Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Michael - My Magic Potion

I often ask myself why I have stuck with Michael so faithfully for so many years and through so many changing phases of my life. From the very first time I saw him on a poster at a friend’s house in the early eighties just before he embarked on the Victory Tour with his brothers, through my tumultuous teenage years, where so much was going on at the same time, through my years as a college student, through pregnancy, married life, ups and downs… 

Michael was - and remains – a constant presence in my life. 

Is it unnatural? Immature? A little nutty perhaps?
I am sure some people, especially those untouched by Michael’s special kind of magic, would say that it is, and I understand. To an outsider, a married woman in her forties, who never let go of her teenage heartthrob, must look a little ridiculous, if not pathetic. However, since they are so quick to judge, they fail to see the whole truth.
To me, Michael is so much more than a teenage heartthrob, a pretty face on my wall, an idolized figure. 

Yes, it started out that way - as I am sure it did with most of his other female followers too. There was something so irresistibly appealing about that young man, who looked down at me with his doe eyes from that Jacksons poster that I just had to know more about him. Preferably everything…
Of course, in my preteen naivety, I had no idea that my new found, brown eyed love interest was a very private person and that I would spend decades trying to peel back layer after layer in my search of the “true Michael.”

I am still peeling, in case you want to know.

Anyway, even if I had known that I had just embarked on a life-long project, I do not think it would have lessened my enthusiasm. Nothing could have, because it was love at first sight, the kind of love that short-circuits reason and any sense of realism whatsoever, knocks you off your feet and sends you flying high on a pink, sticky-sweet, cotton candy like Cloud Nine.

Michael was my first love.
Not the boy next door or someone from school… No, it was Michael. Michael Jackson of all people.
Good grief…
I cannot help but smile as I write this. Hormone stricken teenage brains really work in wondrous ways. All it took was one look and boom! There was the man of my life.
“Yeah, right! Helloooo, get real,” some would say.
“No such chance,” I say.
It was an irreversible condition.
People say the first cut it the deepest, and boy, this one was deep alright.

Now, I am sure most people have had a teenage crush on someone famous and some probably experienced it numerous times during their teenage years. In fact, I think it is safe to say that for many teenagers, each year added to his or her life brings with it new tastes and new interests.
So did mine.
There were times, when Michael had to share my walls with other men, ranging from George Michael to Don Johnson and pretty much everything in between, but one thing never changed. Michael was always the king. He reigned supreme, so if I got a new Michael poster, someone else had to go to make room for him. However, I did not take down my Michael posters for anyone.
No way!

Almost thirty years down the line, he is still up there. He is not alone, but instead of sharing the walls with other hot hunks, he is now sharing them with pictures of my family and different works of art and he has to put up with the fact that sometimes, I have to move him a bit to make room for something else. But I never take him down. I always find a new spot for him.

Which brings me back to where I started - why did I stick with him?
We all know that teenage crushes are fleeting things, but most importantly, since my love was and will forever be unrequited, it should abide to the laws of nature, fade away, dry out and drop its petals like a rose denied the life-giving drops of water.
But no…
As I keep peeling back the layers, discovering new sides of his life and personality, my love for him only seems to grow stronger and deeper - and so does my respect by the way. 

Well, first and foremost, with everything that he did and was, Michael was - and is - pushing all my buttons like no other man. This would have been more than reason enough to hang on to him, if he had been mine to hold in the first place. However, he never was and is not going to be.
Now, rather than adding even further to the mystery of why, the more I think about it, I am convinced that this is where I find the answer to my question.

What I feel for him has forever gone untouched by real life. Since he was not mine, I have not had to deal with hard times, heartbreak and the frustrations caused by bundles of dirty white socks left on the floor. He has never yelled at me in a heated argument, never let me down or disappointed me, never annoyed me with his bad habits, walked out on me or given me the silent treatment.
Instead, I have loved from a distance and had the privilege of constant good times through my often rather vivid imagination, my dreams - and let’s not forget the most important thing - his music and his second to none stage performances. Yes, I have been terribly worried about him at times, and I have cried with him and over him, but in all his troubles, my love was never the thing at stake. It remained pure, untouched by the events in his life, simply because I had no part in it. 

Not even the most ultimate of events changed a thing.

And you know what?
This is just the way I want it to be. Rather than havning had him and lost him, now he will forever be my perfect love, my magic potion, my well of happiness that never dries out no matter how much I drink from its sweet waters.

It would be unnatural if I let go. I mean, no one in their right mind gives up on a source of joy like that. Do they?

I know I don't.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Making Of The King Of Pop - part four

Article from Rolling Stone, January 9th, 1992
- by Michael Goldberg

Earlier this year, Michael Jackson's business advisers negotiated a new $65 million contract with Sony Music that gave him not only profit participation in his album's earnings but also his own record company and the opportunity to make films for Sony's Columbia Pictures. It is an unprecedented deal.
"The deal we made - and I don't think it's appropriate to discuss the details - we think is economic for us," says Michael Schulhof, vice-chairman of Sony U.S.A. "If Michael continues to perform the way he has in the past, both he and we will do very well. He's thirty-three years old. I don't think anybody, including Michael himself, can predict how he is gong to exercise that creativity. It may be in music, it may be in film, it may be in totally new areas of entertainment, That fact that the contract with him is unique reflects the fact that he is a unique talent."

