Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael Jackson - One year after his demise

Exactly one year ago, the pop icon died almost broke. He was said to be neck deep in debt. In fact his Nevada ranch home, the exotic classy property, which had already grown to the status of a tourist centre, was put up for sale. His London concert for which he held rehearsals but never lived to perform was a bid to raise funds and get the super star out of the bad book of his bankers. But one year after, Michael Jackson’s estates have returned to profitability, grossing about one billion dollars in profits according to AFP online reports replicated in several sites on the Internet.

Such meteoric rise can only be performed by no less a person than MJ who black Americans believe to be the greatest entertainer that ever lived. Gordon Barry, owner of Motown records says Micheal Jackson was the undisputable king of entertainment across the globe. Yet the pop icon did everything under the sun to be as white as he could.

In the 80’s there were three most popular names in the world, Jesus Christ, Coca Cola and Michael Jackson. He was one of the greatest entertainers ever to live on planet earth. On June 25, 2009, the world lost this musical icon, who defied the law of gravity with his mesmerizing dance steps. He never went to dance school, yet he was the greatest dancer of all times. He sold an official 750million albums world wide, had 61 No.

1 hits worldwide, won 197 major Music Awards world wide and 13 entries in Guinness Book of World Record. He was nominated into Hollywood Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame and also as the Most Entertainer of all Time. He won 8 Grammy Awards, the most by any one in history, in 1984. In 1989 he topped the list of Forbes highest paid entertainers and also signed a recording musical contract with Sony worth $890million dollars, which is still the biggest in the world till date. It is on record that Michael Jackson spent $7million dollars to produce the most expensive musical video ever made titled ‘Scream’ which featured his sister Janet Jackson after Madonna dropped his offer. His 1991 album, ‘Black & White’ was the first song by an American to debut in No.1 Chart in UK since 1960.

One of his first major singles ‘Off the Wall’ was the first album to hit 4 top 10 hits in the United States. Compared to his all time hit, Thriller, Off the Wall was a tip of the iceberg. One year after the release of the Off the World, the album sold 11 million copies in 1979. What is seen and known as music videos today came out of the musical , vision, concept and ingenuity of legendary Michael Jackson when he hit the world with his “Thriller” album.

The album would break the opaque prism of race in the entertainment industry, became the highest selling all time album,to such an extend that the then American President, Ronald Reagan couldn’t hide his joy and love for the then young 24-year-old whiz kid Michael Jackson when he dubbed him in the White House “An American Dream Come True” Michael Jackson didn’t however go to sleep after the historic success of Thriller. Rather, he later churned out great songs and music videos as we saw in Liberian Girl, Bad, Black or White, Earth Song, Remember The Time and MoonWalker.

There are only few known leaders in their various fields of endeavour like Michael Jackson who have affected their professions, uplifted it to an entire new positive horizon, and changed the way the world came to see things. And at the same time not only leaving us in amazement and awe, but through their activities proved that there is no short cut to success, except through that same path which all great minds traveled i.e the path of hard work.

Little wonder that when he died, the world literally stood still and his mentor Quincy Jones said, ‘‘I am devastated at this tragic and unexpected news, he had it all, talent, grace, professionalism and dedications’’ Justin Timberlake said, ‘‘We have lost a genius and a true ambassador not just in pop music, but all music’’. While action movie hero and presently the governor of California Arnold Schwarzenger said, ‘’We lost a great entertainer and a pop icon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael Jackson’s family, friends and fans’’.

In her tribute, Mariah Carey said, ‘’No artiste will ever take his place. His star will shine forever’’ Lisa Marie Presley Michael’s ex wife said, I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible. This is such a massive loss on many levels. Words fail me’’ Steven Spielberg was more than accurate when he said, ‘’Just as there will never be another Fred or Chucks Barry or Elvis Presley, there will never be another Michael Jackson’’. L Cool J spoke the mind of many when he thundered, ‘’He was one of my childhood idols I salute you King of Pop. You made the whole world moonwalk together’’

Akon, the most famous African voice and another black talented gift to the world was not left out as he said in his tribute that, Michael Jackson will be remembered as the greatest. I was blessed to be able to sit in the same room with today’s inspiration for pop music’’. MJ was an inspiration to not just his generation but will remain for generations to come, as Britney Spears said in her tribute to the great icon, ‘’ He’s been an inspiration throughout my entire life and I’m devastated that he’s gone’’

Michael Joseph Jackson set the world ablaze in December 1, 1982 when he exploded on the pop music scene with “Thriller”, the rich, rhythmic, infectious album that introduced many whites to a talent that most blacks had known for decades, and shattered nearly every industry record on the planet. The historic project was yet another, albeit giant step in a musical career that began 18 years earlier, at age 6, with his brothers in the Jackson Five group. Thriller remained at the US top NO.1 Chart for 37 weeks and till date still the highest 37 weeks and still the highest selling album worldwide with 100million copies sold.

