A Hero of HIStory: A Song by Syl Mortilla

I wrote and recorded a song for Michael.

Click here to listen to the track: https://soundcloud.com/syl-mortilla/a-hero-of-history

I spent eighteen months and sacrificed everything to write a book for Michael. Dedicated to Michael.

Click here to download your free sample of The First Book of Michael:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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Dedicated To Michael: An Article Defending Syl Mortilla

I am writing this blog in response to the attempted undermining of the message of my book by those seemingly driven by sinister and envious opportunism.

In the Author’s Note that precedes the body of The First Book of Michael, I write:

“This book is my heart. My sole hopes for this book are that it contributes as a counterbalance to the perpetual undermining of a culturally crucial figure, whose career was motivated and galvanised by historically unprecedented efforts of philanthropy and humanitarianism; and that at its conclusion, the reader is left in no doubt with regards the magnitude of respect and love that I possess for Michael.”

The book is dedicated to Michael.

There are malicious forces intent on sabotaging my work; sinister machinations that have had to resort to unearthing a six-year-old article that I hastily composed to fulfil the expectations of a brief I was presented with by an irrelevant, now-defunct online music magazine. The brief asked for a sardonic and satirical take on Michael’s appearance at the O2 press conference. As I was known for my encyclopaedic knowledge and love of Michael, I was chosen as the obviously qualified person to fulfil the task. Yet, even when shackled by the constraints of this brief, I still attempted to use the opportunity to force readers of a magazine that wouldn’t normally question their ingrained perceptions of Michael, to do so.

It is interesting that the articles I used to write for MJNI’s KING! Magazine – written as I grew up an adoring follower of Michael – have not been similarly disseminated.

During the eighteen painstaking months it took me to write The First Book of Michael, I often found myself lonely and hungry, as well as homeless at times. I sacrificed time with my two young children. I voluntarily put myself in this scenario in order to bring to fruition an ambition of mine – one that is intrinsically entwined within me – that I might somehow manage to manifest my love for Michael with an effort to galvanise his legacy.

I have spent a lifetime defending Michael at every turn. I did not always agree with his choices – but as with any true friendship, the love lies in the loyalty. But yes, I occasionally became frustrated with some of Michael’s decisions. However, I love him. I love him so much. I will never stop loving him. And true love remains because of a capacity to acknowledge a person’s idiosyncrasies.

I entirely immersed my heart and soul into writing The First Book of Michael. It is an honest, genuine reflection of my thoughts on the life and soul of my hero (although the term ‘hero’ doesn’t come close to doing my feelings justice. Michael is an intrinsic part of who I am).

The book laments the fractured state of the Michael Jackson fan community and offers hopeful advice on our being able to rectify it. There are many insidious, self-serving individuals hell bent on keeping us divided.

I am not the enemy.

During the past six years, my paternal idol Michael has died, and I have become a father myself. Those kind of experiences shape a soul.

I am proud of mine. I am proud of my words that honour Michael.

Please, decide for yourself:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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The First Book of Michael Out Now!

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Syl Mortilla authoring a biography on the life, works and soul of the icon Michael Jackson has been eagerly anticipated by the fan community since the inception of his popular blog in 2013.

Mortilla’s unique insights on Michael Jackson led to his writings being endorsed by longtime friends of the man himself – with Karen Faye, Michael’s make-up artist and confidante of thirty years providing the foreword to the book, and Michael’s official photographer Harrison Funk providing the cover image. The book is further advocated by fellow esteemed Michael Jackson bloggers Damien Shields and Charlie Thomson.

The onus of this distinctive biography is on the utilisation of Michael Jackson’s art as a window to an understanding of the man largely considered an enigma. The book explores Michael’s evolution from pop star to global figure, with Mortilla questioning whether the people of planet Earth can afford to dismiss the totemic value of Michael Jackson’s unrivalled fame and legacy with regards an opportunity to promote world peace.