Jackson spent an estimated $10 million to record Dangerous.(Epic's Glew denies this figure as well.) He used seven recording studios in the process. For over two years he had exclusive twenty-four-hour-a-day access to Record One Studios, in Sherman Oaks, California. That studio alone, which contains two complete recording studios, is estimated to have cost $4000 a day. Then there were the three rooms at Larrabee Sound Studios, in Los Angeles, which Jackson also secured for about nine months. That added another $3000 or $4000 a day to the budget.

"Usually there wasn't a whole lot going on in any of the studios unless Michael was there," says a source who worked on the album. "When we were at Larrabee, they still had Record One booked. It's a little eccentric. Nobody makes records like that. It would be fun to be able to spend that kind of money, I'll tell you."
"It's just 'cause he has so much other stuff going on," the sourse says. "Trying to help kids. Like if all of a sudden up in Sacramento someone shoots a bunch of kids, he has to go up there and spend time with them. There was a lot of that stuff going on every day. Every day he'd want to go do something else. There were a lot of distractions. Liz is getting married, and he goes and deals with that, but still the studios were booked."
Says one artist's manager: "I simply don't understand how it's possible to spend $10 million making an album. People have spent $2 million. But $10 million? That's just beyond comprehension."
Jackson worked on the album off an on for nearly four years. "Michael started the day we finished Bad," says Swedien. "The next day he was doing demos."

Originally, the plan was for Jackson simply to record four new songs for a multi-CD greatest hits package called Decade that was to have come out before Christmas 1989. Jackson began work on some new songs and came up with about half an album's worth of strong material.

Jackson, in consultation with his associates and Sony Music executives, decided that the new songs he had written were strong enough that he should just make an entire album. The greatest-hits package was thus shelved.

Booked studios accounted for a mere fraction of the high costs. Jackson went on to record about sixty songs for Dangerous. In addition to working with Riley and Swedien, he cut tracks with several other producers: Bill Bottrell, Bryan Loren and L.A. Read and BabyFace. Bottrell describes working with Jackson in near ecstatic terms: Every time he sings or tells me about a new idea for a song it's... Let me just say there were plenty of extraordinary moments!"

According to Bottrell, "Black Or White" developed from something originally recorded for Bad. "That piece of music, the beginning part that Slash plays on, was first recorded at Michael's house," Bottrell says. "Michael asked me to dig it out of the vault in august of 1989. He had in mind to use it as the intro to 'Black or White.' It took a long time before we got Slash on it."
Bottrell paved the way for Jackson and Slash to work together. Although Slash is credited with playing on "Black Or White," he's actually only on the introductory groove. Jackson wasn't even there for the session when Slash recorded that bit. "He was disapointed," says Bottrell. "He was frustrated that Michael wasn't there."

More than a year later, Slash got a call. It was from Jackson. He had a power ballad, "Give In To Me," that he wanted Slash to solo on. "He sent me a tape of the song that had no guitars other than some slow picking," says Slash. "I called him and sang over the phone what I wanted to do."

Slash, however, didn't have time to record the solo. "I was leaving for Africa," he says. "Our schedules were not in sync. So they were going to blow me off, but Michael managed to work it out so we could do it when I came back from Africa. I got off the plane and drove to the studio."

"I basically went in and started to play it - that was it," Slash says. "It was really spontaneous in that way. Michael just wanted whatever was in my style. He just wanted me to do that. No pressure. He was really in sync with me. I don't come from this heavy-metal school of guitar playing. All the stuff that I do or dig is from the same place that Michael Jackson comes from. We may go in seperate directions or be on different sides of the fence, but when it comes down to it, it all comes from the same shit."

Working with Jackson in the studio can be tricky. A firm believer in the power of positive thinking (in Jackson's office at Neverland are a batch of books by self-help guru Dr. Wayne Dyer, including The Sky's the Limit and You'll See It When You Believe It), Jackson almost never comes out and says he doesn't like something. "He doesn't like to be negative," says Bottrell. "He has his own indications, and you just learn what they are. Walking out of the room is one way."

Jackson's approach to coproducing songs is unusual. "He starts with an entire sound and song, musically." says Bottrell. "Usually he doesn't start with the lyrics, but he hears the sound and the whole arrangement of the song in his head. I suppose there are exceptions, but this is generally the way it is. He fills in the lyrics later. He hums things. He can convey it with his voice like nobody. Not just singing the song's lyrics, but he can convey a feeling in a drum part or synthesizer part. He's really good at conveying those things."

While Jackson was happy with a good number of the songs he'd completed, he felt the dance grooves didn't cut it. "Michael's desire was to present something very street that the very young people will be able to identify with," says Swedien. "That was a conscious decision on his part."

Enter Teddy Riley. Said to have been the brains behind Bobby Brown's phenominal "My Prerogative" (although production was credited to Riley's former partner Gene Griffin), Riley was apparently suggested to Jackson by Eddie Murphy as the right producer for delivering the killer grooves.
"He wanted to work on grooves" says Riley. "So I came in with ten grooves. He liked them all."
"Teddy was very professional," says Swedien. "No problems. He'd come in with a groove, we'd say it wasn't exactly right, and there would be no complaining. He'd just go back and then come back and blow us away with something like 'Dangerous'."

