Lift Her With Care

Joie:  Willa, I was thinking about “Little Susie” recently and the words of that song really struck me. You know, this is a song that I don’t think ever gets the recognition that it deserves and I think it’s because of the subject matter. It is such a sad, depressing, and troubling thing to think about; no one wants to dwell on it. But the song itself is truly beautiful and the music sort of commands your attention right from the beginning. In fact, I often find myself humming the melody of those opening bars because it is just so hauntingly beautiful.

But, as I was singing it to myself a few days ago, I started to really listen to the words and it made me think about Michael and that deep, almost empathic connection that he seemed to share with children in general, but with suffering children in particular. And I’m not really talking about the terminally ill. We’ve all seen the footage of Michael sitting by the bedside of some poor, sick child, offering whatever comfort he could. He was just as famous for that as he was for his amazing talent. But I’m talking about those children who were suffering in a different way. Those who were being abused or neglected. He shared a real connection with those children as well, and even wrote about it in songs like “Little Susie” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are.”

Willa:  Oh, I agree completely, Joie. “Little Susie” is “hauntingly beautiful,” as you say, and pretty complicated also – one of his most complicated songs, in some ways – so it takes a little effort to fully understand it. But it’s also just slit-your-wrists depressing, and I think you’re right – it tends to get pushed aside because it is so upsetting and depressing.

Joie:  It really does. And when you just sit and really listen to the words, it’s heartbreaking. The song tells the story of a neglected little girl named Susie who is basically all on her own. As he says in one verse:

Father left home, poor mother died
Leaving Susie alone
Grandfather’s soul too had flown
No one to care
Just to love her
How much can one bear

So, we don’t know whether Little Susie is in foster care, or if some other family member has stepped up. All we do know is that she is very much alone, and the only person who really feels her loss is the man from next door, as Michael tells us this:

Everyone came to see
The girl that now is dead
So blind stare the eyes in her head
And suddenly a voice from the crowd said
“This girl lived in vain”
Her face bears such agony, such strain
But only the man from next door
Knew Little Susie and how he cried
As he reached down to close Susie’s eyes

So we don’t know much about her, we don’t even know how old she was. All we know is that she was alone and she lived a very sad, meaningless existence. Neglected by everyone in her life, with the possible exception of the man from next door.

Willa:  That’s true, Joie, and that extreme isolation – a child on her own with no family to love and protect her and care for her – is a very important element of this song. You know, I didn’t know this until I watched the MJ Academia Project videos, but they said the lyrics were inspired by “The Bridge of Sighs,” a 1844 poem by Thomas Hood. Like “Little Susie,” it’s a poem about a young woman completely alone in the world. As Hood asks,

Who was her father?
   Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
   Had she a brother?

However, unlike Susie, this young woman has a home and a family, but they cast her out when she became pregnant:

Sisterly, brotherly,
Fatherly, motherly
    Feelings had changed:
Love, by harsh evidence,
Thrown from its eminence;
Even God’s providence
    Seeming estranged.

So she has a family but they’ve turned against her, and like Susie (though for different reasons) she suddenly finds herself completely alone, vulnerable and abandoned – “Even God’s providence / Seeming estranged.” In a seemingly hopeless situation with no one to turn to, this nameless young woman commits suicide by jumping from a bridge and drowning herself in a river.

So like “Little Susie,” “The Bridge of Sighs” focuses on a painful, troubling story – one that in the 1800s, especially, would have been considered an inappropriate topic for polite conversation. But through its compassionate portrayal of her story, it encourages us to look at a situation that is generally ignored and feel sympathy for this fragile young woman who had no one to comfort and help her. As Hood writes in the only repeated stanza:

Take her up tenderly
    Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly
    Young and so fair!

This is very similar to the chorus of “Little Susie”:

She lies there so tenderly 
Fashioned so slenderly
Lift her with care
So young and so fair

In both cases, Thomas Hood and Michael Jackson are encouraging us to look at a situation we may not want to think about. More than that, they’re asking us to open our hearts as well as our eyes and try to care about someone no one cared about while she was alive.

