Happy Birthday, Michael: You Made Them Care

Willa:  Hi Joie. So we’re back!  Did you have a good summer?

Joie:  Yeah, it was nice. We didn’t take a real vacation or anything but we did spend a couple of great weekends up at the Lake.

Willa:  Oh, that sounds nice! I know how much you love the lake. I spent a lot of my summer camping and hiking with teenagers and pre-teens, which was a blast, and Joie, I just have to tell you this story. I was in Mesa Verde, which is such an amazing place with these beautiful 700-year-old cliff-dwellings. There’s something very restful and peaceful, and very spiritual about those dwellings.

Anyway, the second day I was driving along the top of a mesa with “Earth Song” playing on the stereo, and it was a gorgeous morning and just seemed so perfect. And then I looked to my left and saw four wild mustangs running along beside us! We went along side by side for quite a while, but gradually they came closer and closer so I slowed down, and one of them ran in front of me, spun around, and then stood there tossing his head up and down. It was magnificent! Later I talked to one of the guides, and he said there are about 150 wild horses in Mesa Verde but they usually stay down in the canyons grazing. But every so often they’ll come up onto the mesa tops. It was so incredible! Now I think about those wild horses every time I hear “Earth Song.”

Joie:  Wow! Oh, I bet that was beautiful, Willa. So, how loud was your car stereo? Maybe they could hear “Earth Song” and they liked it!

Willa:  I don’t know if they heard it, but someone did. I had three kids with me – a 16-year-old up front and a 14-year-old and 12-year-old in back. The 14- and 12-year-old were pretty excited, but the 16-year-old stayed expressionless the entire time – he seems to be going through a “cool” phase. But the next day, he came up to me and asked, “What was that song you were playing yesterday? The one that goes like this …” and then he sang the long “ah, ah, ah” section of “Earth Song” note for note – you know, the part in the video where everyone is digging their hands into the earth. I was blown away. So even though he didn’t show much emotion at the time, I think he got it. Something happened, anyway.

So today would have been Michael Jackson’s 54th birthday and I was trying to think of a meaningful way to commemorate that. So I started wondering what Michael Jackson himself would do to remember the birthday of a person he admired, and that reminded me of the song he wrote and performed for Sammy Davis, Jr., for his 60th birthday:

He only performed it that one time and it rarely gets mentioned, but it’s so moving. The lyrics are really powerful, and the look on Sammy Davis’ face as watches Michael Jackson sing those words … You can tell how much it means to him.

Joie:  That’s true, Willa; from the look on his face, you can tell he is just so moved by Michael’s words. And really, when you listen to it, it’s not difficult to understand why. It is a very emotional and personal message Michael is conveying in this song. And you can really feel his depth of emotion as he’s performing this special song for one of his idols. Those words he’s singing obviously mean a lot to him. It’s quite moving.

Willa:  It really is, and it’s also a very stylized performance, if that makes sense – it almost seems like a performance from another era. It’s like he isn’t just paying tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr., through his lyrics, but through these very stylized gestures as well. He also incorporates iconic poses that are distinctively his own, but they seems perfectly in sync with what’s gone before, so it’s like he’s demonstrating through his performance how his movements fit within this tradition of dance and gesture that’s gone before him.

Joie:  Oh, I agree with you; I think a lot of his movements during this performance are very reminiscent of Sammy Davis Jr. and the way he moved. So, you’re right, it’s like he’s paying tribute through the song itself, but also through his movements.

You know, Willa, I haven’t listened to this song in a while but, do you know what strikes me as I watch that clip now? I can’t help but think about all the young artists out there now who are suddenly looking to Michael and citing him as one of their greatest influences. Artists like Justin Bieber and Chris Brown and others. They all look to Michael as one of their heroes just like Michael looked to Sammy Davis and James Brown and Jackie Wilson.