Jackson would listen to the music they were working on at window-breaking levels. Riley says they blew a speaker at one studio. "Michael likes to listen even louder than me," says Riley. "His volume is past twelve. I'm maybe nine or ten. His volume is twelve-plus. Oh man, he loves loud music. And he jams! Only way you know your music is right is if he's dancing all over the studio. He starts going 'Yeah, whoa!'"

Once Jackson and Riley got into it, they just kept coming up with songs. "When the deadline came, he wanted to do more and more songs," says Riley. "And his manager came in there and said 'Teddy and Michael, you're not up to your sneaky stuff. Do not write another song.' And then when Michael saw the commercial for Dangerous, the David Lynch thing, we started working hard to get it finished."

For the last two months of work on the album, Jackson and Swedien took rooms at a hotel four minutes from the studio. "We'd drive to the studio and work until we couldn't work anymore," says Swedien. "Then we'd drive back to the hotel, go to sleep, and then go back in the morning and hit it again."

One particular day, Swedien found Jackson crying in a room he used as his office at Record One. He was upset because the song he had been trying to sing was in the wrong key. "The day had come for Michael to put the lead on 'Keep the Faith'," says Swedien. "He sang the first and second verses, and then he disappeared. It was very unlike Michael. I found him standing in the corner of his office crying his eyes out. He was absolutely heartbroken, to cut to the quick."

"I told him 'Michael, it's not that big a deal,'" Swedien says. "'I'll just record it in the other key.'"
We'd tried two keys and, unfortunately, picked the wrong one. He was really upset. "I told him, 'Michael we've got to face this right now.'"
I called the sync player and programmer. I felt we had to get the right key and get Michael to face it before it turned into something ugly.
"I thought we'd have a major, major problem," says Swedien. "I was visualizing headlines. I told him 'Pull yourself together, face this now.' And it was late. I said, 'We're not going home until you've sung this all the way through. Then we'll go home and be able to sleep and continue.' That was scary. But he did it. He pulled himself together. We went into the studio, cut a whole new demo and recorded a scratch vocal all way through. A situation like that could have been a real block. We didn't leave the studio till dawn."

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Michael's speech at Oxford University

March 21st, 2001

Thank you, thank you dear friends, from the bottom of my heart, for such a loving and spirited welcome, and thank you, Mr President, for your kind invitation to me which I am so honoured to accept. I also want to express a special thanks to you Shmuley, who for 11 years served as Rabbi here at Oxford. You and I have been working so hard to form Heal the Kids, as well as writing our book about childlike qualities, and in all of our efforts you have been such a supportive and loving friend. And I would also like to thank Toba Friedman, our director of operations at Heal the Kids, who is returning tonight to the alma mater where she served as a Marshall scholar, as well as Marilyn Piels, another central member of our Heal the Kids team.
I am humbled to be lecturing in a place that has previously been filled by such notable figures as Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan, Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X. I've even heard that Kermit the Frog has made an appearance here, and I've always felt a kinship with Kermit's message that it's not easy being green. I'm sure he didn't find it any easier being up here than I do!

As I looked around Oxford today, I couldn't help but be aware of the majesty and grandeur of this great institution, not to mention the brilliance of the great and gifted minds that have roamed these streets for centuries. The walls of Oxford have not only housed the greatest philosophical and scientific geniuses - they have also ushered forth some of the most cherished creators of children's literature, from J.R.R. Tolkien to CS Lewis. Today I was allowed to hobble into the dining hall in Christ Church to see Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland immortalised in the stained glass windows. And even one of my own fellow Americans, the beloved Dr Seuss graced these halls and then went on to leave his mark on the imaginations of millions of children throughout the world.

I suppose I should start by listing my qualifications to speak before you this evening. Friends, I do not claim to have the academic expertise of other speakers who have addressed this hall, just as they could lay little claim at being adept at the moonwalk - and you know, Einstein in particular was really TERRIBLE at that.

But I do have a claim to having experienced more places and cultures than most people will ever see. Human knowledge consists not only of libraries of parchment and ink - it is also comprised of the volumes of knowledge that are written on the human heart, chiselled on the human soul, and engraved on the human psyche. And friends, I have encountered so much in this relatively short life of mine that I still cannot believe I am only 42. I often tell Shmuley that in soul years I'm sure that I'm at least 80 - and tonight I even walk like I'm 80! So please harken to my message, because what I have to tell you tonight can bring healing to humanity and healing to our planet.

Through the grace of God, I have been fortunate to have achieved many of my artistic and professional aspirations realised early in my lifetime. But these, friends are accomplishments, and accomplishments alone are not synonymous with who I am. Indeed, the cheery five-year-old who belted out Rockin' Robin and Ben to adoring crowds was not indicative of the boy behind the smile.

Tonight, I come before you less as an icon of pop (whatever that means anyway), and more as an icon of a generation, a generation that no longer knows what it means to be children.
All of us are products of our childhood. But I am the product of a lack of a childhood, an absence of that precious and wondrous age when we frolic playfully without a care in the world, basking in the adoration of parents and relatives, where our biggest concern is studying for that big spelling test come Monday morning.

