Friday, June 26, 2009
Thinking Of Michael
I was turned off by The Nation's blog on Michael Jackson this morning. Michael Jackson was one of the top practitioners of his art, which, for all its synthetic elements and crossover appeal, is ultimately an African-American form. He comes from the same mold as Louis Armstrong, Jellyroll Morton, King Oliver, and Bessie Smith. Those credentials were recognized in one of those the-planets-must-be-in-alignment situations when Quincy Jones agreed to produce Off The Wall in 1979. I was into Jackson before that album came out, and it was a secret pleasure. Everyone knew and loved The Jackson Five, but after that phase, they — and Motown in general — went into drift. By 1978, the black and white entertainment worlds had separated again. I was in Chicago at the time, and you heard white bands on white radio stations and black artists on black radio stations, and in Chicago, you had a lot of black music to choose from. One of my favorite deejays was named Pervis Spann. He had the rap to match his handle, and he spun some very cool sides. It may have been on his program that, heating up my tube Zenith, I tuned in to what MJ was releasing, which the white world really didn't care about. That is how I want to remember Michael Jackson. Not as the sexy but programmed 10-year-old. And certainly not as the artist and human being who lost his way. But as the epitome of a black form, with a beautiful face, a true innovator. Requiescat in pace.