Roadmap: Michael Jackson Fans United

The formative Jackson 5 years left no-one in doubt with regards Michael Jackson’s capacity for conveying emotion through his voice. Though it was not until he left Motown that we were requited with this voice singing songs he had authored himself. With ‘Blues Away’ came the epiphany – many artists never write a song as important as this in their entire career. Yet, this track – from the eponymous The Jacksons album – the group’s first LP after unshackling themselves of the artistic constraints that had bound them at Motown – was a mere taster; a tantalising teaser of what was to come.

Whereupon one need look no further than Destiny – the subsequent Epic release from The Jacksons.

The opening track – the bassline bonanza that is ‘Blame It on the Boogie’ – is the sole song on the record not written by the brothers (though, coincidentally, it was penned by a Michael Jackson namesake). The album palpably throbs with both joy and heartbreak. The autobiographical nature of the lyrical themes are prescient of the standard ideas we would come to recognise in Michael’s solo work, referencing as they do: insecurity and success as bedfellows; the escapism of dance; and the loneliness of being misunderstood.

Concerning the latter theme, the song ‘Bless His Soul’ is perhaps the most touching: not merely in the context of the Destiny album, but also when considering Michael’s canon of work as a whole. The bridge contains the refrain, “The life you’re leading is dangerous,” with the melody in that final word ‘dangerous’ reminiscent of the chorus of the title track that Michael would record thirteen years later. What with the theme of ‘Bless His Soul’ addressing how, “You gotta start doing what’s right for you / ‘Cos life is being happy yourself” – and how when not living by this philosophy, life becomes “dangerous”, the mirroring becomes poignantly prophetic. Of course, when Michael eventually did begin living how he desired, his life became very dangerous indeed.

The Jacksons’ ensuing release after Destiny was the album Triumph. The short film for the opening track features this Michael-penned voiceover:

“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.”

It is spoken as the camera pans across a gorgeous vista of daybreak over a deserted landscape. The conclusion of the voiceover is the signal for the horns to ignite the iconic rhythm of The Jacksons classic, ‘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 short film’s state-of-the-art visual effects popped the eyes and dropped the jaws of anyone that saw it, as demonstrated quite clearly by the host’s gasp of disbelief when introducing its premiere on American Bandstand. Prior to ‘Can You Feel It’, the accepted format of music videos had been 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 theCan You Feel It’ project was nothing short of revolutionary. It was a vanguard; it was the work of a visionary.

(The MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award was named after Michael in 1991, in honour of the culture-altering contribution that was his dedication to promoting 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 2005, when Michael was cleared of the child molestation allegations, the eponymous award has 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.)

In Michael’s autobiography, Moonwalk, he recalls an incident when the Jackson 5 were being interviewed, with their answers being scrutinised by Motown coaches sensitive to subjects that could be considered controversial. A black interviewer attempted to garner their views on the civil rights movement, but the Motown public relations representatives refused to let the Jackson 5 respond. Michael remembers how he and his brothers threw up the black power salute as they left the interview.

Michael grew up immersed in the social tumult generated by the assassinations of both Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  A sixteen-year-old Michael, in 1974, even performed backing vocals on Stevie Wonder’s anti-Nixon track, ‘You Haven’t Done Nothing’.

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, celebratory of our differences, but united.

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A recurring theme in this blog concerns the tragic reality of the factions within the Michael Jackson fan community. Indeed, the primary purpose behind my writing The First Book of Michael was to suggest ways to rectify this situation.

Cue the irony (to those with the intellectual capacity to appreciate such a thing).

Prior to the publication of my book, to say I was naïve regards the extent of the backlash I would encounter from some fans, is an understatement at best. There I was, after a lifetime of personal sacrifice in defending my hero, optimistically attempting to provide some kind of reconciliatory framework for the fans to work with. Then, before the book was even published, I was somehow being framed by ignoramuses as some kind of opportunistic hater.

One of the more significant of these divisions that exists is between the battle-worn acolytes extant prior to Michael’s death, and those that were inspired to follow Michael subsequent to his passing.

There is a general feeling amongst the pre-2009 fans, that, considering the abhorrence of the ad hominem opprobrium we had to endure for so long, the post-2009 fans are somehow inferior.

This feeling has been reinforced by what the pre-2009 fans consider as the general support by the post-2009 fans of the abject disrespect of Michael by utilising vocal imposters on posthumous tracks, as well as the use of a physical imposter for a hologram, in order to make money for people that refuse to engage with some crucial questions concerning their true intentions for the legacy of our hero. A man we invested a great deal of our very existences into supporting.

Even Mr. Tom Mesereau himself has deemed the current lot in charge “not fit for purpose”.

It is impossible to relay to anyone the gravity of loyalty involved in supporting Michael through his trial and tribulations. We were attacked on a daily basis. Though with every attack, our resolve to defend Michael was reinforced exponentially. Equally, it is impossible to express the exquisite ecstasy that we felt, both in Michael’s artistic riposte of 1995, and his judicial vindication in 2005.