A percentage of proceeds from the book are being donated to the registered not-for-profit charity, Michael Jackson’s Legacy.
“Syl Mortilla has a remarkable and uncanny understanding of Michael Jackson that I do not see in any other… his writing is the blood pulsing from Michael’s heart to all of his fans… Michael’s life spoke, and Syl Mortilla was listening.” – Karen Faye

“Syl Mortilla’s work is like a tapestry of truth; an assortment of facts, quotes and insights plucked from the depths of Michael Jackson’s extensive body of work, carefully woven together with poetically articulated observations and interpretations of that work that’ll make you look at, listen to, or think about it in a whole new light.” – Damien Shields

“Syl Mortilla is a fantastic wordsmith with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Michael Jackson… a sensitive and sympathetic writer with a truly unique voice.” – Charles Thomson

Get your copy here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

For The Children: Syl Mortilla’s Michael Jackson Biography

One of the many things that Michael said which has stuck with me, was how he spoke of his admiration for people that used their talents to further the prospects of children. This is what I aspire to do.

Towards the end of the notorious Martin Bashir documentary Living With Michael Jackson, when asked why the welfare of children meant so much to him, Michael, choking back heartfelt tears, responded with the words, “I’m just very sensitive to their pain.” Given a platform to speak at Oxford University, Michael used the occasion to propose a Children’s Bill of Rights, with one of these being “the right to be loved without having to earn it”. Michael promoted these beliefs until his dying breath, as evidenced in the gut-wrenching recording that Conrad Murray made of Michael as he groaned in anaesthetised oblivion, where he is heard talking about his dream of building a children’s hospital. Indeed, the last performance Michael ever made was of ‘Earth Song’ – in a rehearsal the day before he died – meaning that some of his final utterances on stage were, “What about children dying? / Can’t you hear them cry?”

To promote a universal freedom of opportunity for children to fulfil their potential is surely a faultless philosophy, with perhaps the only drawback being its vulnerability to abuse by the laziness of cynicism.

Cynicism such as the absurdity contained with the charges made against Michael regarding denying his own race – he is one of the United College Negro College Funds all-time largest contributors. Michael made his reasons for supporting the cause very clear during a speech in 1988, when collecting his honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters, from Fisk University in New York City. He said,

“There is nothing more important than ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to an education. To want to learn, to have the capacity to learn, but not to be able to, is a tragedy.”

Michael’s single-mindedness in being an advocate for children was his only vulnerability; a pressure point that was exploited with aplomb. As he lamented, “They try to use my love for children against me and it’s so unfair, I’m very upset about it you know?”

Michael’s artistic riposte to the 1993 extortion attempt is dedicated to all the children of the world, who he claims responsibility for. Michael loved all children the way any mother loves their own. When conspired against and confronted with the most expensive attempted character assassination in history, Michael remained dignified, before defending himself by utilising his art. The HIStory project was an uncharacteristically angry sting from Michael. Yet, as cathartic as the work must have been for him – like a normally peaceable bee stinging out of terror – it also commenced the process of ripping out his heart. The eventual trial of 2005 tore it out completely.

And his death orphaned us all.

Human nature is self-sabotaging. And of all the dichotomies involving Michael, perhaps the most poignant is how a man that strived so tirelessly through his creativity to make the world a better place, became the man the world strived so hard to destroy. But Michael was appealing to a consciousness beyond the current human state.

My ambition as a writer is to help enrich the lives of children. As well as my writings on Michael, I am also a children’s author. I have written a biography on Michael Jackson, and my hope is that I can utilise the success of the book to generate publicity for my children’s books. They are all written in the spirit of Michael, and as such, I will be donating a percentage of all sales to the non-profit organisation, Michael Jackson’s Legacy (http://www.michaeljacksonslegacy.org).

The First Book Of Michael by Syl Mortilla will be with you very soon.

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Peacock: An Article on Michael Jackson as a Unifier

“In the beginning, the land was pure – even in the early morning light, you could see the beauty in the forms of nature. Soon, men and women of every colour and shape would be here too – and they would find it all-too easy not to see the colours; and to ignore the beauty in each other. But they would never lose sight of the dream of a better world that they could build together – in triumph.”

