Thursday, June 25, 2009

THE MUSIC OF MICHAEL JACKSON...
...from a non-fan's perspective...
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The first big hit by the Jackson 5 was "I Want You Back", a tune I never really did like all that much. I think the tune's always been kind-of a mess; when I heard it, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Later on, I found a second-hand copy of their followup single, "The Love You Save", which I thought was much, much better. Michael had a big solo hit with "Got To Be There", which he sang most effectively. I also remember the song "Ben", another Michael Jackson solo song, from a movie ("Willard", which had something to do with rats, I've heard)...and that's also a good tune. Nice melody, clearly sung.
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Later on, after I graduated College and was working my first radio job, I remember when the Jacksons (they had dropped the '5' by then) came out with an ultra-funky song called "Enjoy Yourself", as I heard it, thot "not bad, not bad at all". Then "Rock With You" from Michael's "Off The Wall", his big 1978 album, was all over the airwaves, and since I've always liked propulsive music, I, a hard-rock fan, had to grudgingly admit, "This guy's pretty good, ain't he?" Later on, his "Thriller" album came out...and "Billie Jean", from that album, is about as funky and propulsive as music gets. He sang a tender ballad, "She's Out Of My Life", which almost made ME cry; he injected so much feeling into that song. He did a duet with Paul McCartney, "Say Say Say", which was pretty good. He and McCartney did another duet; "The Girl Is Mine", which was kinda shlocky, but it lingers (however irritatingly) in my Musical Memory. He was a major player in the Music Scene for quite a while. And, he hasn't been for quite a while, too.
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I think Michael Jackson, musically speaking, was plenty good. He made some really great recordings; he projected excitement in his performances, and something deep within tells me that when he sang, he wore his heart on his sleeve. Talented? You bet he was. I was never a big fan of the Jacksons; I have "Off The Wall" and "Thriller" in my collection only because I found them cheap in second-hand stores...but his music really leapt forth from the speakers when the radio played it, and immediately you knew who it was, from the first downbeat. That's the trademark of a great hit; you can name that tune in One Note. In a way, I can liken Michael Jackson's career to that of Bill Clinton: They both had so much going for them, but flaws in their respective personalities brought about their downfall from grace.
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But, as Bill Clinton was a great politician, Michael was a great artist. No matter how you may feel about them, you have to concede that much. As Hooked On The Beatles as I will forever be, I have to realize that for those who grew up in the '70s and '80s, the loss of Michael Jackson has to be as cataclysmic for those folks as John Lennon's death always will be to me. With George Harrison, at least we had time to prepare for his passing. As shocking and horrifying Lennon's death was to me, Jackson's sudden death is probably devastating to those who grew up idolizing him. It was torturing to see Jackson's reputation sullied and tarnished; it's something he (and his reputation) never recovered from. His legacy is forever stained by his proclivities and resulting entanglements in the Legal System, but one more thing you gotta admit, love or hate him:
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Musically Speaking, when Michael Jackson was good, he was Very, Very Good. The tragedy lies in what he became, what we associated him with, and how he ended up. I'll never hear a Michael Jackson Record the same way ever again. But I suppose I actually haven't for a long time, really, for Michael's Fall From Grace began a long, long time ago.

3 Comments:

Blogger Word Tosser said...

As you know, I like 90% of your post. (sports is the other 10%) but I have to tell you...you have surpassed yourself... This is your finest of all post. So well, said!!

5:32 PM  
Blogger raymond pert said...

I agree with Cis.

This is the most thoughtful and insightful look back on Michael Jackson I've read.

You didn't write all the automatic stuff I've been reading. I admire how you integrate your admiration of his music with your articulation of your own taste in music.

I also admire how you express your understanding for those who are genuinely devastated by his death. Connecting their experience with how you felt when John Lennon was killed works beautifully.

6:44 PM  
Blogger some guy who blogs said...

Awww, you two...you give me far more credit than I deserve here. The words just kinda bounced outta my brain and they ended up here. I've been depressed the last coupla days over Michael Jackson's death, tho. I keep hearing the song "Human Nature" over and over in my mind; I used to play that song on KVNI radio in the 80s and 90s. I never wanted Jackson to "go down" in terms of his legal situation but at the time, I felt it was a shame, someone with so much talent threw it all away. Like Bill Clinton, another Victim of Himself. Raymond, whatever the affliction you have, I hope that it goes away or at least diminishes so you can live fairly comfortable. And, Cis, hang in there; Sports actually makes us all turn away from the agony in this world. After all, It's only sports...Sports are good...you just don't know it yet!

2:35 PM  

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