"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The King Is Dead

The man was complicated and disturbed, but the talent was a clear and bright and breathtaking. Here are a few of the highlights via youtube:

And since those are all lip-synced, here’s a live clip of a great song. Sadly, you can see him descended into self-parody as the performance progresses.

The destruction of the vibrant performer in the first four clips was complete soon after.

The last two decades of his life are best forgotten, but the music and the moves from his first 15 years at the top of the pops remain unassailable and a fundamental part of my musical and physical vocabulary. I know there are at least two entire generations that feel the same way.

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1 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 26, 2009 12:38 pm

Long live the King.

2 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 26, 2009 12:45 pm

If you asked me who has had more of an impact on popular music on a global scale over the last 40 years, I'd have a hard time deciding between MJ and Stevie Wonder.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 1:44 pm

Stevie created far more great music and not only wrote the vast majority of it, but played most of the instruments on most of his recordings from the early '70s on, but as far as global impact, I think you're right. Too close to call. The tune Stevie wrote for Off The Wall just came up on the iPod. Dig.

4 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 2:31 pm

I don't think there's any question, Michael Jackson's impact is greater than anyone else's since the Beatles. Stevie Wonder is legendary, but Michael Jackson was an Elvis-like phenomenon.

Hey how many MJ-related articles are you guys gonna post? ; ) I wrote my MJ remembrance (or whatever) on the first one. Maybe I'll re-post it here - it's long!

5 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 26, 2009 2:38 pm

[2] While I personally think Stevie's music was far superior, I think in terms of 'popular' impact, MJ has to be much bigger.

[3] Ooops... gotta read [3] before I respond to [2]. But yeah, in term of raw talent, SW was way above MJ. (Way).

What a shame to have someone who seemed to have so much end up with a life filled with so many problems and an untimely death. It's a lesson to all the Moms and Dads out there. There is nothing as important ,or has near the impact on a human, as a child's relationship with his/her parents. And as is the case with MJ, there is no fame and no amount of riches that can counter a disturbed childhood (and we see this in ARod also, yes?).

My mother once told me the her mother's generation believed that outward demonstrations of love could spoil a child. What a terrible thing to believe and as far from the truth as possible.

You can never love your child too much. You can never show them too much love. Only too little.

6 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 2:42 pm

Amen, OYF.

7 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 2:53 pm

Completely disagree about the "raw talent" aspect. I don't think we've ever seen anyone with as much raw talent as Michael Jackson. But I agree with everything else.

Anyway here's what I wrote in the other thread, for your edification:


To me, Michael Jackson’s life was far sadder than his death. After his most recent rounds of “trouble”, I remember telling someone that I wished he would die. I wasn’t entirely serious of course, but it was just too much. Luckily he did step way out of the spotlight for a few years and it really was a relief. Constantly hearing about his ****ed up life and seeing his completely horrifying face had become a media burden.

The things that were disturbing about him were disturbing on the surface, but also because they strongly suggested a truly awful inner life, something easily imagined after hearing stories about his youth. It was really a depressing thing to consider, how spectacularly unhappy and twisted this man must have been.

He hadn’t made music that breathed in ages. His singing and dancing which were once so wonderful had long ago become somewhat ugly checklists of stylistic tics. Watching MTV’s parade of Jackson videos yesterday really made this clearer than ever - contrasting “Jam” with “Beat It”, or what have you. (Kriss Kross and Heavy D didn’t help the former monstrosity at all, nor did featuring Michael Jordan, who looks like an African-American adonis compared to Michael’s manipulated kabuki face - and that was before Jackson got really weird-looking! It’s all relative, I suppose.)

A few days ago, for the first time I saw a picture of Michael Jackson’s kids. They were obviously not blood relatives of his in any way. Just a completely bizarre sight, and now when I think about those children, and I hope this doesn’t come off as callous, I can’t help but believe they’ll be better off in the long run.