And so ends the Michael Jackson-penned voiceover, spoken as the camera pans across a gorgeous vista displaying daybreak over a deserted landscape; the ending of which, signals the horns to ignite the iconic rhythm of The Jacksons track, Can You Feel It.

In spite of the short film’s inclusion in a 2001 poll listing the 100 Greatest Music Videos, the spectacle that is the Can You Feel It promo is nowadays often overlooked. However, in 1981, the year of its release, the video’s state-of-the-art visual effects popped the eyes and blew the minds of anyone that watched it, as demonstrated quite clearly by the gasp of disbelief accompanying the introduction of its premiere on American Bandstand. Prior to Can You Feel It, the accepted format of music videos was that of a band in a studio, pretending to sing and perform their instruments in front of a static camera. The conception and execution of the Can You Feel It project was nothing short of revolutionary. It was a vanguard; it was the work of a visionary.

(In a fortnight, Beyonce will be presented with the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award: an award named after Michael in 1991, in honour of the culture-altering contribution that was his dedication to utilising the music video as a credible artistic medium. Still, between the years of 1993 and 2005, the award was only intermittently presented. 1997 was one of the years in which it was – when Mark Romanek was granted the prize, after having directed the short film, Scream. However, since Michael was cleared of the child molestation allegations, they have been a frequent feature of the MTV Video Music Awards show. MTV would do well to remember that they would not even exist if it were not for Michael Jackson.)

Upon leaving Motown,The Jacksons created their own production company – Peacock Productions. They explained their choice of name for this venture by saying, “Through the ages, the peacock has been honored and praised for its attractive, illustrious beauty. Of all the bird family, the peacock is the only bird that integrates all colors into one, and displays this radiance of fire only when in love. We, like the peacock, try to integrate all races into one through the love of music.” The peacock feather is utilised in the Can You Feel It video, as an emblem of hope that descends upon humanity, after the light of the sun is extinguished by an eclipse. It’s a truly touching moment.

The significance of a group of black men, products of the decade that brought an end to racial segregation in the United States, wielding their substantial influence cannot be understated. Their message was to encourage progression – that, in spite of their forefathers having suffered the torture and inhumanity of slavery, any ambitions of world peace involve every one of us moving forward, united. Accusations were levelled at The Jacksons that the video was a mass Jehovah’s Witness promotion and recruitment attempt. And that’s cynicism for you. However, a connection does indeed exist between Christianity and peacocks: in the religion’s early incarnation, the peacock was utilised as a totem for immortality. This was due to the fact that after a peacock died, its feathers remained fresh and vibrant, in spite of the decaying flesh beneath.

One of the jackets that Michael wore to perform Jam on the Dangerous Tour (the artwork on the associated album also featuring an image of a peacock), in which he took to the stage to strut and state, reminds me a great deal of the shimmer and sheen of the peacock’s feather. At first glance, both the jacket and the feather are made up of what are ostensibly solid colours; but with closer inspection, it is revealed that they are actually comprised of myriad, minutely varied colours that integrate to appear as one. The same can be said for the many layers that combine to create a song; or the words employed to write a book.

As such, the peacock feather provides us with a perfect metaphor for the political and philosophical leanings of Michael Jackson. It is one that suggests that the growing individualistic nature of the people of the world (Michael himself taking individualism to its ultimate conclusion), in which the shackles of patriarchy are being dismantled (one of the consequences being a new-found freedom to provide one’s child with a name not dictated by cultural expectations – think more Prince, less Peter), need not necessarily be an ominous thing.

So long, of course, that we coalesce: that each of us take pride in our position as a requisite speck of light on the peacock’s coat; that we contribute to its immortality; that we do so – in triumph.

Wings: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Self-Sacrifice

Michael Jackson 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.

