Visionary: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Long Game

Halloween approaches once again and three decades later ‘Thriller’ remains as the untouchable artistic embodiment of the festival.

Christmas pop hits are goldmines for their creators, with their annual dusting off guaranteeing them a financial windfall. However, there are hundreds of artists competing for airplay at the time.

At Halloween, Michael is more-or-less the sole contender for royalties.

The decision to change the theme of the love song ‘Starlight’ into what the world now recognises as ‘Thriller’ was a stroke of visionary genius. The song and video ensured Michael’s relevance in the pop charts forever.

It was also during this time that Michael was becoming a businessman, with his shrewd acquisition of the ATV catalogue following soon afterwards. ‘Beat It’ from the Thriller album has been interpreted as a cry against racism, and the opening line “They told him “Don’t you ever come around here / Don’t wanna see your face, you better disappear”” could easily be construed as a reference to the obstacles Michael was facing upon his foray into the business side of music.

As the singer Rihanna recently lamented “…when I started to experience the difference [in attitudes towards her race] – it was mostly when I wanted to do business deals.”

Another example of Michael as the artistic visionary came with ‘Black Or White’. Of course, the theme of racism in the track is overt, but there also exists a subtext in which Michael calls out the racist press. Michael bemoans his having to explicitly inform the “Saturday Sun” of his achievements and his status as the King of Pop, as well as proclaiming that he “ain’t scared of no sheets” – a dual reference to the KKK and newsprint media.

Indeed, the evidence is there for all to see – in black and white.

In order to mock him, said newspapers perennially compile comparison pictures that demonstrate Michael’s physical transformation over the course of his life. They are Ripley-esque in their intent to intrigue the prejudicial masses and in their disregard for the dignity of their subject.

However, what these montages actually demonstrate is the irrelevance of a person’s physicality.

This was visionary genius of a different, more poignant sort.

When looked upon with hindsight by the generations growing up now, the Michael of the Jackson 5 and the Michael of 2009 will be the same person, and the physical transformation will be irrelevant. He will simply be Michael Jackson.

Future generations will understand that Michael’s eccentricities should be celebrated, not scorned. So what if he was obsessed with childhood? Kept mannequins to ward off loneliness? Sculpted his visage? Who cares how his social anxieties manifested?

I mean… what do you want from your genius? Genius both suffers and revels in its being ostracised from close-minded society: the same society that relies on such genius to escape the predictable humdrum of their daily lives.

Frank Dileo exacerbated the extent of Michael’s eccentricities and harnessed them for promotional purposes. This strategic oddball manufacturing was intensely successful. But Dileo’s tactics spectacularly backfired. The world thought Michael too bizarre. So his vulnerabilities of loneliness and unique affinity with children were used against him. With ruthless malevolence. By forces hell-bent on acquiring that ATV catalogue.

Michael bought the catalogue in 1985. It cost him $47.5 million. Today it is worth $2 billion. He fought tooth-and-nail to keep it. It was his prized possession – the totemic culmination of his extraordinary rags-to-riches adventure. Although its phenomenal value weighed heavy, Michael was nevertheless stolid in his determination to retain it.

Which is why, for the third year running, Michael has topped Forbes’ list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. By quite some margin. In fact, if Michael were still alive, he would have made fifth place on the equivalent list for living celebrities.

Meanwhile, Michael’s remains lie in an unmarked grave.

The horror inherent in ‘Thriller’ is harmless, tales-at-midnight fun. The true horrors exist in the insidious souls Michael encountered upon daring to enter the domain of the devils in suits.

Who continue to prise away in their efforts to possess the catalogue.

But supporters of Michael’s artistic and humanitarian legacy are many and credible. His mission is intact and his vision persists.

Janet Jackson’s latest album – ‘Unbreakable’ – effervesces with tributes to her late brother: in ‘The Great Forever’ her voice is pitch-shifted to resemble Michael’s; during the song ‘No Sleeep’, Michael’s song ‘Butterflies’ is referenced; whilst in ‘Broken Hearts Heal’ she reminisces about their shared childhood. The song also features a sample from ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’.

Though perhaps the song ‘After You Fall’ contains the clearest guide to her intentions, with its lyric,

“After you fall / Who’s gonna be there / With you through all / Who’s gonna care for you / After it all / Who’s gonna be there / After you fall / I will”.

And so will we.