Joie:  That’s so true, Willa. And that’s something Michael Jackson was very good at – encouraging us to open our hearts and care deeply for those lost and overlooked souls that no one else wants to care about.

And I love that you pointed out that Thomas Hood poem. I also had no idea about “Little Susie”‘s connection to “The Bridge of Sighs” before watching the MJ Academia Project videos, but the comparisons and the similarities are really fascinating. I just love the symmetry between the repeated stanza in Hood’s poem and the repeated chorus in “Little Susie.”

Willa:  I do too, and the way Michael Jackson evokes this older poem adds so much depth to the lyrics, I think. And we see him doing something similar with the music as well. For example, “Little Susie” opens with a choir singing “Pie Jesu” from Maurice Duruflé’s The Requiem. Here’s a link to mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly singing “Pie Jesu,” which roughly translates as “Pious Jesus”:

Then we hear a young girl winding a music box and singing the melody of “Little Susie” – not the lyrics, just the notes. This is followed by a few bars of one of my favorite songs, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. And then – nearly halfway through “Little Susie”‘s 6:13-minute runtime – Michael Jackson finally begins to sing the opening lines. So “Little Susie” opens with 3 minutes of musical “quotations,” and these musical references provide an important context for what we’re about to hear.

A requiem is music written for a Requiem Mass, which is a very formal and highly ritualized ceremony marking the passing of a community member, generally a prominent figure. And “Sunrise, Sunset” provides musical accompaniment for another very formal and highly ritualized ceremony: a Jewish wedding in turn-of-the-20th Century Russia. Here’s a clip of “Sunrise, Sunset” from the film version of Fiddler on the Roof:

So Michael Jackson has written a touching song about a little girl whose life passed unnoticed – a lonely, insignificant figure known only by the nameless “man from next door,” as you mentioned earlier, Joie. Yet he prefaces this song by evoking rituals performed for those who are important and deeply connected to their communities, which further heightens the pathos of Susie’s isolation – of her complete disconnection from a community that might have nourished and protected her.

This long intro performs another function as well, I think – it suggests that Michael Jackson felt Susie deserved a ritual of passage also. And so he has created one – a ceremony to mark the passing of one unloved and unprotected by her community. In this sense the tolling of the bells at the end of “Little Susie” is especially significant, because they memorialize one deemed too insignificant to have a requiem of her own.

Joie:  I agree with you completely, Willa. He was making a very specific, very important point with this song from start to finish. He was trying to show us that everyone deserves a ‘ritual of passage,’ as you called it. Everyone deserves to be loved while we’re here and memorialized when we leave. I believe it was an idea that was very important to him. You know, our friend, Joe Vogel, had this to say about “Little Susie” in his book, Man in the Music:

“Little Susie” is yet another testament to Jackson’s range and depth as an artist. The song also demonstrates his commitment to his creative vision regardless of whom it might alienate. Many critics were simply baffled that a “mini-opera” about such a dark and grotesque subject could land on a mainstream pop record. “What it’s doing on an album with Dallas Austin and Jam and Lewis is anyone’s guess,” wrote Rolling Stone. For Jackson, however, the reasoning for “Little Susie” … was quite simple: He believed it was a great piece. Commercial viability or audience expectations didn’t matter. What mattered was the personal connection, the story, the melody.

So, apart from the melody, it was the personal connection and the story that was important to him. So important that it didn’t matter to him what the critics thought or what the audience’s expectations were. It was a story that he felt needed to be told.

Willa:  I agree, and I love the way Joe pushes back against the frequently expressed yet utterly false notion that Michael Jackson measured his work strictly in terms of record sales. As Joe wrote and you quoted, “He believed it was a great piece. Commercial viability or audience expectations didn’t matter.”

Joie:  Yeah, you know, I’ve never understood that argument either, Willa. All you have to do is really examine his body of solo work and you see that false argument holds no weight. But, Joe Vogel also goes on to point out what a masterpiece this song really is:

While “Little Susie” remains mostly unknown, it is one of the most poignant and unique songs in his entire catalog. ‘If he ever decides to stop being a pop singer,’ wrote Anthony Wynn, ‘this song [is] proof he could compose music for movies and seriously win Oscars for it. It’s sad, haunting, beautiful.’ Indeed, “Little Susie” reaffirms his substantial abilities as a songwriter.