Michael would scream to the sound engineers, “Hurt me!” in a request for them to increase the volume and intensity of the music. And indeed there was a sense of the masochist in his work ethic. The global events that were Michael Jackson World Tours caused renewed suffering from his various medical conditions.  The poor state of his lungs – likely a consequence of the merciless schedule thrust upon him that involved nightly singing in the smoky venues the Jackson 5 played (oh the irony of that word!) as child – remained a secret until it was revealed in his autopsy. The clues were there though, what with his increased reliance on lip-synching, yet Michael never let us know the true extent of the damage. The reason Michael grew fatigued of touring was because of the sleeping pills and pain medication he knew he would have to come to rely on to fulfil his mission.

With this borne in mind, then, the efforts exerted in his planetary crisscrossing, as courageous as they would be even for someone in their physical prime, become viewed as being nothing short of superhuman. As his health deteriorated, there became a converse increase in the intensification of his efforts to relay, promote and safeguard his message of peace.

People are extra-performative with those they trust. With their children, especially. Michael had voluntarily adopted the mantle as the father of all the world’s children – both those of a young chronological age, and those adults – the “lost” ones – who are so often the people that remain devoted to his mission. The ones in front of whom he could perform without prejudice. The ones he surrounded himself with. Michael understood that children innately amplify experiences – of fear; of rage; of a Michael Jackson concert; of love. And he lived and breathed this knowledge, along with the responsibility of it as he delivered his message.

Michael’s efforts to maintain his natural character were under perpetual bombardment from those who simply did not possess either the intellectual or emotional capacity to understand him. These attacks – like a storm battering a rock – inevitably, as they would anyone, weathered him. The spray that spat from the media tempest inflicted pain like water torture. Yet regardless, he strived to preserve and express that congenital core of purity.

And this ‘weathering’ is not merely a metaphor – the attacks physically shaped him. It was this bullying that initially motivated the plastic surgery Michael Jackson would ultimately become a poster boy for.  Ironically – though very much in keeping with the idea of the entity Michael Jackson being a microcosm of the entirety of humanity – plastic surgery has now become an accepted daily feature of our postmodern world. As the man himself said, “plastic surgery wasn’t invented for Michael Jackson” – and the sheer hypocrisy of, not only his peers in that Mecca of perceived self-rectification known as Hollywood, but also of any single person that endeavours to artificially alter their appearance to assuage their insecurities: be that breast implantation, teeth-whitening or photoshopped pictures – proves him absolutely right.

Children are oblivious to such superficiality. It is no wonder Michael chose to be around them. Yet, with the befriending of children came a different sadness. The vast majority of these friendships were doomed from the outset to be fleeting. The lyrics detailing the tragedy of the protagonist of the song Puff The Magic Dragon remind me a great deal of Michael – a figure of legend entrapped eternally in a world where friends come and go, as their finite time in the kingdom of childhood comes to an end:

“Dragons live forever but not so little boys,
Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys…
Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”

As fans, it is our responsibility to ensure that the sadness he 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. Who knows when – or if – the world will ever know again anyone so universally recognised, whose sole intention was to help humanity evolve from its ubiquitous acts of bestial violence, and towards universally practiced ideals 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. His life was one of self-sacrifice for our entertainment – it being the inimitable tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that it was.

Surely, the fulfilment of Michael Jackson’s wish of him being a totem for love and understanding is not merely one he earnestly deserved, but one the world should be emphatically embracing? Or at least be grateful that he granted us the chance? People underestimate the fact that Michael Jackson was the most famous person on planet Earth. A heavy fact with unimaginable repercussions for the man. One day, people will envy our privilege as having been upon the same planet as a living Michael Jackson: a man that tried to teach that life itself is legacy; a man who endorsed the idea that each human being needs to care deeply about what happens to the next generation, and that this crucial wisdom for humanity’s future must be instilled in people as children. As the little girl’s voice used in Heal The World states, “Think about the generations… they want to make the world a better place – for our children, and our children’s children.”