We are precious about any tinkering with Michael’s legacy. Still. Pre-2009 fans remain keen to recruit for Michael’s cause. But we cannot allow our efforts during those times of personal Gethsemane to be diluted by the apathy of unchecked history. We want the preservation of Michael’s soul. We want the memory of his genius sanctified. Not only due to its uniqueness of quality, but because of the potency in its potential to bring to fruition Michael’s hard-earned desires in making the world a better place.

Yet, discovering Michael, before automatically falling helplessly in love with the truth of his nature, is a common phenomenon; one explained by how Michael’s message appeals to the essence of humanity, due its intrinsic idea of hope. It is a phenomenon unbridled by chronology.

Michael’s Estate purport that he left behind a “roadmap”. This “roadmap” has never been made publically available, with the only evidence of such a thing existing being a note that Michael made to himself. A note specifying future plans to work with either Warner Brothers or Universal. With, for understandable reasons, no mention of the Estate’s preferred partner of choice, Sony – a company that the man who Michael had fired, yet is now somehow at the helm of his Estate, has financial ties to. Most people leave their “roadmaps” in their wills. Though due to the unexplained anomaly that is Michael’s apparent ability to quantum leap in order to have signed the document, the contents of the will are inherently undermined.

However, Michael did indeed leave a roadmap behind.

Due to its presence on a posthumous poster, there is one quote from Michael that has become particularly prominent. It encapsulates his philosophy, one borne of hard-earned wisdom,

“If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.”

This must be the fans’ mantra.

Any ambitions of world peace involve every one of us moving forward, celebratory of our differences, but united.

This article includes edited extracts from The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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Brotherhood: An Article on Taj Jackson and his Heroism

During the AEG trial of 2013, the general fan consensus was of a watertight faith in a positive outcome for Michael’s mother and his children – it being seemingly inevitable that justice would prevail. The expectation to win was almost palpable. The facts, after all, were starkly evident.

However, upon AEG being backed into a corner by the terrible truth, they became a dangerous animal. Although wounded, the company possessed a great deal of power within the media; a power they were not afraid to wield. Thus commenced the first of several smear campaigns, the first one promulgated by AEG-affiliated UK tabloid newspaper The Mirror. The timing of the rehash of twenty-year old allegations was deemed “suspicious” by Michael’s 2005 attorney, Tom Mesereau. AEG stooges had to up the ante in their Public Relations war, hence the front-page tabloid frenzy. Oblivious as usual to fact-checking, and with the requisite attempt at maximum reputation assassination, the truth was that the tapes forming the foundation of this slandering had been discredited ten years ago: to the extent that they were dismissed as useless and baseless by investigators involved in the farcical 2005 trial.

In a barely-mustered effort to appear neutral, the tabloids then afforded a small article to Prince Jackson’s damning eyewitness testimony of AEG’s negligence in the care of his father; one that included a mention of his cousin’s testimony, incorporating what would normally be the earth-shattering comment that he believed Michael had been murdered.

These perennial reappearances to the forefront of the public eye returned once again in the 2014 historical allegations of anal rape. These accusations took us to a hitherto unmentioned level of bestiality, beyond the allegations of mutual masturbation and plying of alcohol to minors. The ante was upped because those previous ‘lesser’ accusations were discredited in a court of law. The maids quoted by tabloids in an attempt to lend credence to the stories had already been dismissed off-hand by the 2005 jury as “liars”. The loaded terminology of ‘anal rape’ was specifically chosen to leave an indelible smear on the psyche of those that heard it.

In an attempt to counteract such flagrant tabloid mendacity, Michael’s nephew Taj Jackson has twice now filed claims to ombudsman authorities. His first appeal was to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

However, when the Estate of Michael Jackson got wind of Taj’s efforts, they then filed their own complaint to the PCC. So, due to the Esate being considered the official point of reference for “all things Michael Jackson”, their appeal then superceded Taj’s, whose complaint then became all-but sabotaged.

Subsequently – as evidenced on the PCC’s public complaints logging system – the Estate neglected to respond to the PCC’s follow-up emails, and the case was dismissed.

Taj has also responded to the latest round of baseless tabloid slander. His initial counterfire included the Tweet:

“Dear media, before you print/post stories about my family, please consider & question the “credibility” and “agenda” of your $ource. Thanks”

Which was swiftly followed by:

“MJ Fam… I filed a complaint to the @IpsoNews on April 6th. Patiently waiting to hear back :-) #MJlegacy”

Furthermore, the Wade Robson accusation elicited a very personal and courageous defence of Michael by Taj, with it prompting him to publically announce himself as an abuse survivor. Taj revealed that he had been abused by a male relative on his mother’s side of the family, and that it was Michael who had helped him overcome the trauma of it.

During their heyday, I went to see 3T a number of times. My father was a photographer, which enabled him to acquire tickets for such events as Top Of The Pops Live, in which 3T would often perform. My younger sisters especially enjoyed this privilege, with them fully appreciating the toned abs that featured so prominently on their bedroom posters coming to life before their very eyes. As a fifteen-year-old boy, I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite as enthused – especially after having endured Peter Andre and Ronan Keating. However, the tangible pain inherent in 3T’s self-penned song ‘Anything’ (reputedly inspired by the grief of losing their mother), as well the tracks ‘Why’ and ‘I Need You’ in which Michael features so majestically (those adlibs!), combined with the fact that the brothers performed a Jackson 5 tribute in their live set, meant I couldn’t help but be a fan, as hard as my pubescent sensibilities tried.

