Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Jackson's memorial: You can't fake genuineness

Wow, what an emotional day.

You can't fake genuineness. That's what came to mind today as I was watching events unfold at pop icon Micheal Jackson's memorial service in the L.A. Staples Center.

More on that later in this post.

I have to admit that my R&B/Motown leanings fall on only a handful of artists; Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder (of whom I own no albums...yet), and...and...well, there you go...and of those artists, I've only experienced certain albums and shapshots of their careers at best. I have some Smokey Robinson and James Brown explorations in my sights.

I dropped in on the Michael Jackson thing in the early 80s right after Off the Wall came out (his first post-Jackson 5 solo album, a disco-influenced pop extravaganza that appeared under the tree Christmas 1979), and followed his career through the Thriller album along with everyone else at the time, as it's the greatest-selling music project of all time with over 100 million units sold...

...but then I took off through high school with completely different forms of music and immersed myself in bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and the Rolling Stones.

In college and over time, I was exposed to many other forms of music...and eventually started circling around to Motown again in the late 90s...then I dove heavily into jazz in 2003, where I realized the reach of Quincy Jones' talent as a songwriter and producer.

Then, a couple years ago as I was passing through a magazine shop in an airport, and my eyes fell on a CD rack displaying the two Michael Jackson albums I was familiar with; this time in a reissued and remastered special edition CD, and I decided to pick them up...and I was beautifully reunited with my 10-year old music self. What a treat that was rediscovering that music again.

In these special issue CDs, Quincy Jones interviews were peppered throughout extra tracks on those projects...and having slightly more interest in CD liner notes in my late 30s than I did as a pre-teen, I learned some stories behind the recordings.

While the events of his personal life brought up questions, and while his changing appearance seemed like something along the likes of what's witnessed on Halloween, Michael Jackson's talent and influence can't be ignored.

As a child star with the Jackson 5, he had the voice, the dance moves, and the stage presence at an incredibly young age. He then morphed into an adult performer and blew everyone away as a creative innovator. He was a songwriter and performed his own material with incredible flair. He broke racial barriers. He set the world of MTV on its ear with the "Thriller" video. He invented the moonwalk. He co-wrote "We Are the World," the first philanthropic project of it's kind.

How he transformed pop culture as we know it cannot be denied.

While his personal life came across as slightly bizarre (politely speaking), the man didn't have to die on June 25. It's not like he was going downhill like Elvis...HE WAS REHEARSING FOR AN UPCOMING TOUR THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS DEATH. We'll learn more about those details in the coming weeks.

Today's memorial events were very emotional, and many performers gave their tearful tributes to him through words and song. Some of them barely kept it together, and some of them didn't.

Jackson's influence was cited and obvious in the memorial performances we saw today...his influence is all around us. Through it all, all these tributes were genuine and from the heart. Today helped to humanize the Michael Jackson mystery.

You can't fake that. You can't fake genuineness.

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