Prior to Neverland and Michael’s attempt at creating a safe haven for innocence; prior to the Pepsi promo burning incident (occurring on the exact middle day of his life) that introduced him to the ephemeral relief of prescription painkillers; prior to the mass media opprobrium; prior to the child molestation allegations, Michael Jackson was interviewed candidly in the gardens of the Encino family home. The interview was later commercially released, much to his dismay. In said video, dubbed ‘Unauthorised’, Michael is seen crooning at the night sky – astonished, inspired and bewildered by the the beauty of it all. High on nature and his unique connection to its elements, he feels he can fly, and dances as if he’s a bird taking flight. Or, perhaps – a butterfly.

Michael Jackson’s lifelong martyrdom ensured that he earned those wings.

Vindication Day

There are two themes that frequently recur in this blog, and today they are both particularly pertinent. The first theme, is the idea I promote that with regards Michael Jackson, any paedophilic monster construed – given the absolute absence of any evidence to the contrary – can only be one purposefully selected by an observer actively opting to be ignorant of an indisputable fact: a fact forever petrified into history. The fact that nine years ago today – after a gruelling trial that ultimately killed him – Michael Jackson and his personal ideology were completely vindicated: he was entirely absolved of any wrongdoing concerning illegal behaviour involving children. The second theme – bearing in mind, once again, the vast vacancy of any proof whatsoever of anything untoward ever occurring between Michael Jackson and children – is that Michael Jackson created Neverland solely as a haven for the celebration of childhood; as a retreat for an unhindered exploration of the purity and potential of youth; as somewhere he could escape the societal ‘norms’ thrust – unsolicited – upon us all. ‘Norms’ that consistently attempt to corrupt the concept of love, in any of its given forms.

Michael had the financial freedom to revisit the “lost and found” of his childhood on an unprecedented scale: an eccentricity that was seized upon by a cynical society. Yet, most people ‘infantilise’ themselves to a certain extent – and in the same way Michael noted the hypocrisy of the universal acceptance of Caucasian attempts to change their skin colour to fit in with societal aspirations, it should further be noted how the infantilisation of adults is also done on a mass daily basis for similar reasons. Clothes departments of supermarkets, for example, are stocked to the brim with adult nightwear adorned with images of Disney characters: a chance for people to buy into rose-tinted nostalgia, in an attempt to temporarily export themselves back to a time and place where they possessed a kingdom of imagination in which they often sought refuge. The commodification and sexualisation of nostalgia is the cynical prostitution of beautiful efforts borne by the fundamental innocence of humanity. (Nostalgia is big business – just ask the Estate.)

Michael fell victim to his naivety of the perception of his philosophies by the outside world. Michael fingered jealousy as a premium motivational reason for acts of ‘evil’. And – indeed – one may very well argue that the very existence of the mass misunderstanding of Michael’s ideology, is one motivated by a deep-seated envy of his precious capacity for being able to see through the eyes of a child; and of his capability to harness this gift for his art and success. Or perhaps – as demonstrated by those in charge at AEG Live during their ultimately lethal whipping of Michael to perform for This Is It – it is that when a majority are hell-bent on getting what they desire, mass psychopathy ensues – and Lord help anyone standing in their way. The global media opprobrium heaped upon Michael during and since the molestation allegations is further testament to this phenomenon. Bringing Michael Jackson down sold newspapers – and to hell with the effect such treacherous slander might have on such a sensitive soul.

Love is so easily plundered by cynics. There are even certain parts of the USA, where one may openly carry a firearm, yet are denied the option of purchasing a sex toy without possessing a medical prescription – it is the pathologisation and legislation of the simple and most natural act of making love, whilst the promotion of indifference to potential grievous violence continues unchecked. Michael strived to convey a message of anti-violence. He was the Martin Luther King of his generation. He utilised his prominent position on the public pedestal to try and educate against the use of violence, including during acts of protest. After 1993, Michael was placed in, what – for most people – would have been an impossible professional and personal position to return from. Michael responded to this attempted character assassination of him by releasing a song pleading with the people of the Earth to awaken to the damage being done to their planet – a song in which the accompanying short film shows the detonation of an apocalyptic bomb as a little girl runs for her bicycle. This is the evil that Michael wanted to address – by ensuring that all children were given the ironclad right to a childhood free from abuse, and thus in time ending the cycle. It is the next step in the civilisation of humankind, and history will hold Michael Jackson aloft as an evolutionary visionary.

