A Cold Man: An Article on the Death of Michael Jackson’s Arch-Nemesis

It’s perhaps fitting that at the hour of Tom Sneddon’s death, many people across the world were continuing to celebrate the festival of Halloween – the time of year when many people believe that the boundary between the physical and the psychical realm is at its most permeable. Michael’s song Thriller and its accompanying short film are synonymous with the mischief of October 31st, its hand-in-glove theme and phenomenal success resulting in it now being universally accepted as the official anthem for the holiday. The echelons of fame that Thriller vaulted Michael into contained two major drawbacks for him. Firstly, that he would forever be shackled with the impossible task of striving to improve upon the album’s unprecedented commercial achievements; and secondly, that becoming the most famous person alive meant that the bounty on his head suddenly became dangerously high. Especially after his being shrewd and audacious enough to invest his capital into the white man’s game of music publishing. A very young and uniquely influential black man suddenly became perceived by the establishment as one who was getting disconcertingly above his station.

The monster that is Thriller means that Michael’s other macabre magnum opus – Ghosts – is often overshadowed by its older, colossal cousin. Nevertheless, Halloween does present a cobwebbed window of opportunity for the less well-known of the two short films to shine. And although the Thriller choreography may well be iconic, in comparison with the sophistication of its kindred cinematic spirit, its artistic significance has the mere pallor of the dead. Ghosts is not only a spectacular visual and sonic treat – it is also politically-charged and multi-layered in its themes. Part of the choreography evokes the image of a hanging man.

Michael conceived Ghosts as a response to the 1993 child molestation allegations. In the film, Michael mutates into a ghost, a skeleton, a demon, an oppressive village mayor, and a demonically possessed version of this mayor. The character played by George Wendt in the Black Or White video of 1991, meant we had already encountered one fat, white embodiment (and a substantial body at that) of the reactionary, radical capitalist mentality of Bible Belt (and a substantial belt at that) America. The mayor in Ghosts was borne of a rather more specific muse, however: the late District Attorney Tom Sneddon.

The first inklings of political nuances in Michael’s self-penned work began with the track ‘Beat It’ from Thriller. The political references are necessarily subtle – yet once you have interpreted the lyrics to ‘Beat It’ as concerning nothing less than the narrative of a lynching, it’s hard to imagine the song as being about anything else. Consider the line “Don’t wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man” as a simple reworking of the famous Malcolm X quote, “I ain’t a boy! I’m a man!” Michael sampled Malcolm X for his 1995 track ‘HIStory.’ Consider that “The fire’s in their eyes.”

In ‘D.S.’ – the HIStory album diatribe ditty directed towards Tom Sneddon – Michael labels Sneddon a ‘BSTA’. This could be construed as an insinuation of the word ‘bastard’, but certainly as a play on the acronym ‘SBDA’, or ‘Santa Barbara District Attorney’. The repetitive occultist chant that forms both the chorus as well as the denouement to the track dictates that “Tom Sneddon is a cold man”. This mantra is finally terminated by the sound of a gunshot being fired. The start of the song features the unsettling sound of an angry, id-driven baby’s cry.

Michael understood that millions of people around the globe would be chanting along with him to the chorus of ‘D.S’ – with him even taking the unusual step of including the track on the HIStory tour set-list. Michael had never before performed such an obscure album number on tour, but he brought out ‘D.S.’ to doubly ensure a communal chant of the ritualistic incantation. The song is shamelessly lip-synced, with Michael at one point handing over the microphone to a backing singer who is wearing an executioner’s mask that completely covers his mouth. One desire of the 1993 extortionists was that Michael would “never sell another record.” Michael was touring the world, performing in front of the largest crowds of his career, promoting the biggest selling double album of all time.

Sneddon had cynically and relentlessly attempted to systematically annihilate Michael. It was Sneddon’s turn to be scared.

Tom Sneddon had written to the FBI asking them to convict Michael under the Mann Act – a law created in 1910 used to entrap boxer Jack Johnson in 1912 for what are now regarded as racially-motivated reasons. In spite of the LAPD having been enthusiastic about this line of enquiry in their pursuit of Michael, the FBI disagreed. Following his failure to bring Michael to trial as a result of the 1993 Chandler case, an unperturbed – or perhaps simply incensed – Sneddon then oversaw a successful change in the law that enabled him to resume his baseless chasing of Michael in 2005.

As part of this second wave of allegations, Neverland was stormed and ransacked. It was a strange, entirely fruitless act that involved hitherto unseen levels of scrutiny, undertaken by the ominous luminosity of metaphorical burning crosses; mob-rule insisting that the ‘freak circus freak’ left the village. Michael had portentously referenced these events in Ghosts. And the last thing organised racists would do after carrying out a lynching such as that alluded to in the ‘Beat It’ lyrics? Seize the property of the lynched.

It’s important not to elevate Sneddon as anything more than a footnote in the epic cultural event that was the life and career of Michael. However, it’s an unfortunate and inescapable truth that the emotional agony suffered by Michael at the hands of the insidious Sneddon is what exacerbated the painkiller dependency that ultimately killed him.

There were many facets to Sneddon’s malice: he was the relentless motor obsessed with maintaining the norm, repulsed by the myriad things his pitiful close-mindedness couldn’t begin to comprehend; to Michael’s celebration of imagination, Sneddon was the equivalent of the rote-learning of dead facts; to Michael’s revelry in the ecstasy and infinity of rhythm, life and creation, Sneddon was the monotony of a drone engine seeking to destroy innocence.

And it was this engine that powered Sneddon’s indefatigable, merciless hunt of Michael for over a decade. This trait of irrational tenacity was such an innate one of his, that it earned him the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ – a sobriquet Michael refers to with audible glee as he spits the words “Go’on you dawg, down boy!” during the adlibs of ‘D.S.’

Rest in peace, Michael. The dog has been put down.

Seven Inches In: An Article on Michael Jackson and Women

The theme of the femme fatale is a prominent one in Michael’s work; something that has led to accusations of his being misogynistic. This is a somewhat myopic perspective, as well as one easily discredited.  Fundamentally – after all – the very idea of the femme fatale is one that acknowledges the power that women can wield.