Those of you who are familiar with the Jackson Five know that I began performing at the tender age of five and that ever since then, I haven't stopped dancing or singing. But while performing and making music undoubtedly remain as some of my greatest joys, when I was young I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree houses, have water balloon fights, and play hide and seek with my friends. But fate had it otherwise and all I could do was envy the laughter and playtime that seemed to be going on all around me.
There was no respite from my professional life. But on Sundays I would go Pioneering, the term used for the missionary work that Jehovah's Witnesses do. And it was then that I was able to see the magic of other people's childhood.

Since I was already a celebrity, I would have to don a disguise of fat suit, wig, beard and glasses and we would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern California, going door-to-door or making the rounds of shopping malls, distributing our Watchtower magazine. I loved to set foot in all those regular suburban houses and catch sight of the shag rugs and La-Z-Boy armchairs with kids playing Monopoly and grandmas baby-sitting and all those wonderful, ordinary and starry scenes of everyday life. Many, I know, would argue that these things seem like no big deal. But to me they were mesmerising.

I used to think that I was unique in feeling that I was without a childhood. I believed that indeed there were only a handful with whom I could share those feelings. When I recently met with Shirley Temple Black, the great child star of the 1930s and 40s, we said nothing to each other at first, we simply cried together, for she could share a pain with me that only others like my close friends Elizabeth Taylor and McCauley Culkin know.

I do not tell you this to gain your sympathy but to impress upon you my first important point : It is not just Hollywood child stars that have suffered from a non-existent childhood. Today, it's a universal calamity, a global catastrophe. Childhood has become the great casualty of modern-day living. All around us we are producing scores of kids who have not had the joy, who have not been accorded the right, who have not been allowed the freedom, or knowing what it's like to be a kid.

Today children are constantly encouraged to grow up faster, as if this period known as childhood is a burdensome stage, to be endured and ushered through, as swiftly as possible. And on that subject, I am certainly one of the world's greatest experts.

Ours is a generation that has witnessed the abrogation of the parent-child covenant. Psychologists are publishing libraries of books detailing the destructive effects of denying one's children the unconditional love that is so necessary to the healthy development of their minds and character. And because of all the neglect, too many of our kids have, essentially, to raise themselves. They are growing more distant from their parents, grandparents and other family members, as all around us the indestructible bond that once glued together the generations, unravels.

This violation has bred a new generation, Generation O let us call it, that has now picked up the torch from Generation X. The O stands for a generation that has everything on the outside - wealth, success, fancy clothing and fancy cars, but an aching emptiness on the inside. That cavity in our chests, that barrenness at our core, that void in our centre is the place where the heart once beat and which love once occupied.

And it's not just the kids who are suffering. It's the parents as well. For the more we cultivate little-adults in kids'-bodies, the more removed we ourselves become from our own child-like qualities, and there is so much about being a child that is worth retaining in adult life.
Love, ladies and gentlemen, is the human family's most precious legacy, its richest bequest, its golden inheritance. And it is a treasure that is handed down from one generation to another. Previous ages may not have had the wealth we enjoy. Their houses may have lacked electricity, and they squeezed their many kids into small homes without central heating. But those homes had no darkness, nor were they cold. They were lit bright with the glow of love and they were warmed snugly by the very heat of the human heart. Parents, undistracted by the lust for luxury and status, accorded their children primacy in their lives.

As you all know, our two countries broke from each other over what Thomas Jefferson referred to as "certain inalienable rights". And while we Americans and British might dispute the justice of his claims, what has never been in dispute is that children have certain inalienable rights, and the gradual erosion of those rights has led to scores of children worldwide being denied the joys and security of childhood.

I would therefore like to propose tonight that we install in every home a Children's Universal Bill of Rights, the tenets of which are:
1. The right to be loved without having to earn it
2. The right to be protected, without having to deserve it
3. The right to feel valuable, even if you came into the world with nothing
4. The right to be listened to without having to be interesting
5. The right to be read a bedtime story, without having to compete with the evening news
6. The right to an education without having to dodge bullets at schools
7. The right to be thought of as adorable - (even if you have a face that only a mother could love).

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 of what religion you are a part, you have to know that you are loved.

About twelve years ago, when I was just about to start my Bad tour, a little boy came with his parents to visit me at home in California. He was dying of cancer and he told me how much he loved my music and me. His parents told me that he wasn't going to live, that any day he could just go, and I said to him: "Look, I am going to be coming to your town in Kansas to open my tour in three months. I want you to come to the show. I am going to give you this jacket that I wore in one of my videos." His eyes lit up and he said: "You are gonna GIVE it to me?" I said "Yeah, but you have to promise that you will wear it to the show." I was trying to make him hold on. I said: "When you come to the show I want to see you in this jacket and in this glove" and I gave him one of my rhinestone gloves - and I never usually give the rhinestone gloves away. And he was just in heaven.
But maybe he was too close to heaven, because when I came to his town, he had already died, and they had buried him in the glove and jacket. He was just 10 years old. God knows, I know, that he tried his best to hold on. But at least when he died, he knew that he was loved, not only by his parents, but even by me, a near stranger, I also loved him. And with all of that love he knew that he didn't come into this world alone, and he certainly didn't leave it alone.