Michael’s stance on the wisdom of children is often lazily dismissed. Perhaps because people find it too vague to understand. In truth, however, it is very specific and very simple. By being ‘like the children’, Michael was suggesting we learn from their innate obliviousness to traits such as race, class or gender: that traits trained into people as they become older, embittered and prejudiced, are non-existent in children. Children simply request that their innate love for everything is reciprocated. This is how Michael was like the children. His physicality embodied the differing traits, whilst his philosophy merely asked that the boundless love he possessed for all the people of the planet be reflected back upon him. And he wanted that for everyone.

Today is Vindication Day. It is perhaps the most significant day in the Michael Jackson calendar. Enjoy!

For Nearly Thirty Years: An Article On Michael Jackson’s Closest Confidante (And Why Her Opinion Matters)

He knew her intimately for nearly thirty years. 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. He was very insecure about his vitiligo. He was 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. She tried to ensure he was fed.

His face was pocked with acne scars. He believed his nostrils were vast, his chin not clearly defined – that it seemed to get swallowed up by his neck. He was self-conscious about his smile. But he liked his eyes. He would ask her to accentuate them. He had his eyebrows tattooed on. And his lipstick. It saved a lot of time. And meant that when she wasn’t around, they remained there – indelible swooshes of self-esteem reassuring him from the mirror. A lifetime in the public eye had taken its toll. The camera was his nemesis. He would wear a surgical mask, or hide behind strategically straggled curls and a fedora – unless she had primed his confidence first. She did this by combining her artistic skill with a unique, nuanced knowledge of the intricacies of his face, as well as an inimitable understanding how he liked to look – though she also knew that he was capricious in these matters. Such is the nature of insecurity. He was changeable in his choice of hairstyle – sometimes preferring more curls or body in his hair, which gave him a sense of having his face covered, like the surgical mask he often opted to wear. She created and fixed his wigs for him. For nearly thirty years.

Still. Since they had known each other for nearly a third of a century, she would have usually intuited his mood before he had even sat down in the chair. The chair in which they talked. The chair in which they cried together; laughed together. The chair in which they would put the world to rights. For nearly thirty years. Some are jealous of the intimacy they shared. After all, their relationship was simultaneously both as open and close as any can be. She knew and understood his secrets, his intentions, his vices, his desires.

He trusted her. Implicitly. She prepared him for his final corporeal resting place. His deathbed.

He was Michael Jackson. And she was Karen Faye.

Magic: An Article on the Magic Humanitarian, Michael Jackson

When I was sixteen, I jumped on a coach, upon which I sat for thirty hours, before disembarking in Prague in the Czech Republic. As a painfully shy teenager, I wasn’t confident enough to be forthright enough to make friends on the journey, so the trip was undertaken alone. Besides, I wasn’t travelling to make friends. I was going to see Michael. I hadn’t seen him for four years, since that soul-altering night on the Dangerous Tour. I was nauseous with excitement.

It was so cold. But I was determined to get a position close to the front of the following day’s concert, so, after being stood a short while at the feet of the specially erected Stalinist HIStory statue, staring up at it, both bewildered and awestruck, I left the coach party. After mindlessly navigating the streets of the alien city for a number of hours, I eventually managed to stumble across the stadium, Letna Park; where I joined a throng of similarly single-minded diehards who were also gathering to queue overnight before the concert. But it was so cold.

The concert happened. I had managed to hold my own in the downright dangerous race to the front, once the gates had finally opened. And, devoid of food and sleep, had also, somehow, managed to stay upright all day, in spite of the intermittent tidal surges created by the momentum transfer of the one-hundred-and-thirty-thousand people standing behind me.

As well as when we all jumped and joined along together in singing, “Tom Sneddon is a cold man.”