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

When He Sings: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Voice

There is a famous clip of Michael being interviewed as a child, in which he’s asked what he’ll do when his voice breaks. Michael nonchalantly shrugs the questioner’s concern off and says he’ll just keep singing.

In fact, as Michael aged, his vocal range actually increased – with him adding lower notes to his repertoire.

Michael’s optimal vocal range encompassed four octaves and forty-four notes.

Yet, technicalities aside – what made Michael’s voice so special? So – despite Sony’s best efforts – inimitable? What made the sections of any songs Michael performed when part of an all-star ensemble, such as ‘We Are The World’ or ‘What More Can I Give?’ stand out so starkly?

Michael wrote many songs that were recorded and released by others. Whilst listening to such tracks, for example Ralph Tresvant’s ‘Alright Now’ (reminiscent of Michael’s songs ‘Free’ and ‘Elizabeth I Love You’) or Rebbie Jackson’s version of ‘Fly Away’, although one can hear the classic Michael Jackson sound, they also seem to possess a throwaway element absent from the songs Michael chose to record and release himself. Indeed, in ‘Fly Away’, as pleasant as Rebbie’s voice certainly is, it’s Michael’s contribution to the chorus and guest adlibs at the song’s denouement that steal the show.

The same applies for the 3T hit ‘I Need You’ – a track that Taj Jackson has admitted the brothers weren’t keen to include on the album, but ultimately chose to after Michael’s recommendation as their producer. On the face of it, one can appreciate the brothers’ hesitance; but then one must also bear in mind that Michael’s capacity for stoking an insipid ballad into an epic crescendo was second to none.

Michael talks about this technique in the video I uploaded today (see below). The video is an edit of the 1993 Mexico deposition Michael underwent as part of a plagiarism case brought against him regarding the song ‘The Girl Is Mine’. Apart from the video being a remarkable window into Michael’s songwriting process, it also demonstrates how downright cynical and farcical the attempt to sue him for stealing the song was.

‘The Girl Is Mine’ is unfairly maligned as being the weakest song on the ‘Thriller’ album. Paul McCartney had his doubts about the lyrical content, but Michael responded that he was less concerned about the details than he was achieving the right “feel” for the song. Watching Michael in the video below, it’s easy to see his fondness for the track. Of course, Michael had worked with McCartney previously, with ‘Girlfriend’ from ‘Off The Wall’ having been penned by him.

McCartney recorded ‘Girlfriend’ for his ‘London Town’ album, but understood that Michael’s voice would be better suited to the tune. Smokey Robinson also acknowledged this when he offered the young Michael his song ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’.

As with ‘The Girl Is Mine’, the duet ‘Just Good Friends’ is similarly derided as the weakest song on the ‘Bad’ album. Musically, perhaps. But once again, Michael’s precious voice elevates the song to a plane of pure pleasure.

Incidentally, regarding the ‘The Girl Is Mine’ plagiarism case – how dare anyone deny Michael’s songwriting pedigree when he was the prodigy of Stevie Wonder?

Such was Michael’s innate understanding of music and sound, he always understood the best voices to work with for the benefit of the song, be that the grittiness of Mick Jagger for ‘State Of Shock’ (although originally recorded with Freddie Mercury, when the track had a more playful tone), be it the anger of his sister Janet for ‘Scream’ or else the romanticism of Siedah Garrett for ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ or the seduction of Carole Bayer-Sager for ‘It’s The Falling In Love’.

Michael’s childhood training involved him performing cover versions of some of the greatest songs of all time, such as ‘My Girl’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Such is the iconic status of these tracks, it’s arguable whether Michael’s takes on them supersede the high standard of the originals. Nevertheless, Michael’s vocal performances are irrefutably astonishing.

What’s less dubious is the positive effect of Michael’s influence on the cover versions he chose to record as an adult. His version of ‘Come Together’ invigorates the song with a funky sultriness, whilst his interpretation of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’ has now become the definitive rendition.

Really, there should be little surprise that Michael’s voice is so enjoyed by so many millions of people. After all, the unique talent he was bestowed with was diligently crafted for four decades. Still, there remains an exquisite, intangible, enigmatic beauty to it.

One perhaps best surmised by Sir Bob Geldof in 1996 as he introduced Michael to the stage with the words,

“When Michael Jackson sings, it is with the voice of angels.


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Honouring Heroes: The Jacksons Perform at The Proms

Saturday 12th September 2015 was a truly special date.