These days, however, I accept my 3T fanhood with pride and honour.

Taj Jackson is a hero.

This article includes edited extracts from the First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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Defenders Assemble: A Call to Arms for Michael Jackson Fans

What with his having been the most famous man on the planet, the ripples of Michael’s crash-landing on Earth over fifty-five years ago continue to ruffle the leaves and pique the libido of tabloid media editors worldwide, and will long persist in doing so. Just as a murder of media crows circled our martyred Michael whilst he lay on his deathbed in hospital, so they continue to do so now – perched like vultures around their tabloid junkyard, perpetually alert to the possibility of picking at any scraps thrown from a carcass being ravaged by shameless opportunists. To whom, it has suddenly dawned upon that work opportunities have dried up, and financing the upbringing of their own children  – who have become accustomed to a particular standard of living – is going to prove expensive. Now that Michael is dead, these parasites feel no guilt in cashing in on their friendship with him, regardless of whatever nefarious means they are forced to employ. In the process, they put Michael’s children through hell.

All of us.

Michael understood that history is a weapon in the battle for objectivity. Indeed, this is precisely why he conceived the Remember The Time video – in an attempt to remind the world that there was a time when those in power were black.

Tempering the persistent attempts at undermining Michael’s importance as a culturally historical figure is an omnipresent motivational factor in the daily lives of fans.

The fable of Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of how decency is perennially ostracised by the cynicism of a society obsessed with superficiality. 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 went on to defy the odds by escaping poverty and using his sacrifice of self to influence and help transform the world into a better place.

Michael’s mission stalled when, after perceived provocations, he was arrested, and his character assassinated. How Michael’s message is interpreted is vitally important to humanity, considering the unique stature that lends itself to the totemic.

Michael always said it was his stature that made him such an easy target for the sheer volume and size of rocks that were thrown at him. But it is also this stature that enables his utilisation as a global symbol for love and peace. The attacks continue, of course. They will never let him rest in peace, which is why the fan community is so important. He rescued so many of our childhoods, and it’s our duty to protect and defend him in his death. It is us, the fans, who must defend against the apparently compulsory attacks undertaken by those happy to be pseudo-educated by sensationalist tabloid headlines and clickbait links.

Now. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get along in the fight against that?

The loyalty of Michael’s fans is akin to that within a family. A family such as the Jacksons themselves. Any large community is not only a reflection, but a macrocosm of the family condition, with the identifiable stereotypes that that contains: stoic matriarchs, scapegoated sons, reliable aunts, reclusive uncles, embarrassing patriarchs and vulnerable teenagers.

Out of this quagmire of inextricably linked characters and personality disorders emerges the ubiquitous backstabbing, name-calling and oneupmanship of human beings that know precisely which buttons to press in order to garner a reaction from their kin. What also emerges, however, is the unparalleled capacity for forgiveness, understanding and unwavering support in the face of cruel adversity. Such as being at your brother’s side throughout a gruelling trial in which he is accused of molesting children.

The Michael Jackson fan community is much less divided, as it is obliterated into smithereens; comprised, as it is, of as many factions as to rival the Christian church, with each cohort manipulating the belief system in a way to suit their specific requirements. And within a fanbase as vast as an artist such as Michael’s is, it is right and inevitable that these variations will exist.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to consider the idea that fans in the opposing corner might be motivated by love, is because that would suggest that their opinions must therefore have credence. Yet, those two issues are entirely unrelated. A great deal of arguing just assumes the hate-based motivations of the other side as standard. The strategy in such opining is rarely to change enemies’ perceptions. A project for change would surely be better advantaged by accepting the idea that those fans with opposing views also think of themselves as decent, loving people. When you believe your enemies are also galvanised by love, it must be more likely that a compromise can be reached. You don’t need to like your opponent – let alone acquiesce to their argument – in order to understand that they really like themselves, and that this liking of themselves probably means more to them than does their disliking of you.

Progress in resolving conflicts within the fan community will only come about when we all understand that the love each and every one of has for Michael is sincere, regardless of which pane of the prism we peer at him through. Michael effortlessly inspires sincerity.

As Michael sang, “This is our mission, to see it through / This is our planet, you’re one of us / “You’re just another part of me” – we’re just another part of each other, with Michael as a conduit.

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, with his common goal: to help heal the world. Those who project themselves onto Michael and see a monster are merely construing themselves. The only monster is the one interpreted. There is no evidential basis whatsoever for a belief in Michael as a monster. It was envy and extortionists that did that. As Michael sang, “The heart reveals the proof / Like a mirror reveals the truth.”

If I could wish for anything, it would be that everyone could perceive Michael the way we do, regardless of our political stance.

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, we can disregard our other differences. This is the true cause that unites the Michael Jackson fan community.

Indeed, if the success of a leader is measured by the loyalty of his followers, there is none stronger than Michael, regardless of which faction of fans you might represent. Michael refused to change direction with his beliefs. And we must remain just as unwavering in our defence of him. We must remain fortitudinous in the fulfilling of his mission: each of us taking pride in our position as a requisite speck of light on the peacock’s coalescent coat, in order that we contribute to its immortality. And that we do so – in triumph.

