Remembering my friend Michael Jackson
The last time I met with Michael, we saw each other from across the room and he made a point of coming over to say “hello.” Instead of greeting me with something like, “Al – it’s great to see you,” he instead simply grinned at me and said, “By the time I get to Phoenix!”
He related to me by remembering the 18-minute song that I produced with others for Isaac Hayes’ “Hot Buttered Soul” album.
Michael always had a great sense of humor and even more important, he had a great sense of love for all of his friends and family.
That, more than anything else, is what is important to remember about Michael Jackson — The ‘spirit of love’ was at the forefront of all of his thoughts and of everything he did.
In order to understand Michael Jackson, we must examine not just what he said, but what he did. When we do that, we see that it all was about love. While on earth, that ‘spirit of love’ manifested itself through him and influenced how he dealt with people, whether it was adults, children, musicians, producers, business associates, family, or friends.
Of course, because he arguably was the greatest entertainer of all time, he was always targeted by people who sought to bring him down to their level. I find it interesting how a person like Michael Jackson could envelope this planet with so much love while “contrary spirits” were determined to cause this man irreparable psychological and emotional distress. He did not deserve any of that, but I guess if there weren’t controversy, perhaps he wouldn’t have been as renowned and legendary as he is.
I personally choose to remember the positive attributes of Michael, those things we all know to be true about him. For instance, Michael was an absolutely awesome athlete, for he was an indescribable dancer. I’m sure those people who danced with him, and the choreographers who worked with him, had never seen or worked with anyone like him before – or since.
He also was a student of the arts. He studied motion pictures, including the old silent movies and the old musicals. Everything he saw, everything he studied, influenced every step of his dance routines and the totality of his creative thought processes. He studied the great singers, dancers, and musicians, and was an appreciator of virtually all genres of music. He loved jazz, opera, soul, and gospel, and was particularly fond of and inspired by some of the truly great artists of our times, including James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and the penetrating soul of Isaac Hayes and Mavis Staples.
As an artistic leader within the recorded music industry, Michael Jackson always pushed the boundaries, innovating new sounds and images that had never before been heard or seen. When he created the “Thriller” phenomenon, he sought out one of the greatest creative and artistic arrangers of all time, Quincy Jones, to help him with the music and production. Then he went to director John Landis to co-write and direct the 14-minute video. Through this collaboration, he birthed his greatest audio and video work of art. The video has consistently been called the best music video of all time.
In an interview with Brian Monroe of Ebony/Jet magazine, Michael Jackson said, “You want what you create to live – whether it’s sculpture or painting or music.” He quoted Michelangelo by saying, “I know the creator will go, but his work survives.” That is why, Michael said, “I attempt to bind my soul to my work – that’s how I feel. I give my all to my work. I want it to just live.”
Two months ago ‘the spirit’ that existed in that carnal body we called Michael Jackson transitioned from this plane to the next. But Michael Jackson’s thoughts, his soul, and his spirit still live in his music, and thereby he lives through it – still among us.