Let Me Fill Your Heart With Joy and Laughter

Willa:  You know, Joie, Michael Jackson’s short films can really take you places – just the full gamut of emotions. Like Thriller has this intriguing mix of fear and desire and repression and release:  it’s like he’s holding himself in through the first part, and when he finally breaks loose and starts singing and dancing, it’s exhilarating! And just think about all the different emotions in the Billie Jean video, or The Way You Make Me Feel, or Bad, or Who Is It, or Stranger in Moscow, or Earth Song, or Ghosts, or You Rock My World, or …

Joie:  Ok, ok. I get your point! There are a lot of short films and a whole lot of emotions.

Willa:  Oops. Sorry!  Didn’t mean to get carried away. But you know what I mean. Everything he touched is so nuanced and fascinating – even a Pepsi commercial.  I’m thinking about the “I’ll Be There” video duet between the younger and older Michael Jackson:

And it’s a Pepsi commercial, for Pete’s sake. But it evokes so many different emotions.

Joie:  Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more on that, Willa. I just love that commercial. I only wish it were an actual video of the entire song because it’s way too short. And you’re right, it does stir up a lot of emotions. For long-time fans especially, I think this one can get pretty poignant.

Willa:  Oh, it is so poignant – that’s the perfect word for it. You know, I’ve been thinking about “I’ll Be There” a lot lately, ever since Kris, Eleanor, and Nina posted comments about the connections to “Will You Be There.” I was so intrigued by that. In fact, we talked about it a little bit a few weeks ago – about “I’ll Be There,” “You Were There,” and “Will You Be There” – and I’ve been thinking about the I’ll Be There duet ever since. It’s so moving, and while it’s more subtle than “Childhood,” for example, it stirs up so many emotions.

You know, I think what’s so captivating about this video is that we see the older Michael Jackson interacting with the younger Michael Jackson in ways that completely contradict the dominant narrative in the media. The pop psychology that many critics forced onto him in later years was that his older self literally embodied a rejection of his younger self:  that as he grew older he rejected his race and his father and his whole family actually, and Motown and all his old friends and the people who helped him along he way, and his life as a child star, and that he even rejected his own body – that he rejected his face and his afro and the color of his skin. He rejected more and more and more until he became completely isolated and paranoid and living a Howard Hughes-type existence.

Joie:  Yes. That is the story that the media, and many critics it would seem, would like for us to believe.

Willa:  It really does seem that way, doesn’t it? It’s like they all fell in line behind that one narrative and kept repeating it over and over again. And I never believed it. It’s true that his feelings about his childhood were complicated, and so were his feelings about his father and his family. I mean, let’s face it – his whole life was complicated. But there were obviously a lot of different emotions at work, and it’s a gross over-simplification – and completely wrong, I think – to reduce it all down to “he hated his childhood and now he hates his father and his family and himself.”

Joie:  I couldn’t agree with you more, Willa. And I, for one, am so tired of hearing that Michael Jackson hated himself. I don’t believe that anyone so full of self-loathing could be so compassionate toward his fellow man. If anything I would think that someone who hated himself that much would have very little, if no regard at all for others. That argument just doesn’t make sense to me.

Willa:  Me either, and it doesn’t feel right either. When I listen to his songs or watch his videos, I simply don’t experience flashes of hatred or self-loathing. It’s just not there. But it’s true there are a lot of mixed emotions sometimes, especially about his childhood, and we can see some of that complexity in the I’ll Be There video duet – especially in how his older self relates to and responds to those images of his younger self.

What strikes me most when watching this video is the strong emotional pull he still feels toward his younger self. There’s a lot of affection in this video for his younger self, I think, and sympathy as well, and I get the feeling he wishes he could protect him somehow. There’s a very melancholy mood in this video, and I wonder if he’s thinking about all the things his younger self had already been through and would have to face in the years ahead. Maybe that’s where that melancholia comes from, and what makes this such a bittersweet video to watch.

Joie:  Again, I agree with you completely. It does have a very bittersweet feel about it and you do get the sense that he is thinking about all of the things that young boy has already gone through as well as all of the challenges he’s going to have to face in the future. He knows the difficult obstacles that boy is going to have to overcome and he knows how hard those times are going to be for him. Yet, at the same time, he still seems so hopeful in this clip.