Love survives. It is forever. From the physical ecstasy married with the discovery of true love, to the spiritual repercussions found in a steadfast love that has matured, fortified and been vindicated by faith.

As Michael mused,

“Hope is such a beautiful word, but it often seems very fragile. Life is still being needlessly hurt and destroyed. Because I believe the answer to be faith; not hope.”

Yet, our stance on Michael’s message and his innocence is not about mere angles of moral perspective. It is about defending the reputation of an inordinately good man – in light of the facts, not faith.

We must incorporate arguments such as those contained within my book into Michael’s legacy. So that the truth and the love survives, regardless of the level of nefarious bombardment it has to endure. One of the main motivations for writing my book was to assist in ensuring that there is something out there, somewhere, that exposes not only the extent of Michael’s genius, but how he chose to utilise the success resulting from it with an intent of such purity. Michael’s legacy will endure to legend. The only question is what the myths entwined within that legend will entail. My book is an effort to balance the legend in Michael’s favour: ballast that counters the attempted promulgation of him as a monster, and promotes him as a prophet.

This article is comprised of edited extracts from The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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We Belong: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Fans

The Estate of Michael Jackson appear to be confused as to the process that funds their revenue streams. They seem to assume that Michael’s fans will naively bankroll the billion-dollar tax fine served upon them. A penalty levied as a result of their apparent ineptitude (as starkly unlikely as the excuse of incompetence may be, considering John Branca’s career success and pedigree).

Considering Michael’s deification of his fans – with his humble acceptance of it being our love that energised him, and his oft-repeated recognition of how essential to him our unwavering support was, in spite of the ad hominem vitriol we experienced – I’d even go so far as to say that Michael deserves fan representatives on the panel of the Estate. Fans should, naturally, be entirely involved with any decision-making when it comes to potentiating Michael’s artistic and personal reputation (not cynically utilised as gullible pawns, as they were in that abysmal ‘Behind The Mask’ promo drivel).

Of course, the current charlatanistic mercenaries at the helm of the Estate would never entertain such a concept. Though entertained by the notion they may well be, as they superciliously presume sufficient fortitude in their green paper thrones – usurped, ermine seats of ominous usury; intrinsically expecting that there exists enough terror-fuelled tenacity in said chairs to bear the weight of such flagrant, sprawling arrogance. Whilst they cough and guffaw upon costly cigars, and point with utter derision at the King of Pop’s contemptible mourning paupers.

They dismiss us; wave away our disgruntlement in the mistaken belief that we’re little more than an imbecilic throng of zealous lunatics – willing to buy anything with Michael’s name on it, regardless of quality control.

We need to unite. We need to demonstrate that this prejudice they possess is by no means the case.

Our community is larger than any other fandom – but this magnitude is both our strength and our weakness – due to its manifesting so many distinct factions. Though this happening is nothing more than an inevitable consequence of the machinations that drive human nature – in particular, the intrinsic need we feel to belong. This, combined with the vast spectrum of individuals that Michael’s oracular genius managed to reach.

The time has arrived for fans, as a collective, to overcome our trivial differences, and instead, discern our mutually agreed core issues. And stick stoically to them. After all – perhaps more than any other community – we are trained experts at steadfast support. We are comprised of doctors, lawyers, artists and journalists. We have torrents of talent; lakes of intellect. But more than this, we are a deep, deep pool of immutable, pure passion – replete as a result of myriad individual lifetimes spent dedicated to indomitable loyalty.

The memory of Michael cannot be tainted or bastardised anymore. We cannot afford to negligently allow the miscarriage of the pregnant potential inherent in Michael’s unrivalled fame. Certainly not because of pettiness and a stubbornness to build bridges.

To do so would be a tragedy, in the sincerest sense of the word.

Two fundamental issues I’m convinced we can all reach consensus on, are the continuous defence of Michael against the slanderous perception of his having been a danger to children (as we all know, the polarity is the actuality), and that his sacrosanct canon of work must be handled with a diamond-encrusted glove – that is, with the relevantly exalted reverence it deserves due to its unique beauty. Particularly with regards its unprecedented potential for shaping the world into a better place, through its inspired intention for peace amongst humanity.

We all feel the need to belong. And we all do. We are blessed to belong to Michael. We must do the regency of his memory proud – by working together to prevent the denigration of his legacy at the expense of corporate greed.

 

The themes in this article concerning why Michael’s fans are so easily and so often branded as lunatics, and what the responsibilities of Michael’s fans and Estate might be, are explored in more depth in my book, The First Book of Michael.

Available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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Frozen In Time: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Next Generation

In The First Book of Michael, I write how

“…barely a Disney or Dreamworks animation goes by without the obligatory inclusion of the film’s characters performing the ‘Thriller’ choreography as part of the DVD extras.”

And – true to form – the same applies to the most recent Disney phenomenon, ‘Frozen’.

As a matter of personal principle, my children have limited access to all types of media. Nevertheless, via everyday conversation with their peers, and through the unsolicited deluge that is the gratuity of commercialism we are all naively exposed to, my daughters have become veritable connoisseurs of the characters, the songs and the storyline of said movie – in spite of them never having actually seen it.