If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can he dealt with. A professor may degrade you, but you will not feel degraded, a boss may crush you, but you will not be crushed, a corporate gladiator might vanquish you, but you will still triumph. How could any of them truly prevail in pulling you down? For you know that you are an object worthy of love. The rest is just packaging.
But if you don't have that memory of being loved, you are condemned to search the world for something to fill you up. But no matter how much money you make or how famous you become, you will still fell empty. What you are really searching for is unconditional love, unqualified acceptance. And that was the one thing that was denied to you at birth.

Friends, let me paint a picture for you. Here is a typical day in America - six youths under the age of 20 will commit suicide, 12 children under the age of 20 will die from firearms - remember this is a DAY, not a year - 399 kids will be arrested for drug abuse, 1,352 babies will be born to teen mothers. This is happening in one of the richest, most developed countries in the history of the world.

Yes, in my country there is an epidemic of violence that parallels no other industrialised nation. These are the ways young people in America express their hurt and their anger. But don't think that there is not the same pain and anguish among their counterparts in the United Kingdom. Studies in this country show that every single hour, three teenagers in the UK inflict harm upon themselves, often by cutting or burning their bodies or taking an overdose. This is how they have chosen to cope with the pain of neglect and emotional agony.

In Britain, as many as 20% of families will only sit down and have dinner together once a year. Once a year! And what about the time-honoured tradition of reading your kid a bedtime story? Research from the 1980s showed that children who are read to, had far greater literacy and significantly outperformed their peers at school. And yet, less than 33% of British children ages two to eight have a regular bedtime story read to them. You may not think much of that until you take into account that 75% of their parents DID have that bedtime story when they were that age.

Clearly, we do not have to ask ourselves where all of this pain, anger and violent behaviour comes from. It is self-evident that children are thundering against the neglect, quaking against the indifference and crying out just to be noticed. The various child protection agencies in the US say that millions of children are victims of maltreatment in the form of neglect, in the average year. Yes, neglect. In rich homes, privileged homes, wired to the hilt with every electronic gadget. Homes where parents come home, but they're not really home, because their heads are still at the office. And their kids? Well, their kids just make do with whatever emotional crumbs they get. And you don't get much from endless TV, computer games and videos.

These hard, cold numbers which for me, wrench the soul and shake the spirit, should indicate to you why I have devoted so much of my time and resources into making our new Heal the Kids initiative a colossal success.
Our goal is simple - to recreate the parent/child bond, renew its promise and light the way forward for all the beautiful children who are destined one day to walk this earth.
But since this is my first public lecture, and you have so warmly welcomed me into your hearts, I feel that I want to tell you more. We each have our own story, and in that sense statistics can become personal.

They say that parenting is like dancing. You take one step, your child takes another. I have discovered that getting parents to re-dedicate themselves to their children is only half the story. The other half is preparing the children to re-accept their parents.
When I was very young I remember that we had this crazy mutt of a dog named "Black Girl," a mix of wolf and retriever. Not only wasn't she much of a guard dog, she was such a scared and nervous thing that it is a wonder she did not pass out every time a truck rumbled by, or a thunderstorm swept through Indiana. My sister Janet and I gave that dog so much love, but we never really won back the sense of trust that had been stolen from her by her previous owner. We knew he used to beat her. We didn't know with what. But whatever it was, it was enough to suck the spirit right out of that dog.

A lot of kids today are hurt puppies who have weaned themselves off the need for love. They couldn't care less about their parents. Left to their own devices, they cherish their independence. They have moved on and have left their parents behind.
Then there are the far worse cases of children who harbour animosity and resentment toward their parents, so that any overture that their parents might undertake would be thrown forcefully back in their face.

Tonight, I don't want any of us to make this mistake. That's why I'm calling upon all the world's children - beginning with all of us here tonight - to forgive our parents, if we felt neglected. Forgive them and teach them how to love again.

You probably weren't surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood. The strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is well documented. My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.

He had great difficulty showing affection. He never really told me he loved me. And he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he would say nothing.
He seemed intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. And at that he was more than adept. My father was a managerial genius and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way that he pushed us. He trained me as a showman and under his guidance I couldn't miss a step.
But what I really wanted was a Dad. I wanted a father who showed me love. And my father never did that. He never said I love you while looking me straight in the eye, he never played a game with me. He never gave me a piggyback ride, he never threw a pillow at me, or a water balloon.

But I remember once when I was about four years old, there was a little carnival and he picked me up and put me on a pony. It was a tiny gesture, probably something he forgot five minutes later. But because of that moment I have this special place in my heart for him. Because that's how kids are, the little things mean so much to them and for me, that one moment meant everything. I only experienced it that one time, but it made me feel really good, about him and the world.

But now I am a father myself, and one day I was thinking about my own children, Prince and Paris and how I wanted them to think of me when they grow up. To be sure, I would like them to remember how I always wanted them with me wherever I went, how I always tried to put them before everything else. But there are also challenges in their lives. Because my kids are stalked by paparazzi, they can't always go to a park or a movie with me.

So what if they grow older and resent me, and how my choices impacted their youth? Why weren't we given an average childhood like all the other kids, they might ask? And at that moment I pray that my children will give me the benefit of the doubt. That they will say to themselves: "Our daddy did the best he could, given the unique circumstances that he faced. He may not have been perfect, but he was a warm and decent man, who tried to give us all the love in the world."