Like Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka wrote, “those who value experiences of others as sources of inspiration do not have far to look” Michael Jackson was to show this quality which actually contributed in bringing out the best spark in him. When Motown was preparing to do the movie called the Wiz… and Quincy Jones happened to be the man who was doing the music. Now, Michael has heard of Quincy before when he was in India .As a child, his father used to buy Jazz albums so he knew him as a jazz musician.

So after the Motown movie which Michael as young upcoming musician featured, he and Quincy Jones got pretty close on each other. During the recording of the movie, Quincy Jones played more of a father role to Michael. He was able like Wole Soyinka said to notice and recognize long years of musical experience in Quincy Jones. So, out of complete sincerity he placed a call to Quincy after the recording of the movie and said “I’m ready to do an album.

Do you think… could you recommend anybody who would be interested in producing it with me or working with me? Quincy paused for few seconds and said, “Why don’t you let me do it”? Michael wondered why he did not think of that in the first place. But the point is he ought to be pardoned because he was simply thinking of Quincy as a jazz musician. Moreover, he was taking him more like a father.

That was when two storming rivers joined together to form a confluence, that was the Spark that brought out the fire. That was the union that changed the face of music in the world, a record smashing association. They were to use Michael first solo album “Off The Wall” to test the musical waters and shock the entertainment world to its foundation.

The making of Thriller was not easy; it was an evidence of the final result of hard work. To say that the album/video which by then was like something that dropped out of the universe made Michael Jackson a perfection artist is to say the very least, Thriller was the making of the greatest musical talents that God has ever endowed to mankind. The combination of Quincy Jones, director John Landis and Michael Jackson was to bring out one of the best chemistry that musical world has every known.

It was to say the least more than magical, it was like putting certain elements in one hemisphere and its catalyst resulted in a pure miracle that is beyond human comprehension. In fact, the combination of Quincy Jones, John Landis and Michael Jackson resulted into science, not such elementary science, but advanced musical science. It was just wonderful.

The making of Thriller was nothing but, work and work. Yet, in all these Michael was still wise enough to recognize that it must have taken something beyond human ability for him to come to that level. So, he was doing his best and leaving room for God to walk into his heart and guide him further. When ever he finished a track which he is totally satisfied with, he will get on his kneels and say thanks God. Thank you Jehovah!

The making of Thriller was not easy; it required lot of patience, intelligence and hard work. In fact, Michael Jackson is more than qualified to be addressed as the King of Pop and the best of the best in the entertainment world, because like Prof. Wole Soyinka wrote, “A leader is seen as a teacher of some sort because leadership is about being seen as a teacher. A teacher is patient, intelligent and hardworking”. All three attributes that made Thriller possible.

Thriller was a musical revolution never witnessed before in history. It’s the highest selling album till date according to Guinness Book of World Records. Thriller became not just a musical phenomenon, but a cultural one too. For the first time a young black man became the idol of people across the world. Indeed, like the name of the album it was a thriller.

The musical earthquake did not just shock and shake the musical world. It also forced a crack at a white base musical television channel. Before then, MTV was not playing black artistes. Michael Jackson was also having this at the back of his mind when entering the studio to record Thriller. Even though their racist decision was a pain sort of in the heart of Michael, he made up his mind at the studio to work so hard and come out with a song that no force can ignore.

That was the influence and the idea behind “Billie Jean”, one of the lead songs in Thriller. Michael actually quarrel with Quincy Jones over Billy Jean. Quincy believed the song was not strong enough to be included in the Thriller album, Michael Jackson insisted it should go along. Billy Jean was to later become a smash hit. Initially MTV rejected the music. But, finally out of pressure and demands from their viewers MTV was to go against their age long protocol and policy and for the first time in their history they were forced to play a black musician.

When MTV finally played Billie Jean”, it set the studio on fire by setting an all time record of viewership. Then the studio came crying, pleading and asking Michael for everything musical he had. They were knocking at his door day and night. That was not all; Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was to open the door for other black musicians. Then Prince came, it opened the door for Prince and the other entire Black artists.

Today, this 24hour heavy metal musical studio does not only play black musicians, but has channels dedicated to black musicians with studio in several African countries. Little wonder why today that MT-in MTV nearly look like Michael Television. The management of MTV has indirectly acknowledged the fact that but for Michael Jackson, today there would not be anything like MTV. This has to be so because today blacks are the dominant force of music and musical business. Michael Jackson attracted MTV attention because he did something out of the ordinary. And like Justice Chukwudifu Oputa wrote, “Unless you do something out of the ordinary, you won’t attract attention, extraordinary ways attract attention’’.