During the 1984 Grammy’s – when Michael won an unprecedented eight awards – upon his acceptance of one of the gongs, there is a moment when Quincy Jones whispers in Michael’s ear. Instantly, Michael turns back to the microphone and gives a shout-out to “the girls in the balcony”. Later on in the ceremony – when Michael once again returns to the podium to collect another prize – Michael jokes about having made a deal with himself to remove his aviators if he went on to break the record for the number of Grammy’s won in a single night. In what seems to be an afterthought, after taking off his glasses, Michael also dedicates the gesture to “the girls at the back.”

Michael’s companions that night were Brooke Shields and Emmanuel Lewis. Candid backstage footage of the event that was recently made public shows Michael, Brooke and Emmanuel in an elevator. Whilst the three are hidden from public view, Brooke is essentially ignored at the expense of Emmanuel. Though as soon as the elevator doors open, Michael once again takes Brooke’s arm.

Michael’s behaviour in the footage is certainly susceptible to close-minded and cynical judgement. However, it is important to bear in mind that at this juncture in Michael’s life, it seems he purposely curtailed the gratification of his libido in an effort to concentrate on his primary focus – his galvanised career. Also – and by no means less significantly – Michael’s apparent disinterest in sex at this point was perhaps a consequence of his uniquely peculiar upbringing: one that had left him hesitant with regards to such matters. What with the mystifying messages that had bombarded his maturing psyche: the bewilderment of being torn between a profound loyalty to his venerated stay-at-home mother and her deeply religious views, and the negative contrast of a dedication to a life on the road in which witnessing behaviour of sexual immorality was par-for-course. Michael’s repulsion at the disrespect for his mother and in the treatment of groupies at the hands of his father, lends further support for his love of women in its own right.

Besides, Brooke and Michael remained close, regardless. In words disclosed by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Michael rues the day that Brooke attempted to get amorous with him, but he was too nervous to indulge:

“I sincerely liked Brooke, I liked her a lot. She was one of the loves of my life… I was at the Academy Awards with Diana Ross and she just came up to me and said: ‘Hi, I’m Brooke Shields. Are you going to the after party?’ I said: ‘Yeah’ and I just melted. So we get to the party and she says: ‘Would you dance with me?’ And we went on the dance floor. And man, we exchanged numbers and I was up all night, spinning around in my room, just happy. She was classy. We had one encounter when she got real intimate and I chickened out. And I shouldn’t have”

Michael’s friendship with Brooke survived longer than his relationship with Emmanuel did; with her being regularly seen accompanying Michael in the ensuing years. Similarly, once Michael’s marriage with Lisa Marie Presley was over, they remained on good terms – with Lisa Marie frequently flying out to see Michael all over the world whilst he was on the road with the HIStory tour.

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.”

Michael intentionally chose a female guitarist to tour with him, with Jennifer Batten remaining a tour stalwart of his for a decade. There are a gamut of nuances in Michael’s on-stage relationship with Jennifer that, due to their subtleties, perhaps offer a more genuine level of evidence for Michael’s intrinsic respect for women than can be found anywhere else. In the ‘Dirty Diana’ performance during one of the Wembley Bad tour shows, guest guitarist Steve Stevens – the guitarist on the record – is given “time to shine” (to use Michael’s expression when he is emboldening This Is It guitarist, Orianthi – incidentally, another guitarist specifically chosen with the intent of subverting gender stereotypes and making a statement in support of women). Yet, Michael is still seen at pains to ensure that the crowd recognise Jennifer’s contribution as well as the guest performer’s.

Jennifer herself gets her own “time to shine” during the sonically incongruous guitar solo she is gifted with for ‘Working Day And Night’. The incongruity throws extra spotlight on Michael’s unorthodox decision to employ the services of a woman in the role.

This mutual fondness between Michael and Jennifer can also be seen in footage of the ‘Beat It’ solo during the Copenhagen HIStory tour show. At its denouement, Michael seems slightly out of sorts, and as Jennifer exits stage-left and Michael gives her an affirmative pat of gratitude, Jennifer responds by providing Michael with a reassuring nudge. A nightly-repeated dance move of Michael’s during the ‘Beat It’ solo was a crouched toe-stand, the successful conclusion for which – in order to maintain his centre of balance – meant having to hold Jennifer’s leg for support.

In songs inspired by Jackson family dynamics, such as ‘Superfly Sister’ and ‘Monkey Business’, Michael laments some of the actions of certain members of his family. In the words to the latter track, Michael bemoans the loose morals of the male members of his family, singing,

“Your brother’s gone and kissed/ The mother-in-law / I might tell dad about what I saw / Your brother didn’t make a nickel or dime.”

Michael’s propensity for generalising a theme in order to appeal to a larger audience – such as in ‘Leave Me Alone’ – was second to none. But in ‘Monkey Business’ the glove is well and truly off, with the intended recipients of the message being perfectly clear. And although Michael switches between third and first person perspectives, in an effort to afford him the liberty of ambiguity – and therefore seeming less direct in his accusations – the subject matter of taking his family’s indiscretions to task remain a courageous choice of his. The lyric “I might tell dad about what I saw” is instantly endearing in its childlikeness, and reveals a great deal about this facet of Michael’s personality.

Though the song ‘Superfly Sister’ is in itself a direct rebuttal of sexist attitudes – a judgement on the superficial rating of women by men, with its repeated refrain reminding us that, “Push it in, stick it out / That ain’t what it’s all about” – in said track, Michael does not hold back in discriminating from highlighting his disappointment with some of the lifestyle choices of his siblings, regardless of their gender. As he sings,

“Susie like to agitate / Get the boy and make him wait / Mother’s preaching Abraham / Brothers they don’t give a damn.”

Michael’s love for his sisters was, nevertheless, very evident. He produced music with all three of his sisters, even giving the Bad album outtake ‘Fly Away’ to his eldest sister, Rebbie, for her 1998 album Yours Faithfully, as well as writing the track ‘Centipede’ for her.