Willa:  He really does, doesn’t he? And reassured when his younger self finally starts to sing. It’s like his older self can’t really get into the song until his younger self fully emerges and begins singing too. But once he’s there, the two join together in song and he – his older self and younger self both – seem so joyful and … complete, if that makes sense.

That feeling that he can’t really express himself fully until his younger self joins him is so powerful to me, especially when I think of all the times he talked about the connections between childhood and creativity. It’s like he needs the presence of his younger self to be an artist – he isn’t complete as an artist without him.

Joie:  That’s really true, Willa. And it makes me think of that old quote by Picasso, I think it was, where he said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.” And it seems that Michael figured out that the way to do that – to remain an artist once you grow up – is to stay connected to that magic of childhood. As he himself once said:

“One of my favorite pastimes is being with children, talking to them and playing with them. Children know a lot of secrets [about the world] and it’s difficult to get them to tell. Children are incredible. They go through a brilliant phase, but then when they reach a certain age, they lose it. My most creative moments have almost always come when I’m with children. When I’m with them, the music comes to me as easily as breathing.”

The fact that he felt his most creative when surrounded by children I think says a lot about how important that childlike wonder was to him. And, as you said, you can really feel that in the I’ll Be There commercial when he’s singing with his younger self.

Willa:  That’s such an important point, Joie. And you know, that makes me wonder if maybe there’s another way to interpret “I’ll Be There,” that beautiful song he sang as a child – not as a promise to a girlfriend or to us as an audience, but as a promise to himself. He will be there for himself. He will protect and preserve the childlike part of himself and stay true to himself, and he will always be there for himself. When his older self is sitting at the piano and senses the presence of his younger self, and then the two join together in song, it like he’s telling us he kept that promise:  his younger self is still very present and alive in him, and expresses himself through him.

Joie:  Oh, wow. Willa, that was inspired. I never looked at it like that before and I actually got goosebumps just now! That makes so much sense. What a wonderful way to interpret that song.

Willa:  It is beautiful, isn’t it? I hadn’t looked at it that way before either until you quoted those wonderful lines about children and creativity. Hearing those words, “When I’m with them, the music comes to me as easily as breathing,” it suddenly struck me that we see that idea enacted in the video duet. He’s sitting at the piano singing in a quiet, hesitant way, and then the music “comes to him” at the precise moment a child appears. But in this case, that child is himself – his younger self.

Joie:  It is a beautiful thought, Willa. But, as is always the case with Michael Jackson, this wonderful little clip was not without its share of controversy. This was Michael’s final commercial for Pepsi. You know, they had enjoyed a great partnership for many years. Starting in 1983, they had a very lucrative and mutually beneficial association. But all that ended, of course, in 1993.

This commercial was filmed in 1992 and it aired outside the US in 1993. It was actually never shown in the United States at all. But the controversy came about because it was reported by the New York Post that Michael insisted a White child portray his younger self in the commercial. Now, I have no idea if the child actor in this commercial was actually White or not because his face is never really shown up close so, it doesn’t matter anyway. The old footage of the Jackson 5 used during the commercial gets the point across whether the actor is White or Black. So, I never really understood what the big deal was here.

Willa:  Yeah, I really don’t know much about that either. My understanding is that they had an open audition for young dancers, and the best dancer was White – he really had the Jackson 5 moves down, apparently. And I can certainly see Michael Jackson “insisting” that the best dancer be hired, regardless of race – that’s perfectly in keeping with his beliefs and what we know about him. And I can certainly see how the New York Post would try to generate a controversy about that. That’s perfectly in keeping with what we know about them too.

But as you say, none of that really registers when you watch the video, which is so heartfelt and beautiful. And it’s really moving listening to the lyrics as a conversation between his younger self and his older self. His older self sings, “I have faith in all you do,” and his younger self responds, “Just let me fill your heart with joy and laughter.” It’s perfect. And then they both make a pledge to one another: “I’ll be there.” Beautiful.

Joie:  It is beautiful, Willa. And honestly, I believe this was just a case of the media creating a controversy about Michael Jackson when there really was none. As you said, it was all about hiring the best dancer regardless of race because the actual race of the actor in the commercial is impossible to discern anyway.