8 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:01 pm

I am probably the least musically inclined Banterite, but it seems to me as if Michael Jackson the incredibly talented performer died somewhere in the 1980s, which makes me wonder how much his sideshow personal life has contributed to his "icon" status? Also, while I am not a fan of her music, I’d have to think Madonna belongs somewhere in the conversation? In any event, while I don’t share the “tragedy” that so many have expressed, I can at least concede that in his prime, MJ was a great and unique talent that crossed all kinds of barriers.

9 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:09 pm

i don't mean to be cold, but i didn't even really bat an eye when i found out about Jacko. immensely talented. Ali Akar Kahn died last week. in that, we lost one of THE greatest musicians EVER, in the history of the world. i'm *much* more shaken up about that.

what happens to The Beatles copyrights now?

[5] well put, OYF! there's a good lyric from an old Brooklyn rock band i loved: "There's no love that's greater than the love for a child." i hope to one day be fortunate to have kids of my own. i know my mom still dotes over me and let's just say that Derek Jeter has just caught up to me in years! ; )

10 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:11 pm

[8] you know "Frim Fram Sauce", so give yourself more credit! : )

yeah, i don't get the "tragedy" portion of this, either. he was great and i enjoyed some of his stuff back in the 80's, as well. it ends there.

i had a HUGE crush on Farrah Fawcett, however...

11 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:17 pm

The Elvis comparison is most apt, and one I made on yesterday's game thread soon after the news broke. The similarities are striking. Thus the title of this post (it's not the "King of Pop" thing, though that self-applied moniker shows that Michael also saw himself as Presley's successor, even went so far as to marry Lisa Marie).

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:24 pm

thelarmis, his life off stage was the tragedy, his death simply allows us to finally appreciate his performances divorced from the ugly reality they masked.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:25 pm

re the Beatles catalog ....

14 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:27 pm

[11] You know, I forgot about that whole strain of weirdness. For most celebrities, Jackson's pronounced "bigger than Elvis" period would have been the height of their eccentricity. For him, it can fall by the wayside in the face of all the other insanity he propagated.

As a general point, it also reminds me of how ambitious he was. People made fun of him for trying to top Thriller, but Thriller was made to be a blockbuster; it was no happy accident, that's for sure.

As far as losing one of the greatest musicians ever, I think Jackson qualifies, if anyone. Certainly he was the greatest American performer of his era.

15 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:27 pm

[12] well put, as always!

i really wish more folks knew of Ustad Ali Akbar Khansahib. that is a TRUE master musician. he's got a great school out in California.

16 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:30 pm

[13] thanks, Diane! ooh, i hope it comes thru and the rights go back to Paul. that'd make me feel much better...

17 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:40 pm

Here's some great stuff (as well as some less-than-great-stuff) on Jackson from the staff of the Onion's AV Club.

18 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:41 pm

[12] I don't think the performances masked the ugliness so much as balanced it. He said many time he felt most comfortable on the stage. I don't think he would have felt and expressed the freedom he did if he wasn't escaping in some way from his offstage life.

19 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:43 pm

[17] Whoa that picture at the top is like the last glimpse of the real Michael Jackson before he disappeared into oblivion.

20 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:52 pm

[18] i feel WAAAAAAAY more comfy on the stage than off it. always have. i'm not really escaping or masking anything though. i'm pretty shy & quiet off the stage (most of the time) and am quite the opposite on the stage (most of the time).

21 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2009 3:54 pm

but it seems to me as if Michael Jackson the incredibly talented performer died somewhere in the 1980s

I don't know about that, he seemed to put on pretty good concerts...

He may have been hated here (for lack of a better word), but he captivated a worldwide audience.

22 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:02 pm

I wonder how THIS fellow feels today ...

23 PJ   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:05 pm

Thanks for posting the vids Cliff, especially "I Want You Back!"

I'll leave all the "who is better" arguments to the rest of you.