Willa:  I see what you mean, Joie. The tradition is continuing on in a powerful way through this new generation of artists, and Michael Jackson played a very important part in furthering that tradition – he carried the baton a long way! But I also think there’s something very special that Sammy Davis, Jr., and Michael Jackson share in common, and that’s how they both broke through racial barriers – and paid a big price for doing that. As Michael Jackson sings so movingly,

You were there, before we came
You took the hurt, you took the shame
They built the walls to block your way
You beat them down, you won the day
It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair
You taught them all, you made them care
Yes, you were there, and thanks to you,
There’s now a door we all walk through
And we are here, for all to see
To be the best that we can be
Yes, I am here
‘Cause you were there  

I think he’s singing pretty explicitly about the racism Sammy Davis, Jr., confronted. “It wasn’t right” and “it wasn’t fair,” as Michael Jackson sings, but he endured it. “You took the hurt, you took the shame.” And because of that, “thanks to you / There’s now a door we all walk through.” I think that “we” he’s talking about in these lines is specifically black artists whose lives and careers were a little bit easier because Sammy Davis, Jr., broke ground for them.

Joie:  Yes, I agree with you totally. And I also believe that there are many Black artists out there now who feel the exact same way about Michael Jackson. After all, if it hadn’t been for him and the racial barrier he knocked down at MTV, for example, there would be hundreds of other Black artists who may have never had their videos included in rotation on that station. Likewise, if it hadn’t been for Michael’s amazing cross-over success with the Thriller album, there could be hundreds of Black artists today who may never have tasted similar success.

Willa:  I think that’s really true and really important, Joie, and I hope they’re able to draw strength from Michael Jackson’s life and career the way he seemed to draw strength from the stories of those who went before him. You know, when things were so bad for him after the molestation allegations came out and during the battles with Sony and the 2005 trial, he cited the struggles of those who’d gone before him, and seemed to gain comfort and strength from those stories.

And that makes me think about the title of this song. You know, last spring we talked about “Will You Be There,” and Kris, Eleanor, and Nina had a very interesting and very moving conversation in the comments section about the special symbolic connection between “I’ll Be There” and “Will You Be There.” As Kris wrote,

we have this child who starts out touching us with the purest, most angelic voice, telling us “I’ll Be There,” “just call my name, I’ll be there to comfort you,” etc. And he grows into this man who finds himself really honestly asking “will you be there for me,” and so sadly, it often seemed the answer was no. The two sides of that coin and the truth they tell about his life are very poignant for me.

I know what Kris means – it’s very poignant for me too. But I’ve been thinking lately that maybe there’s a third song in this series:  “You Were There.”

I’ve been thinking lately that there was a small group who was always there to encourage him and give him strength and courage when he needed it, and it included people like Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Chuck Berry, Jack Johnson, Mohammad Ali, Jesse Jackson, and Nelson Mandela – in other words, the black artists and fighters and political figures who had gone before him, who had walked that path before him, and experienced the same kinds of prejudice and persecution and ridicule he faced. Looking at that list, it’s pretty shocking how many were either imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment through no fault of their own – they were simply too powerful to be endured – and I think Michael Jackson drew strength from that knowledge.

Joie:  Hmm. That’s an interesting thought, Willa. The idea that this song forms a sort of trilogy with the other two songs Kris, Eleanor, and Nina were discussing. In fact, I’d be really interested to hear their thoughts on your assessment – so ladies, if you’re reading, please weigh in.

You know, Willa, I think the best part about this song is that it’s just so sincere and heartfelt. It really is just a sweet little song, don’t you think? I mean, it was never recorded and never offered for sale or download as far as I know. Michael only performed it that one time that I know of and yet, I think most fans – even a lot of the new fans – have been aware of it for quite some time. I believe that’s because it’s always been sort of a “fan favorite” and so it’s been passed around from fan to fan. Sort of like when news of something really great spreads via word-of-mouth rather than by conventional promotion. I think that says a lot for this sweet little song.

Willa:  I agree, it’s beautiful, though I think it’s a pretty pointed critique of racism – which is surprising in such “a sweet little song,” as you say. As with so much of his work, we can interpret it and respond to it on many different levels.

Joie:  That’s very true and it is a “pretty pointed critique of racism” – as you say. But it’s also just really sweet and sincere as he sings a love song of appreciation and thanks to one of his idols. Either way you look at it, it is a very powerful, unassuming little song.

Willa:  And a wonderful birthday present to one of his idols.

So you know, Joie, this is Michael Jackson’s birthday, but it’s kind of ours too – our first post was in August of last year. And Joie, I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our chats. You are so fun to work with, and so knowledgeable about everything MJ! I’m constantly amazed by how much information you have at your fingertips, and all the history you have in your head.