And the bottom line is that, it is such a sweet, heartfelt video clip that perfectly captures Michael Jackson’s heart and his spirit. And it is just such a joy to watch.


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 October 17, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. Willa says: “And you know, that makes me wonder if maybe there’s another way to interpret “I’ll Be There,” that beautiful song he sang as a child – not as a promise to a girlfriend or to us as an audience, but as a promise to himself. ”

    I’m with Joie. That really blows me away. I’ve always felt that Michael had to really be tapping into something to be able to convey the emotions he did in those songs from the Motown days. How could he know the love of a girlfriend when he was only 10 or 11? But now maybe I need to go back and re-examine what I THOUGHT he could have been feeling. Maybe the emotions he’s expressing aren’t what I/we think.

    Great post as always ladies, Oh, and here is the commercial:

  2. Very interesting topic.
    Michael once said to Adrian Grant, “For some reason there’s a certain part of my concert where I break down in every show and in that spot I get a certain thought – I think of the plight of the children and it gets me every time. I don’t know why in that place, it’s during “I’ll be there”, the thoughts just come to me and I try hard to contain myself.”

    You can really see him getting emotional at that moment in every show, and while it may be a dramatic act to an extent, occasionally he really is in tears to the point of losing control of himself (like in Tunis HIStory concert).

    I always wondered why it was this thought and why during “I’ll be There”? And I feel it may have been connected to what Willa said here – about his perception of his younger self. Maybe he was mourning his own lost childhood.

    • That’s interesting, Morinen. I hadn’t read that quote before, but it does suggest there was a strong connection in his mind between “I’ll Be There” and childhood. btw, I just looked up the Tunis version of “I’ll Be There,” and it’s interesting that it’s at that point – during “I’ll Be There” when he’s so upset – that he thanks his brothers by name, so again connecting that song to childhood – specifically, his childhood. Here’s a video clip:

      • aldebaranredstar

        That is an amazing clip, Willa. He seems really grief-stricken. I wonder if lines like “I’ll be there to comfort you” were poignant for him–who was really there to comfort Michael, especially in the last years? By the time of HIStory Tour (96-97), he had already been through so much.

      • Oh my, Willa, you really took it home with this clip. I have never seen it before, and it’s so powerful. Anyone who has ever felt pain surely sees it reflect in Michael at that point. I found myself almost gasping or catching my breath. WOW!

      • So Willa you really want me to short out my laptop hey??!!! Like Destiny but I wasn’t almost catching my breath, I held it for 8 minutes!! Michael seemed more emotional right from the beginning of the song. This concert in Tunisia was in October 96, and I have just looked at my DVD copy of the concert in South Africa in October 97 and it was very very different. There was no acknowledgement of his brothers and the 97 version was far less emotional, but it was a whole year later. I looked up in Adrian Grant’s Michael Jackson Visual Documentary for October 96 and there is nothing for the period between 4 and 29 October, so that doesn’t throw any light on the what is happening here, but this is more than just stage theatricals I feel. Painful to watch – don’t know quite what else to write.

        On a different tack, went to see the Kenny Wizz version of History II here in Cape Town last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. When he was here a year ago, I wasn’t ready for an impersonator – far too engrossed in the real thing as if I am not still ha ha – but he did a really splendid, professional, and I felt very respectful job of the show. Has anyone every seen him in the States? Highly recommend you do if you can.

        • aldebaranredstar

          Hi, Caro, that is very interesting about the 2 very different performances. In terms of a timeline, in January 95, there was a scandalous report that a videotape existed of Michael molesting a boy, his nephew. This was treated as fact on shows like Hard Copy. Michael sued Hard Copy, Diane Dimond, and the one who claimed to have SEEN the videotape (Victor Gutierrez) for defamation of character. (He won his suit in 98 with damages of 1.7 million against VG, but DD got out of it). So this was an ongoing case and I am sure he was devastated at these lies in the media, especially as he hoped to put the 93 accusations away once the settlement was arranged.

          In 96 Victor Gutierrez published his book “Michael Jackson Was My Lover,” which purports to be based on Jordan Chandler’s diary, which, like the videotape, never existed except in VG’s imagination. This book is full of child molestation porn and amazingly is available to buy on Amazon right now! So it might be possible that Michael had recently heard about the resurfacing of VG to continue his slander in this awful porn book??? I don’t know exactly when in 96 VG published his book (first in Chile and later in USA).