I hope that they will always focus on the positive things, on the sacrifices I willingly made for them, and not criticise the things they had to give up, or the errors I've made, and will certainly continue to make, in raising them. For we have all been someone's child, and we know that despite the very best of plans and efforts, mistakes will always occur. That's just being human.
And when I think about this, of how I hope that my children will not judge me unkindly, and will forgive my shortcomings, I am forced to think of my own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that me must have loved me. He did love me, and I know that.
There were little things that showed it. When I was a kid I had a real sweet tooth - we all did. My favourite food was glazed doughnuts and my father knew that. So every few weeks I would come downstairs in the morning and there on the kitchen counter was a bag of glazed doughnuts - no note, no explanation - just the doughnuts. It was like Santa Claus.

Sometimes I would think about staying up late at night, so I could see him leave them there, but just like with Santa Claus, I didn't want to ruin the magic for fear that he would never do it again. My father had to leave them secretly at night, so as no one might catch him with his guard down. He was scared of human emotion, he didn't understand it or know how to deal with it. But he did know doughnuts.

And when I allow the floodgates to open up, there are other memories that come rushing back, memories of other tiny gestures, however imperfect, that showed that he did what he could. So tonight, rather than focusing on what my father didn't do, I want to focus on all the things he did do and on his own personal challenges. I want to stop judging him.

I have started reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very poor family. He came of age during the Depression and his own father, who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his family and raised my father and his siblings with an iron fist. Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in a world that saw my father as subordinate. I was the first black artist to be played on MTV and I remember how big a deal it was even then. And that was in the 80s!

My father moved to Indiana and had a large family of his own, working long hours in the steel mills, work that kills the lungs and humbles the spirit, all to support his family. Is it any wonder that he found it difficult to expose his feelings? Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart, that he raised the emotional ramparts? And most of all, is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers, so that they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and poverty?

I have begun to see that even my father's harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring.
And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.

Almost a decade ago, I founded a charity called Heal the World. The title was something I felt inside me. Little did I know, as Shmuley later pointed out, that those two words form the cornerstone of Old Testament prophecy. Do I really believe that we can heal this world, that is riddled with war and genocide, even today? And do I really think that we can heal our children, the same children who can enter their schools with guns and hatred and shoot down their classmates, like they did at Columbine? Or children who can beat a defenceless toddler to death, like the tragic story of Jamie Bulger? Of course I do, or I wouldn't be here tonight.
But it all begins with forgiveness, because to heal the world, we first have to heal ourselves. And to heal the kids, we first have to heal the child within, each and every one of us. As an adult, and as a parent, I realise that I cannot be a whole human being, nor a parent capable of unconditional love, until I put to rest the ghosts of my own childhood.
And that's what I'm asking all of us to do tonight. Live up to the fifth of the Ten Commandments. Honour your parents by not judging them. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
That is why I want to forgive my father and to stop judging him. I want to forgive my father, because I want a father, and this is the only one that I've got. I want the weight of my past lifted from my shoulders and I want to be free to step into a new relationship with my father, for the rest of my life, unhindered by the goblins of the past.

In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.
To all of you tonight who feel let down by your parents, I ask you to let down your disappointment. To all of you tonight who feel cheated by your fathers or mothers, I ask you not to cheat yourself further. And to all of you who wish to push your parents away, I ask you to extend you hand to them instead. I am asking you, I am asking myself, to give our parents the gift of unconditional love, so that they too may learn how to love from us, their children. So that love will finally be restored to a desolate and lonely world.
Shmuley once mentioned to me an ancient Biblical prophecy which says that a new world and a new time would come, when "the hearts of the parents would be restored through the hearts of their children". My friends, we are that world, we are those children.
Mahatma Gandhi said: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." Tonight, be strong. Beyond being strong, rise to the greatest challenge of all - to restore that broken covenant. We must all overcome whatever crippling effects our childhoods may have had on our lives and in the words of Jesse Jackson, forgive each other, redeem each other and move on.

This call for forgiveness may not result in Oprah moments the world over, with thousands of children making up with their parents, but it will at least be a start, and we'll all be so much happier as a result.

And so ladies and gentlemen, I conclude my remarks tonight with faith, joy and excitement.
From this day forward, may a new song be heard.
Let that new song be the sound of children laughing.
Let that new song be the sound of children playing.
Let that new song be the sound of children singing.
And let that new song be the sound of parents listening.
Together, let us create a symphony of hearts, marvelling at the miracle of our children and basking in the beauty of love.
Let us heal the world and blight its pain.
And may we all make beautiful music together.
God bless you, and I love you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Making Of The King Of Pop - part three

Article from Rolling Stone, January 9th, 1992
- by Michael Goldberg

Certainly Michael Jackson couldn't have imagined kicking off this round of career activity with a bigger bang. And yet the question remains: No matter how much hype is generated, can Jackson ever surpass his previous sales records? In the headline of a story that ran the week before the "Black Or White" video aired, the New York Times asked the question on every Jackson watcher's mind: "Thriller - Can Michael Jackson Beat It?"