I just know I liked Michael Jackson's music. After all, if it weren't for Quincy Jones (he of the 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991) helping to establish Michael as a superior solo act, he would have had a much more difficult time reaching the top, if he could at all.

When you direct The Dizzy Gillespie Band, as well as get hired to arrange and conduct albums for Frank Sinatra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and the Rat Pack on a benefit tour, you clearly are an expert of music at both the historic and unmatched levels!

: )

24 PJ   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:06 pm

[22] Alive?

25 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:32 pm

Sir Pontoon tested positive for a stimulant at the WBC.

26 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:32 pm

I find it hard to view Michael Jackson's life as a tragedy because so many of the negative things that happened to him were the result of his own doing.

I also don't see him having a legacy as long lasting as Elvis or the Beattles or Frank Sinatra, but that's just me. I definitely think he was a great performer (Billie Jean is an incredible song), but after Thriller and Bad (which I didn't like), he seems to have been more about his off beat life style, freakish appearance and series of criminal allegations.

27 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:33 pm

Jeter, SS
Damon, LF
Teixeira, 1B
Rodriguez, 3B
Cano, 2B
Cabrera, RF
Gardner, CF
Cervelli, C
Sabathia, LHP

28 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:33 pm

I would never want to diminish Quincy Jones' talent, but I think Jones' presence allows people to diminish Jackson's too easily. Jones produced the tacky Bad, but the Jacksons produced Destiny, including the electric "Shake Your Body (To The Ground)" themselves, and if you listen to that track above, it's all Michael.

Also revealing are the two demos on the CD edition of Off The Wall. They're of "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Working Day and Night" and with Michael on vocals and keyboards and Randy and Janet on percussion. The songs are fully formed and the arrangements are mostly there, too.

29 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:34 pm

[25] Does that mean the Netherlands upset victories over the Dominican Republic should be vacated :)

30 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:36 pm

[27] That really looks like a NL lineup.

31 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:37 pm

[26] i agree with a lot of this. as a professional musician, i have made a living playing in TWO Elvis bands and have played tons of Beatles tunes. it's very rare i see, hear or play anything that has to do w/ Michael Jackson. billie jean was fun, but it was done as a parody in that group. i'm a HUGE Chris Cornell fan (Soundgarden reunions are abound!), but i'm not a big fan of his 6/8 acoustic version of billie jean.

[23] yeah man, Q is pretty much amazing! i'm always impressed to see his hand on soooo many different great projects.

32 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:45 pm

[26] oh, forget to mention: of course, i've played a TON of Frank Sinatra! : )

33 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:46 pm

[31] Along those line, I think Billie Jean is a great song and probably one of MJ's best, but before he died yesterday, I don't think I had heard it in 10 years. The same is true for most of his songs. On the other hand, I doubt I go more than 2-3 days without hearing a song by Sinatra, the Beatles or Elvis.

34 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:54 pm


Chris Cornell has a set of pipes on him, doesn't he.
Audioslave has had a few decent songs to date, but pales to the Superunknown.

35 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:55 pm

I think to appreciate how long MJ's musical influence will be felt you have to look at Hip Hop. While everything else fell apart, his standing in the hip hop community never really faltered. MTV was running a live tribute last night with Sway in the studio taking calls from musicians who wanted to share their thoughts, I'd say about 75-80% of them were hip hop artists.

36 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 4:59 pm

[34] he RULES! he's also the best lyricist since Dylan and Fish from Marillion.

Audioslave has 3 good records, for certain. took me awhile to come around, but i'm glad i did!

Superunknown is excellent, but i think it's 3rd in the "trilogy" with Badmotorfinger and Down On The Upside blowing away the sandwiched album (which is still great!).

Temple of the Dog and CC's first solo record are also pretty incredible! there's some great stuff on his 2nd solo cd, but the new one is simply god awful. he'd be smart to go back to the "classic" S'garden lineup!!!