Joie:  That’s funny, Willa. Maybe that’s why my head feels so crowded all the time; it’s all the MJ stats floating around up there! But seriously, I’ve enjoyed our conversations too. I have learned so much from talking with you. It’s been a very interesting year.

Willa:  It really has been. So happy first birthday, Joie! And thank you so much for making this such a wonderful experience.

Joie:  Happy Anniversary, Willa!

About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on August 29, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. I so love all of your blogs. They are so moving and so thought provoking. I am always amazed at how my feelings for Michael’s music is shared by so many others and described so eloquently by both of you. Willa, I’m so hoping your book comes out in book form. I really want a copy to read and hold in my hands (as books should be read). Thank you both for honoring Michael the way you do and opening our eyes to new and insightful thoughts about him and his music. I could read your blogs for hours and hours. With the L.O.V.E.! Susan from AZ.

  2. Willa and Joie Thanks for sharing this your conversation, always full of reflection and deep thought.

    Yesterday I read a Paris’s twit dedicated to her daddy, and she quote just the final words of Michael in “Will you be there.” It ‘s very touching, really.

    Thank you again!

  3. aldebaranredstar

    Thanks for the great tribute to Michael and those who were his heroes, like Sammy Davis Jr.–the inspirational artists and fighters who had gone before him. That video is so touching. What a beautiful song Michael wrote.

    I wonder if Charlie Chaplin was a hero to Michael too–a kindred spirit. There are some amazing parallels. I never knew much about CC, but in doing a quick check, he had so much in common with Michael–from being born in severe poverty, to performing at a young age, to having extraordinary fame, then court cases and accusations, a fall from grace, FBI investigations, and being banned from USA. His major contributions were in film and music. But he lived to be 88–I think Michael did visit his family.

    Thanks for the wonderful post to honor Michael on his birthday–so glad you guys are back. And I love the story about the mustangs responding to Earth Song!!

    • “I wonder if Charlie Chaplin was a hero to Michael too–a kindred spirit. There are some amazing parallels.”

      Hi aldebaranredstar. Some of the similarities are just amazing, aren’t they? And from what I understand, Michael Jackson was very knowledgeable about Charlie Chaplin, and admired him and identified with him a lot. There are pictures from the 80s of Michael Jackson dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, and I remember an interview with him from the late 90s, I believe, where he talked about Charlie Chaplin and said, “Sometime I feel like I am him.” I didn’t understand what he meant at the time because I was pretty ignorant about the trumped up accusations, unfair legal persecution, and resulting public shaming both of them faced, but I think I understand much better now.

      (btw, I would love to find that interview, so if anyone can send a link I would really appreciate it.)

      • here is a video about the links between Chaplin and Jackson http://youtu.be/RkIk6qBulvY

      • aldebaranredstar

        Thanks, Sandra and Willa, for your comments on the Chaplin-Michael connections. I checked Joe Vogel and he has a lot to say about this–that Michael ‘idolized’ Charlie Chaplin from a young age and devoured books about him. The comments you noted, Willa, are referred to in the video link Sandra gave us (great video, thanks) and in Joe’s book. The comments appear in one of Michael’s Home Movies. Interesting that Michael says “I almost think I am him.” Joe has a nice description of when Michael came to the studio to record Chaplin’s “Smile.” He got a standing ovation from the orchestra and did the song in one take!!

        I am amazed sometimes that Michael admired people like Chaplin and the old comedies, such as the Three Stooges, as they were not part of his childhood, at least I don’t know if they were still on TV when Michael was young. I guess something to check out. Maybe they were.

        • Wow, you guys are awesome! I searched for that quote for months and couldn’t find it. I knew I’d seen it somewhere but couldn’t remember where, and it just drove me crazy. Thanks so much!

  4. I missed your posts this summer, Glad you are back!
    Another beautiful birthday tribute was “Elizabeth, I Love you” The song and video move me very deeply. Also a very stylized performance, and his appearance is so very different from anything I’ve ever seen before. http://youtu.be/ALbOIc-9XA8

  5. Michael always performed when there was great need and calling. Sammy Davis I believe was awed by his performance. Liz Taylor likewise. And of course there is his anthem to Ryan White, Gone Too Soon. And I just remembered what I believe was his last stage performance in honor of American Bandstand’s 50th anniversary for his friend Dick Clark. Michael stood up for his true friends all his life; was there ever another like him? No and there never will be. Love you more, Michael. Thank you ladies for this touching birthday tribute.