          “I’ll Be There’ is such a song of love and support and Michael kept having arrows thrown at him. He only had one tour without all these problems–Bad. During Dangerous in 93 the first allegations surfaced. For History, we have the defamation civil suit and the scandalous book. Also due to all the furor, Michael could no longer tour in his own country. So SAD. I would be crying too and so would anyone.

          • Caro and Aldebaranredstar – I’ve been thinking about a third performance of “I’ll Be There” also, the one in This Is It. He doesn’t seem upset but he is quiet, as I remember, and I’m pretty sure it’s during “I’ll Be There” that he pauses and remembers his brothers by name, as well as his parents. In fact, I need to go back and watch This Is It again, but I believe there’s a photo montage during this segment that shows him with his brothers, both performing as the Jackson 5 and just being part of the family – very much like the photo montage in the video duet for Pepsi. So again, he’s linking “I’ll Be There” to his childhood and his younger self.

          • I thought of This is it as well. I remember thinking when I first saw it, that surely it must give his family some comfort to know that even in the last days, maybe hours of his life that he was thinking enough of them to call out their names. Now seeing the Tunisia concert clip, I see this was something he seemed to do often. Hopefully they are still comforted by the fact that he still kept them close at heart. Thanks everyone for the interesting perspective.

        • I know what you mean, Caro. I have to confess, it took me a couple of tries to get all the way through this clip, even though it’s only 8 minutes long. He gets so upset and there’s nothing you can do – it’s really hard to take.

          • That’s no maybe Willa. Think I will stick to watching this delightful Pepsi ad rather!!

          • Can’t get the reply button to your comment above this one Willa, so squeezing in here Just watched yet another version of I’ll Be There in the new to us, Wembley BAD concert. Ending very different and far less emotional with regard to I’ll Be There, but breath holding (mine, not Michael’s) bridge from I’ll Be There into Rock With Me, which rather brings in the other girlfriend theory someone had – can’t imagine Michael singing that to his younger self – so yet again, more than one option for this song. And don’t you just wonder who he is looking at and pointing to off stage at the beginning of RWM? I just love this concert DVD.

      • So painful and beautiful to watch. Thanks.

  3. To add to that: In the Pepsi commercial “I’ll be there” performance is very intimate. It’s obviously between the two – Michael and his inner child, and there is no space for a girlfriend there. It is an odd video for a commercial – it seems almost too personal.

  4. “But as you say, none of that really registers when you watch the video, which is so heartfelt and beautiful. And it’s really moving listening to the lyrics as a conversation between his younger self and his older self. His older self sings, “I have faith in all you do,” and his younger self responds, “Just let me fill your heart with joy and laughter.” It’s perfect. And then they both make a pledge to one another: “I’ll be there.” Beautiful.”

    Perfectly stated, ladies. I loved this clip from the first moment I saw it and used to watch it repeatedly. My favorite moment is when he lights up at the piano with his lovely smile after seeing his younger self. I never knew about the controversy and today it seems quite irrelevant as does most of what the critics had to say back then. They are sure being proven wrong. Just look at the current critical acclaim for BAD 25. Makes those critics seem petty today, doesn’t it?

    • Hi Teresa. Here’s a clip from Sky News that gives an idea of what the controversy was like, and you’re right – it does seem petty. Here’s the clip:

      • Wow….”fuss about nothing” is absolutely right. Thanks for this clip, Willa.

        One day in the not-too-distant future, I predict, people will be dumbfounded when they encounter evidence of all this hyped-up “controversy” that continually surrounded Michael Jackson’s every move. They’ll wonder, en masse, “what was the big deal? What was all that fuss about? The guy was brilliant….”

        • And Nina that day can’t come soon enough!!!!!! I also looked up this clip and again it is all media hype which probably was good for Pepsi sales but of course horrid for Michael.
          It is just all too patently obvious the more I read that there really was a lot of rot written around Michael during his lifetime, and he seems to have been soooo grossly and sometime blatently misunderstood. Thankfully that is changing and people are taking him seriously and making much more effort to understand this man who was obviously a very complex genius but who certainly didn’t deserve any of the ‘bad press’ from wherever it came!!