37 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:01 pm

[34] forgot to tell you, there was a Yanks fan at the game yesterday wearing a Rush 2112 t-shirt! i said, "cool shirt," as i walked by! he thanked me...

oh, and Neil Peart showed up at my buddy's gig last weekend in LA! : O

38 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:04 pm

Good point, Tartabull. Often overlooked is Michael's influence on breaking. That's why I included the Dancing Machine clip above. Check out that sick robot he's doing in 1974. He was huge in spreading and innovating popping and locking. In the Billy Jean clip above he did four moonwalk steps twice and that's all anyone could talk about after.

As for what you hear most often, it depends how you do your listening. I listen mostly to my iPod, and it never doesn't have some Michael Jackson on it (though it typically also has Beatles, Elvis, and Sinatra as well, and in that order).

39 PJ   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:05 pm

[0] I think that first AB appearance with "I Want You Back" above wasn't lip-synched, Cliff. It sure doesn't sound like the studio recording and Michael's voice fades when he's not so close to the mike. In fact I believe that was the original choreography that was used for the Saturday Cartoon version of The Jackson 5.

I don't know where to find that online...

40 PJ   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:07 pm

[37] : O indeed @ "The Best Drummer in the World"

: )

41 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:08 pm

thelarmis, you're losing me on the Chris Cornell stuff. Some of the Soundgarden stuff was solid and I dug the Temple of the Dog record, but I reviewed that first solo disc when it came out and panned it and Cornell has gotten increasingly tacky and hacky since then. Audioslave was tolerable largely in spite of him. In general, I think grunge and the artists it produced have aged terribly and the music those bands influenced has been some of the worst of the last couple of decades (see: Nickleback).

42 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:08 pm

it's funny, i own well more than 5,000 albums and i don't have a SINGLE Elvis or Michael Jackson. i do have Elvis tunes on a cd-r that i've had to learn or discs that i've performed on, but i don't have any commercial releases. i have LOTS of Beatles and a few Sinatra cd's. Beatles on the ipod, but that's it from this group.

Ali Akbar Khan and Chris Cornell are both well represented in my collection, however! : )

43 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:10 pm

PJ, AB performances were always lip-synced. Note how Tito forgets to get to the mic for the "ba-dupa-ba-ba" part. The ending is different, but you can hear how they grafted it on to the original recording with another piece of tape.

44 PJ   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:15 pm

[43] Lip syncing is unacceptable (see also the Monkeys in concert)...

: )

45 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:18 pm

[41] i hear ya, but Cornell is a GOD!!! he was also the original drummer for Soundgarden. taught himself to play, but playing along to old Rush & Yes albums. pretty amazing! writes incredible material in odd meter, writes the best lyrics this side of Dylan and Fish (Marillion) and just rocks.

he's not that amazing live, however. yeah, i panned his first solo record when it came out, too! i thought it was overproduced and boring, musically. i knew it had to have more depth to it, so i carried the libretto around with me and studied the lyrics VERY hard. i figured if i didn't like the music, i didn't have to listen, but i could still get something out of his brilliance. i ended up loving the words so much, i gave the music another chance and came around full circle.

most of the 2nd solo record is excellent too, but not all of it. by now, the record companies have been trying to sell him any way possible. trying to cross him over from ROCK star to POP star, has been brutal. look no further than his new solo cd with some famous hip-hop/r&b producer. i never heard of the guy, but that's not saying anything...

i loved the first 2 Rage Against The Machine records, but felt those guys were waaaaay inadequate to back up Chris. took me awhile to come around to the debut, but i ended up loving it and looked very much forward to the follow up. Chris's voice sounds like he was bored and sleeping thru the sessions for A'slaves 2nd & 3rd releases, but the lyrics were great and i think there's some really good stuff there. again, the band is not good enough to back him up, imho.

i don't really consider S'garden grunge. they were a lot of things, inlcuding metal, punk, hardcore, rock, etc. they were also pretty progressive and have some AMAZING odd meter stuff, esp on their swan song, Down On The Upside.

i don't think i've ever heard Nickelback, unless a student brought in a song for me to teach. ya know, i think that happened once. i hated it! : )

46 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:24 pm

"his new solo cd with some famous hip-hop/r&b producer. i never heard of the guy, but that’s not saying anything…"

Heh. No kidding. That guy is Timbaland, who is one of the top hit-makers of the last decade.