  6. I too loved this performance tribute that Michael did to Sammy. It is one of my favorites, next to the one he did at the Grammy’s. Michael was nominated for an Emmy for his tribute to Sammy. Sammy also did a Michael’s tribute with one of his own to BAD. Sammy killed it and it was funny too! You can look it up on YouTube. Thanks ladies for another beautiful thread. Love you Michael, always. ♥

    • Hi Cutie Pie. I’d never seen Sammy Davis, Jr., performing “Bad,” but just looked it up and what a hoot! Here’s a clip:

      You’re right, he “killed it” – and if Sammy Davis, Jr., could perform it that well at 62, imagine what Michael Jackson himself could have done at 62. We lost him way too soon….

      Thanks for sharing.

  7. Happy Annivrsary , ladies. Missed your talks over the summer!

  8. Love the connection you make between these 3 songs – all very moving in their own ways, but this one gets me every time. thank you for posting it here to remind us. Michael was always sooo supportive of others, I find it very sad that he wasn’t treated with the same love and respect that he so often showed to others by so many ignorant people.
    Thank you for sharing the story of Earth Song and your son and the mustang. It is so good to hear that younger generations are getting interested in Michael and his music, to help to continue it down the ages. My little 10 year old friend nextdoor is fascinated by my fascination and wants to know more and more about Michael. She loaned me her ipod to take to Russia with Michael’s music only on it, of course, and she told me the other day that she hasn’t taken it off, and listens to it a lot and doesn’t want to put any other music on it – go Tasha!!!

  9. Thank you Willa and Joie for your wonderful sentiments. I don’t think we could ask for two better ambassadors for our dear Michael.

  10. beautiful tribute to Michael, just perfect. Was longing for our community yesterday. So glad you are back.

  11. Congratulations on your one year Anniversary! Love this site!

    I was wondering why no high profile artist ever did a tribute to Michael. I am thinking of Elton John’s tribute song to John Lennon, the very beautiful “Empty Garden”. And, of course, his restyling of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana. I thought he and Michael were friends.

    I recall there was a version of “Nightshift” by the Commondores, I believe, where they re-recorded it for Michael, but I don’t think it got much airplay. I just thought, given Michael’s astronomical contribution to the music world, there would have been a lot more tributes from various artists. Unless they are out there and I am totally unaware of them. I don’t listen to the radio much anymore – just CD’s – Michael, The Beatles, Michael, Rolling Stones, Michael, The Doors, oh yes, and Michael.

  12. Thank you so much, Willa and Joie, for being here.

    Susan, I’d bet that there *will* be such a tribute down the road, or many of them. Michael’s influence was so wide and deep; I’d guess many artists would want such a work to be exactly right.

  13. Hello Willa, hello Joie! I’m an Italian reader of your blog and this is my first post. First of all I would like to thank Willa for her kind answer on fb and then wish your blog and Michael a happy birthday! Welcome back girls! What a nice tribute you made for him! I was especially reading the lyrics you underlined from the Sammy Davis Jr. tribute and they’ve made me thought about this: they fit as they were written by the fans for MJ, as they were written by the fans around the world especially for him. I don’t know if what I mean is clear, but at least these are some of the words I would like to tell him. Thank you for always sharing these interesting conversations! I also would like to remind everyone the premiere of the Spike Lee documentary Bad25 tonight here in Venice, Italy. Kisses.

    • Hi Joy. We’re glad you could join us! And you’re right – a lot of the lines from “You Were There” apply to Michael Jackson himself:

      You were there, before we came
      You took the hurt, you took the shame
      They built the walls to block your way
      You beat them down, you won the day

      It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair
      You taught them all, you made them care
      Yes, you were there, and thanks to you,
      There’s now a door we all walk through

      You can really imagine a young performer singing that about him.

      • Hi Willa, thank you for your answer: this is exactly what I mean to say. But I want to make a correction: my nickname is JoyMJ, not only Joy as indicated in my post. I sent my post and then noticed that my nickname was wrong, but I couldn’t find a way to replace it with the right nickname. So while I’m answering to you I also write my correct nickname. I do apologize for this mistake. Thank you.

