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July 18, 2009
July 10, 2009
Ever since the beautiful memorial service was held for Michael Jackson, I’ve found myself consistently looking for videos and interviews to gain a broader understanding of who MJ was as a person and how he crafted himself to become the greatest entertainer ever. Now I already knew like many of you that Gene Kelly, James Brown, and Fred Astaire were MAJOR influences on Michael. Check out a classic Fred Astaire movie “The Band Wagon” and you'll see how MJ borrowed Astaire’s “The Girl Hunt” sequence to create the videos for “Billie Jean”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Bad”, “You Rock My Word” and the narrative portion of the song “Dangerous”.
What I didn’t know, was how much of an influence legendary choreographer Bob Fosse was on Michael Jackson. A friend of mine told me about the striking similarities between what Fosse did and Michael’s stage performance, so I had to see for myself. After doing a little research what I noticed was amazing. There are many Fosse clips that show MJ similarities but the coolest one had to have been “The Snake In The Grass” slip from the movie “The Little Prince” (which MJ was a HUGE fan of!). Notice his highwater black pants, white spats accentuating the shoes, angular leg movements, and fluidity of motion that Michael incorporated into his own dancing. It’s sensational!
These are just some of many videos that you can look up and see the influence they’ve had on the performances of Michael Jackson. I hope this is was just as enjoyable for you as it was for me, and I know all of these performers will continue to be inspirations for generations of entertainers to come!
- Steve Tyson Jr.
PS: Here's a little something to enjoy!
July 02, 2009
The King of Pop is doing the Moonwalk with the King of Kings.
It’s taken me a week to really put things into enough perspective to write my first thoughts on the death of Michael Joseph Jackson.
“Only know, wherever I go/
we’re as close as two friends can be
There have been others/
but never two lovers
Like music, music and me”
- Music and Me
For myself, listening to Michael started in the womb. My father would put headphones over my mother’s stomach bumping a variety of music including two of his favorite albums, “Off The Wall” and “Thriller”. He told me I used to kick back in response to Michael and Quincy Jones’ rhythms. As a kid, the “Thriller” dance was also the first time I remember trying to really memorize an entire dance, but that was only after the werewolf part of the movie scared the living piss out of me.
“You can shout out all you want to/
cause there ain’t no sin in folks all getting loud
If you take a chance and do it/
There ain’t no one who’s gonna put you down”
- Off The Wall
I remember holding the vinyl of “Bad” on the living room floor and studying every buckle on the cover while blaring the masterpiece that MJ, Quincy, and synthesizer guru Greg Phillinganes crafted through the same speakers I currently bump my own music through (yes the same speakers, crystal sound, 20+ years later). When CD players were invented and my family finally got one, the first CD I ever owned was “Dangerous”. I traded my father a Bruce Springsteen CD I won at school, for the fresh copy of “Dangerous” he had brought home that same day. Out of all the music I’d listened to during those elementary-middle school years, this is easily the album that got the most rotation.
“We’re sendin’ out a major love/
and this is our message to you
The planets are linin’ up/
we’re bringin’ brighter days
They’re all in line waitin’ for you/
Can’t you see?”
- Another Part Of Me
Fast forward past the devilish people who tried to ruin his life through false allegations and lies, to “HIStory: Past, Present, and Future – Book 1”. When listening to this album it was clear that a man who grew up as an idol to America, ended up feeling disgraced and betrayed by a media who tried to ruin him and a culture who bought into a ton of false gossip. But in the midst of the many pain-scarred songs on the album were gems of beauty like “You Are Not Alone” that you can clearly envision the young, Afro’d out Michael singing his heart out on.
“It’s slander! You say it’s not a sword/
but with your pen you torture men
You’d crucify the Lord
…So why do we keep fooling ourselves?”
- Tabloid Junkie
I’d say his personal bottom is evident in the symbolic title of his remix album “Blood On The Dancefloor” and in it’s song “Morphine”. In the track, MJ is clearly venting his deepest, darkest thoughts in an almost free-associative coded manner, while clutching onto the pain convincing Lisa Marie that he’s kicked the drug habit (read her blog post here). Hell, he even drops a line about it being “always to please Daddy”… whew… this brother was really going through it during the mid-90’s. And after kicking the habit, then shaking off the negative aura surrounding the first round of allegations and going toe-to-toe with Sony Music, he came back proving to the world that he’s “Invincible”.
“Now I’m just wondering why you think/
that you can get to me with anything
Seems like you’d know by now/
when and how I get down
And will all that I’ve been through, I’m still around”
Even after the wave of Roc-A-Fella and Ruff Ryders establishing themselves as the new major movements in music, it was "Invincible" that was the album I was most excited for. The day it came out I got the silver covered version and my Dad got the orange one. I was so psyched for this album if you had told me it would be his last solo LP I may have fallen off the deep end. Rodney Jerkins and Michael’s production was and still is ahead of it’s time, although you can finally hear today’s music catching up to that sound with releases like the newest Black Eyed Peas joint (Will.I.Am was also working with MJ on new material, so you know ideas were definitely exchanged). And now there will have to be new generations of musicians and artists to take their craft to new heights just as Michael did.
“You can change the world/
I can’t do it by myself
You can touch the sky /
gonna take somebody’s help
You’re the chosen one/
I’m gonna need some kind of sign
If we all cry at the same time tonight”
It’s as though his presence here was a test for himself and for the rest of us. Here’s a child who was born into the spotlight. He had our entire country focused on his every footstep with people hounding him around every corner, not understanding why every single person he ever met obsessed over him in an almost deranged yet loving manner. I mean wouldn’t that make you afraid at times as a child? Then he grew into a man trying to shake those childish fears but instead of being scared, he was going to scare YOU. (Hence, the underlying concept of "Thriller")
“Well they say the sky’s the limit/
and to me that’s really true
But my friend you have seen nothin’/
just wait ‘til I get through”
Unfortunately, due to his vitiligo and increasingly private lifestyle he really did begin to scare a lot of us. Newspapers and tabloids began reporting a mass of lies just to sell copies. People began concocting elaborate plans to ruin his career by saying he corrupted the only kinds of people he unconditionally loved on this planet... children. He even got us taking a harder look at the pointlessness of race, once his skin disease fully consumed his body we had white-looking Black American telling us it doesn’t matter what our color is in order for us to love one another. No one knew better, that’s for sure.
“There’s a place in your heart/
and I know that it is Love
And this place could be/
Much brighter than tomorrow”
- Heal The World
And now he’s gone. Leaving us his messages through song. The crazy part about it is that this is only going to make more people listen to his music, and if we actually start to heed his message and truths this world could really be a better place for you and for me.
Your presence here gave a spark within us all, and because of that you are now immortal. Thank you for 50 years of magic and I will continue to love you Michael, just as we all will.
- Steve Tyson Jr.