47 ms october   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:26 pm

[35] i agree raging. "human nature" was my favorite mj song - and i loved the way nas sampled it in "it ain't hard to tell."

[45] hi thelarmis. i read your posting at the end of the game thread. i am so glad you were able to snag a foul ball for aydin. that was very touching and shows what a wonderful and generous spirit you have. the strawberry glove's magic continues!

48 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:27 pm

Check out that sick robot he’s doing in 1974.

Whoa... Damn.

I saw a clip of him doing the robot to "Dancing Machine" on the Mike Douglas show, that was pretty sick as well.

When I was going through my "Motown" phase, I picked up some Jackson 5 cd's, and I think I have both Thriller and Off the Wall around the apartment somewhere. I seem to remember "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" as a staple @ the roller rink.

49 Yankee Mama   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:28 pm

I didn't know Ali Akbar Khan died. Where have I been? How sad.

I think when Alex referred to MJ's life as a public suicide, it hit the nail on the head. How much more could he possibly mutilate himself? In the end, he was repulsive, a symbol of a soul too damaged for this world.

Having grown up with the J5, I was a devotee, Tiger Beat and all. His decline was heartbreaking.

BTW, as much as I liked MJ in the 70 and 80s, SW has it all over him, musically.

50 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:31 pm

Also watching the Dancing Machine clip made me remember how tight choreography used to be back then.

51 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:54 pm

Give it up to Katherine Jackson. She essentially gave birth to the Temptations, except her brood wrote more songs and played more instruments.

Speaking of the Jackson brood. This is how big a star Michael Jackson was in 1984: Did you know he had a sister named Rebbie? Not only did he, but he wrote her a song in '84 and it went top-40.

52 thelarmis   ~  Jun 26, 2009 5:55 pm

[46] perfect! my granpda would say, "whadda you know, yer just a kid!" : )

yeah man, that world of hip-hop/r&b, etc. is like MANY universes away from me! that cat did NOT produce any hits on the new Cornell, that's for sure! then again, to my ears, he's probably NEVER produced a true "hit". ; )

[47] thanking you, ms. october!

[49] i'm still sad about Khansahib. he died 8 days ago, at 87. i don't remember if it was Khan's mom or dad or it was Allah Rakkah, but at least one of them lived to 105. i wish that would've been the same for Khansahib. : (

53 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 6:30 pm

It's all well and good to not listen to Michael Jackson but to extrapolate your own personal experience to the point where you don't think his influence is still huge would be a mistake. He may not have had the same exact impact as Elvis or the Beatles but I'd say the Beatles had less than Elvis; it's just the law of diminishing returns - as time goes on there's simply less impact to be made. But Michael Jackson had as big an impact and influence as anyone could have at that point in time, for sure.

And yes the Quincy Jones thing is pretty overrated - the Jackson demos for the Jackson-penned Thriller songs are all pretty much fully formed.

(If you're wondering, I've listened to - and as a result read about - Michael Jackson a lot the last year or so thanks to a certain three-year old's fascination with him.)

54 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 26, 2009 6:36 pm

Among those Jackson-penned Thriller songs: "Beat It," "You Wanna Be Startin' Something" and "Billy Jean."

55 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2009 6:44 pm

[54] Yeah all the best ones are his. And then there's "The Girl Is Mine", which after 100 listens to the album isn't so bad, while "Thriller" (the song) is kind of awful. To hell with Rod Temperton!

I think Bad would be a lot better if the production wasn't so dated. There are quite a few mid- to late-80s album that suffered that fate.

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