It began by my attending a rally being held in Parliament Square, organised to demonstrate support for desperate people displaced from their war-torn countries. One-hundred-thousand people stood around me – peaceful feet on the ground proudly making their opinion count. The pacifist Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn had just been elected as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, with his first act being to take the stage at the rally and underline his commitment to helping vulnerable people.

The atmosphere of empathy for suffering fellow human beings was palpable. I cried. And it wouldn’t be for the last time that day.

I left the rally to go and join an altogether different crowd, the forty thousand revellers at Hyde Park who had come together to celebrate the Last Night of the Proms – a musical celebration of British patriotism. It’s not something I’d typically involve myself in, but The Jacksons were headlining the event, and the chance to see them take the stage in honour of Michael – to watch them perform the songs they co-penned and toured with him for two decades, all backed by the world-renowned BBC Symphony Orchestra – was simply too scintillating a prospect to pass up.

Seasoned spectators of Last Night of the Proms seemed unprepared for the passion of Michael Jackson fans. Speaking for myself, as I stumbled and squeezed my way to the front of the crowd, I certainly piqued the annoyance of several picnic-blanket-wielding classical music stalwarts. I might have accidentally stood on the odd Union Jack flag, too.

Still. I’m a Michael Jackson concert veteran. This lot were a walk in the park.

The show began in true Jackson-style, with a teasing video montage intro that gradually stratified anticipation of the brothers’ arrival on stage. Though I must admit, with each layer of excitement that was set – as video footage of Michael played on the screens – I also felt an equal amount of pathos at the tragedy of Michael not being there.

But then.

“Can you feel it…? CAN YOU FEEL IT?!”

Can You Feel It! Live orchestra! Can you imagine it?!

“If you look around / The whole world’s coming together now… / All the colours of the world should be / Loving each other wholeheartedly / Yes, its all right / Take my message to your brother and tell him twice.”

Michael was there, after all! Of course he was! His artistry was there. His soul was there.

The message poignantly echoed the sentiments of the rally held in Parliament Square.

I cried.

The brothers were as impeccable as you’d expect. Marlon whirled around the stage in pure joy, Jackie’s singing was spectacular, Tito was masterful and Jermaine glued everything together with his criminally underrated bass-playing talent. The choreography was so tight. So tight! All of them dressed in their trademark military garb first exhibited on the Victory Tour.

There is no better tribute to Michael Jackson than this – nothing that respects his soul and memory more.

Once the brothers left the stage, the traditional pomp of the Proms began, as people waved their Union Jack flags to the sound of the traditional anthems.

And with the prospect of the United Kingdom one day having a pacifist as its leader, even I – say it quietly – felt what I think might have been a burgeoning stirring of national pride.

A special day. A day of supporting and celebrating peace and justice.

A day of honouring heroes.



The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

The Moonwalker: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Demons

There’s a sinister eeriness and lyrical ambiguity to Michael’s song ‘Scared of the Moon’ that allows an interpretation of it being about him suffering sexual abuse as a child,

“Invaded by shadows / The light from the window / Cuts through the air / And pins the child lying there… / There’s nothing wrong / Don’t be bothered they said / It’s just childish fantasies turning your head / No need to worry”.

Of course, the song may literally be about a child frightened of the moon, with Michael merely inspired by the memories of his being taken far from home and the comfort of his mother, and into the guidance of Bobby Taylor.

Bobby Taylor is renowned as having discovered the Jackson 5. Yet he has been oddly blackballed from their history, including any acknowledgement for songwriting credits as part of The Corporation – songs in which Michael was strictly disciplined into carrying out convincing portrayals of sexuality involving children. With lyrics such as,

“When Alexander called you / He said he rang your chimes / Christopher discovered / You’re way ahead of your times!”

Prior to his succumbing to the bane that is the taxman, Bobby Taylor was a big Motown name in his own right, having formed bands called Little Daddy and The Bachelors and Four Niggers and a Chink before settling on the somewhat-more politically correct appellation, Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers.

Little Daddy and The Bachelors had a hit with ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ / ‘Junior’s Jerk’.

Diana Ross was ultimately chosen to “present” the Jackson 5.

Michael recorded Scared of the Moon as part of a gamut of creativity he experienced during the mid-eighties, with the unreleased tracks from this period providing perhaps the clearest glimpses into his soul that we were ever gifted.