This is the challenge that Jackson is up against. His biggest album, "Thriller", sold over 40 million copies worldwide and 21 million in the U.S., while his last album, "Bad", sold in excess of 20 million, with only 7 million selling in the U.S.
Roughly two-thirds of Jackson's audience is located outside North America. In countries such as England and Japan, Michael Jackson is a very hot item. Clearly, he hopes to regain his audience here. And yet Jackson's own expectations seem impossible for any artist to achieve: He is hoping to sell 100 million copies of "Dangerous."
"If it sold 100 million, I don't think he'd be totally satisfied," says Bruce Swedien, one of the coproducers of the album. "But he'd hold still for that."

"With Michael, as with any superstar, reality and fantasy are totally confused," says John Landis. "It is very difficult to remain sane. I think he is doing the right thing by cutting himself off from the press, because the press tends to write what it wants anyway. He's very smart; he's a very nice man."

So in the four years since "Bad" was released, Jackson has, in his own way, attempted to take complete control of his life. He stopped working with Quincy Jones, the man who produced or co-produced "Off the Wall", "Thriller" and "Bad." He fired his manager, Frank Dileo - a former Epic records promotion man, who deserves much of the credit for keeping singles from "Thriller" and"Bad" at the top of the charts - and hired Sandy Gallin, who has worked with Dolly Parton and Neil Diamond, among others.
He also replaced his business manager and, more significantly, attorney John Branca, who had not only handled numerous complex legal cases and acted as interim manager at various critical points in Jackson's ascent but had also negotiated Jackson's purchase of the Beatles song catalog, now worth more than $120 million, three times what Jackson paid for it.
Finally Jackson left home, moving into Neverland and, according to several sources, distancing himself from at least some members of the family.

Surprisingly, despite a fresh cabinet of advisers, Jackson's new strategy for topping himself isn't new at all. Instead, he seems to be repeating, with slight variations, what has worked for him in the past.
Yet, things have changed since "Thriller" and "Bad." While rap became a force to be reckoned with, hard rock once again captured the nation's attention. Producers like L.A. Reid and BabyFace and Teddy Riley created New Jack Swing, the latest version of soul music. Stars like Madonna and Peter Gabriel, Hammer and R.E.M. have raised the stakes where video is concerned. And the Rolling Stones pulled off the biggest, most flamboyous tour of the decade.
As far as his album went, Michael Jackson, the biggest star in the world, had to come up with something that looked and sounded new and fresh yet wouldn't alienate his millions of fans, many of whom have decidedly conservative tastes.
Jackson's solution was to create a mass-appeal album in which about half of the songs mimic his previous work ("Heal the World" being an obvious rewrite of "We Are the World"; "Who Is It" copping his "Bille Jean" moves; "Black Or White" recalling "State of Shock.") He also brought in Teddy Riley to whip up cutting-edge street beats to make the album sound more contemporary.

And then, to announce the album in a style appropriate for "The King Of Pop," Jackson brought in his old friend John Landis for an encore. Landis had last worked with Jackson on the "Thriller" video in 1983. Although Landis says he doesn't have the exact figures, he estimates from his experience that "Black Or White" may have cost as much as $7 million. (Dave Glew, president of Epic Records, denies this figure but would not divulge the actual amount.) It also took about two months to shoot.

The weeks of filming found many celebrities dropping by the set, including Paul McCartney, Nancy Reagan, the O'Jays, Emmanuel Lewis and, naturally, Jackson's latest friend, "Home Alone" star Macaulay Culkin, who is not only featured in "Black Or White", but also appears on the cover of "Dangerous."
"Michael's really a celebrity magnet," says Landis. Then chuckling he adds: "I remember looking over at one of those giant, seven foot speakers Michael was having the sound played through, and Nancy Reagan was standing right in front of it. All I had to yell was 'Play-back,' and that would have been it."

"Black Or White" became one of the most expensive one-song videos ever made because of, among other things, the cost of the cast and the crew, which Landis says would read like "the credits to Ben Hur", and the extremely expensive "morphing" process used to transform men into women and Jackson into a panther.

And then there were the days when Landis and the crew were all set up on location, ready to begin filming, when Landis would get a call informing him that the star wouldn't be showing up at all. "I was told, on one occation," says Landis, "that Michael Jackson was doing a commercial for Sony Television, Japan."
Jackson also had his album to finish. "It was a difficult schedule," says Vince Paterson, who will be directing a video for "Jam" should Sony go ahead with the song as a single. "There were days when we were put on hold while he worked on the album. The album had to take precedence. So the video got scrambled. And if Michael was in the studio for eighteen hours, there was no point in then bringing him out to the set and trying to shoot him. He would have been dead, he would have been exhausted, and we would have just had to reshoot it anyway.  
"If you've got a sound stage and equipment and people, you have to pay everyone involved whether or not anything gets done," says Paterson. "A lot of the expense was due to that. Bam! A couple hundred thousand dollars - gone!"