And you know, Willa, it is just such a shame how true that statement is. “Little Susie” is almost virtually unknown outside of the fan world and it really shouldn’t be. It is such a beautiful song with so much to say.

Willa:  It really is, and even among fans it’s not especially well known or well liked. It’s just not a feel-good song no matter which way you look at it. But while the story it tells may be painful to hear, it has something important to tell us nonetheless.

But I’m intrigued by Anthony Wynn’s belief that Michael Jackson would have been a successful composer of film scores. I think that’s true, in part because his music is so visual in some ways, as you and I talked about with Lisha McDuff in a post last March, “Visualizing Sound.” Also, he was skilled at integrating music from many different genres to create dramatic effects that would work very well in films, I think. And his music often had a grand sweep to it like good film music often does – like “Sunrise, Sunset” does, for example.

Actually, it’s really interesting to look at “Sunrise, Sunset” both in comparison to “Little Susie” and as it functions within “Little Susie.” It’s a very important motif in this song. Michael Jackson quotes it four times: in the intro just before the first verse and again after each chorus, including after the final chorus where it leads into the tolling of the bells. And thematically, “Sunrise, Sunset” forms a strong contrast with “Little Susie” because it’s the song that a father, a mother, and an entire community sing as a young woman marries, leaves her parents’ house, and starts a family of her own. So it’s a song of love for a daughter – of hope for her future as well as the pain of losing her – and it commemorates the bittersweet passage of time.

Importantly, the man she’s marrying is one she loves, one she accepted for herself, not the one her father accepted for her. In fact, now that I think about it, there’s a strong undercurrent in “Little Susie” about the fraught relationship between fathers and daughters. “The Bridge of Sighs” is the story of a young woman who loves a man without first gaining her father’s permission, so he and the rest of her family reject her – and without a man’s protection, from either a father or a proper husband, she dies.

Fiddler on the Roof then complicates that story. It’s based on a novel, Tevye and his Daughters, about a Jewish milkman and his five daughters, and it centers on the question of who should be allowed to pick their future husbands. The oldest daughter loves a poor tailor, not the wealthy butcher Tevye has promised her to. But he sees she loves him, and after some soul searching he gives them his blessing and support. “Sunrise, Sunset” is their wedding song, so in that sense it provides an exact counterpoint to “The Bridge of Sighs.”

Tevye’s second daughter stretches him even further from his traditional beliefs, falling in love with a political radical and Jewish scholar from out of town. It’s difficult for him, but he respects the young man and knows his daughter loves him, and again he gives his blessing. But then his third daughter falls in love with a young Russian who is not Jewish, and Tevye cannot accept that. When she elopes with this young man, Tevye disowns her – he’s deeply saddened by it, but nonetheless he tells his family that she “is dead to us. We’ll forget her.” She pleads with him, “I beg you to accept us,” but he can’t. As he says, “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break.” So she ends up abandoned by her family, though unlike the young woman in “The Bridge of Sighs,” she has a husband to stand by her.

It’s very interesting to me that Michael Jackson carefully situates the story of “Little Susie” against the backdrop of these other stories of young women accepted or rejected by their fathers. As you said earlier, Joie, Susie was abandoned by her father, and her mother and grandfather have died, so she has no family and no male protection of any kind – and without their support she dies. So if we take a feminist approach to “Little Susie,” there’s a subtle but strong critique of this patriarchal model where girls and even young women simply cannot survive without a male figure protecting and supporting them. We can interpret this literally to mean a father or grandfather or husband, or more expansively to mean the law of the father, which includes institutions that reinforce male power such as the family, the church, the police, the military, the media, the corporate world.

And of course, Michael Jackson routinely challenged all of those institutions of power and was constantly resisting both his own father (literally) and the law of the father (figuratively). So interpreting “Little Susie” this way seems to fit both his vision and his belief system.