In the 1983 Unauthorised interview undertaken with LaToya, the effortless repartee between Michael and his sibling is there for all to see. In an interview a decade later, Oprah Winfrey asks Michael if he has read LaToya’s ‘tell-all’ autobiography – to which he responds that he hasn’t, because he doesn’t need to as he understands LaToya’s true heart. It was this rational attitude that enabled Michael to forgive the misguided comments made by LaToya during the media frenzy of 1993. Michael understood that the essence of his sister was one of vulnerability, and that she had become a coerced and powerless victim of egregious abuse. This trait of vulnerability being a familial one – that would eventually contribute to Michael’s ultimate demise.

Janet’s steadfast backing of Michael throughout his tribulations is legendary. Not only did she team up with Michael to duet with him on his post-allegations comeback single, ‘Scream’, but also – with total disregard for the contemporaneous status of her career being at its zenith – chose to join Michael on stage to receive the song’s 1995 MTV Video Music Award for ‘Best Dance Video’. Furthermore, not being content with the constraints of the effusive praise she could vocally shower upon Michael as part of her stolid advocating of him, she brazenly wore a t-shirt bearing the words ‘PERVERT 2’ emblazoned across its back. You smear Michael, you smear Janet – was the very direct message.

One of Michael’s later femme fatale works was ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’. The imagery of “She stuck seven inches in” and “Since you seduced her / How does it feel / To know that woman / Is out to kill” was interpreted by some commentators as a sexist reference to promiscuous women and their role in the spread of HIV/AIDS – an idea immediately rebuffed by Michael. It would be disingenuous of me – considering my stance on the criminal ubiquity of the discrediting of the nuances in Michael’s art – to dismiss this interpretation outright. But one need only look to ‘Smooth Criminal’ or ‘Little Susie’ for evidence of Michael’s penchant for a dark lyrical narrative. Though both of those examples are comprised of tales depicting Michael’s concern for their female protagonists.

This concern is also apparent in Michael’s songs that feature prostitutes as their central characters. Michael empathises with the plight of the ‘streetwalker’, and makes an effort to expose the reasons for their finding themselves in such desperate circumstances. The narratives of ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are’ and ‘Hollywood Tonight’ both involve girls having to resort to prostitution in order to survive.

The Dangerous campaign became an all-out attack to convince anyone sceptical about Michael’s heterosexuality. The ‘Give In To Me’ and ‘Who Is It’ videos are loaded with sexual connotations, and the ‘Remember The Time’ video – to great chatter at the time – featured Michael’s first on-screen kiss (with David Bowie’s wife, the pulchritudinous Nubian model Iman, in her role as a Pharaohess, becoming the much-envied recipient). However, such subtleties were flagrantly dismissed with for the ‘In The Closet’ video, in which Michael’s interactions with Naomi Campbell are intimate, to say the least (particularly in pictures taken during rehearsals, where Michael’s enthusiasm for incorporating the suggested stimulation of Naomi’s – let’s say groin – into a proposed dance move, completely belie the myth of a shyness with women in his more mature years).

Candid footage of Michael in his forties portray Michael as very much the heterosexual man. During film shot in the back of cars that are swarmed with baying fans, Michael is seen excitedly commenting on the attractiveness of some of the girls, who he liked to call “Fish”. In other footage, when Michael was given free reign of a supermarket – granted upon his request to experience something resembling normality – in-between riding around the aisles on the trolleys, Michael picks up a magazine adorned with the image of his friend Elizabeth Taylor, before turning to hold the picture towards the camera, smiling coyly and saying, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

These latterday examples suggest the truth of Michael’s sexual orientation, due to their possessing an irrefutable sincerity about them. But there are also many quotes taken during the Jackson 5 years, in which all the brothers’ hot-blooded-male credentials are apparently cemented. One such supposed citation from Michael being,

“…I have this weakness – I love looking at girls!’”

However, it would be further disingenuous of me to promote such quotes as being the verbatim thoughts of a teenage Michael. In the same way Michael and his brothers were coached with regards portraying a benign stance on issues such as black rights for the sake of commercial potentiation, so they also were in context of their views on their female fanbase. Nonetheless, the idea of the dubious credibility of such quotes is fascinating in itself. The practice of public perspectives on Michael’s sexuality being enforced by pedantic and paranoid profiteers, solely concerned with the palatability of his image, was a system heavy with repercussions for the person that would become the adult Michael.

This entrenched understanding that Michael had of public relations became the reason he was so careful – and so clever – when it came to camouflaging the political messages contained in his later work. Michael understood it was merely a matter time before people unveiled the messages in his art. To have managed this tight-rope so expertly with such faith in the long-game, was a manifestation of startling genius.

Perhaps counterintuitively, to find the ultimate proof of Michael’s attitude towards women, one need look no further than his face. It was a face that he had initially wanted to be seen adorned with lace for the cover of the Bad album – a desire overruled by his record company, who took it to the other extreme, insisting on a relatively macho image of Michael instead. Far from being misogynistic, Michael elevated femininity to the extent that he was completely comfortable in androgenising himself – he voluntarily absorbed the feminine into his appearance.

Michael viewed himself as a visionary: a sincere and plausible surmising borne as a consequence of his having been a uniquely positioned observer in the spiritual evolution of humanity. For a third-of-a-century, his career had entailed entertaining hundreds of millions of souls brought together as a result of love. There exists an intriguing correlation between Michael’s unshackling himself of the craving for commercial success in favour of philanthropic achievements, and his acquiescence in allowing himself opportunities to succeed in romantic love. Though Michael effortlessly stirred millions of women into maniacal frenzies, this phenomenon of his fainting fanhood became by no means an exclusively female occurrence. As Michael said,

“But I am finding today, and it is so true, that guys today are really changing and I have watched it happen through my career. Guys scream with the same kind of adulation that girls do in a lot of countries. They are not ashamed.”

Michael had witnessed the change in behaviour of male fans over the decades he had been performing. He witnessed in real-time the increasing confidence of people celebrating the emancipated self. Michael had intuited society’s increasing intolerance of paternalistic orthodoxy. Archaic attitudes that he so sublimely subverted himself in his total reimagining of the stereotypical family unit.

This was Michael’s power.

