Yesterday fans got to hear “Breaking News,” the very first single from Michael Jackson’s first posthumous album simply titled Michael. As explained on the official Michael Jackson website, “Breaking News” was recorded by Jackson in 2007 in New Jersey but recently completed for the album being released on December 14, now available for pre-order via the website.
The question of whether the song, which references the media circus that was a constant presence in Jackson’s life, actually uses Jackson’s full vocals or not, has sparked some debate. Some fans have been saying emphatically that it isn’t the late pop star’s voice on the track. One line in the song’s opening, however, is an undisputed fact: As the story unfolds, there will be a lot more to say about Michael Jackson.
That also proved true yesterday as Oprah Winfrey lived up to her “Queen of Daytime” billing and delivered a powerhouse show from Jackson’s mother’s home, where Joe Jackson was also present. As Winfrey sat with the soft-spoken Katherine Jackson, who, at age 80, is charged with raising Jackson’s children and numerous other grandkids, it was clear that, 17 months later, the pain of Jackson’s untimely passing was still as fresh as ever.
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THE INTERVIEW HERE:
“Sometimes during the day I can hear his laughter in my mind,” Katherine Jackson told Winfrey. “I think of my son all through the day, all the time. I don’t like to talk about him because I get all choked up.” With Winfrey, Mrs. Jackson was simply a mother grieving for a beloved child. Jackson’s King of Pop status only complicates the circumstances surrounding the pain. The bare bones emotions of it all, however, are as old as time. A parent never wants to outlive a child.
It wasn’t all hand-holding though as Winfrey was quite effective at mining much-needed insight into Jackson’s family life. At the 2009 BET Awards, days after Jackson’s shocking death, his sister Janet Jackson emotionally informed the audience and all viewers that “To you, Michael is an icon; to us, he is family.” And it was that sense of family that Winfrey centered on during her time at the Jackson home.
As Janet Jackson told Winfrey in April, the family was aware of Jackson’s drug use and staged interventions. Mrs. Jackson referenced this as well, noting that Jackson was very much in denial and broke her heart when he said ‘Mother, you don’t believe’ to her at one. Very emotional still, she told Winfrey “He kept saying that my own mother [doesn’t] believe me.” Actually, an overdose that would kill him was one of her greatest fears.
When Winfrey came face to face with Joe Jackson, she didn’t mince words and asked him about beating their children. At first he hesitated but Mrs. Jackson spoke up with “You might as well admit it. That’s the way black people raised their children. He used a strap.” After Winfrey chimed in with her own memories of such discipline, Joe Jackson also shared that he did not regret the discipline because none of his kids have ever been to jail. He also said, “I’m glad that he was raised in such a way that he was loved all over the world.”
Most heartbreaking and insightful were conversations with Jackson’s children. As she did at the memorial service, Paris stood out the most in speaking with Winfrey. Offering a glimpse of her father that the world was not privy to, she shared that her dad cooked. “I’d say he was the best cook ever,” she told Winfrey. And when Oprah asked “what do you missed the most?” Paris’s answer of “everything” was beyond touching.
For her part, Katherine Jackson was way more in tuned about her son than most people would believe. She acknowledged that he was addicted to plastic surgery and even wondered how he managed to lighten his skin completely when faced with vitiligo. She discussed his child molestation case and how it changed him, making him wary of most people.
With both the DVD compilation Michael Jackson: Vision and a computer game, Michael Jackson: The Experience, allowing players to sing and dance along to Jackson’s music, going on sale later this month, in addition to the album’s December release, Jackson’s legacy appears as vibrant as ever. Next year, Cirque du Soleil will tour its Michael Jackson: The Immortal show worldwide and, in 2012, they even intend to park a show in Las Vegas.
Speaking to Democracy Now on Jackson’s legacy last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critical Margo Jefferson, who wrote the 2006 book, On Michael Jackson, shared that Jackson would send “copies of one of [P.T.] Barnum’s many biographies to his staff, saying, you know, ‘I want my life to be the greatest show on earth.’”
If Jackson never achieved that feat in life, he is certainly now on pace to hit his stride in death.