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Today I watched 'This is it' - the documentary tracking Michael Jackson's rehearsals in preparation for his upcoming London concerts, scheduled to begin in July 2009.
I've chosen to speak about this today, because I was moved to do so. Whatever you think about him as a man/human being - his musical genius demands respect.
He comes across as a natural genius, someone whose entire essence is part and parcel of his craft, his music. Unlike many of our recording artists today, Michael wrote 99.9% of his music (lyrics, melodies and music) - he knew each piece like the palm of his hand. He was able to instruct his accompanying musicians on exactly HOW he wanted a piece played, and yet at the same time, he wasn't so much about HIMSELF that he neglected to encourage and even nurture the talents of some of his musicians. He told one guitarist, "This is your time to shine, don't be scared, we'll all be here with you, but this is your time to shine, so take it."
Compare this to a popular female artiste whose concert I attended earlier in the summer, her supporting artists were not allowed the full use of the stage nor the huge projector screens to the rear of the stage. They had no specialist lighting and for the most part could not even be seen/identified due to the fact that their images were not relayed to the huge video screens around the venue. (These were only switched on when the main attraction hit the stage!) . Well ok, maybe the female artiste didn't want her supporting acts to steal her shine, but I honestly don't see how letting them have a lil screen time would've done this, since the main artiste's talents were clearly more refined and definitely better known than the other ladies. She - like Michael - had an opportunity to nurture someone else's talents but chose not to (or maybe she thought allowing them to share her platform was sufficient).
Back to the movie. Watching it made me smile, and at times laugh, but mostly I sat in reverent silence, reflecting on both the highs and the lows that troubled this genius.
Make no doubt about it - the man lived a troubled life. The recent revelations (accusations??) about his alleged substance abuse, his continuous pain, his addictions - the accusations of paedophilia that he never quite managed to shake... falling album sales, media attacks, financial troubles... you name it, he went through it. And yet, on stage, he put on a smiling face and became someone else, something else.
I admire that ability - to leave all your pain and troubles at the door and dance, sing, perform for those who loved you regardless of what everyone else thinks, reluctant to let them (your friends, family and fans) down - so you push yourself harder (possibly to your own detriment, it's unsettling to think that all the while he was dancing and smiling he could have been in incredible agony!)...
Ever a perfectionist, he demanded nothing less from those he worked with. Anyone who had a ticket to one of his shows would have been thoroughly entertained. The dancers, musicians, technicians were all some of the best in the world. It would truly have been a spectacle.
I feel sad and sorry for those incredibly talented dancers and musicians, who will never get to shine the way they would have at a 'Michael Jackson concert'.
How many 'big breaks', hopes and dreams shattered when that ambulance wheeled him away... I feel a sense of loss for them. They were all so excited, what happens to them now? I'm sure many will continue to be successful but I don't think it's the same. I do wish them the best though.
At 50, this man was still creating, choreographing, demanding, challenging, rising to the occasion. That inspires me. He'd had break from performing (like Whitney) and yet, when you hear him sing, it is unmistakably the voice of Michael Jackson: the SAME voice, he could have been 20 or 30 yrs old, he sounded the same. He sounded good. I love Whitney and how she has fought to overcome her own troubles but honestly, the sound of her voice is not the same (or maybe she was slightly hoarse when she went into the recording studio). She's still Whitney - just different. Michael was still Michael.
So often (and for so many years in this case), the media reported the negative aspects of his life; his bizarre antics, the accusations, the weirdness... we started to forget how much charitable good he did, we forgot about his work as a philanthropist, we forgot his music, we forgot him and saw him only as the troubled 'Wacko Jacko'. It was hard enough for me to deal with losing my hair to alopecia areata for almost 2 yrs, how would I have coped had my skin started changing colour too? I dunno... it's just amazing how the 'Message' - totally good and philanthropic - can get missed amidst all the hype. Integrity of character is important.
Anyway, I'm not here to debate whether he had vitiligo or bleached his skin, or whether he was insane or genius, whether he had a thing for lil boys or whether he was a lil boy himself. I just wanted to acknowledge that we lost a really talented guy.
ps for those of you interested in his charitable work, click here. The list includes his work with underprivileged children and children affected by disasters, visits to hospitals, and work with organizations such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the TJ Martell Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children, the Prince’s Trust, the Great Ormond Street Hospital, Childhelp , Ronald McDonald House Charities, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Elizabeth Taylor’s Foundation and many more. It also details Jackson’s efforts to airlift 60,000 doses of children’s vaccines to Tblisi, Georgia, and his donations to hundreds of charities.