Michael JacksonArtists have a special communion with the creative forces of the universe. Regardless of the medium of expression used, artists utilize creative energies to produce works of art, beauty and power for humanity to witness. This is evident in paintings, sculptures, films and other forms, but it is universally expressed and appreciated through music and dance. When an artist focuses on both of these forms, the rhythm flows from his heart to the rest of his body until he becomes the rhythm itself. This can be seen in the life of Michael Jackson. His forms of creative expression cannot be confined to categories, styles, or mediums. He is his own art, and messages are his mediums.
Great artists are not exempt from the slings and arrows of fortune, and Michael Jackson is no exception. Fame and popularity have prices one must pay, and to maintain the glitter of glamour, one must compete for the limelight. Despite his infamy, Michael Jackson continues to attract audiences and impart inspiring messages through his music.
Katherine and Joe Jackson were married on November 5, 1940, under the Jehovah’s Witness faith, They soon began to raise their family in a quiet little city called Gary, Indiana. Nine years later, their seventh son, Michael Joseph, was born on the 29th of August. Being musically inclined, Katherine and Joe shared their talents among their nine children. The Jackson children soon began to sing at the church choir and perform at school programs and town pageants. Michael, who began studying at Garnett Elementary School already was winning various talents contests at the age of five. A few months later, his older brothers formed a band and decided to entere various talent searches and amateur contests. It was only a few years later that Michael joined his brothers to form The Jackson Five.
Joe Jackson arranged for The Jackson Five to perform at small clubhouses for a few bucks a night. Their talents did not go unnoticed. After being discovered, The Jackson Five released their first single in 1968. In that same year, they released their second single. Due to its success, they performed in the same shows as The Supremes, James Brown and Sammy Davis, Jr. After a number of performances, The Jackson Five signed a contract with Motown Records. I Want You Back / Who’s Loving You, their debut single with Motown, sold two million copies in six weeks and earned them their first gold record. As a result, The Jackson Five was invited to appear on various television shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Johnny Carson Show, The Sonny and Cher Show and Soul Train. In 1970, The Jackson Five released their first long playing album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five. This album topped the charts in both England and America. In the mid-seventies, The Jackson Five Show aired on television and their albums continued to earn gold records.
Wanting to have his own career, Michael Jackson left his brothers and began recording on his own. Having been the front man for The Jackson Five for many years, Jackson’s separation from the group caused their album and concert sales to decline. Michael’s first solo album, Off the Wall, turned out to be a success along with the singles She’s Out of My Life and Rock with You. Off the Wall broke records and sold twelve million copies worldwide. Jackson continued to outdo himself with the victory of his following albums: Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, HIStory Past, Present and Future Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor.
Michael Jackson’s success has not only generated more contracts and more popularity, but also a number of world records, awards and accomplishments that no individual recording artist has ever received all together. In February 1981, the single Thriller remained on the Top Ten charts for two straight weeks. It is the first single to reach this position ever since John Lennon’s Imagine in 1971. In 1983, Michael Jackson received his first award from the Guinness Book of World Records in London. The album Thriller is the most successful album to date and has sold over forty-two million copies worldwide. The album has earned one hundred forty gold and platinum records. In 1984, Jackson won a record eight Grammy Awards in ten categories. These are just a few of his musical accomplishments that accompanied his success. Due to this, Jackson has set large product endorsement contracts. In this field, he holds his second Guinness World Record as the person with the highest paying contract to date. Forbes magazine noted Michael Jackson as one of the richest men in the world and as one whose income is purely generated by his own talents (Brown 1996, V). His single, We are the World performed together with various artists, was the highest grossing single of the year. We are the World was part of a project called USA for Africa, and all proceeds of the single were used to help starving Africans. As a result of his philantropic efforts, Jackson has generated various humanitarian awards from UNICEF, WHO, The Boy Scouts of America, The Make-a-Wish Foundation, The National Aids Fund, former US Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan. Jackson has also founded the Heal the World Foundation to assist the poor around the world.