I filled my pockets with the confetti that had burst from cannons signalling the end of the show, then – very, very slowly – shuffled my way to a merchandise tent. My understanding of the Czech currency was limited at best, and my adrenaline was sky-high: a combination ripe for disaster. The kind of disaster where you find yourself lost and alone, at night, in the middle of a mid-nineties, recently Eastern Bloc capital city (incidentally, a significant choice by Michael, considering the socialist theme of the HIStory project), wearing the three Michael Jackson T-shirts you’ve just spent all your money on, whilst also clutching the Tour programme as close to your torso as possible, in an attempt to achieve that extra microtherm of warmth.

I had a ticket with the name of the hotel I was supposed to be staying in, but I couldn’t pronounce its name, and the odd person that walked past who I summoned the courage to engage and show the ticket to, just shrugged at me and continued walking. After the roar of the concert, everything seemed more silent than was possible.

Penniless on the deserted streets of Prague, I sat down and cried. Then a car pulled up.

A woman wound down the window and garbled something in a foreign language, whilst gesturing for me to approach her. She was my only hope. I showed her the ticket. Again, a shrug and a look of confusion. My heart sank as I was hit with a genuine terror that I wasn’t going to be either home, warm, eating or sleeping any time soon. Then the woman, whose face had empathetically mirrored my own as it fell, suddenly pointed at my T-shirt (the top one, anyway), and simply said, “Michael!”, before directing me to take a seat in the back of the car, and beginning to drive around what came to seem like endless, dark, desolate city streets. Finally, she turned a corner, and I saw something I recognised. Illuminated like a homing beacon, in all its white-light glory, stood the HIStory statue.

And at its feet, my ride home.

***

Michael understood that there is magic in nostalgia; that nostalgia is emotional time-travel; that magic becomes manifest through the mind and its perceptions. As much as Michael enjoyed stage magic (who can forget the introduction to the Superbowl performance – Michael Jackson… in three places at once!), as he expressed in his song, Mind Is The Magic, “Your own thoughts play the game / In the magical wonders they do / The mind in the magic is you”.

And it was this kind of magic, real magic, that Michael wrote about in his book, Dancing The Dream, within which he describes magic as being how the thrill that a toddler experiences when watching a tadpole wriggle in mud, is akin to an adult’s encounter with the majesty of a whale crashing in the ocean.

And it was with this kind of heart, this “quality of wonder” – as author Howard Bloom described it, when reflecting upon Michael’s life – with which he reigned over Neverland: inspiring children to enjoy, as he called it, “the playfulness of life”. Of course, Michael entertained many, many sick and dying children at Neverland, but one child that he became particularly close to, was Ryan White. Ryan lived with HIV/AIDS for seven years after being diagnosed aged just eleven years old. He was instrumental in evolving people’s understanding of the disease, therefore helping to diminish the prejudices associated with it. Ryan died twenty-four years ago today.

Another specific child that Michael helped, was the focus of a recent campaign to flood Twitter to create awareness of Michael’s humanitarian efforts. It was the example of Bela Farkas, a four-year-old Hungarian boy who Michael funded the liver transplant for, and hence saved the life of. The reason for the re-emergence of this story was down to the fact that Farkas had recently become a father himself.

Michael never won the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was twice nominated, in 1998 and 2003. For my money – unsurprisingly – he is, without hesitation, the most worthy human being to have never won it. However, in spite of this particular accolade not having graced the mantelpiece of Neverland, Michael Jackson, nevertheless, did receive some twenty internationally-recognised humanitarian awards; as well as countless other recognitions and tributes; a Guinness Book of World Records entry for the Most Charities Supported By A Pop Star (thirty-nine), and a music industry award that is named after him, which is annually presented to celebrate that year’s most philanthropic musical artist. As well as this, Michael also set up his own charity, the Heal The World Foundation, for which he toured the world to raise funds – donating every penny of the proceeds from it, before having the charity deliver aid by military planes to the innocent people caught up in the war in Sarajevo. All this, without even mentioning his constant striving to use his talent and status to release globally-recognised musical anthems carrying the sole purpose of encouraging human peace and unity.