There are several instances of vagueness in Michael’s adlibs that are frequent subjects of debate by fans, with a popular one occurring towards the end of the Bad-outtake ‘Monkey Business’.

‘Monkey Business’ is almost a cover version of the Little Daddy and The Bachelors track of the same name (itself a Chuck Berry cover), apart from some distinct lyrical differences such as,

“The government won’t pay my taxes / And I’m really mad… / I might tell on you / So don’t you start no stuff with me / You can’t like it that I’m looking right at you / You can’t like it that I’m looking right at you / You’re dirty / You’re dirty”.

Michael did a lot of soul-searching in the eighties. I like to imagine he managed to purge some of his demons during this time. After all, by the end of the decade – far from being scared of the moon – his very name had become synonymous with it.

Michael Jackson became The Moonwalker.
The Moon and The Star


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Fedora Fede: An Article on the Fans at MJ Day Naples

It was with some naivety that I agreed to speak at MJ Day Naples. I often exist in a dreamlike state, so this, along with the detachment from reality inherent in Facebook communication, meant that I had more-or-less sleepwalked into the arrangement. The rude awakening began as the plane approached Rome. Flying over the Vatican as it throbbed in the glow of a superlative sunset, awestruck at its splendour, it suddenly dawned on me:

What on Earth am I doing?

I’m a writer, not an orator. The last time I attempted public speaking I ended up with knees that knocked audibly, as my blushing face shone with profuse perspiration.

I looked like an erubescent jellyfish. If jellyfish had knees.

I was brought up a Catholic. So I started to pray.

It was a nervous drive from Rome to Sorrento, where I was staying. Anxiety exacerbated by what can only be described as the Italian’s shoulder-shrug attitude to road safety. My own shoulders, on the other hand, had never been so tense.

Fortunately, such is the sublime beauty of the place, upon arriving in Sorrento it’s impossible to feel anything other than a deep sense of peace. My accommodation had a view of the Gulf of Naples – its coast a spectacular palette of human-inspired iridescence, a sight only surpassed by the natural majesty of the watchful and dominant Vesuvius.

It wasn’t difficult to understand why Michael opted to holiday there in 2006.

(Still, as was standard procedure in Michael’s life, his presence in the area powered up the rumour mill, with this particular story concerning Michael’s intention to set the contemporaneous Pope’s prayers to music.)

My nerves returned during the drive from Sorrento to the venue in Naples. The very thought that I would be imminently taking to the same stage Siedah Garrett had graced last year. The woman who wrote Man In The Mirror! La Velle Smith Jr would be there. The man who was a stalwart of Michael’s touring entourage! I felt nauseous with anticipation.

But then something truly magical happened.

At the precise second the car pulled up outside the venue, the radio began to play You Are Not Alone. The coincidence was extraordinary. It made me realise that I was there to do a job. That I had a responsibility to fulfil.

As I walked in, the speakers emanated Keep The Faith. Another sign. Another shot of courage.

The atmosphere was incredible. Fedoras and faith. A sun-baked celebration of Michael. People from all over Italy and from all walks of life milled around, absorbing the absolute contentment of it all. It made me feel so proud to be there. It made me feel like I had come home.

It was some hours before I was due to make my speech. Hours filled with joy at watching the performers – young children and teenagers everywhere enrapt in their showcasing of Michael moves. The dancing competition demonstrated so much talent. But more than this, it was resplendent in hope. Hope for Michael’s legacy.

One contestant stood out. A young boy named Samuel Mastrilli. Prior to Samuel’s arrival on stage, there were murmurings amongst the crowd as to how good he was. It was reminiscent of the introduction to the Smooth Criminal short film when a dancer says, “Watch him!” before Michael throws the coin.

Billie Jean started to play. And the boy began to sing. The spectators were gobsmacked at the sheer brilliance of it. All I could think was how much Michael would have appreciated such immense talent in the tribute.

My turn to speak came after a beautiful rendition of Will You Be There performed by a local choir. Completely contrary to the fears I had harboured, I suddenly didn’t feel anxious at all. The crowd was so friendly, and I felt comfortable in what I wanted to say.

The translator of The First Book of Michael had been instrumental in creating the opportunity for me, and I had had the pleasure of her company since I’d arrived. She then translated for me on stage. She is a wonderful, wonderful woman.

As I spoke, I sensed that my words were altering the mood of the crowd. The ambience of sheer joy that had preceded my speech was now tinged with an air of the sombre. I almost felt guilty. People had gathered to celebrate Michael’s life, after all.