      • aldebaranredstar

        Michael denied this media ‘story’ in the Oprah interview in 93. He said he was proud of being Black and said there was no reason for him to hire a white child to represent him. He said it was another example of media ‘garbage.’ I agree.

        There is a new book out analyzing Michael’s body language by an expert called Craig Baxter. This guy has youtube videos where he analyzes Michael’s body language in several interviews and statements (such as the O2 press conference, Oprah, Bashir, Sawyer, and his statement after the strip search). Baxter concludes that honesty is pouring out of Michael. He also sees a lot of anger and a lot of sadness. He really goes over his gestures, voice, movements in detail–it’s very interesting.

  5. I love this commercial so much, and really enjoyed your discussion, thank you.
    If I may comment on something else… after reading that Michael was influenced by PT Barnum’s autobiography, I bought a copy.
    I’m only 1/4 thru it, and not yet to the part of his life where he puts on shows. I assume that’s where I’ll see what impressed Michael.
    So far what I see is a person from a family and a culture drenched in cruelty and deception. I’m reading on because I have faith that there must be something redeeming that Michael found valuable.
    I’m frankly surprised that Michael even continued reading long enough to get to it.
    I would love to read your comments and opinions on this.

  6. Great post for a great video. A very nostalgic video. And “nostalgia” is a greek word. It literally refers to the desire, the pain of returning. So maybe, contrary to the media belief, that Mike rejected everything that had to do with his past and specifically with his childhood, all Mike wanted was to return to this age of (relative) innocense.

    • That’s so interesting, George, that “nostalgia” literally means both the desire to return and the pain of returning – and we definitely see that desire mixed with pain in the video duet. In that sense, Michael Jackson’s complicated feelings about his childhood are truly “nostalgic.”

  7. Well that’s it ladies. I had just stopped crying from watching the wonderful Wembly concert DVD in the BAD 25 anniversary boxed set – what about all those fabulous close-ups? – and thought that was it for a while, when you post this wonderful blog and the Pepsi ad clip, and here I go again, even now writing through my tears!! I had seen it as part of other videos, but had no idea that it was a Pepsi ad as I had never seen the bottles of the drink at the end. Who would have thought that an ad could be so great, so personal and emotional – only Michael hey? Even in 3 minutes he can have one run through a whole gambit of emotions and say so much – the Pepsi almost seems an unwelcome and irrelevant intrusion!! sorry Pepsi!!

    I also just love the part when he turns back to the piano after seeing the boy – the smile on his face is nothing short of sublime, and says so much more than words ever could – even though the words he is singing are wonderfull. After reading your comments of course it is obvious that this is about Michael’s inner child and thoughts on childhood, and his love for other children no matter what creed or colour – that just wasn’t important to Michael was it? As you so rightly say, anyone who loved children so much, could never have loathed themself, and in my opinion anyone who could write the kind of poems and essays in Dancing The Dream that MIchael did, also had to have a deep understanding and love for his own spirit and life.

    Must go and find some more tissues before I drown or short out my laptop!!!!

  8. aldebaranredstar

    Love your comment, Caro!!! I hope you don’t short out your laptop–lol!!

    You are so right about Dancing the Dream–the book is so amazing and really shows, as you said so well, Michael’s “deep understanding and love for his own spirit and life.” And it shows his love for animals, the planet, the Great Spirit (to use a Native American expression)–his love for life and for the ‘Magical Child” (one of the poems in DTD) everywhere. There are 2 poems titled Magical Child, Part 1 and 2, in DTD.

    Once there was a child and he was free
    Deep inside, he felt the laughter
    The mirth and play of nature’s glee
    He was not troubled by thought of hereafter
    Beauty, love was all he’d see

    He knew his power was the power of God
    He was so sure, they considered him odd
    The power of innocence, of compassion, of light
    Threatened the priests and created a fright
    In endless ways they sought to dismantle
    The mysterious force which they could not handle

    In endless ways they tried to destroy
    His simple trust, his boundless joy
    His invincible armor was a shield of bliss
    Nothing could touch it, no venom, no hiss

    The child remained in a state of grace
    He wasn’t confined in time or place
    In Technicolor dreams, he frolicked and played
    While acting his part, in Eternity he stayed

    Soothsayers came and fortunes were told
    Some were vehement, others were bold
    In denouncing this child, this perplexing creature
    With the rest of the world he shared no feature
    Is he real? He is so strange
    His unpredictable nature knows no range
    He puzzles us so, is he straight?
    What’s his destiny? What’s his fate?