The Pilot Light: An Article on Realising Michael Jackson’s Dream

In order to get close enough to the microphone when recording songs, the child Michael stood atop an apple box. From this elevated position, he conveyed a supernaturally precocious ability for perfectly expressing the joy of romantic love.

The paradox of Michael’s back-catalogue is that the themes present in his childhood material (having been written by adults) were mature beyond his years, whilst the ideas he explored in his self-penned adult work were more akin to those that would inspire a child.

The silent pilot light of achieving one’s aspirations flickers persistently throughout an entire lifetime, despite the cynicism of society relentlessly attempting to extinguish the flame. This self-sabotaging phenomenon is fuelled by a ubiquitous misbelief amongst the embittered of their having missed their own opportunities to fulfil their dreams. This byproduct of envy is not the fault of those afflicted, however: more a logical consequence of the inherent difficulty in leaping over the ego and reacquainting themselves with the indomitable optimism embodied by their inner child.

Fortunate people are blessed with having had faith instilled with themselves. This fortune is derived from the quality of being elucidated recipients of unconditional love and support. The peerless strength that comes with possessing an innate knowledge of being loved is what imbues the requisite confidence and courage vital for remaining stoic when actively advocating the validity of one’s intuited belief system, regardless of the bombardment of a sneering society.

Due to its presence on a posthumous poster, there is one quote from Michael that has become particularly prominent:

“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 common-sense philosophy formed the crux of the theme of his speech at the 2001 Oxford Address, which Michael gave to promote his Heal The Kids initiative:

“Friends, the foundation of all human knowledge, the beginning of human consciousness must be that each and every one of us is an object of love… before you know if you have red hair or brown… before you know if you are black or white… before you know what religion you are a part of… you have to know that you are loved.”

Michael divulged that hide-and-seek was one of his favourite games to play. He references it in his poem, Are You Listening?

“In infinite expressions I come and go / Playing hide-and-seek / In the twinkling of an eye / But immortality’s my game.”

This mention of immortality is an important one. The fuel for Michael’s success was a steadfast faith in its resultant fame enabling him to influence society’s perspective on the role of children in humanity’s spiritual progression. Michael’s unwavering message was that each and every baby born is a clean slate; a chance for humanity to achieve charitable greatness. In spite of the surfeit of record-smashing, culture-shaping career accolades Michael acquired, his only wish was to be remembered as an advocate for the children of the world. In the very month of his death, he said,

“That’s what I’ll be remembered for – not for what I did on stage, but for what I did for the children.”

And in the same way Michael strived to defend the rights of children and promulgate the idea of the global resourcing of their innate genius, he felt that children were there to redeem him also,

“I want to be buried right where there are children. I want them next to me. I would feel safer that way. I want them next to me. I need their spirit protecting me.”

The author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” Michael is this musing made manifest.

As a child, Michael could merely imagine what romantic love was like, yet he managed to relay its emotions with visceral conviction. His song With A Child’s Heart is advice on attempting to assuage the tumultuousness of life by approaching each day with the carefree attitude of a child. Contrasted with his other childhood songs in which he effortlessly expresses the euphoria of adult love, the song With A Child’s Heart anomalously drips with the palpable pain of his awareness of the tragic irony contained in the words he is singing.

People query Michael’s choice to spend his time in the company of children, without ever questioning the reason why millions of people sought to seek his presence when he was a child. As well as whilst he remained childlike as an adult. Michael saw more individual human beings than anyone else that has ever existed. Because they flocked in their hundreds of millions to go and see him.

The pilot light of aspiration persists until a person’s dying day. During a lifetime, there are intermittent instances of inhaling breaths of inspiration that when exhaled potentiate the luminescence of the flame. As an enlightened entity of being loved, a person is accordingly bestowed with the self-belief that is required for the courage to follow the flame.

We have arrived at such an instance. As Michael’s fans, every single one of us is loved unconditionally (let’s call it an occupational perk). Ergo, our collective inhalation of inspired breath, upon being exhaled, carries the necessary potency to combust Michael’s pilot light dream of a universally recognised reverence for childhood, into an incendiary and revolutionary reality.

During the Oxford Address, Michael noted that there are days dedicated to the celebration of mothers and fathers – yet none to honour their children. I cannot think of a more apt or poignant tribute to Michael’s legacy than for his fans to petition for and achieve the official establishment of August 29th as International Children’s Day.

The campaign to make this happen has commenced. Support the manifestation of Michael’s dream by going here:

https://www.facebook.com/nationalchildrensdaypromotionalcampaign?fref=ts

Redux: An Article on the Defamation of the Dead

The unprecedented demand for tickets to see This Is It meant – had Michael Jackson been physically capable of following orders – that he would have eventually played to one million people.

Upon the seismic shock of Michael’s demise, the resultant grief expressed by the planet at such an irreplaceable loss for humanity became manifest in myriad ways. Conspiracy theories abound: had Michael known he was going to die when he did? When he had whooped the This Is It press-conference crowd into frenzied delirium with the chant, “This is it! This is it!” – had he literally meant this - this moment – is it? Conspiracy theories ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime: had Michael been targeted by secret NASA technology possessing the capacity to identify and exterminate any specific target on the globe – their motive being that, during the This Is It run of shows, they had reason to believe he was going to expose the insidious Illuminati elite?

Then there were those that point-blank refused to accept he had died. A theory spawning a faction of fans who persevere in referring to themselves as ‘BeLIEvers’: a small group of seemingly sorry souls (I realise this could ostensibly be interpreted as an insensitive stance, but – from the BeLIEvers I’ve had the misfortune to encounter, at least – they promote their agenda for reasons much less fuelled by the denial synonymous with grief, and much more by necromaniacal voyeurism).

BeLIEvers are inordinately proud of themselves for having noticed that, in the English language – on occasion – shorter words sometimes exist within longer ones (although the rudimentary rules of any language discourage those words ever being capitalised). This apparently startling syntactic revelation is the bedrock of the BeLIEver belief system: a system that actively promulgates the idea of Michael being alive – with him merely residing on the sidelines of civilisation, in the guise of various individuals that range from tragic burns victim and famous recipient of Michael’s philanthropic aid, Dave Dave, to the very man convicted of killing Michael himself: Conrad Murray.