But the day is also one of reflection. A chance to think about what Michael’s existence meant for the planet; to appreciate the poignancy of it; the pregnancy of its potential.

The reaction afterwards was heartwarming and humbling, if somewhat surreal. Members of the crowd approached me for autographs and selfies, some tearful as they told how my words spoke for them. But as I said in the speech, the support I’ve been blessed with has been a huge surprise, with it having grown out of a very simple love I have – writing about my hero, Michael Jackson.

It was a privilege to be able to put names to faces. I made so many friends in Naples. I’m so excited to return one day.

But next time, I’m not driving. I need my shoulders when I dance.

English edit of the speech:


I never imagined upon writing those first words of the blog that they would evolve into having a following, and certainly not the creation of this: The First Book of Michael, nor indeed the opportunity to be here now, speaking to you all.

It has been a bewildering and humbling experience. Because I honestly just love writing about Michael.

So standing here now is actually the realisation of many dreams coming true.

Of course, we all know who gave me the courage to follow these dreams.

Such was Michael’s universal appeal, it follows that a whole spectrum of personalities admire him. Ergo, the Michael Jackson fan community is comprised of many factions that, although consisting of like-minded people, have nevertheless interpreted Michael in their own particular way.

Perhaps the one thing that the many different groups can agree on, though – albeit ironically – is the importance of his aspirational message of promoting understanding and peace.

Karen Faye was someone who knew Michael intimately for three decades. During this time, she was his confidante, his protector, and his advisor. She rubbed cream into the piebald patchwork that was his back and shoulders: a torso that no-one else got to view, unless she had applied concealing make-up beforehand.

Michael felt very insecure about his vitiligo. He felt very insecure about his overall physique. During times of stress, he would often fast to feel better about himself – often miss meals, try to concentrate instead on making his work as perfect as possible. Fasting and exhaustion landed him in hospital on numerous occasions. Stress exacerbates the effects of vitiligo. Karen tried to ensure he was fed.

Karen was much more than Michael’s make-up artist. That chair in which she applied his make-up. It was the same chair in which they talked. The same chair in which they cried together. The same chair in which they laughed together. The same chair in which they would put the world to rights.

For thirty years.

Michael trusted her. Implicitly. Karen prepared Michael for his final resting place. His deathbed.

I had many worries whilst writing The First Book of Michael. However, once I knew Karen Faye was eager to write the Foreword and endorse my sentiments, these concerns began to alleviate. These worries were further allayed once I’d read her contribution. I felt incredibly proud that my efforts in trying to do right by Michael’s legacy were being so keenly supported by a person who had been so uniquely close to him.

I’m quite embarrassed that Karen was so effusive with her praise of my writing. I’m an Englishman, after all. However, please allow me to indulge in relaying a short quote from her Foreword to The First Book of Michael,

“When I clicked on Syl’s blog, I actually cried when reading his insights. It brought me so much joy to find someone who heard Michael’s message so clearly, and could articulate it with the depth that Michael intended.

Syl’s writing opened up my own understanding of Michael’s life – from a point of view other than my own – that rang true. Syl Mortilla’s writing is the blood pulsing from Michael’s heart to all of his fans. The First Book of Michael is a beautiful and honest contribution to the legacy of Michael Jackson, from a person who comprehends the messages Michael created, and left us to discover for all time.

I know everyone who has been touched by Michael will enjoy this book, and those that didn’t understand Michael, will find clarity in Syl’s writing.

Michael’s life spoke, and Syl Mortilla was listening.”

Grazie, Karen Faye.

I’ve tried, but I simply cannot remember when I first fell in love with Michael. However, I can recall the first time I tried to emulate his dancing.

Perhaps it happened at the same time.

I was seven years old – and, along with my siblings and some friends of ours, we tried to recreate the ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ short film. Naturally, being the eldest sibling, I assumed the role of Michael, and the girl I fancied from down our street got chosen (at random, obviously) to play the role of the object of Michael’s desire – the model Tatiana Thumbtzen (one of those beautiful ironies of existence that inclines me to believe in a parallel universe, is that these days, the real Tatiana Thumbtzen follows me.

Albeit, on Twitter – but I maintain it counts).

The ensuing years of my Michael-dancing self-education are a chronicle of excruciating memories involving mirrors, hairbrushes, failed crotch grabs, broken ornaments, and concerned expressions etched on the faces of my parents upon unfortunate bedroom interruptions.

