struggles that came before ...
I now so frequently hear that Jackson unlike any before
successfully crossed the race barrier in Entertainment, as in
the first. Oh, bullshit.
Considering even recent history, few seem to recall that Stevie Wonder
had been the darling of the Grammy Awards with his remarkable
Innervisions release, almost 10 years before Jacksons
and as it relates to the previous discussion,
Wonder also played and multi-tracked virtually all of the instruments himself,
outside of the guitar parts. He then swept again the following
year with the next release, Fulfillingness First Finale
and yet again with the following album, Songs In The
Key of Life. Wonder, indeed, would ultimately win a total of 25 Grammys,
to date, inclusive of a Lifetime Achievement Award. Jackson: 13 such awards.
And yet its now Jackson who broke the very ground you walk on?
then there was Jimi Hendrix who enjoyed a larger
white audience, than a black one. And the list goes on ...
Even seemingly trite, white-bread examples of hopping the race
barrier existed long before Michael Jackson
Indeed, the extremely
well-crafted, Pop-Pap of The Fifth Dimension was specifically
designed to be safe and accessible to white suburban
audiences. And they fully succeeded in that endeavor, selling in the millions.
Yes, they did it, in part, by sounding white. But that
doesnt change the premise or example of crossing race
And, truth be told, it would be Motown Records own, Barry Gordy, who
over time would be far more responsible for bringing
black music artists to white audiences
inclusive of Michael
Jackson, despite initial resistance.
Want to go back even further? It would be Scott Joplin born
in 1868, as one of the first post-slavery generation who would jump
hurdles that Michael Jackson never had to overtake. Not even close.
And despite being best known for his Ragtime compositions, the works of this
classically trained musician would also include two operas with the
second one having its premiere performance
in 1915. And still,
you maintain that it was Jackson who pushed down walls that no one
else could, before him? Oh, bullshit.
Moreover, Entertainment naturally encompasses more than Pop music.
In this regard, actor Sidney Poitier was of far greater, barricade-busting
sociological significance, with the infinitely more fortified barriers of
his time ... as the leading man. But few African-Americans
of this generation acknowledge it indeed, even know it. And
even if they did, some wouldnt be entirely cool with the knowledge
that a few visionary Jew-Boys from the motion picture industry helped make
that happen. Surely dont mention it to Louis Farrakhan. He might have
a stroke, or something. And no, Sidney Poitier didnt
do it as an Uncle Tom nor as a militant. He did it
as a gentleman.
Michael Jackson is ceremoniously cited as the first
black artist to appear on MTV as if no other would ultimately
do so, and likely soon. But choreographer, Michael Peters along
with director, John Landis are somehow credited as
second-string contributors to Michael Jacksons
genius ... even though it was the idea of John Landis to create
a theatrical short for Thriller in the first place, as Landis
hated the more common, MTV commercial for record format. The
director, in fact, wrote and story-boarded the entire video, shot
for shot, working side-by-side with the choreographer. Said another way,
if they truly made a Making of Thriller documentary that
wasnt so self-serving, Jackson would have little actual face-time.
And yet still again, the Jackson Genius would somehow
also trump the cut-and-paste, music production savvy of Quincy Jones.
But with Jacksons passing, he is now additionally heralded as having
greater sociological significance and influence than Presley and The Beatles,
combined. Spare me. I know it may seem as such for those born after
1982, but no
The Beatles would, in fact, change the entire recording industry
even inclusive of its long-held procedures, right down to the hours
of studio operation
to the length of time devoted to
recording, changing a week or two for an entire album
to that of
months. And, if in analog form, entire technologies were created by
EMI at Abbey Road specifically for the Beatles vision
most of which we use today, in binary form, in the digital studio.
The entire recording process, itself, was completely turned on its
ear (no pun).
And The Beatles would further produce, in Sgt. Pepper, the very
first Pop-Rock album to be considered and discussed as
art even by the serious and snobbish music
critics of the time, for the very first time. Pepper would
also soon become the most feebly imitated record of all time
humiliating embarrassment of many even The Rolling Stones, with the
Satanic Majesties Request offering. Only Dylan would have the
smarts to head in another, minimalist direction with the John
Wesley Harding release.
The Beatle influence would even change album packaging across
the entire industry. And even the early career outing of A Hard Days
Night was also the first Pop-Rock film musical to, again, be regarded
as art, still discussed and analyzed in film schools today.
Then there were the made-for-TV promotional shorts from
Paperback Writer to Penny Lane all long
predating MTV by some 15 years.
Music, hair, fashion, art, film, marketing, gender roles, our own
sexuality the very way people would view
all changed with The Beatles and their sphere of
influence. For those who were born in 1982, the year of Thriller
you cant even begin to imagine it. But you can
read about it and I suggest that you do so. In the interim, perhaps
its telling that, at the very peak of his own popularity, Michael
Jacksons single most valuable asset would be The Beatles
Catalog (songs of Lennon/McCartney, more accurately). Worth far more
than his own.
By Jacksons own, rare coherent admission, the people he looked
up to were The Beatles
and Elvis Presley.
Michael Jackson was an exceptionally fine entertainer
if more recently coming in tabloidian form over the past 15 years. But to
suggest that he was something
is irrational. Said
emotional. And while it can be said that emotion is
appropriate with ones passing, one shouldn't let ones mind
be buried along with the deceased they mourn.
And odd though it may seem, Jacksons death may have been a good
thing for him. For I just cant imagine Michael, as 'the man in the
mirror', and his child-like mind taking well
to growing old.