Landis says the video's controversial four-minute ending was entirely Jackson's idea. "He wanted it to be even more sexually explicit," says Landis, adding that some of the dancing they shot was even more extreme. As for the negative reaction to that part of the video - which resulted in Jackson's decision to cut out the entire ending - Landis says: "It was not so much what Michael was doing but the juxtaposition of simulated masturbation with the violence. And of course, the fact that it was Michael. I do not know that we discussed his intention, It was simply 'I'd like to do this' and me giving him what he wanted." be continued!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Making Of The King Of Pop - part two

Article from Rolling Stone, January 9th, 1992
- by Michael Goldberg

"The King Of Pop."
That's how Fox, Black Entertainment Television (BET) and MTV, the American TV outlets that got the right to première Jackson's "Black Or White", now refer to him. That was the deal. You want to get "Black or White" first, you dub Jackson "the King Of Pop."
It makes some kind of sense. Bruce is the Boss, Elvis is the King, Prince is, well, Prince. And Michael Jackson? Somehow W**** J****, as the British tabloids have called him, doesb't cut it. So if the world won't crwon him king, why, he'll do it himself.

Which explains the November 11th, 1991, memo, typed on MTV Network's letterhead, that was circulated among the MTV staff the week before "Black Or White" was first shown. The memo directed all on-air personnel to refer to Jackson as "The King Of Pop" at least twice a week over the next two weeks. It also thanked staff members for their cooperation, adding that "Fox and BET are already doing this."
"The fact is that a lot of people have changed their names recently," says Tom Freston, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, in defence of the company's actions. "M.C. Hammer is now Hammer and Michael Jackson is 'the King of Pop'. Who are we to stand in front of the wheels of progress? Whatever they want to call themselves, we try and oblige."

 So MTV and the others dubbed him "the King Of Pop" and showed his video, and the world went crazy. It's estimated that half a billion people saw the premiere of "Black Or White", which quickly became MTV's most requested video of the week. As a result of the overwhelming response, the network put the video into what Freston calls superheavy rotation. "No artistm including himself," Freston says, "has ever gotten more plays per day."

While "Black Or White" has received more concentrated exposure than any other video, it does not have the kind of influential impact that "Thriller" had. "Thriller" clearly broke new ground: Its $1.2 million budget was more than had ever been spent on a video. By combining narrative, dramatic nonmusic sections and ambitious choreography, Jackson and director Landis set new standards for music videos. The "Thriller" video also helped Jackson sell as many as 1 million albums a week for the month following its initial airing.

In the days immediately following the première of "Black Or White", in newspapers large and small all over the world, millions more read about it and about the controvercy that erupted over the video's last four minutes, in which Jackson simulates masturbation, zips up his zipper, smashes in the windows of a car and throws a garbage can through a storefront window.
Entertainment Weekly devoted its cover story to "Michael Jackson's Video Nightmare". Even the Wall Street Journal saw fit to tell its readers about the Jackson brouhaha, noting that "the Jackson video wasn't viewed as truly offensive to almost anybody of commercial importance to the singer."
Jackson's handlers immediately denied any suggestion that the controvercy had been planned. Certainly, it's not far-fetched to imagine that media-savy Michael Jackson, a star for more than twenty years, hero to both children and their grandparents, might have had an inkling that if he rubbed himself and smashed up windows, he would get a rise out of his fans. On the other hand, if he didn't plan to create a controvercy, it simply means that, yes, Jackson really is quite detached from reality, as many believe.
Yet, whatever his intentions, and despite his statement ("It upsets me to think that "Black Or White could influence any child or adult to destructive behavior, either sexual or violent..."), released the day after the video aired, those around Jackson, as well as at least one top Sony executive, seemed overjoyed at all the attention. "No story ever got this much play on the news but a war," said one Jackson associate a few days after the première.

The latest controvercy arrived in time to overshadow the attack Jackson had recently suffered from his brother Jermaine. In November, shortly after Jermaine's latest album was released and just as "Black Or White" hit the airwaves, Jermaine's song "Word to the Badd!!", with lyrics different from those that appear on the album, was leaked to radio. This version was directed right at Jermaine's superstar brother: "Reconstructed/Been abducted/Don't know who you are... Once you were made/You changed your shade/Was your color wrong."

Jermaine quickly claimed he didn't know how the song had gotten to radio. And although he said it was written as a way of personally dealing with frustration he felt when his brother did not return his calls for "eight or nine months", the altered version was formally released on CD to radio and critics by the end of the month.
Jermaine refused to elaborate on the lyrics, saying that "the overall message is to help mend our relationship." He also said that Michael had "lost touch with reality" but that they had talked recently and that "I love my brother."
But Teddy Riley - who coproduced half the songs on Dangerous and also is the leader of the New Jack Swing group Guy - say that, contrary to what Jermaine has said: "Michael does call his family. All this rumor about him not calling anybody, him not answering the calls - come on. I've been there plenty of times when Michael was talking to his mom, and I've spoken to is mom and I've spoken to Janet. It's a bunch of crap. That record ("Word to the Badd!!") was a desperate attempt for fame."

"We anticipated a lot of people saying a lot of stuff about Michael," says Riley. "Hammer going after Michael and Jermaine going after Michael. We anticipated that. That's why he wrote songs like 'Trippin' (Why You Wanna Trip On Me) and 'Jam'. We know that people are after him, people are talking about him. But we didn't get too direct, we didn't say anybody's name. 'Cause when you're too direct, it gets boring."
Despite Jermaine's denials, it seems clear that the whole thing was calculated to borrow some thunder from Michael. be continued.