I competed with myself as to how many spins I could accomplish in one attempt – though, not just any old revolutions, mind. Spins in which you stop in perfect time, with a closed fist at the end of an arm outstretched in the chosen direction. Or a pointed finger, into which, as Michael instructs in the ‘Jam’ video, you “Put all your energy… and – fire!”

As a teenager bullied at school, Michael gave me the refuge of his dance, and for this I shall be eternally grateful to him.

I continue dancing to this day. I doubt I’ll ever stop. I imagine I’ll be putting on shows when I’m elderly and in a nursing home. Or, at least, dancing in the privacy of my own room.

When my parents – finally – won’t be able to intrude.

I’ll concede that a devotion to Michael can inspire some ostensibly odd behaviour.

I once ran alone into the deserted streets of a small coastal town in the south of England, whereupon I tore off my shirt, fell to my knees, and wailed incoherently with primeval, ecstatic joy.

Because a woman had just released fourteen white doves: one to represent each of Michael’s acquittals in his 2005 trial for child molestation.

Somewhat melodramatic, perhaps. But it was an instinctive response.

How does one explain the magnetism of Michael? How so many are so heartbroken at the death of someone they never met? To the same extent of sadness that accompanies losing a close family member?

There are many reasons: Michael provided the world with quality, unique, timeless rhythms and melodies, that he divined with the sole purpose of healing the world. He was the plausible, flesh-and-blood superhero; he was a surrogate parent; he filled the vacuum of self for so many people confused by the tragedy of loss; he was the Unknown Soldier, with millions of identities willed onto him by the bereft.

The world talks about Michael Jackson as an unbreakable enigma. But he wasn’t. Not to us. Not to those of us that walked through hell with him, its raging fires starkly illuminating the man’s vulnerabilities and faults – for anyone that cared to see.

What he gave us in return is this: he gave us musical flags to plant as life milestones; he was our support system; he was an indicator for our identities – our very souls; he was our moral paradigm, a totem for our tried-and-tested, stoic-and-steadfast belief in the power of the truth – in the tireless advocating of it when confronted by egregious, audacious and unrelenting slander.

The fable of Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of how decency is often ostracised by cynical societies obsessed with the superficial. How scapegoating, promoted by the insecurity of bullies fearful of deviants, manifests in the Beast as his becoming more and more isolated. The love story in the fable demonstrates how two people find solace in each other after this rejection from society. This is the same as between Michael and his fans. Michael would not give up because he had the love from his fans. And we would not, and will not, give up because we had his.

With the increasing brutality Michael endured, the more we were drawn to him. The poor black boy born as a single permutation of the infinity of fate into – to borrow Janet’s phrase – “a world sick with racism”, who then went on to defy all odds by using his talent to help his family escape poverty and then trying to transform the world into a better place.

And in this lies the answer to the conundrum of the world’s sense of grief at his death: It is simply that humanity mourns, en-masse, the tragedy of its losing an opportunity to catalyse the realisation of world peace.

Michael holds up a mirror to humanity. His fans were given the opportunity to perceive the world through his own particular pane of the prism: one painful, yet privileged. Each of us fans, as individuals, is in some way a reflection of the man himself, an instrument in helping to fulfil a common goal: to help heal the world.

Those who project themselves onto Michael and see a monster are merely construing themselves.

If I could wish for anything, it would be that everyone could perceive Michael the way we do.

The perpetuation of the lie of Michael being a child molester undermines his life’s work, his message and his mission. This is the single issue, above all others, which is the most crucial with regards Michael’s legacy. To fight against this, the fan community can disregard other differences. This is the true cause that unites the Michael Jackson fan community.

Michael performed to hundreds of millions of people during his life. Every crowd he played to was comprised of an adoring ocean of people, in which each individual had fallen as a nuanced raindrop, forming a harmonious sea of love: a form that was fluid, yet entire – like the dancer and the dance that had summoned them all to be together. And Michael gleefully received this love. More than that: he was energised by it. Arms outstretched, awash in the pulsing warmth of the love of a hundred-thousand people, he absorbed the adoration the way a butterfly imbues heat – in order to generate enough strength to fly.

As Michael’s fans, every single one of us is loved unconditionally (let’s call it an occupational perk). Our collective inhalation of inspired breath, upon being exhaled, carries the requisite potency to combust Michael’s pilot light dream into an incendiary reality. His dream of a universally recognised reverence for the unique preciousness and majesty of childhood.