Any parent of preschool children will duly confirm how inescapable this phenomenon has been.

Any parent of preschool children will also empathise with how mutable principles become, as they watch their children sitting on the couch, interminably scratching at their chicken pox.

However, not every parent will have been so easy to manipulate as I was when my daughters managed to persuade me that – apart from the traditional treatment of calamine they already strongly emanated of – the only other recognised pacifier for chicken pox known to mankind was the song ‘Let It Go’.

And not, they insisted, the version sang by me.

I refused to acquiesce to their demands. But I compromised.

I put on some Michael Jackson.

Of course, they’d seen Michael’s videos before, and heard his music many times – he’s the sole soundtrack to any journeys in the car. But such is the terror of chicken pox – and with my daughters becoming increasingly adamant, with each video played, that Michael’s work was also a tried-and tested panacea for the condition – we ended up having a Michael video binge.

The elder daughter had contracted the dreaded pox first, which meant that she was basically now over it. However, having been the recipient of the initial wave of neurotic parental nurturing, she assumed a war-veteran sense of experience, and ergo, an entitlement to belittle the ongoing suffering of her three-year-old younger sister. Any time the younger complained about her sickness, the older would immediately tell her that she wasn’t as poorly as she, had been the week before.

As the ‘Smooth Criminal’ short film played, my younger daughter, feeling somewhat put-out after having stoically managed days of this perpetual undermining of her illness by her elder sister,  responded to the song’s refrain, “Annie, are you okay?” by shouting defiantly at the monitor screen with the words, “No, Michael! I’m not okay! I’ve got chicken pox!”

And her name isn’t even Annie.

There was a fascinating instance as the girls were watching the short film, when, during the segment in which the young character Zeke is dancing outside Club 30’s, after claiming he taught Michael “everything he knows”, my elder daughter told the younger, “that’s Michael.”

The younger acknowledged this information with no concern whatsoever for race or chronology. They simply, indiscriminately accepted that the black child representing a young Michael Jackson, dancing outside the place in which the adult, physically dissimilar Michael Jackson was simultaneously performing, were one and the same person.

A generation of people will grow into adults that retain this same lack of prejudice. This is the pregnant power that Michael’s legacy contains. It simply cannot be overstated how culturally significant Michael’s life was. The uniqueness of the trajectory it followed, with its Truman-esque documentation and synonymous sacrifice, combined with the benefit of hindsight and the distance of history, will mean that the destiny of Michael Jackson’s very existence will ultimately become one that is universally, exponentially exalted.

As we continued to watch ‘Smooth Criminal’, I found myself flagrantly boasting about how I could dance like Michael. After the girls requested I gave this claim credence by demonstrating ‘The Lean’, the subject of Michael being magic then came up.

I quickly diverted their attention to the subsequent YouTube offering that began to play. After all – what better demonstration of Michael’s magic than ‘Earth Song’, in which Michael summons the divine to reorder time, so as to rejuvenate the hopeless war-torn, and resurrect massacred elephants?

“Why is Michael making mud pies?” they enquired.

I decided it was perhaps more age-appropriate to show some less-abstract Michael-magic. Remember The Time seemed the obvious choice.

And I managed to avoid spoiling the ambience of the piece – captivated as the girls were – by resisting the temptation to provide a running commentary on the profound subtleties and political nuances contained within it.

But therein lies its genius.

The oracular Michael Jackson consciously captures young hearts through the medium of pure entertainment. He stokes their curiosity to hold their attention for long enough, so that over time, those awestruck feelings evoked by witnessing Michael disintegrate into golden sand, mature into critical thinking – into thoughts that question why the protagonists for the Remember The Time short film are exclusively black, and why the story’s narrative concerns black royalty, when the school history books are practically devoid of such information.

Michael knew that he was playing the long-game. That the extent of his unprecedented fame carried an inevitable longevity meaning his art would continue to be interpreted for millennia to come.

We couldn’t quite escape ‘Frozen’, though. That golden sand I just mentioned?

“Actually, daddy – that’s ice.”

 

For an in-depth exploration into the art of Michael Jackson and its cultural significance, get a copy of my book, The First Book of Michael.

Available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

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Happy Mother’s Day: An Article on Katherine Jackson

There’s a system of belief in which the idea is promoted that human beings, in-between our earthly existences, gather together with all the souls we are bound to encounter in our next corporeal adventure. The night of August 28th, 1958 must have been quite the event.

The subsequent day, Katherine Jackson gave birth to her eighth child. Another boy. Her mother suggested she named him ‘Ronald’.  Katherine – thankfully – ignored that, and opted for ‘Michael’ – after the patron saint of soldiers. A name that means “Who is like God”.

With typical tenacity, Katherine Jackson is refusing to bow to the injustice of the original verdict of the AEG Live Trial.

The trajectory fans followed in the preparation for the This Is It concerts was a familiar one: journeying as we did from the press conference, to the excitement of hearing reports from fans listening to rehearsals, to watching him starve with stress in front of our eyes, fans telling Michael it wasn’t worth it – to stop putting himself under all that pressure.

As had become the pattern, we accompanied the man on his rise to an angelic apex, before descending alongside him in his fall from grace.

And this time he died.