BeLIEvers claim that the picture taken of Paris prior to her suicide attempt – in which she is sporting self-harm scars on her arm – was photoshopped, and that she is both aware of and complicit in perpetuating the hoax. Or – contradictorily – that her attempt to take her own life was a ruse to draw Michael from hiding – and that Michael is simply refusing to intervene in the agonised grief of his children. That – for all his sincere concern with regards the welfare of other people’s children – it’s impossible for him to emerge from exile in order to console his own.

Because his very own children’s sanity must be duly sacrificed in lieu of the accomplishment of the bigger plan – a plan which essentially boils down to the most distasteful magic trick in history: the climax to which, would be Michael’s immediate arrest and incarceration – as a consequence of the somewhat misjudged venture being responsible for what would then have been an innocent Conrad Murray spending time in jail.

The acquiescence involved that allows oneself to hold such beliefs is not a symptom of grief; it is a symptom of purposeful self-perversion. And supporting such sentiments as these strikes at the very core of Michael’s lived and hard-earned philosophy: “I’ll be remembered for – not for what I did on stage – but for what I did for the children.”

Fans of Elvis Presley that continued to insist on his persistent hip-thrusting upon this mortal coil, became a global laughing-stock (although their wordplay of ELVIS being an anagram of LIVES is actually far more credible – if only for the reason of it not having been randomly plucked from the ether as the term ‘beLIEver’ evidently was). However, the importance of their idol’s legacy – compared to ours – pales in significance. Quite apart from the fact that Elvis fans didn’t have to constantly contend with defending their idol against incessant accusations of paedophilia.

What with Michael’s fans being all-too-often dismissed as deranged due to the actions of a loud, lunatic minority, Michael’s vitally important message of kindness and brotherly love – particularly in the current global political climate – ends up becoming massively undermined. The lunacy plays directly into the hands of those wishing to smear his legacy. The BeLIEver movement represent a part of the integrity of Michael’s art and soul that we must reclaim.

Cadeflaw/AdLlaw is a highly respectable initiative that needs your support. The ultimate goal of this determined group is to change a law that currently permits the defaming of the deceased (a proposed change that would also help preserve the sanity of their survivors). The team have organised a promotional event to try and garner signatories for an important petition. The event will run 12th – 14th September. Please get involved. Further details can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1474180152834790/
http://antidefamationlegacylawadvocates.org/

In Defence: An Article on Michael Jackson’s HIStory Tour

In the crowd-immersing short film that cranks up the anticipation prior to Michael Jackson exploding onto the HIStory Tour stage in a rocket, the audience is taken on a ride through historic global events. Michael’s music and iconography is interspersed with video of the moon landings; images of Mother Teresa; and speeches from Martin Luther King Junior: events and people appropriate to the majesty of Michael and his achievements. The rollercoaster then takes us into the Sistine Chapel, where we float silently and gracefully, taking time to admire the exquisite beauty of the surrounding art – before being plunged into a dark-but-fiery nightmare, a depiction of bleak emptiness inspired by God-knows-what. Then, before gracing and scintillating a stadium for the umpteenth time – to entertain yet another hundred-thousand people piqued to see him – Michael makes a quick detour to go and sort out that minor irritation: war.

The HIStory Tour is much-maligned. The audacity with which Michael utilised lip-syncing was lambasted by many critics at the time. Lung damage was described in his autopsy. It had been a longstanding issue – likely a symptom of his being a victim of lupus. Michael, being a very private man, tried to keep his medical problems a secret (sometimes to the detriment of his public relations – Michael had been becoming noticeably paler for years before he revealed his vitiligo), but the breathing problems became evermore evidenced by the fact that his reliance on playback increased with subsequent tours. With hindsight, it stands to reason that this was due to his lung damage being a degenerative condition exacerbated by his being a professional singer.

It is unfortunate that the HIStory Tour ushered in an age of pop star lip-syncing (after all, if the King of Pop can do it, surely anyone can? But then – Michael was forever the trendsetter), as there now exists a frightening ubiquity of post-Disney puppets that flagrantly employ auto-tune and playback with the cynical sole intent of selling capitalist standards of sexual imagery to children. At least when Michael’s illness forced him to lip-sync, he was selling a message of peace and goodwill. (And dancing a fair bit, too – a very special spectacle itself worth the entrance fee). And all of this being done whilst suffering with various extreme physical pains acquired as a result of dedicating his life to entertaining and educating us through dance.

The fact that Michael toured at all is testament to his work ethic and dedication to his message. The reason Michael grew tired of touring was because of the Sword of Damocles that was the inevitable drug dependency that would occur in order to get through a gruelling two-year global schedule. With regards the intermittent screaming he began to utilise – it may well have been the subconscious, spontaneous vocal expression of a frustrated human being, universally renowned for his unique voice, having to contend with age-and-illness-related vocal deterioration. Let’s not forget that Michael had been touring the world and singing professionally for thirty years by this point. The HIStory Tour was the twilight of his career. And ultimately, attempting to live up to the unrealistic and selfish demands of an ungrateful public, became the midnight of his career – as it concluded with his death. 

The rare examples of Michael singing live in the latter years (Smile, The Lost Children, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, Speechless and Human Nature) are just snippets – Michael could not sustain a vocal performance for any length of time. He certainly didn’t possess the physical capability to complete a fifty-night run at the O2. The Brunei Royal Concert gig of 1996 (a personal favourite) – just prior to the HIStory Tour – was the last time Michael sang the majority of a show live. But this was a standalone performance, not part of a tour. The 3D gimmickry, pyrotechnics and the like that became increasingly prevalent were all distractions from the fact that Michael Jackson as a live vocal performer was becoming a spent force. But he still endeavoured to give his fans a good show. There’s a reason I traversed Europe attending seven of the concerts. As Katharine Hepburn describes in The Legend Continues, “I think what makes him a star is, he can do it and you can’t help looking at him.”