Joie:  Wow, Willa. I don’t think I would have ever tied “Little Susie” to the idea of challenging authority, or male power as you call it. But that is a really fascinating interpretation; thanks for sharing it! And I love what you said about the strong undercurrent of the fraught relationship between fathers and daughters in “Little Susie,” and I think you are right on the money here. By listening to the lyrics, we can guess that things would have turned out a lot differently for Susie had her father stayed home and remained a part of her life. Certainly she wouldn’t have been left all alone after her mother and grandfather passed away. Perhaps she would have had a happier existence and not been so neglected if her father and mother had stayed together and created a loving, stable environment for her. We can imagine a world where Little Susie had a happy childhood with two happy, doting parents. But sadly, that wasn’t her fate.

And you were right when you said that even among fans, this song isn’t really well known or well liked because it is just not a feel-good song. But it is a really powerful song, and a beautiful one, that deserves a lot more attention than it ever gets.

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 February 20, 2013, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 107 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this.

    Like you two mentioned, I’m one of those who does not listen to this song often. It actually reminds me of a song by Tupac called “How long will they mourn me”. Now that could be because the albums were released around the same time. Yet I feel like this is a song of mourning. I also felt that “Susie” was a representation of Michael. Again, this is on the History album and much of that was influence by the events of 1993. So I always felt that Michael was singing of someone in such despair, and without a person to support him, and that death might look like the better option from where he was standing.

    These lyrics stand out:

    It was all for God’s sake
    For her singing the tune
    For someone to feel her despair
    To be damned to know hoping is dead and you’re doomed
    Then to scream out
    And nobody’s there…

    • Wow Destiny, I was just thinking about how I don’t see why Little Susie was on History album specifically and it never occurred to me that she might represent him. I mean every other song on history fits the emphasis “His Story” except this one… But I think you’re right, he identified with suffering children but this time he reversed it and poured his own feelings into the character.

  2. Just FYI, an acquaintance and MJ correspondent in Germany has told me several times that “Little Susie” was and is greatly admired in Germany and was a big hit. That of course is among the (still) staunch German Jackson fans…

    Perhaps, because of their long and deep connection to all kinds of symbolic music, film, and fine art that evokes emotional response and mythology (think of German opera such as Wagner’s Ring Cycle), the listeners in Germany and elsewhere in Europe were able to connect more with the depth and breadth of Michael Jackson’s art.

    It was also interesting as I read the Hood poem to realize that it reads very much in waltz tempo, in which Michael composed “Little Susie”; another rare departure on his part from the common time signature of pop music. You can actually sing those phrases from the Hood poem to MJ’s melody…

    • I’ve had waltzes in my head ever since I read your comment, Chris! That is so interesting! I never noticed “Little Susie” was a waltz, but after I read your comment I listened to it again and you’re right, it’s in 3/4 time, and it even feels like a waltz once you have that thought in your head – but I don’t think I ever would have guessed it on my own simply because of the subject matter. I know waltzes vary a lot, from very formal pieces for ballroom dancing to fiddle tunes, but I never thought of a waltz with such dark lyrics. Maybe I’m showing my lack of knowledge about music, but when I think of a waltz, I think of something that may have a melancholy tint to it, but still, they always seem fairly uplifting to me, maybe because they have such a lively rhythm.

      So why did Michael Jackson write “Little Susie” as a waltz? That question kept popping into my head all day yesterday. It works – it works beautifully, I think – but why did he compose it that way? Interesting …

      • Hello Willa – and thank you for so many fascinating articles on your wonderful and thoughtful blog. I’ve been addicted to it from the very beginning, after I read your brilliant e-book.

        Why did MJ compose Little Susie as a waltz?

        If the Hood poem was indeed his inspiration: as I mentioned the poem itself immediately reads in 3/4 time and someone with as instinctive and essential a sense of rhythm as Michael Jackson had would recognize that from the first few lines. He heard the natural meter in everything around him, I think. As a longtime theatre professional and ex-stage director, one of the first things that struck me about literature written for the stage is that all dialogue is music, with rhythm, meter, tempo, emphasis, beats, pitch, sharps and flats; any musical term you care to apply to the written word will work. It’s all music, and another reason why I love music so dearly. He would have known that instinctively too.