    And while they whispered and conspired
    Through endless rumors to get him tired
    To kill his wonder, trample him near
    Burn his courage, fuel his fear
    The child remained simple, sincere

    All he wanted was the mountain high
    Color the clouds, paint the sky
    Beyond these boundaries, he wanted to fly
    In nature’s scheme, never to die

    Don’t stop this child, he’s the father of man
    Don’t cross his way, he’s part of the plan
    I am that Child, but so are you
    You’ve just forgotten, just lost the clue

    Inside your heart sits a Seer
    Between his thoughts, he can hear
    A melody simple but wondrously clear
    The music of life, so precious, so dear

    If you could for one moment know
    This spark of creation, this exquisite glow
    You would come and dance with me
    Kindle this fire so we could see
    All the children of the Earth
    Weave their magic and give new birth
    To a world of freedom with no pain
    A world of joy, much more sane

    Deep inside, you know it’s true
    Just find that child, it’s hiding in you. (Magical Child, Part 1)

  9. aldebaranredstar

    Magical Child, Part 2

    Magical child once felt a twinge
    A faint recollection, a memory unhinged
    In the colors, the forms, the hue
    There seemed a mystery with a subtle clue
    Behind the wind, the storm, the gale
    Within the shroud, beyond the veil
    Hidden from view in a wondrous pattern
    There seemed a force he could not fathom
    Its music and cadence were playful and sweet
    He danced in bliss to its throbbing beat
    He did not mind either cold or heat
    On the mountain high was his royal seat

    Strangers came and scorned his joy
    With ridicule and banter they tried to destroy
    What in their minds was a skillful play
    With cruel darts they tried to plunder
    To suffocate and strangle his innocent wonder
    Fighting hard, despite their blunder
    Again and again to steal his thunder
    Despite their attacks, they could not break
    With all their barbs, they could not take
    God’s gift of love, which they could not fake
    Not knowing his strength or what he sought to seek
    They complained aloud and called him a freak

    But the mysterious force just kept its hold
    Magical child grew brave and bold
    Diving deep into his soul
    In exquisite ecstasy he discovered his role
    In his Self was infinite scope
    This mysterious force was mankind’s hope
    Piercing through that mask of Being
    In that silence beyond all seeing
    Was a field with a different story
    A field of power, of awesome glory
    With other children, if unfurled
    Its tidal wave would change the world

    Magical child was ready to bow
    Sow the seed, pick up the plough
    With effortless ease, without a sigh
    Without a tear, without a cry
    With silent perfection
    Under God’s direction
    To sing together as one race
    Stem the tide, transform this place

    Magical children, don’t worry how
    Don’t delay, this moment’s now.

    • Thanks for the poems, Aldebaranredstar. Reminds me of Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality, when he talks of children “trailing clouds of glory…” and the line “the child is father of the man” from My Heart Leaps Up.

      I think these two poems directly relate to the video for I’ll be there. Perfect!

  10. This part of the song (about joy and laughter) is my favorite, yet he rarely included this verse when it was performed live (once he was on his own). Wonder why?
    Also, don’t forget that the first song he recorded as a solo artist was Got to Be There! That theme of “being there” is so important in his work.
    Thanks again Willa & Joie for another great post!

  11. aldebaranredstar

    Here’s the trailer for Spike Lee’s Bad 25 documentary. It is showing in LA and NYC now, I plan to go as I am close to NYC.

  12. aldebaranredstar

    William J. Wagener is in Europe now talking to Michael Jackson fans about his plans to make a documentary about the 2005 trial and the fraud of the prosecutors and the media. He has a website called MJJIFF (MJJ Innocent Forever Foundation).


  13. Hellow Aldebaranredstar,

    Thanks for the information on William Wagener, I’m very eager to watch this new documentary. Michael needs such publications about his life, perhaps as a reminder as to how cruel people can be when it comes to personal gain.