  14. Hello everyone, I started reading your blog that my “pen” friend Nicoletta pointed me!

    I find all of your conversations very interesting and very useful to better understand the soul and essence of a man so deep and special, certainly extra ordinem as it was Michael Jackson.

    I found particularly interesting conversations around the songs, to the fact that Michael often speaks to a woman, but in fact is aimed at very many more themes and a lot more personal and universal.

    In Italian poetry is a practice that many poets use. Often women are a kind of “screen” behind which hides the poet needs to express his feelings, both philosophically that poetically.

    So I understand this trick.
    But I wanted to ask you, Willa and Joie, what was the real opinion do you think that Michael had of women.

    Sometimes I thought that it was not a good one. I do not know, but the whole thing of pornography, if it was true (I just to have read the news reports during the process of the 2005) …
    The fact that he didnt’ wanted a mother for his children … The fact that perhaps he feared in their greed, and that perhaps he is kept away …

    I just impressions which will definitely be far from reality, but I’d like to hear from you and anyone willing to tell me his.

    Thanks so much and keep it up!

    • Beatrice, hello and nice to meet you!
      I always had the impression that Michael was afraid of women who approached him only for his success and for his money. I think he saw his brothers and drew his conclusions. He was convinced then-maybe-that only someone from the entertainment world could truly understand his life.

      And then, about pornography, … come on, who do not have at home, if only for curiosity!

      I believe that he did not trust a lot of women, I would also like thinks of Willa and Joie if they wanted to give it to me.

    • Hi Beatrice and Lorenzo. I don’t know that I have anything insightful to say, except that Michael Jackson had some close long-term friendships with women, including Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, Lady Diana, and Lisa Presley. (They remained friends for years after their divorce.) And these are some pretty strong women – in fact, he seemed to especially like strong women. I really don’t think they would have tolerated it if he were patronizing or fearful or manipulative or otherwise had issues with women, and I don’t get that impression. In fact, they’ve said he was very easy to talk to and great fun to be with. So it sounds like he was very comfortable with women once he got to know them, and they were comfortable with him.

      btw, Beatrice, I was intrigued by the connection you drew with Italian poets. That’s interesting.

      • Willa, thanks for your answer. Yes, indeed, Michael, had female friendship which were very important, lasting and sincere.

        About Italian poetry, yes, it’s really close to Michael that way of exposing thoughts in the form of conversations of love and / or conflict veiled by the figure of a woman.

        During the period of Dolce Stil Novo “the woman” was half to get to the sublime, as a means of salvation, but often the same, she became stony, capable of arousing in the author a hopeless love.
        Obviously, the female figures were metaphorical symbols through which the poet could express in poetry thoughts on the various topics of life: death, happiness, philosophy, injustice … all through an inner dialogue with the woman.

        I’d like to send you some links for further information but they are all in Italian.

        Willa, thanks again and congratulations for your work, I will always follow your blog with great interest.

    • aldebaranredstar

      Hi, Beatrice–great question! Here’s my opinion: I think Michael preferred the company of children because he had been exploited so much by adults that he was deeply fearful of adults in general, men and women. I think due to his experiences, going back to such an early age, he had a hard time trusting any adult.

      He once said that his song “Childhood” was the most autobiographical song he had ever written, and the lines “Have you seen my childhood?” and “The painfuI youth I’ve had”–I think are keys to understanding a lot about Michael Jackson.

      I think many adults, including his ex-wives, hurt him deeply and betrayed him.

      • Hi, Aldebaranredstar , thanks for your answer, I agree that trust in mankind in Michael had collapsed completely, but I think the topic of women is a bit more complex.

        I believe that in many ways his life has been a living hell, and that for him to have authentic human relationships was too difficult! Imagine a true love, but listening to his songs, we understand how his mind he was thirsty!

        • aldebaranredstar

          If we look at the music, there are some powerful songs about women who lie, deceive, threaten, entrap,even kill (Billy Jean, Dirty Diana, Blood on the Dance Floor, etc). Reminds me of Keats ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci.’ So going by these songs, I would speculate that MIchael had some fear of women. Another point is that children are often deeply affected by their parents’ marriage, and if that marriage is a troubled one, they do not have a good ‘picture’ of marriage, and they avoid it. Michael had many friendships, but his marriages did not last long. I think he preferred to be single. In terms of his male friendships, such as with Barry Gibb and Miko Brando, perhaps these were easier for him.