The trial was an attempt by Katherine and Michael’s children to uncover the truth as to why and how this happened. It saw Michael’s elderly mother having to once again defend her family from an onslaught of unwarranted abuse. She is a stoic woman. Not only is this a woman who has given birth ten times, she is also someone who has managed to cope with the grief of losing two of these children.

But the AEG trial was the first time the octogenarian had been in court every day as a plaintiff. The previous occasion in which Katherine had attended court every day was in 2005, as a supporter of her son the defendant: throughout which, she remained composed and gracious in her stolid knowledge of the truth. Yet the salacious details Katherine had to endure through the AEG trial put even the 2005 accusations in the shade. The pornographic details describing her son’s physical and mental demise towards death evoked painfully evident tears, both for justice and remorse. Her recounting the moment she learned Michael had died was nothing short of harrowing, “everything went dark, and I just heard screaming.”

Katherine regaled many intimate details to the AEG court – of which, she was the veritable queen – including such anecdotes as the sleeping arrangements of the poverty-stricken Jackson 5: a triple bunk bed – Jackie on his own in one, with the other four brothers sharing the other two. (Perhaps Jackie smelled a bit.)

In the opening of the AEG case, the defence threatened “we’re going to show some ugly stuff.” Katherine’s lawyer, Mr. Panish asked her, “And how does it make you feel to hear that they’re going to tell everyone that your son is a bad person?” To which she replied, “Makes me feel real bad, because I know my son was a very good person. He loved everybody. He gave to charity. He’s in the Guinness book of records for giving the most to charity of all the pop stars. I’m so nervous. I’m sorry.”

Panish also asked, “And why is it that you’re here to testify today?” Katherine replied, “Because I want to know what really happened to my son, and that’s why I’m here.”

Thirty years ago, on Katherine’s 54th birthday, Michael performed his mother’s favourite song for her:

Such immense love between a mother and son. The poetry Michael wrote for her; the album dedications; even the iconic song, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ – written for Katherine after she’d requested a song with a shuffling rhythm. As Michael himself said,

“All my success has been based on the fact that I wanted to make my mother proud, to win her smile and approval.”

Michael’s adoration of his own mother is well documented, but in the foreword he contributed to a recipe book, he reveals an appreciation for the magical nature of motherhood in general:

“Remember when you were little and your mother made a pie for you? When she cut a slice and put it on your plate, she was giving you a bit of herself, in the form of her love. She made you feel safe and wanted. She made your hunger go away, and when you were full and satisfied, everything seemed all right… You may think that your apple pie has only sugar and spice in it. A child is wiser… with the first bite, he knows that this special dish is the essence of your love.”

Maybe at that pre-terrestrial meeting the night before Michael’s birth, Michael signed up for a corporeal life of sacrifice: that he courageously adopted the responsibility of being a messenger to attempt to guide humanity along a more peaceful path. Mothers that have faith in their children ultimately see their faith qualified. Katherine had every faith in Michael, and the qualification is there for all to see.

Happy Mother’s Day, Katherine Jackson.

The world is forever indebted to your strength.

 

This article includes edited extracts from the First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

On March 11, I appeared on the King Jordan radio talk show to discuss the book. Here is the YouTube video edit of the interview:

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Atlas: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Earth Song

Michael’s hit ‘Earth Song’ was at number one for seven weeks in the UK, including the much-sought after and contested position of Christmas Number One. It became his biggest-selling UK single.

The song was included on the HIStory album, which was much-maligned by a malicious press hell-bent on undermining Michael after the 1993 allegations. Michael chose to include ‘Earth Song’ on the HIStory album in spite of the inevitability of a cynical media reaction. Michael had faith that the ordinary people of the world cared about Mother Nature as much as he did. An instinct that was proven to be irrevocably correct.

Michael was dismissed as having a mindset far too disparate from the common man, what with most of his life having been one of financial security (as hard-earned as that was, and as mercilessly as that financial wealth was ultimately leached from him). Yet, the sensitivity Michael had for humanity, a congenital one galvanised by his unique position of having encountered more people than anyone else in history, meant that he felt the plight of the common man as intensely as anyone could.

Following the Brits ‘96 performance of ‘Earth Song’, fellow philanthropist Sir Bob Geldof introduced Michael to the stage, so that he could receive what Geldof described as the “one-off – like the man himself” Artist of a Generation award (albeit, “…what generation?” Geldof enquired, “…at least three have been listening to him already”). Geldof welcomed Michael using these words,

“…the most famous person on the planet, God help him… When Michael Jackson sings it is with the voice of angels. And when his feet move, you can see God dancing…”

Michael promoted ‘Earth Song’ with appearances on shows all over Europe, utilising notoriously provocative Christ-like imagery (most notably during his turn at the Brits ’96 – recently voted the greatest Brits performance of all time). As an erudite human being brought up in a Christian household, it’s impossible to consider that parallels between himself and Jesus Christ did not occur to him. Nevertheless, and much to his critical detriment, Michael decided to explicitly market Christ’s message to a vacuous capitalist society.

The controversy the performances evoked, with the consequential publicity, ensured Michael’s message of concern for the environment was relayed to as many people as possible.

The day after Jarvis Cocker’s infamous stage invasion of Michael’s performance of ‘Earth Song’ at The Brits ‘96, one newspaper headline read, “The Night Our Young Dreams Were Pulped”.