    Now, watching Michael’s body language on stage, to me it is apparent he needed the audience, or his fans, as a pal to share his feelings with, a shoulder to cry on. Look at the way he strokes his arm, or the way he expresses gratitude towards his audience upon being applauded, he needed that visceral expression of compassion and love that most probably did not have. Being a world traveller and exposed to the miseries children go through of course gave him plenty of cause for grief, but never forget that Michael was a very traumatized boy, bearing scars that cannot be glossed over in his mind. I believe all these put together provoke that pent up passion that flows out during such moments.
    Notice his frequent deeply sad eyes.

  14. aldebaranredstar

    Yes, Gihan, I agree Michael was a very traumatized boy and needed the love and compassion he received from his fans, and he really showed fans how much he loved and appreciated them back!

    Yes, I agree there is sadness in his eyes. I notice in this video of ‘I’ll Be There’ the deep, soft timbre of his voice in comparison to the higher-pitched voice of his boyhood. His adult voice is much more complex with many levels of emotion–more warmth and tenderness, and that famous vibrato says so much.

    William Wagener’s website is interesting. He needs funding to make his documentary. I hope he can find supporters to make it a reality.

  15. Thanks Willa and Joie for another wonderful post. I agree with everything you say. I agree also with George that he has great nostalgia for his childhood, especially for the closeness he had with his brothers. The contrast of his isolation in his later life with the wall to wall family of his early life couldn’t be more stark. Which is why he names his brothers in the Tunis clip. But, he had no choice but to break away and go it alone — really, really complicated.

    I have always thought that his group sleepovers were an attempt to recreate that comfort of being surrounded by family that he had as a child. I read somewhere that once, when he was on tour and was suffering from insomnia, he got his whole crew to come in and share his room to help him get to sleep.

    Anyway, I love the idea of the wise child, “the father of the man,” telling his future grown-up self that he will always be there for him.

    • “I agree also with George that he has great nostalgia for his childhood, especially for the closeness he had with his brothers. The contrast of his isolation in his later life with the wall to wall family of his early life couldn’t be more stark. Which is why he names his brothers in the Tunis clip. But, he had no choice but to break away and go it alone — really, really complicated.”

      Hi Eleanor. You’ve touched on something that I’ve felt for a long time – that he both missed his family terribly but also had to break away from them. At times – for example in the “nostalgic” photo montage of him with his brothers and family – he expresses such longing for those days and the closeness he felt then. (I love that picture of him and his brothers asleep in the back of the car.) But at the same time, his brothers just wanted to keep performing Jackson 5 songs over and over for the rest of their lives, and he had moved beyond that. They were performers, but he had metamorphosed into something else entirely: the most important visual artist of our time, I believe, though he still enjoyed performing on occasion. Artistically, he had to break free from his family and the demands they continually placed on him if he was to grow as an artist, but emotionally he missed the closeness he felt with them. “Really, really complicated,” as you say.

      By the way, I love the connection to “the wise child, ‘the father of the man.'” It reminds me of the Wordsworth poem, “My Heart Leaps Up”:

      My heart leaps up when I behold
      A rainbow in the sky.
      So was it when my life began;
      So is it now I am a man;
      So be it when I grow old,
      Or let me die!
      The Child is father of the Man;
      And I could wish my days to be
      Bound each to each by natural piety.

      Is that what you were thinking also?

  16. Here’s a link to another commercial — not an MJ one, but one I know MJ would have enjoyed and I wanted to share —

  17. I appreciate all your wonderful thoughts about the connection to Michaels childhood and agree to them wholeheartedly! The whole week I’m thinking about this song, there is so much depth. And another version came into my mind about what he probably could think or feel:

    May be that he saw this song as a promise to his ancestors (You and I must make a pact , we must bring salvation back), incarnated through his always black partners to show that he never forgot where he came from. In many cases the partner in this duet comes on stage and begins to sing, and at the same time Michael backs down. It is as if they weren’t on stage at the same time – may be he wants to make clear the chronological order or that the ancestor appears to him as if in a dream. Also there are often adlibs at the end which appear in a pattern of call and response and has it’s origin in the era of slavery (blues and gospel).