And, sure enough, the HIStory Tour as a dance showcase and vehicle for Michael’s humanitarian efforts, was indeed spectacular. As the stage got bigger and bigger, it gave Michael the necessary increased space to bring his vision of philanthropic theatre to life – an untouchable catalogue of unique and iconic choreography. However, the expanding stage also made Michael look more and more alone up there. This being the only shame in the HIStory Tour. Anyway, show me a contemporary lip-syncing artist that can deliver a show even half as good. You can’t.

In the documentary Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies, there is a much-loved segment in which he sarcastically claims, “I love to tour!” It was Jermaine Jackson that spoke of Michael’s apprehension before tours; an anxiety stirred by the known inevitability of his having to resort to medication to fulfil its obligations. The artificial stimulation of artists to meet such demands is a practice as old as the industry: Judy Garland was fed amphetamines to ‘help’ her keep to the Wizard Of Oz filming schedule.

Saying all this, it is quite evident that Michael is happy for much of the HIStory Tour – often to be seen smiling whilst performing – no doubt enjoying the knowledge of an appreciative and admiring crowd of up to one hundred-thousand people, gratefully immersed in their opportunity to see a legendary, historically-significant figure renowned for his dancing genius. Who is dancing. And all for £17.50.

As well, in much the same way Michael could inhabit the necessary emotion to so convincingly convey what he wanted to express in his songs – an innate trait evident in him since being eleven and singing I’ll Be There – he somehow manages to also do whilst lip-syncing. And when he lip-synced in the Jackson 5 – who berated him then? I’m sure Michael sincerely wished he could have sung live in the latter years, but it was beyond his – or anyone’s – physical capacity.

Lungs damaged after singing since the age of eleven in smoky venues, or not.

Perspective: An Article on the Latest Allegations Against Michael Jackson

Allegations of anal rape have taken us to another level of bestiality, beyond the accusations of mutual masturbation and plying of alcohol. They’ve upped the ante. They’ve had to. Because those ‘lesser’ allegations were discredited in a court of law during the trial that broke Michael’s heart and ultimately killed him. The maids quoted by Stacy Brown in his recent New York Post article, in which they spoke of their ‘recollections’ of times at Neverland, were dismissed off hand by the 2005 jury as “liars”.

We go again.

The allegations of anal rape have been chosen specifically to leave an indelible smear on the psyche of those that hear them. After such accusations, the most we fans can do in the short-term is mere damage control. In 2003, Michael wisely recorded himself being recorded by Martin Bashir and his team. And, as a riposte to the debacle that was the Living With Michael Jackson documentary, Michael distributed his own version of the interviews entitled ‘Take 2’, in which Bashir’s unethical techniques of sycophancy and bullying, combined with clever editing, were exposed. But the damage had already been done.

The discredited maids’ stories offered the slavering tabloid junkies nothing new. Tabloid tactics that smacked so recognisably of newspapers in 1993. Libellous fabrications plucked from the ether and attributed to ‘a source’. Reading their descriptions was akin to listening to someone detail the character of a mutual friend, a person you had known for decades, but who they have only recently become acquainted with. You know this old friend inside-out – their flaws, their tribulations, their virtues –and are therefore gobsmacked by the inaccuracy of this other person’s depiction of them. Besides, though Michael may well have got drunk and urinated in his porch – as far as compiling a case for sodomising a child is concerned – it doesn’t seem particularly relevant.

No-one is suggesting that there wasn’t something unique about Michael’s relationships with children. But, as I shall reiterate once again: in lieu of any evidence of wrongdoing, a person’s perspective on Michael Jackson is entirely a reflection of what the observer wants to see. My stance is that Michael was both as fragile and magical as an egg; as emotionally charged, yet as carefully crafted as a poem. He was the puppet Pinocchio that eventually realised his dream in becoming a flesh-and-bone human boy.

As children, we were all alchemists. We combined our ingredients of mud, grass and leaves, and with the mix we made cake. This was the magic that inspired Michael. When the mystery of the gravity-defying Smooth Criminal lean was made public by the press, Michael responded by wondering why anyone would want to reveal the mechanics and ruin the magic. His desires to prolong childhood and chase dreams were borne of the same principle. Revered movie director John Ford famously said, “If it’s a choice between the truth and the legendprint the legend.” A sentiment Michael very much agreed with. After all, it was Diana Ross that discovered the Jackson 5, right?

Sony have invested too much in their reinterpretation of Michael Jackson, for it all now to be ‘inconvenienced’. For better or worse, they understand that Michael is an industry unto himself – one that provides an opportunity for decades of profit-procurement – and the likelihood is that Sony will encourage the Estate to settle these latest claims out of court. Sony are extremely powerful, and have form – they misadvised Michael back in 1993, when they recommended he settle then.

Sony may have invested their money in Michael; but we have invested our hearts. We followed him devoutly as he vindicated himself in 2005. We will not allow our decades of stoic support to be undermined by greedy, immoral opportunists. Michael gladly assumed his responsibility as a gatekeeper for innocence. But, noticing that one has responsibilities is the easy part. Engaging with them is an altogether separate matter. It is our responsibility to engage in the defence of our voiceless hero against yet another systematic attempt at his vilification.

Yet, as I say: this is not about angles of perspective. This is about defending a good man – in light of the facts – not of faith.

***

Michael Jackson Anti-Defamation Group ‘Voice As One’ are organising a mass email protest against the serial MJ abuser Stacy Brown, who wrote the aforementioned article for the New York Post. For details, see Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/voiceasone or follow @voiceasone on Twitter.

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.

Home: An Article on Relinquishing Michael Jackson’s Neverland

When I was a little boy, I used to imagine that, living in the attic, was one example of every animal that existed on Earth. And on weekday mornings, I would venture up to the attic with the sole purpose of choosing and retrieving an animal to accompany me to school for the day. Typically, I opted for either a tiger, a chimpanzee or an elephant. When I got home, I would return the animal to its menagerie of friends. Said attic was in my childhood home – the place where I spent the most formative fifteen years of my life. To this day, my sleeping dreams – regardless of the context – are most often played out within the walls of that house.

Michael Jackson bought Neverland in 1988, aged thirty years old. He would inhabit it for fifteen years. During which time, it would serve as both his utopia and refuge. It was a place nothing short of outrageous in its pure expression of self and freedom. Truly, Neverland was Michael Jackson’s soul made manifest. Michael was ultimately wrenched from his spiritual home as a result of following advice from a legal team distinctly aware of the ruthlessness of Tom Sneddon, a man with an insatiable and psychotic vendetta.