        If that isn’t the possible reason, then perhaps the innate story-teller in MJ recognized that a striking dramatic tension could be set up by setting such a disturbing plot to a musical form that isn’t usually associated with tragedy, namely the waltz, except in an ironic sense. I can think of times that waltz tempo has been associated with a sense of melancholy and even an ironic reminder that life in all its darkness and light goes on no matter what (Richard Strauss’ fantastic waltz in “Der Rosenkavalier” comes to mind immediately) and I’m sure there are other examples in musical theatre or film that MJ may have heard and liked.

        The end result of setting Susie to waltz tempo is – it sneaks up on you. Isn’t telegraphed. You don’t see it coming. That is excellent story-telling.

        • P.S. to my comment above: There is a word for the agreement of lyric and music, and that is “prosody”. MJ was definitely playing a bit with prosody in Little Susie, though the use of minor key helps his intention. I also recalled another instance where the waltz is used to great effect to express sadness, longing, irony and loss: in creating his excellent stage play “A Little Night Music”, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim used waltz music exclusively throughout.

          • Hi Chris. That’s so interesting to think of the ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three poetic meter of “The Bridge of Sighs,” and the lyrics of “Little Susie” as well, corresponding to the rhythm of a waltz, but you’re right – they correspond perfectly.

            And I’m so intrigued by your idea “that all dialogue is music, with rhythm, meter, tempo, emphasis, beats, pitch, sharps and flats.” I remember when my son was learning to talk, he learned the “music” of speech before he learned actual words. For example, he liked to pretend he was talking on the telephone, and it was uncanny how much his pretend conversations sounded like a normal phone conversation, just because of the rhythm and pitch of the sounds he was making – and it worked even though he had almost no vocabulary. The “music” of conversation came before words and meaning.

            I also agree that Michael Jackson “heard the natural meter in everything around him.” He expressed that idea a number of times in Dancing the Dream, and we see it in the You Rock My World video also. There’s a segment about 9 minutes in where he creates, or rather, makes apparent, the rhythm of the found sounds in the club – the water dripping, the broom sweeping, the clicking of heels and fingers, the buffing of the shoeshine man. It’s a wonderful segment that highlights “the natural meter in everything around him” – and around all of us, if we’re open and attuned to hearing it.

          • This idea is also expressed in the way he composed actually! There are many demos where he would hum or make some sounds in places where the words didn’t form themselves yet, but the music and the vocal melody was complete in terms of how it should sound. It’s like he was just waiting for the words to reveal themselves.

            Maybe somebody with a music education can explain the build up in Little Susie, musically. It doesn’t follow Michael’s typical route with verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus fade out.

            It has this emotional build up that makes it a difficult song for me also, not only because of the emotional lyrics. As it progresses its like he speeds up and the music gets darker and darker, its like the song is nearing a climax but never reaches it, the conflict is never resolved.

            I think a good metaphor is that Michael was painting an emotional landscape with sounds, like there is a link between the sounds and the corresponding feeling. I am stumbling in the dark here but its a very strong feeling about his work.

          • Ha! Willa, your son sounds like a musician in the making – watch him closely! That’s a wonderful example of the “music of dialogue”.

            I agree about MJ’s use of “found sound” as music in YRMW — he also explores that in “Ghosts”, even in the dance numbers, using things such as coughs, brushing his shoulder, finger snapping, and the subtle tapping of a ghoul’s fingernail on the floor… Plus the ebb and flow of the ad-libbed comments from the crowd of “visitors” to The Maestro’s home.

            (In Italian, the alternative translation of Maestro is “teacher”, BTW…) 😉

          • Such brilliant comments! Chris I really agree that this piece is very theatrical, and excellent story telling. Your perspective is fascinating.

            Gennie, I think what you may be hearing in terms of the way the song builds is achieved through the elaborate intro and the orchestration. Notice for example the harp part in the “Father left home” section, it becomes very intricate and involved. I also read an article with Bruce Swedien about the use of synthesizers on this piece. After they had been recorded, he went to one of his favorite large recording spaces, Studio One at the “Hit Factory,” where he played back the recording in the large room and re-recorded it there, to make it sound like it was in a big (ball?) room. I hear this especially as the orchestration builds.