  18. Please enjoy this clip of Michael and the brothers singing I’ll Be There and more on a Diana Ross special from 1971 – http://youtu.be/J6pAxF2br_U

    • This should work better:

      • aldebaranredstar

        Thanks, Destiny, that was great. Here’s an acapella version of ‘I’ll Be There.” Now that Michael’s gone, it’s comforting to hear such a loving song. I agree, Lilly, this is a gospel song, like “Will You Be There” or “Man in the Mirror.”

        • Thanks so much aldebaranredstar.

          • Thank you soooooo much Destiny and Aldebaran. I have never seen either of these videos, and am once again blown away by Michael’s voice – to think that he could sing like that aged 9 just gives me goosebumps. What a talent, and to think that singing like an angel was only part of it. I am going to add this blog to my favorites list cos it contains so many treasures, that I will want to watch over and over and over again, and I will have them all in one place.

  19. Wow, you guys rock! I’m so intrigued by all these different versions of “I’ll Be There.” And Caro, thanks for the excuse to go back and watch the Wembley concert again. (Any excuse will do, right?) I have it playing right now and you’re right – he does go from “I’ll Be There” to “Rock with You,” which suggests he’s singing this song to a girlfriend or lover.

    But you know, he doesn’t go directly from one song to the other. He sings “I’ll Be There,” then pauses and ad libs a few lines from “Can You Feel It” – a song about overcoming prejudice and imagining a better world. Then he breaks into some jazz-style scatting followed by a call and response with the backup singers and the audience – and as you pointed out, Lilly, the call-and-response interludes at the end of this song often have a strong gospel influence. You can really feel those gospel roots during the Wembley concert. Then there’s more scatting followed by that wonderful version of “Rock with You” – an amazing rendition that’s both soulful and joyful. At the beginning, especially, he can hardly keep from laughing. I just love it.

    All those transitions are so interesting to me. There’s a lot of complexity here – emotionally, thematically, musically – but he makes it seem so effortless and natural. Oh, and now he’s doing “Human Nature” accompanied by robotic dance moves, and he’s ending with a pantomime of being trapped in a box under a harsh spotlight, and then walking away from both the audience and the spotlight. So interesting . . .

  20. p.s. Destiny and Aldebaranredstar – Thanks so much for the wonderful “I’ll Be There” clips. Of course, if we’re assembling a collection of the greatest “I’ll Be There” performances, we can’t forget the Motown 25 celebration. It’s one of my favorites:

  21. aldebaranredstar

    Thanks, Willa, for that video link. It’s great to see all 6 brothers together and all so happy and hugging each other. Right after this Michael gives his epic Billy Jean performance. These 2 performances showcase the whole story–the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, and Michael’s solo career. It’s a transitional point between, as Michael said, the old songs and the new songs. Interesting that ‘I’ll Be’ There is the transitional song.

    • It is great, isn’t it? I love the Motown 25 performance – the whole thing, not just “Billie Jean” – and the way you frame it is so interesting: as a reenactment in miniature of “the whole story – the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, and Michael’s solo career,” with “I’ll Be There” as the “transitional point.” So as we see in the video duet, it’s the point of connection between his younger self and his older self, but in a different way – it’s the point where he transitions from one to the other. Interesting.

      • aldebaranredstar

        Hi, Willa, yes, the whole Motown 25 is great. And have you seen Marvin Gaye’s incredible Motown 25 performance? This gets lost when the focus is so much on Michael, but Marvin gives a wonderful piano intro to his performance where he speaks at some length about black music and its roots.

        • Hi Aldebaranredstar. Thanks so much for posting this clip. You’re right, his spoken introduction at the piano is wonderful. It reminds me of his song, “Inner City Blues” (“Make Me Wanna Holler”) – one of my favorites.

  22. I’ve always believed that one very important point is missing in the popular narrative of Michael wanting to regain the childhood he never had. That much is true, but, if you grew up Michael Jackson, then your childhood was indeed, a very very special time – unconventional and unbalanced – but that little boy was doing what he was put on this earth to do, and all you have to do is see his smiles in those old clips. And, he was with his family, his brothers. It was his world. Imagine how close they were.

    I believe that the breakup of the J5 – when the rest of them moved to CBS and Jermaine left to stay with Motown and began competing with Michael – truly truly broke his heart. It was the first betrayal of many. That’s what the tears are about.

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