          Do you have any thoughts on this topic, Beatrice?

          • Aldebaranredstar, yes, I think you’re right: his songs that have that theme, they express very conflicting reports that, as you say, perhaps arising from the marriage, but I think most of the behavior of his brothers.

            Obviously I’m just speculation but, perhaps, having witnessed (if you think this real version), in early adolescence to scenes of sexual relations between grupies and his brothers and have discovered, at such a young age, what can get girls, it must having procured in the young Michael what in psychology is called anxiety, and that is a mix of fear and desire, often unmanageable in interpersonal relationships.

            Apart from the unquestioned great love for children who had Michael, unconscious selection may be dictated by the fact that the relationship with the children, in some ways, are “simple”, more direct and less engaging from the side of love in the strict sense.

            Maybe it’s a bit like dealing with the love of animals: they do not ask you for anything, they love you and that’s it, and that’s wonderful, but also easier.

            Michael has chosen to be a single, a single parent and this is very indexing. In psychology, these parents are called “centralist” within the meaning of esclusives, usually they are people incapable of dealing with the opposite sex in a profound way for fear of losing everything.

            I’m just conjecture, as often happens with famous people, there are many things in the concrete reality of them that we do not know and we will never know.

            The only real thing is to rely on words of his songs: with the argument “women” they are very disturbing! Excuse my English, Aldebaranredstar!

          • aldebaranredstar

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Beatrice. You make some excellent points about the brothers’ sexuality displayed in front of the young Michael, and Joe did the same thing, very upsetting to Michael as it betrayed Katherine. Yes, the combination of fear and desire does produce unmanageable relationships–I have experienced that myself!!!! In a way, loving Michael, someone totally out of my sphere of an actual physical relationship, is another kind of ‘arm’s length’ distance that enables one to love without arousing all that fear.

            I have to say, though, as a person who has had a few animals as pets, it is not true that they do not ask anything of you!! They ask A LOT!! I am constantly taking them for walks, feeding them, giving them their medicine, etc. And it is expensive and really a big commitment, especially when they get older. Plus you have to train them!

            Yes, maybe Michael had a block about the opposite sex in a deep love relationship. I do think he loved Lisa Marie passionately for a time, and she him, but there were problems, and I think the media attacks didn’t help (the first allegations surfaced during their courtship and marriage and the media was really after Michael). Maybe if the media had left them alone, and the courts, they could have worked it out and been happy together.

            On the other hand, it is important to realize that there are other forms of love–love for the planet, for God, for a teacher, a guru, for friends, animals, etc–and not just sexual love.

            I think you made an important comment when you spoke about fear of losing everything. Michael had been so controlled as a child and young adult that I think his independence, freedom, were critical and he could only bear restriction of that freedom to a limited extent.

  15. I am more than grateful for this blog, What better contribution to understanding Michael! Your in depth analysis of his songs and lyrics really help in gaining a better perception of his essence, and and especially meaningful for those trying to create portraits of him. Please keep it up!

  16. I never fail to benefit from, and enjoy, reading your conversations, Joie and Willa.

    I agree completely that Michael had a group of people from whom he received support, encouragement and courage in his feelings and experiences of deep pain and fear. Those you listed personally endured many of the same kinds of pain and fear that Michael did. For Michael, they were a beacon, assuring him that a brighter tomorrow will come.

    We shouldn’t overlook those who offered such loving aid to Michael but who were not black. Elizabeth Taylor, of course, immediately springs to mind. This list also includes children in general, as well as those children Michael specifically befriended through his life – Mac Culkin, Mallika Chopra, Wade Robson, Kellie Parker, Omer Bhatti, Frank Cascio, and others. These are not people who were aligned with Michael on racial grounds but people who, whether from the innocent abundance of love in their child’s heart or from the intentionally and genuinely offered love of their adult hearts, gave themselves to Michael, and allowed Michael to give himself to them, in ways that makes life livable, worth living, and deserving of grand celebration. I pray all of Michael’s former playmates truly understand how loved and valued they are by Michael, and how important a role they played in his life.