This surprising message of media support for Michael was ephemeral, however. Once it had been noted that young and trendy Brits were not in agreement with the media stance, the backlash began. The following week, Cocker was interviewed on cult TV programme, TFI Friday. The programme contained a live audience of young adults, who mocked Michael and championed Cocker throughout. The host, Chris Evans, concluded the interview with the words, “We all support you and know it was just a bit of a laugh.”

What it actually was, was a cultural watershed: a paradigm shift in the morality of a generation. Those children who had grown up entranced by Michael transforming into cars and robots in an effort to defeat a drug baron, suddenly became ‘Cool Britannia’ Blairites. But it was okay. At least they were all ‘Sorted for E’s and Wizz’.

(Never mind that Cocker’s finale at the conclusion to his band’s appearance on the show involved him ascending from the stage.)

The performance of ‘Earth Song’ on the ensuing HIStory tour made away with the religious iconography, though remained controversial. It is one particular set-piece of the HIStory tour that critics disdainfully discuss. At the conclusion to the song, Michael stands – Tiananmen Square-style – in front of an encroaching tank, before facing off the disembarked soldier, removing his gun, and replacing it with a sunflower: a gesture clearly referencing the iconic photograph of Jan Rose Kasmir at an anti-Vietnam war rally at the Pentagon, in 1967.

Michael chose to kick off the HIStory tour in the recently democratised countries of Eastern Europe. The significance of these visual symbols for the audiences, considering the contemporaneous events of that region, cannot be understated.

What people overlook, is that Michael – with his being a uniquely global figure – had to communicate his message without having to rely on spoken language. Something he did through creating dramatic, easily-interpreted visual statements. Michael wasn’t about to let the slight inconvenience of 6,500 extant languages become an obstacle in his mission for peace. The ‘Earth Song’ performance is the ‘Heal The World’ lyric, “turn their swords into ploughshares” made manifest. This Biblical concept formed part of the practical solution in the fulfilment of Michael’s dream: a common-sense notion as old as time, yet perpetually dismissed by greedy and fearful governments across the globe.

‘Earth Song’ in itself isn’t exactly devoid of ingenious musical and linguistic nuances – what with the chorus itself being a plaintive cry for the plight of the planet and her “weeping shores”. As well as its unmistakable melody, of course. Michael always said that melody is king, that melodies remain eternally unique, and are what people will still whistle in a hundred years’ time, regardless of progressions in technology and future production techniques. Melody knows no language barrier.

I remember a discussion I once had with a friend in 1993, when I was a teenager. The friend asked me if I thought Michael had written his best song yet, to which I replied that I didn’t believe he had. I explained that I imagined his best was to come, because the grief he would feel when his mother died would stir in him an artistic expression at a level we hadn’t hitherto witnessed. He wouldn’t be able to help but write a song about it. As an artist – to try and manage the situation – it’s what he would have had to do. Of course, Michael didn’t live long enough to write that song about the bereavement of his mother. Though his sadness at the self-destructive nature of humanity towards Mother Nature provided us with an equivalent. It was a sad day indeed when Michael Jackson, of all people, was moved to record the words, “I used to dream / I used to glance beyond the stars / Now I don’t know where we are / Although I know / We’ve drifted far”.

The last time I saw Michael perform live was at the 1999 charity show Michael Jackson and Friends. (The event was subtitled ‘What More Can I Give’ after a song Michael had written before recording with a celebrity supergroup – the song was scuppered by Sony.) During the event’s rendition of ‘Earth Song’, the front part of the stage was elevated to create what Michael himself had titled ‘The Bridge of No Return’. No return, indeed. The dramatic prop suddenly and swiftly collapsed, falling into the orchestra pit. But being the consummate professional he was, Michael spontaneously leapt from the debris to continue performing.

The last performance Michael ever made of ‘Earth Song’ was his last performance ever – 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?”

Though it is not only humankind that Michael laments for in the track.

The proposed This Is It concerts were heavily themed on environmental conservation, with a 3D reimagining of ‘Earth Song’ being created, which incorporated an impassioned voiceover from Michael, in which with palpable sincerity, he says,

“This is why I write these kinds of songs – to give some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I love, I love the planet! I love trees, l have this thing for trees – and the colours and changing of leaves. I love it!  I respect those kinds of things.”

Included in the subsequent posthumous This Is It album was a recording of Michael reading the poem ‘Planet Earth’ from his book Dancing The Dream, the words to which reinforce the idea of his relationship with Mother Nature being an exalted one, and of the gravity of his assumed responsibility for Her welfare being analogous to the position of the Greek God Atlas:

“You are my sweetheart gentle and blue
Do you care, have you a part
In the deepest emotions of my own heart
Tender with breezes caressing and whole
Alive with music, haunting my soul.
Planet Earth, gentle and blue
With all my heart, I love you.”

Michael had mastered the soulful evocation of romantic love by the time he was a teenager. It’s no wonder he evolved to write love letters to planet Earth.