Each concert of the Bad Tour of 1988-89 ended with the words, “Make that change.”  In 1989, Michael released the Leave Me Alone video, in which he exorcised himself of the materialistic attitude that encapsulated the 1980s (much to his artistic detriment, according to the music critics). Following on from the phenomenon that was the Bad project – in particular, Man In The Mirror – Michael attempted to specifically focus his life and career on humanitarian efforts. Neverland was a custom-made physical construct of this. Michael’s exploitation of the rampant capitalism that defined the eighties made the development of Neverland a fiscal possibility – but once this had been accomplished, Michael transformed his home into something of substance and importance. He elevated Neverland into “a place called Hallowed Ground” – Michael wrote Speechless whilst watching children play there.

Neverland was an oasis of innocence. Like the protagonist in Salvador Dali’s painting “Female Figure with Head of Flowers”, Neverland shone as a beacon of beauty in an otherwise-arid landscape bedevilled by searching, solitude, regret and servitude: both metaphorically-speaking, and physically. The racketeering attempt of 2005 struck at the very core of his philosophy; his mission; his heart. It tore off the flowers and trampled them into the oblivion of the surrounding dust.

The bustling laughter of children gives any place an inherent sense of unbridled joy. The playground that was Neverland became ghostly silent in its grief for those children who fell victim to the demonic personalities infected by “the same disease of lust, gluttony and greed”. The actions of an evilly envious few, hell-bent on monetary gain, were the ones that raped children. Not Michael Jackson. There is a still from the Martin Bashir interview, when Michael and Gavin Arvizo are holding hands, in which Gavin’s head is nonchalantly rested upon Michael’s shoulder. There also exists a more famous, more greatly media-distributed adaptation of this still, in which Gavin’s facial expression is pixelated, and Michael’s face – very obviously and unarguably, when the stills are placed side-by-side – has been digitally manipulated to look sinister. For photoshopped posterity.

Last week, I watched my two young daughters run around the park. They approached people without prejudice, their imploring eyes craving the sating of a question on their minds: “Why is your baby crying?” or “Can you ride a bicycle, too?” They are an unrivalled joy to observe. Yet, there was something in their demeanour that reminded me of the horrors I used to witness on the streets of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The thirst for knowledge that I recognised in my children’s faces caused me to recall the look in the eyes of Kenyan children of a similar age – four or five – who pleaded for money from passing strangers: money that would be spent on the drugs to which they had become addicted; drugs that helped them escape the reality of their pitiful lives.

I recently happened upon an interview with Zac Efron. As one does. In it, Zac describes – as a fortuitous consequence of working with Kenny Ortega on the High School Musical movie franchise – how he was given a phone, on which Michael was on the other end. Zac Efron is a lifelong fan of Michael’s, and the unexpected occurrence that was him being on the phone to his idol, resulted in Zac breaking down in uncontrollable tears. Unable to compose himself, Zac handed the phone back to Kenny Ortega, who ended the call. Michael then phoned again and specifically asked to speak to the actor. Michael was also now crying. Through the mutual sobs, Michael managed to utter the words, “See? Dreams do come true.” I believe that Michael was weeping in the piqued hope of believing his own dreams would one day come to fruition; that all his efforts in forging a cultural foundation upon a belief in the wisdom of childhood would one day be realised: that all the sacrifice will have been worth it. After all – and with total respect to the likeable man – I doubt Michael Jackson was plaintive at the realisation of a dream coming true that involved talking to Zac Efron on the phone.

The Estate of Michael Jackson’s belief-defying, inherently inexcusable willingness to allow the sale of Neverland – the physical construct, remember, that inimitably expresses Michael’s soul – must surely provide the Michael Jackson fan community with a cause for unanimous agreement. The sale of Neverland is irrefutably – even to the most die-hard of Estate supporters – glaringly wrong. The preparations for This Is It (a tour Michael was forced to agree to for financial reasons, though at the same time persevering to earnestly dismiss the idea of selling Neverland – or his unpublished music, for that matter) led to his death. The close-up photograph of Michael’s face taken during the They Don’t Care About Us rehearsals – clearly portraying the face of an agonised human being  (yet used to promote the movie’s release, with it ‘being proof’ that Michael was ‘in shape’) – has since been copyrighted – hence, limiting its distribution. ‘This Is It’ was an empty hearse. ‘This Is It’ was an international snuff movie that raked in the dollars

And the last thing organised racists would do after carrying out a lynching? Seize the property of the lynched.

Enough of the rock-throwing, however. Confucius philosophised that, at the point where one faction of a battle appears to be in control, the wisest thing to do is allow the opposition to retreat across their bridge, thus allowing them an opportunity to reconsider their perspective. The Estate-supporting sector of the Michael Jackson fan community have arrived at such a juncture.

In 2003, Michael said, “”I wanted to have a place where I could create everything I never had as a child… I love it. And I will always love it. And I will never, ever sell Neverland. Neverland is me… You know? It represents the totality of who I am. It really does… I love Neverland.” In 2012, a legal spokesperson for Katherine Jackson said, “It is the wish of the beneficiaries that Neverland be kept in the family, and Michael’s children one day decide what to do with their home.” In 2013, Paris Jackson spoke about her wish to return and resurrect her childhood home, Neverland. In four short years, Prince Jackson will gain personal control of his inherited share of his father’s multi-millions. Why can’t the lawyers at the helm of the Estate of Michael Jackson fund the uniquely precious preservation of his historically-significant childhood home until then? The place where Michael’s children grew up not having to imagine retrieving an animal from their attic, as those very real animals lived in their garden? Animals that lived there because Michael Jackson so clearly and inherently understood the idiosyncratic yearnings of youth.

The unparalleled talent and genius of Michael Jackson almost becomes redundant in the face of what he tried to utilise the resulting fame for – an attempt at a legacy that makes the world a better place, beginning with a universal reverence for childhood. Neverland encapsulated this. There is all-round uproar in the Michael Jackson fan community: millions of individuals voicing their incredulity at the idea of Neverland being sold.