The magical truth of the human being, Michael Jackson. The truth. Invigorating, isn’t it?

You Are The Moon

There is a photograph of me as an eleven-year-old boy, in which I am stood proudly in front of one of the walls of my bedroom, holding our pet cat. Behind me, each and every inch of the wall is plastered in pictures of Michael Jackson in various poses: most of them of him on stage wearing wearing either the silver shirt from the Bad Tour or the gold leotard from the Dangerous Tour. Some of the pictures are huge, one of them is as small as a postage stamp. I would have bought an entire magazine solely for that picture. The other walls, the ones not in the photograph, are adorned in the same way. As is the ceiling. My younger brother and I shared the bedroom, and one of our favourite things to do was intermittently agree to rearrange our pictures. It would take us entire weekends. There is a corresponding photograph, which I took, of my brother in the same pose. The lighting in the photograph, which I’m certain is more as a result of accident than design, is perfect. Though I’m not sure why we both decided to hold the cat.

These photographs are twenty-two years old now. They are beginning to brown around the edges. My memories of those times are often played on Super 8 film. There is a yellow saturation to them, and its inhabitants move with a strange and erratic jerkiness; similar to how toddlers dart around in real time. The photographs evoke a sense of nostalgia that invokes a spirit of eighties and early nineties summers; of hotplate patio flags and the riled ants that filed from the cracks between them; of music from a far off radio somehow managing to carry all the poignancy of a Muezzin’s call to prayer, as it infused thermal air currents with otherworldliness. Radios that would, naturally, have been playing Michael Jackson.

No-one embodies the zeitgeist of those years better than Michael. I sometimes experience waves of Michael-specific nostalgia, often inspired by a mere scent or even particular lighting. In an instant I can be stood in the queue waiting for the coach to take me and my siblings to our first concert: Dangerous Tour, Roundhay Park, Leeds, August 16th 1992. I was twelve.

Pre-Internet, we had pen pals that sent us cassettes and VHS that ended up being played to ruin. Cassettes of albums such as the eponymous The Jacksons album, with rarities such as The Man or Whatzupwitu tagged onto the end to fill up the space. Our longplay version of MTV’s Dangerous Diaries was our most treasured possession. Those tapes contained a lot of soul. The holy grail was a Victory Tour or Bad Tour second leg concert on VHS. We finally received the latter as part of the Bad 25 package (at least the profiteers in charge kept the quality the same as those mail-order bootlegs from back in the day).

My Michael nostalgia begins in 1987. But imagine those fans that saw the star appear in that coruscant dusk of 1969, before following its trajectory all the way through to its dark dawn of 2009? That’s a whole heap of Michael zeitgeist. The analogy of Michael’s lifetime being a nighttime is an interesting one. Michael always said that he was merely a conduit for the wishes of a higher being, such as how the moon is to the sun. The moon reflects light from the sun, which illuminates our darkness when the sun is not around, and in much the same way, Michael lit up the darker occasions of many of our lives. In turn, those that honour him, borrow light from him also.

There is a faction of fans that call themselves ‘Moonwalkers’. The original name for the dance-move now universally recognised as the ‘moonwalk’, was the rather insipid title, ‘backslide’. Michael premiered the move on Motown 25: the show, which, fittingly, fired him into orbit and made him a superstar. Michael’s earnest intent and actions to change the world for the better began on this night, and continued for the remainder of his corporeal existence. It’s up to all fans, Moonwalkers et al, to help ensure this continues.

In the song Cry, the call-and-response between Michael and God illustrates Michael’s self-awareness of his mission perfectly, the closing words being Michael’s (or is it God’s?) instruction to “change the world”. The closing words to his song The Lost Children are uttered by his own children, and are them recognising that it’s time to return home, as it’s getting dark.

As many of us do in such circumstances. We return to Michael. We return to the light.

Whether we’re carrying a cat, or otherwise.

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