  17. Happy Birthday to Dancing with the Elephant! And Congratulations on a great first year. Sorry to be so late in commenting, but I have just reconnected to the internet after being out of touch for a few days…

    I agree with you that MJ’s tribute to SD fits right in with the other songs and that it was not just a tribute in words, but in style — like his tribute to James Brown — and Elizabeth Taylor. The whole concept of being there for others seemed to be of paramount importance to Michael — and he, himself, was certainly there for his fans, sick and hungry children, and countless others on this planet who needed help. The SD song was certainly true of MJ a thousand times over.

    I was reading last night articles that showed how desperate MJ was at the end of his life — and how alone he was and how no one was really there for him — and it made me so sad — because he was always there for others. There is no public figure today who is “there” in the way MJ was — and is — no one who expresses his truth and ours, who reveals himself or herself so fully and openly. With MJ, the “there” is there. He is solid as a rock. He speaks truth about the planet in Earth Song, about the irresponsibility of the press in “Why You Want to Trip on Me”?, about the war on the Other in “They Don’t Care About Us,” about loneliness and isolation in “You Are Not Alone,” etc.

    Spike Lee said that when MJ died, he loaded his iPod with all his music and listened to nothing else for a year. I pretty much did the same thing, but at first, I listened to some other music — then only Michael. The Russian Olympic swimmers who used “They Don’t Care About Us” for their routine said they thought they would be sick of it by the time they competed, but that they still loved it. Michael sings and dances from his heart, he is a breath of fresh air — he shows true compassion — he expresses true LOVE when there is precious little out there. So, no wonder we can’t get enough — and therefore we can’t stop — ’cause he told us early on “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough!” And I will never get enough of Michael.

    Thanks for the blog and the post — and thanks for the story of the mustangs. I have been to Mesa Verde, but saw no mustangs, but then I wasn’t playing Earth Song. What a great image! I loved it.


  18. aldebaranredstar

    Hi, Eleanor–thanks for your great comments. When you said, “With MJ, the “there” is there,” it reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s famous comment about her hometown of Oakland–“There is no there there.” Seems you have rewritten that play on words so well!!!

    I agree he was fully ‘there’–and how–what an amazing presence–everyone who met him commented on it. I was also struck with his composure in his physical presence–a kind of stillness. For instance, he did not fidget, his gestures were beautiful and graceful.

    I will never ‘get enough’ Michael, either. I had a sad thought though last night. I went to see Bob Dylan and he performed at 71 and he was rockin’ away with energy. And I felt bad that Michael was taken away from us at age 50. OK, now I have to go and listen to his music to cheer up.

    • Hi aldebaranredstar — I was thinking of that “no there there” comment, but couldn’t remember who said it — thanks for reminding me.

      His grace was amazing — and in the SD video clip, the way he snaps open his hand! Magical.

    • Thank you, Aldebaranredstar, I know that kind of love, so to speak “platonic”, which – in the end – protect us a little from everything: sex, extreme joy, pain, impairment, quarrels, loss …
      Perhaps, as an analyst, I could afford to tell you not to exceed and balance, in order to give you life with all its risks: I think Michael did it great!

      About animals, I have misspoken: I know well (because I’ve had and I have now) give the commitment and how hard it is to take care of them. But I wanted to say that they, like the children – do not ask us anything in return for their love. You can scream, you can strike out, you can stay quiet for hours or sing loudly, you can go away and come back very late, you can do what you want and they are always there, ready to love you, to welcome, to donate their unconditional affection.
      They love us always, even when we hate ourselves!

      • aldebaranredstar

        Thank you, Beatrice–my animals are quite demanding–they do let me know what they want and when they want it!! But I agree they are very accepting and loving of my many failures. I understand totally why Michael loved animals–I think animals have a far greater capacity for love than most humans, if not all humans. They are also a thousand times more intelligent than most humans.

        Yes, Michael did it great, as you say. He experienced the capacity to love and receive love on many levels. I also recall something the Dalai Lama said–the most important thing is ‘good heart’–and Michael had that for sure.