It is our responsibility to ensure that the sadness Michael was forced to endure makes sense in the end. That it meant something. Let us not allow the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson be a missed opportunity for an ambassador; an emblem; a paradigm of peace. Michael encouraged the people of planet Earth to adopt his unprecedented fame and utilise it as a chance for global unity: as a catalyst for the positive progression of the human race.

People underestimate the fact that Michael Jackson was the most famous person on the planet. A heavy fact, with unimaginable repercussions for the man in question.

One day, people will envy our privilege as having been alive in the same time as a living Michael Jackson. History is a weapon in the battle for objectivity. Michael understood this.

One of my main motivations for writing The First Book of Michael was to assist in ensuring that there is something out there, somewhere, that exposes both the extent of Michael’s genius and how he chose to utilise it with such pure intent.

Michael’s legacy will endure to legend. The only question is what the myths entwined within that legend will entail.

The First Book of Michael is an effort to balance the legend in Michael’s favour – ballast that negates the cynical promulgation of him as a pop caricature, and instead promotes him as a prophet.

I’d like to thank everyone in our much-maligned community who has stood up and been counted for in our fight to defend our hero’s legacy.

Michael Jackson, we owe you everything.

Michael Jackson, we miss you.

Michael Jackson. Happy birthday!


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Michael Jackson: Superhero

“Anyway, I imagine Michael would save me.”

This was my elder daughter’s argument in the battle against wearing her seatbelt in the car.

Her tactics worked momentarily. I was taken aback. She’s a genius. They all are. She knows my Achilles Heel.

I hid my smile and feigned firmness.

“Put the seatbelt on before I’ve counted to three, or else you lose your turn to choose the music.”

That’s a superpower of sorts, right?

My daughter’s argument has stayed with me – the sheer beauty of a five-year-old in 2015 evoking Michael Jackson as a superhero. How does she know? Yes, both my daughters have seen some of his short films, heard some of his songs. But how does that make him a hero to them? Why do they perceive him as such? They haven’t seen Moonwalker. Nor Earth Song, even.

Michael’s on a lot, of course. But nearly always at their behest. I consciously don’t push my fandom on them, in the belief that children always rebel against their parents’ tastes.

Perhaps the answer lies in my own arrested development. Maybe all children intrinsically see Michael as a hero, and I’m merely stunted in my maturity. Regardless, where does that specific idea of him as a superbeing come from? Besides, Michael at his peak was the epitomic intergenerational leveller, mutually loved by adults and children alike. Michael’s overriding desire was to use his art to appeal to everyone’s inner child, which he undeniably achieved with aplomb.

But, still – why is he construed this way? The humanitarianism? The talent? The mutability? The uniqueness?

The answer is intangible. Whereas Michael’s power is anything but. Which is what makes the potential in his legacy so immense. Which is why it must be curated with nothing less than absolute care and respect.

Michael famously had a great love for comic superheroes, citing Batman and Morph as his favourites during an Internet chat with fans in 1995. Morph’s abilities include shapeshifting, a power Michael bestowed upon the protagonist in his short films as often as was remotely plausible; whilst personality traits of Morph’s include his being opaquely enigmatic and a highly adept prankster. It’s not hard to see why Morph was Michael’s favourite.

Indeed, before his passing, and prior to the onset of the current comic book movie boom, due to Michael’s keen business acumen and his being a cultural visionary, he spoke about investing in Marvel Comics,

“I really feel in my heart we must move as fast as we can because, on the film side of it… I don’t know if you’ve been reading the paper, but Marvel already have sold off their Internet rights and the stock is so low now. I mean, they put out Spider-Man, now they got Incredible Hulk coming, they got X-Men 2 coming, they also got Spider-Man 2 coming, it’s going to jump, it’s gonna change, I mean, you know, and this huge frenzy for superheroes and all the things that we can do… you know it’s… I want to get in it before the stock… we need to jump in now. The timing is perfect. Nobody’s talking much about it, you know… it’s still, it’s still a good time.”

Michael’s interest in such things was typically undermined by the media, who, rather than extolling Michael’s virtues as a businessman, dismissed his involvement in said projects with headlines like, “Jacko begged Lucas to play the part of Jar Jar Binks.”

Jar Jar Binks being perhaps the most hated cinematic creation of all time.