So – what to do? I have encountered the inspired idea of using Twitter to encourage those with the means and motive to engage with the cause. The individuals that immediately spring to mind are @JanetJackson and @LisaPresley. It may very well appear to be a naïve approach to some, but we must have faith in our strength in numbers. Besides, naivety, in itself, was such a powerful and defining character trait of our hero. And there is such minimal effort expended in the sending of a tweet.

I am a great believer in hope. I am a great believer in home.

It is where I go in my dreams.

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.

Jew Me: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Alleged Antisemitism

The controversy stirred by Michael Jackson’s use of the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Kike’ in his song They Don’t Care About Us resulted in his being forced by Sony to mask the offending terms. He did this by utilising what was tantamount to a sonic scribbling out; and in the act of making these alterations so very obvious, he managed to explicitly express his distaste at the enforced censorship. Footage emerged shortly afterwards – apparently shot during the sanctioned re-edit – showing a silhouetted Michael Jackson angrily throwing equipment around a recording studio. Ensuing variations of the track – released on later compilations – involved replacing the ‘trashing’ sound with an equally auditory jarring repetition of the lyrically arrhythmic word from the first part of the line – “Kick me, kick me / Don’t you black or white me.” The song is thus forever both scarred and sanctified by this intentional lack of proper rectification. Or – to paraphrase Michael’s adlib at the climax of said track – “it’s there to remind us.”

During the subsequent Diane Sawyer interview, in which was shown the “vainglorious” HIStory promotional video (that borrows heavily from the Nazi propaganda piece, Triumph Of The Will), Michael defended his use of the terms ‘Jew’ and ‘Kike’ with the retort that he was merely utilising the imagery to illustrate the extent to which he himself had become a victim – as in, how the Jewish race were victims when subjugated to the atrocities meted out upon them during the Holocaust. Indeed, the word ‘Kike’ is derived from the hebrew word for ‘circle’ – a derisory term given to Jewish immigrants as a result of their being required to draw a circle instead of a cross in order to mark their identification, upon their arrival in America after escaping the World War II atrocities.

And – certainly – Michael Jackson had also been marked and victimised.

However, he was also the man that wrote the words: “God’s a place for you / Oh, Palestine / I believe in you / Oh, Palestine, I will die for you”. So, as far as being “a victim” is concerned, one cannot ignore Michael’s stance on the criminal violence flaunted by the Jewish nuclear power state of Israel upon the displaced people of Gaza. A situation Michael laments in another HIStory track, Earth Song, with the words: “What about the Holy Land? / Torn apart by creed.”

Michael liked to highlight social injustice – wherever it was, and in whatever form it took. He shone the spotlight on instances of bullying. In fact, almost two decades prior to the furore forged by the deaths and social disharmony resultant of Brazil’s efforts to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us video (‘Brazil Version’ – in which he performs both the Black Panther salute and the Nazi goose step), had already strived to focus the world’s attention on the injustice of the wealth divide there: a division starkly illustrated in the opening sequence of the video, as the statue of Christ the Redeemer pans into view – omniscient and omnipotent, as it towers majestically over the ramshackle slums that cower in its shadow. A voice plays over the footage, imploring in Portuguese, “Michael, they don’t care about us.” The location of the actual shoot – the Rio de Janeiro favela, Dona Marte – held historical significance with its having once been slave quarters, where slaves had been publicly flogged. By 1996, it had become a drug baron’s dream. Claudia Silva – the press officer for Rio de Janeiro’s tourist board – later exalted Michael’s positive influence on the area by saying, “This process to make Dona Marta better started with Michael Jackson… There are no drug dealers anymore, and there’s a massive social project. But all the attention started with Michael Jackson.”

Later in the Diane Sawyer interview, Michael went on to say “Some of my best friends are Jewish” – listing Steven Spielberg among them, in spite of their recent falling out over a reneged deal concerning the fledgling Dreamworks venture, and despite Spielberg being the driving force behind the imposed alteration of the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Kike’ (claiming Michael had resurrected the latter term from practical extinction and brought it back into common usage). Yet – as true as Michael’s statement regarding Jewish friends may or may not have been – it’s about as cliched a statement as one can make in any defence against accusations of bigotry. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Michael’s bonafide advocate Elizabeth Taylor was also Jewish, as is the mother of his two eldest children (as well as her employer: primary Dr. Feelgood, Dr. Klein). Also, Michael begins the song They Don’t Care About Us with the words “Skinhead, dead head” – which is a blatant and direct rebuttal of Neo-Nazism. Other lyrics in the song include the unclear reference to being “In the suite / On the news” – words easily misheard as “Innocent / On the noose”. As part of the Chandler settlement agreement, Michael was prevented from using certain words with which he could directly vindicate himself, so this was his method for overcoming any potential legal backlash. (Michael also used this technique in another HIStory track – the Tom Sneddon diatribe D.S.) Another ostensibly surreal lyric in They Don’t Care About Us is “Everybody dog food.” It’s open to interpretation, of course, but ‘dog’ is another particularly derogatory term used against Jewish people.

Michael namechecks both Martin Luther and Roosevelt in They Don’t Care About Us. The only question is: which of the namesakes is he referencing? The other famous Martin Luther – the one prior to the celebrated black luminary – was a notorious antisemite who authored a book entitled ‘On the Jews and Their Lies’. And – whilst one of the two presidents that carried the surname of Roosevelt is revered as a unifier – the other remains under suspicion as being less than sympathetic towards the Jewish plight. However, this ambiguity is seemingly clarified in the ‘Prison Version’ of the They Don’t Care About Us video (where an incarcerated Michael is portayed as the vulnerable human he was, sweating armpits and all) – in which the images used are of the publicly palatable examples of the Martin Luther and Roosevelt namesakes.

Who can truly know what Michael’s perspective was? As ever, he courted controversy and demanded debate. Still. They Don’t Care About Us is track two on Michael Jackson’s HIStory album. This Time Around is track four. On track four, he incorporates a word with just as contentious connotations: ‘Nigger’.

The media response? Not a squeak.

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