  19. To Eleanor and aldebaranredstar,

    Your great comments are exactly to the point. Very few people really care about the fate of our marvellous little planet, and perhaps even fewer about the abunduntly miserable out there. Certainly Michael is, and I use the present tense intentionally, one of those precious few. With his passing (although I hate to even utter the expression, for us he is still alive,) our world is certainly robbed and poorer. He is a paradigm of giving.

    Now, about Michael’s way of moving, there is a float in the way he walks, the grace of a ballet dancer, and the gracious character of a genuine aristocrat. And notice the incomarable beauty of his hands and gestures!

    Happy anniversary, Dancing with the Elephant

    • Yes, Gihan, there is such grace. Just watch how he walks down the stairs in the clip! If I can use the word walk to describe how MJ moves.

  20. aldebaranredstar

    @ Gihan Zohdy–

    “Now, about Michael’s way of moving, there is a float in the way he walks, the grace of a ballet dancer, and the gracious character of a genuine aristocrat. And notice the incomarable beauty of his hands and gestures!”

    Thanks for that beautiful comment!!! He does indeed ‘float.’ I agree so much that he cared about our marvellous planet and the abundantly miserable–thanks–he was indeed a genuine aristocrat, in many ways and in the sense that De Tocqueville spoke of.

  21. In connection with Chaplin and other of Michael’s heroes: the “Three Stooges” were definitely on TV when Michael was a child. Here’s his Foreword to a biography of Curly, called “Curly: An Illustrated Biography of the Superstooge” (1985):

    “My memories of the Three Stooges, and especially Curly, are still with me to this day. In my childhood, around our house in Indiana, it was a daily ritual for me to watch the Three Stooges on television. All my brothers loved them then and even more so now. Chaplin and the Stooges are the greatest to me—their humor survives each generation. Even my mother loved to see us have fun watching them. Rehearsing as a team and watching the Stooges were the only times we got together as a whole family.

    “The Stooges’ craziness helped me to relax and to escape life’s burdens. They influenced me so much that I even wrote a song about them.

    “Curly was definitely my favorite Stooge. He was unquestionably a comic genius who understood ad-libbing better than anyone. I loved the Stooges’ slapstick action and especially Curly’s funny noises and his silly, child-like mannerisms and attitudes. He should be honored much more than what has been done for him in the past, for everyone loves him.

    “As a kid, I imitated Curly all the time, and I enjoyed feeling superior to and smarter than those three, silly grownups. I owe so much to them that I feel they belong to me. That’s why I had to write the Foreword for this book.

    “Joan, the author, asked me whether I thought that Curly had suffered when he had to shave off his wavy head of hair in order to become a Stooge. My answer was that I was sure he did, that underneath the smile may have been a tear—after all, he was a clown. But it is our duty as entertainers to satisfy the people—to give of our souls even if it hurts.

    “Curly had a magic. He was God-gifted—a natural. Even when he didn’t intend to be funny he was magic.

    “Today, thirty-three years after his death. Curly still has legions of fans because he was a natural. Such people appeal to the masses young and old—like the color blue.

    “I love everything about Curly and I would give anything to really know what he was like.

    “Thanks to the author, this book will clear up much of the mystery of Curly for me and his millions of devoted fans.”

    —Michael Jackson

  22. aldebaranredstar

    WOW–Thank you, Nina!! This is wonderful and explains a lot. Do you happen to know the song Michael is referring to? The one he wrote for the The Stooges? Also–who are the 3 silly grownups he felt superior to? I am going to check put this book–thanks so much.

  23. Hi aldebaranredstar,

    I think, strangely enough, the “three silly grownups” he’s talking about are the Three Stooges themselves! It sounds contradictory in this context…. but it could be. One staple of comedy is adults acting like children. (I haven’t even seen the “Three Stooges” myself, but I sure want to check it out now.)

    It’s especially touching that he writes, “… it’s our duty to satisfy the people—to give of our souls even if it hurts.”

  24. aldebaranredstar

    Hi, Nina, yes, that sentence is touching–and shows how Michael was taught to think that way (his duty to satisfy others even if it hurts).

    We used to watch the Stooges on TV too and also Laurel and Hardy, Stan and Ollie, Groucho Marx. I actually didn’t care for the Stooges too much–they seemed too raucous and crude–but maybe I should give them another chance. My brothers loved them too–maybe it’s a guy thing?

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