As well as his capacity for predicting cultural trends (or igniting them) and his being an erudite, diehard comic book fanboy, Michael also had the fortune of moving in the right circles (naturally). Special effects guru Stan Winston, who worked on Iron Man, was a long and close friend of Michael’s, with him directing the Ghosts short film. Michael was well-aware of the imminent cinematic superhero explosion.

He was also known to be a huge fan of Spider-Man. Whose mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility” he heroically adopted.

The inherent appreciation that my daughters have for Michael and his art bodes well. So long as the adult fans of today live up to their responsibility of defending his integrity.

Who won the seatbelt battle?

Well. Needless to say, a tantrum ensued.

As did a defiant and seething ‘clunk click’.

She chose Black Or White.

Anyway, I knew Michael would save me.

The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at


Catching Fire: Michael Jackson Fan Tributes in the Week of the 25th June

We all deal with the week of the 25th June in our own way. In the past, the sheer injustice of Michael’s death has inspired such absolute rage in me that it has helped mask my despair. This year was different. I was overcome with an all-encompassing sorrow and sat depressed in the dark for days, unable to engage with the physical world, never mind the saturated sadness of social media as our community poured out heartbreaking, bereft tributes.

A couple of days ago, the fog began to lift and I managed to distil the devastation of the previous days into a poem for Michael (see below).

Due to holing myself up, I missed out on some incredible fan output, which I’m now trying to catch up with. And The MJCast interview with Darren Hayes has proven to be the highlight (see link below).

The total professionalism with which Q and J (or ‘The MJ Cats’, as I like to call them), conduct themselves means their show is a delight to behold. A factor that indubitably enables them to achieve such coups as acquiring Thomas Mesereau and Darren Hayes as special guests. The latter of whom was involved in their 25th June podcast.

And Darren doesn’t disappoint. He answers candidly, knowledgably and with tangible sincerity in his love for Michael. His recollections of being bullied at school and abused at home, before being rescued by finding a role model and escapism through Michael are profoundly recognisable. They cut deep.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to it on the day, as I’d have missed most of it through sobbing. I’m welling up now just writing about it. I had a cathartic cry with Q as he choked back tears. Although ten-thousand miles apart, it felt as if we were consoling each other in the same room.

But I’ve started getting angry again.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the release of the HIStory album. The first single from which was Scream. Jimmy Jam recently reminisced on how Michael’s pedantry in achieving the perfect handclap sound for Scream was nothing less than exasperating.

During the podcast, Darren touches on the subject of the Estate’s decision to profit off Michael’s unreleased music – revealing how this undermining of Michael’s work moved him enough to modify his will to ensure that similar atrocities can’t be carried out on his own art after his death.

The HIStory album was a multi-pronged protest against unjust treatment. Scream was an aggressive riposte. Childhood a search for empathy. Both the peaceable Martin Luther King and the militant Malcolm X are referenced on the record.

Images of peaceful protest become totemic – pictures such as the photograph of Jan Rose Kasmir during a 1967 anti-Vietnam war rally, in which she holds a flower to a bayonet. Michael incorporated the emblem during the denouement of HIStory tour performances of Earth song.

Yet Vietnamese children continued to be napalmed for a further eight years.

Brute force is wantonly executed by those in positions of power, in the belief that most people are so disengaged from the truth they will heedlessly buy into such placatory propaganda as the Kasmir image, rather than becoming enraged enough to utilise more aggressive methods of protest.

The ignored revolt because a sense of justice is intrinsic to the notion of humanity. It is patronising to dismiss disgruntled minorities as either alarmists or zealots when they feel impelled to utilise aggressive means. The Estate are in charge after fraudulently gaining control of Michael’s will. And they are now revelling in their avarice.

Protesting passively against the ruination of Michael’s artistic legacy is impotent in its capacity to change things. Yes, rage alone can only achieve so much. But in the multi-pronged efforts to demand quality from the Estate, it is a crucial element

Aggression can be catalytic. Change requires both flowers and fire.

As part of my catching up, I inevitably encountered the flipside to the loving tributes – the annual rearing of the BeLIEver monster’s head.

Not content with illegally hijacking Harrison Funk’s photographs of those who congregated at Michael’s grave on the 25th, this insidious group of twisted degenerates then used said images to promulgate their warped ideology.

The BeLIEver monster needs decapitating.


Aggression does have its place.


Listen to The MJCast here: The MJCast

The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at



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