MICHAEL JACKSON TRIBUTE
Well, this week’s theme was going to be ‘Days of the Week’ but when an iconic entertainer like Michael Jackson dies, the frivolity of such an idea does hit home. So, a tribute was definitely in order.
Like many of you, I grew up with Michael Jackson and I’m a huge fan. So, long after the sad and crazy circus that surrounded his life disappears and the tabloid press lose interest and move onto their next victim, I’ll continue to be entertained and inspired by his music and videos. So, this week’s show honoured the legend and the voice that captured the heart of soul music.
At the incredible age of 12, the youngest member of the Jackson 5, as they were known when signed to Motown, sang with amazing maturity and feeling. His lead vocal on I WANT YOU BACK burns with a need even the most practiced of singers would envy. Small wonder it shot immediately to No. 1. Here’s a clip of The Jackson 5 performing the song on Soul Train in 1972.:
I’LL BE THERE and THE LOVE YOU SAVE were also hit singles for the Jackson 5 that proved that Michael Jackson, despite his young age, could show tenderness and devotion as well as passion and ecstasy.
From 1972, Michael released a total of four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got To Be There and Ben. These were released as part of the Jackson 5 franchise, and produced the successful singles “Got To Be There”, a remake of Bobby Day’s “Rockin Robin” and my personal favourite: BEN. Here’s Michael, at about 13, performing on the Sonny & Cher Show:
The OFF THE WALL album features interviews about the making of the album with both Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones, and it was great to be able to listen to extracts of those on the show. The album was produced by Jackson and Jones, who he had met while filming the musical The Wiz. The album eclipsed all of Michael’s previous work with its musical breadth and sonic innovation. As well as Temperton and Jackson, songwriters included Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Released in 1979, it was the first album to generate four US top 10 hits, including ROCK WITH YOU.
The Off The Wall album eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In 1980, Jackson won three awards at the American Music Awards for his solo efforts: Favourite Soul/R&B Album, Favourite Male Soul/R&B Artist and Favourite Soul/R&B Single for DON’T STOP TIL YOU GET ENOUGH. That year, he also won Billboard Music Awards for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, for DON’T STOP TIL YOU GET ENOUGH. We took a listen to the demo version of the song, just because I adore the assorted percussion instruments, including the cabasa, cowbells and glass bottles played by Michael, Randy and Janet Jackson. You can download the song from any of the online stores, as part of the Off The Wall album.
The success of this album set the scene for Michael Jackson at his peak: THRILLER is a disc that remains the biggest selling album of all time. And for very good reason: It’s a perfect compilation of pop music. And the amazing video clip, directed by John Landis, didn’t hurt business either. Here it is again – over 43 million views on You Tube to date!
By the time Thriller was released in 1982, Michael Jackson had become a dominant figure in popular music and the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong cross-over following on MTV. The popularity of his music videos such as “Beat It”, “Billie Jean” and ‘Thriller” is credited with transforming the music video into an art form and a promotional tool, helping to bring the relatively new channel to fame.
You may not know that the song that the world now recognizes as Thriller was originally titled Starlight. We heard a great anecdote from songwriter Rod Temperton. It describes the involvement of legendary film actor Vincent Price in the video for the track.
In 1985 Harry Belafonte, inspired by Bob Geldof’s ‘Band Aid’ concert, contacted Ken Kragen, Lionel Ritchie’s manager, about doing something to help raise money for African causes. Krager suggested a charity single would make more of a difference than another concert. Michael Jackson co-wrote WE ARE THE WORLD with Ritchie and Quincy Jones produced and conducted the recording. The response from musicians wanting to participate was overwhelming with over 50 artists turned down and a super group of 45 that included Jackson, Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles eventually taking part in the recording. When released as a single, WE ARE THE WORLD was one of the fastest-selling singles of the modern pop era, reaching #1 and remaining there for four weeks. It immediately sold out its initial shipment of 800,000 copies, and sales reached 1.5 million shortly afterwards.
In 1987 the album Bad was released. This time Michael Jackson had more freedom over the material than he did with the two previous albums Off the Wall and Thriller, as he wrote and composed 9 of the album’s 11 tracks, and co-wrote and produced another, MAN IN THE MIRROR, a track that lent itself to a powerful video, directed and edited by Don Wilson. It shows footage of historic events in escalating intensity of violence and despair and finishes with an expression of hope and peace.
BLACK OR WHITE, a song promoting racial harmony, was the first single taken from the Dangerous album, released in 1991. It’s a mix of hard rock, dance and hip-hop and was written by Michael Jackson with rap lyrics by Bill Bottrell. The song’s introduction and main riff are performed by guitarist Slash and Bill Bottrell. The controversial video clip was directed by John Landis, who also directed the Thriller video. Here is the full, unedited version, complete with an appearance from Homer and Bart Simpson. Enjoy.
WILL YOU BE THERE was the theme song for the film Free Willy, and it featured on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. I think this was probably my favourite song of the show. How powerful and poignant are those lyrics?
An amazing song, written and composed by Jackson, it’s a potent message that, for me anyway, evokes the loneliness and isolation that fame and media scrutiny can create.
Next week I’ll be presenting another special because I’m celebrating NAIDOC week (celebrating the culture of Aborigines and Islanders in this country) and, especially, a new Australian film that will finally screen here in Byron Bay. The film is SAMSON AND DELILAH and I thought I would put together an all-indigenous show to celebrate. I’ll include some songs from the film’s soundtrack and I’ll have some giveaways too, so tune in!
But, before I sign off, here’s the complete playlist from this week. R.I.P. Michael.
Can You Feel It – The Jacksons
I Want You Back – Jackson Five
ABC – The Jackson 5
The Love You Save – Jackson 5
I’ll Be There – The Jackson 5
Ben – Jackson 5
Rod Temperton Interview
Off the Wall – Michael Jackson
Rock With You (Single Version) – Michael Jackson
Burn This Disco Out 3 – Michael Jackson
Quincy Jones Interview
Get On the Floor (co-written by Brothers Johnson) – Michael Jackson
Workin’ Day and Night – Michael Jackson
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Original Demo from 1978) – Michael Jackson
Interview with Rod Temperton
Vincent Price Excerpt from “Thriller-Voice-Over Session”
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Interview with Quincy Jones
Beat It – Michael Jackson
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
We Are the World – written by Michael Jackson & Lionel Ritchie
Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson
Bad – Michael Jackson
Black or White – Michael Jackson
Will You Be There (Free Willy Theme Song) – Michael Jackson
Never Can Say Goodbye – The Jackson 5
Next week: All Indigenous
Tune into the Theme Park with Lyn McCarthy on Tuesdays 2-4pm (Sydney time) on BayFM99.9. Also streaming at http://www.bayfm.org
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Posted on July 1, 2009, in Broadcasting and media, community radio, music - nostalgia, music, r&b, music, soul, Radio Program, Uncategorized and tagged Australia, disco, hip-hop, Michael Jackson, Motown, music, pop, R&B, radio, rock, soul, Theme music. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.