Being extraordinary did come with its own price? Michael was to become the top gossips part of most soft sales publications in the world. But again, this is understandable. When you are on top of your game, when you are a pioneer, you will definitely become the talk of the town. And in order to meet up their readers demand, any publication that does not have anything to write about Michael will conjure and concote one story or the order just to retain the relevance in the market.

Here was a young man opening door for blacks, setting new musical records and tearing down a lot of walls. But all some people could do was to sit down, find faults and criticize. But like Dr. Olu Onaguruwa wrote: “The easiest thing anyone can aspire to be is a “critic” whether a football critic, literary critic, all you have to do is to sit down and condemn the efforts for constructive and objective appraisal of the issue. Those criticizing MJ because of what they heard never really understood him for me he was simply an entertainer, pure and simple and every of his deeds should be viewed along that same line.

Among those who felt he missed it somewhere is Frank Ebere Ikoro popularly known as Frank Fine. Frank Fine has been deeply involved in the Nigerian Showbiz industry from 1968 till date. To him ‘’Michael was a total failure when you talk about the later part of his life as a result of him deciding for no just reason to bleach his skin and under go a plastic surgery to reshape his nose to look like the white man. Unlike Bob Marley, James Brown and Jimmy Cliff who used their music as an instrument of liberation for the black man.

He may be a musical success, but spiritually he is a failure because none of his music preached an end to apartheid while it lasted’’ Lord John Fleming of the Wings International Band who is working on a new album titled ‘Tribute to Michael Jackson’, does not seem to share the same view with Frank Fine as he said that ‘’MJ was a great entertainer, there will be nobody like him again, unless that person will be send from heaven. It is God that makes stars, unless God decides to package another star, if not there will never be anybody like MJ’’.

A lead guitarist to the late Celestine Ukwu, Segun Bucknor and former music producer with NTA , Aba, Olugu Agbai who is now running his own musical band ‘Classic Jazz & Ensemble said he likes MJ as a hardworking musician. Like MJ he wants artiste to keep on working hard not minding how rich they are. On the other side of Michael, he said ‘’ I don’t believe in so many things that they said against him, once you’re famous there will be so many rumours against you, people don’t mind their own business, what ever MJ did, he did it to enhance his musical career, he was an entertainer so it was part of that entertainment, most people are criticizing him out of envy’’

Sammy Comfort whose real name is Ogwo Samuel Ogbu, now a legal practitioner and legal adviser to PMAN Abia State and a Chief State Council with Ministry of Justice Abia State who released a popular smash hit ‘look Before You Love’ in 1986, was of the opinion that Michael Jackson was more than a super star, a true pop artiste who couldn’t manage and control his fame which made him reject his root. Quoting ‘’ I don’t want to sound leftish, but the greatest critics of MJ are the African Americans who felt betrayed that MJ who God has given such a gigantic talent, who is suppose to represent the Blacks still have inferiority complex when it comes to whites’’.

Dave Coto a prince of Ahaoda in River State and member of the Head’s Funk band that reigned supreme in the 70’s went into another dimension when he said that MJ was a good musician who started well and ended badly because he went in to drugs. He claimed that MJ lost his voice and when he discovered that he was about to be disgraced on stage, he took a drug overdose and quit the stage. John John Duke, the first man who played reggae music in Nigeria in 1978, his album was titled, ‘Mother Love’ and also a member of the Super Wing and later Sweet Breeze, who is now running a musical school, said that ‘’MJ is the greatest artiste I’ve ever seen, there has not been and there will never be any artiste that can be compared to him. Again, not only was he a good singer but one of the best dancers too.

He is a complete entertainer, his death was a shock and I pray that God will send us some one with such a talent to console the world’’ The famous high life master, Paulson Kalu said he does not know how to define MJ, as words will fail him in any attempt since Michael was created specifically for what he came to earth to accomplish. Advertisers were falling over each other for Michael’s endorsement. It came to a point when Heads of States needed the visit of Michael Jackson to brush up their image and influence.

At a point, a certain other man also named Michael Jackson boarded a plane from U.S.A to Brazil, Going through the manifest on coming across the name Michael Jackson: the Tower controller announced the presence of Michael Jackson on board, the radio stations picked it up and announced that Michael Jackson was on a private visit to Brazil,. Before the pilot would get done with landing protocol, Brazilians emptied their streets, shops closed, schools closed, business closed, there was a hold up on the way to the airport. Every living thing in Brazil wanted to see Michael Jackson.

Lo and behold, the plane landed, and of course Michael Jackson was on board alright, but it was indeed a private visit of another American to Brazil. Such was the influence of the one of the greatest musical prodigies ever to show up on the planet earth. Little wonder, while at his peak with his heart breaking moonwalker performance, not a few people thought him to be an extra-terrestrial body. A little Jewish child backstage with a little tuxedo on, looked at Michael Jackson’s out of the earth performance and in a stunned voice asked him, “Who taught you to move like that”? Michael thundered “God and rehearsal”.

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