            The song does follow the standard Verse/Chorus/Bridge form, but tacks on the elaborate intro and a very interesting short ending that makes it sound very different. (And what is this orchestral piece doing on a Pop album anyway???)

            Intro: Approx 2″ of Pie Jesu from Durufle Requiem – Atlanta Symphony/Robert Shaw’s 1987 recording for Telarc. (Durufle is a 20th century composer, who did not write in the avant-garde style of the time. Instead, he was more “popular” and even toured the US as an organist.) The Latin words “Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem sempiternam” translate as: Gentle Lord Jesus, grant them eternal rest.

            Approx 1:38 you hear footsteps that start in the far left portion of the sound field (wear headphones to hear this correctly) and the steps start walking towards you and to the right. The sound field has tremendous depth as well as distance from left to right. 1:45 you hear a wind up clock ticking and the sound of a case opening and the winding of the music box. At 2:00 a child (Markita Prescott introduces the verse by humming it with the sound of the music box. 2:19 she sings the tune on the syllable “la.” It slows as the music box runs out, and we hear the child sigh as a bridge to the start of the song (Bridge of Sighs?).

            The song proper starts with another intro, 4 bars of “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler. Again, as with the clock ticking, the idea of time is highlighted. The child doesn’t die from an accident or momentary lapse in judgement, she dies from neglect that has been happening over and over, day in and day out. (I find it interesting the the Christian Requiem sits next to the Jewish wedding ritual, a ritual that I think most all parents dream of – giving away their children in marriage).

            Verse 1: “Somebody killed Little Susie”
            Chorus: “She lie there so tenderly”
            Verse 2: “Everyone came to see the girl”
            Bridge: “It was all for God’s sake for her singing the tune”
            Verse 3: “Father left home”
            Coda: the song ends by repeating the “Sunrise Sunset” as in the opening 4 bars, but it slows down and on the very last bar makes a startling change – to A major! We have been in a minor key this whole time, but now you hear the sound of 5 chimes ringing on a major chord, a sort of “happy” ending that the child is now finally at peace. As I said in an earlier comment, Charles Dickens also wrote a piece about the same incident Thomas Hood’s “Bridge of Sighs” is based on, a short novel titled “The Chimes.” In my mind, this is a clear reference to Dickens. There was also quite a lot of Victorian artwork produced around this as well that seems to connected to Helnwein’s photo. For example Gorge Frederic Watts “Found Drowned”

          • Hi Ultravioletrae

            having just read your interpretation and information on the song I listened to it as you suggested with headphones, and WOW. I tell you one can listen to any of Michael’s songs a hundred times or more and still not hear it all!!! I heard for the first time some of the things you pointed out, like the harp being different in the ‘father left home’ verse, and the footsteps going across my head so to speak. I find the connection to Dicken’s chimes fascinating as well, and always liked them at the end without knowing their significance – they seem to just round off the song so rightly, and make me think of For Whom The Bell Tolls (? Edgar Allen Poe) and it was tolling for Little Susie of course.

          • Wow, Ultravioletrae! So many fascinating insights and observations. I’m especially taken with your ideas about the references to the passing of time – for example, when you say, “The song proper starts with another intro, 4 bars of “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler. Again, as with the clock ticking, the idea of time is highlighted. The child doesn’t die from an accident or momentary lapse in judgement, she dies from neglect that has been happening over and over, day in and day out.”

            I really feel that focus on the passing of time as well, and wonder if it’s also highlighted by the fact that so many elements of “Little Susie” are old works or old forms – a requiem, a waltz, an 1844 poem … So through these centuries-old forms, we feel the passage of long expanses of time.

        • Ultravioletrae – great that you mentioned the key change and its possible symbolism and resolution at the end of LS – amazes me to no end how many ways MJ found to express himself in music and how subtle he was. His critics missed the profound aspects of him totally.