Michael Jackson is not the only person responsible for making him what he is. The media plays a vital role in building Jackson’s image and increasing his popularity. In almost everything Jackson does, the press is present: performances, charity work, medical check-ups and even trips to the bookstore. Various rumors, ambiguous facts and sensationalized stories are fed to the public. No matter how true or false the stories reported by the media are, people keep on eating what is being fed to them. The press is always on Jackson’s side in good times and bad. On the other hand, Jackson, who grew up surrounded by the press, does not react to these in a violent manner. In fact, he uses the media to his advantage. Jackson organizes numerous publicity stunts and even contacts the press whenever he will be present at certain events. Through this, he makes use the press to form his image. Although his tactics do not always succeed, it still draws the attention of the media and the general public. As long as there is a story that people would buy, the press will always be with him.
As one rises, others will try to put him down, and sometimes, in one’s attempt to be more inconspicuous, the more noticeable he becomes. Michael Jackson’s change of skin color and cosmetic surgery has drawn worldwide attention and has puzzled many. There are also issues and questioning his sexuality and identity that still remain unanswered. In August 1993, Michael Jackson was accused of child abuse, but the case was dismissed due to the lack of evidence. Two years later Jackson married Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. They were divorced twenty months later. In 1996, Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe, his dermatologist’s assistant. Rowe gave birth to Prince, their first son, are already expecting a second child on the way. Some wonder if the child is really Jackson’s and question the validity of the marriage. These are just a few of the factors that contribute to his infamy. The rest is trivial. Others feel that he is an artist lost in his fame and fortune, and is attempting to be everything that he is not. Michael is like an elephant getting into a car. The more he tries to fit in, the more attention he gets. (Corliss 1993, 66)
Going through Michael Jackson’s art can be a tough job. It is sometimes very challenging to draw the essence out of the trivia. In addition, one cannot be truly objective in studying something that is very different from the rest. It is rewarding to do so, because one gets a glimpse into one of the most creative minds of this century. In doing this, one might uncover the mystery that all geniuses have.
His music has been labeled as popular music, . . .which appeals to a variety of audiences in the mainstream of society. (Morse 1991, 45) In the past, his music has been categorized as Soul music, since it is music predominantly used by Black Americans. Jackson’s songs in his early career certainly reflect this category since it involves a lot of powerful vocal renditions, downbeat rhythms and dark, ambiguous themes of faith love, betrayal and passion. Most of today’s popular or pop music traces its roots back to soul music. This makes Jackson’s songs have a generally welcomed appeal. His songs like Billie Jean, She’s Out of My Life, and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, I’ll Be There and Got to Be There reflect the characteristics of soul music. As Jackson’s music evolved, his messages became more positive, the rhythms have become more upbeat and lively, and his lyrics speak of brotherhood, justice, hope, freedom, respect, peace and love. Examples of these include songs like, Black or White, Will You Be There, Keep the Faith and Heal the World. Jackson takes responsibility for his fame by expressing his ideals through his music. As a result, one can see an artist fully integrated in his work, where the artist, the art and the ideal are one.
Throughout history, man has attempted to make the abstract concrete and to make the unknown understood. Man is a creature who believes in things beyond him and has an internal drive to express it in many ways. This has been evident in art. If left alone, man will begin to create. Man’s role becomes that of a co-creator. Man does not only create useful things, but also things that express his deepest feelings and his highest ideals. Michael Jackson’s art is just one of the myriad of contributions made by man. It is a gesture of humility on his part for sharing his talent and responding to the impulse that propels him to create. It is no doubt that his art brings him fame and admiration. It elevates him to legendary status. If one shall look deep enough, one may see the results of one’s response to his creative impulse to use it for the benefit and enjoyment of society.
Despite these gifts, artists live different lives from others. Faults and failures are common to most of them. These are probably results of their energy as well as the frustration of everyday life that do not comply to their ideals and dreams. The artist’s work survives. It gives joy to millions. Michael Jackson’s life has been pictured as less picturesque and very controversial. He can only be understood and forgiven based on the intensity of his passion and love for his art. History’s lists are abundant with artists and their dark sides. There is Van Gogh and Woolfe who both struggled for sanity, Juan Luna who murdered his wife, and many more. Michael Jackson is one of them. In general, artists definitely contribute to mankind in various unique ways. Many of them overshadow their infamy. Hopefully, Michael Jackson shall be remembered in the same light.