Wednesday, November 26

Beat It

It is easy to forget the brilliance of Michael Jackson (and Motown) given his decline, most recently settling a lawsuit filed against him by the prince Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa for $7-million but not before tantalilsing us with the possibility of a live appearance in a London court (Jackson spent the prince's money but failed to do a concert). I think about Jacko this morning during my power-walk listening to "Thriller" which has sold >100 million albums since '82 (the runner-up BTW is AC-DC's "Back In Black" at 42). Thriller continues from '79s "Off The Wall" but slicker, groovier and in perfect tune. There's not one bad song and even the doo-wop silliness "The Girl is Mine" with McCartney does well (Ok, not great) >25 years later. There's no doubt Jackson is a narcissist - who can ever forget his 5-story statue floating down the Thames to promote his '95 album "HIStory"? - but his self-love has given us some of the creepiest (Billie Jean), over-produced (Thriller), and pop-tastic (Beat It, Wanna Be Start'n Somethin') of all time. The year of Jackson's moon-walk in '83 I was in Switzerland but man did I get an earful from my friends. It was the coolest thing ever seen on TV and targeting us, a teen-age music-listening audience. Overnight Jackson changed everything uniting style, theatre, dance, costume, pop and rock and roll. It was also the peak of Motown - but really, how could they have gone higher?

While on Motown, I bought Stevie Wonder's "Talking Book," "Songs In The Key Of Life," "Music Of My Mind," "Innervisions," and "Fulfilingness' First Final" which he recorded during a magical period from 1972 to 1975. The upbeat and soulful music is all the more amazing given the pain and inequality experienced by the African-American community following expectations set in the '60s. A lot of brothers must have made it through by listening to Stevie.

"My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive... the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance."
Michael Jackson