I recently recorded an interview for an exciting new project for the Michael Jackson fan community. Podcasts concerning Michael are few and far between, so the creation of The MJCast (www.themjcast.com) is an important development that fills a niche woefully underrepresented. The conversation I had with the hosts was the inspiration for this blog post, as they asked me what I believed to be the most positive thing to have happened since Michael’s passing, as well as what I consider fans’ responsibilities to be in representing Michael’s legacy, and what I think the most important lesson that people could learn from Michael and his life is.

My answer for all three questions concerned Michael’s unprecedented humanitarianism. The importance Michael placed on this aspect of his life and career is intrinsic to the human being he was. It is why I chose the registered charity Michael Jackson’s Legacy (www.michaeljacksonslegacy.org) to be the recipient of a percentage of the proceeds from my book, The First Book of Michael.

After the charity’s phenomenal success in raising the money to build a school in Haiti – in Michael’s name – their new project is focussed on working alongside the International Elephant Foundation. In doing so, they aim to assist in the conservation of an animal totemic in its status for environmental protection, an animal of emotional intelligence that Michael identified with and was an advocate for. “What about elephants?” we heard Michael implore in ‘Earth Song’. And “The elephant is dying!” Michael incongruously exclaims in the intro to ‘Whatzupwitu’, his 1993 duet with Eddie Murphy.

Michael often said that he had to possess ‘rhinoceros skin’ in order to remain unaffected by the perpetual media-bashing he was the victim of. However, I’ve often thought that the elephant – the less-grumpy, more-gentle of the pachyderms – would perhaps have been a better metaphor.

In a further piece from his book Dancing The Dream, entitled ‘So the Elephants March’, Michael discusses the curious phenomenon of how in order to survive, elephants must stay upright.

As fans, we must similarly persist in standing proud and tall in defence of our hero’s true legacy.

 

This article includes edited extracts from the First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

On March 11, 9:30 EST, I will appearing on the King Jordan radio talk show to discuss the book. For details, please go here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/jordan-king

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Certain Powers: An Article on The First Book of Michael

Those that have read The First Book of Michael, will have been left in no doubt concerning my sincere and genuine love and respect for Michael Jackson.

It is starkly, blindingly evident.

These many fans, unfettered by the mendacity propagated to try and undermine my tribute to Michael, have unanimously bestowed the book with positivity and praise. Not least due to its attempt to unify the Michael Jackson fan community. A community tragically fractured; with the inherent tragedy being the knowledge that – unified – we could help realise the manifestation of Michael’s dreams. The intention of the attempted lynching of my work was to divide and conquer.

With the launch of The First Book of Michael came a vicious attempt at undermining a piece of work I had sacrificed a great deal for. Such was the influence of those that ruthlessly disseminated the malicious lies about the tribute I worked tirelessly on, the message in the book became nullified. Parts of the book evoke dangerous questions that are unsettling to certain powers.

Why should those who have not read The First Book of Michael opt to ignore the insidious campaign waged against my heartfelt testimony to our hero -a targeted operation of egregious, slanderous accusations; a witch-hunt that utilised images of my pre-school aged children?

The reason is because you are a Michael Jackson fan. And in being such, are clearly aware of your privilege at having been blessed by Michael’s majesty, and therefore naturally appreciate that such underhanded tactics are of the ilk Michael himself suffered: the wanton, audacious promulgation of misinformation.

My book is – at heart – a love letter of gratitude to Michael Jackson, thanking him for providing me with a lifetime of guidance and support. And, as Michael’s confidante of three decades, Karen Faye, writes in the foreword to the book,

“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.”

The cover image was provided as a gift from Michael’s official photographer, Harrison Funk.

These people are friends of mine, and they were friends of Michael’s. They have been so generous in their endorsements of my book because they intrinsically understand that I love Michael entirely, and am striving to do my best for him and his legacy.

Central to the smear campaign was the suggestion that I am a recent, fair-weather fan of Michael’s. In contention, I’d like to offer evidence to the contrary:

These are two articles I wrote for MJNI’s KING! Magazine in 1997:

kingarticlekingarticle1

I travelled across Europe and saw Michael nine times in concert. This is a picture of a sixteen-year-old me attending the first concert of the HIStory Tour in Prague, 1996:

This is a song I wrote for Michael:

 fb.me/78VleoK4P 

When Michael was found innocent, I ran into the streets and wailed in ecstasy. When Michael died, I wandered the streets, bereft and lost.

I am donating a percentage of profits from sales of the book to the registered charity Michael Jackson’s Legacy (http://www.michaeljacksonslegacy.org), who carry out inspiring work building schools in disadvantaged parts of the world.

This is precisely what I perceive Michael’s legacy to be, and I am extremely proud to be in a position to be able to assist them.

In an attempt to address some of the slanderous accusations made against me and my work, I am appearing on the King Jordan radio show on March 11, 9:30 EST. To join the group event, please go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1010792482268270/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

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I feel humbled to be appearing on the same show that the legendary Mr. Thomas Mesereau regularly features on.

All I ask is that people come to informed conclusions regarding my love and respect for Michael.

To order a paperback copy of The First Book of Michael, go here: https://www.createspace.com/5303207 The digital copy can be purchased on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Book-Michael-Mortilla-ebook/dp/B00SM2ULU2 or for all other eBook devices, from here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371

Go here to watch the commercial for The First Book of Michael: 

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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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