          MJ spent most of his time in minor key, to great effect, so anything written in major key was underlined. He found vocal ways to underline meaning as well.

          Thanks also for the information about Swedien, another true craftsman. MJ attracted the true craftsmen and artists and appreciated them. On the other end of the spectrum, someone dangling off the end of the “hack” bridge like Stoller could only benefit from an association with MJ; he raised the bar for everyone he influenced.

  3. Thank you, Willa and Joie!.. You mentioned that Michael wrote another song abuot being neclected…“Do You Know Where Your Children Are.” And there is one more..he wrote the lyrics for the song “Michael Mckeller” – there are photos of the original script, and on top of one of these text-notes Michael wrote: “About child neglet – Pain children feel when there ignored” and this are the lyrics:

    Michael Mckeller
    lives in a different world
    Oh what a different
    Nobody seems to care.
    Waits at the window
    Look how he is lying there
    pretends he is dying there
    Nobody seems to care.
    Isn’t it Queer look and you’ll notice serving
    isn’t it dear Nobody noticed serving his heart on a tray now.
    Isn’t it Queer look and you’ll Noticed Bowing His head
    “To pray now
    Away now
    Nothing for Christmas fighting
    Trying to hide his fears
    crying but no one hears
    inside he hides his tears.

    Michael Mckeller
    feel the music get away
    he’s left alone today
    Nobodycares to stay.”
    Talks to the mirror himself he enter think or: His standing in the rain
    tries to escape the pain
    But all things Remain the same
    His pain Remains the same
    Michael Mckeller says feels
    He must get away.
    His left alone Today
    Nobody cares to stay
    Talks to the mirror feels
    He must Runaway
    Nobody home today.

    so this theme was very important and familiar to him…and the feeling of being abused an alone…I think he knew very well…

      • …and it seems that he wrote both songs – Little Susie and Michael McKeller already before his Dangerous album – in the Mexico Deposition (October 1993) they ask him about these two songs, and he answered, that he wrote them, but they’re unreleased.

        • aldebaranredstar

          In his book My Friend Michael, Frank Cascio talks about the great sound system in Michael’s bathroom and how he would go there when he couldn’t sleep and listen to tapes of songs Michael was working on. See page 75-

          …”I liked “Turning Me Off”, an up-tempo song that hadn’t made it on to the Dangerous album; a song called “Chicago 1945” about a girl who went missing; a pretty song called “Michael McKellar”; and a song that eventually came out on Blood On The Dance Floor called “Superfly Sister”. …

          also from the same book:

          “Traveling the world with Michael Was an adventure. He loved staying in Hotels, He instantly made them his mini Home. Every hotel we stayed in, we had to use aliases. Some of them, I have to say were quite funny. “Donald Duck” “Captain Hook” “Mr Green” “Homer Simpson” Bart Simpson” He would also stay under the name “Michael McKeller” Which is the title to one of his songs. I think my Favorite one was when we all became the “Potter Family” Michael was Harry Potter, I was Frank Potter. ”

          Michael McKeller, written and recorded 1991 (according to Wikipedia re unreleased songs).

          • aldebaranredstar

            More quotes from Helnwein:

            “The moment when I sensed for the first time: you can change something with aesthetics, you can get things moving in a very subtle way, you can get even the powerful and strong to slide and totter, anything actually, if you know the weak points and tap at them ever so gently by aesthetic means.

            To see people dying, to see pictures of actual dead and wounded was no problem and here we have a piece of paper, with tiny little pieces of pigment on it, and that’s all it is really, and that stopped him from sleeping, I don’t understand. I realised at that moment that it is not my pictures, it’s the pictures that they have in the back of their head that’s the problem. Usually they are dormant and asleep but with art you can really break it out and that’s what they really hate.

            I hated the gallery system anyway and I was always looking for a demographic form of mass communication… I wanted to find out how can you force people to look at something that they would rather not be made to look at. I found that images can reach much deeper than words.”


          • Absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much!

          • Hi Aldebaran. I haven’t had a chance to read the linked text yet, but these quotations are really intriguing, especially Helnwein’s focus on the power of art to bring about social change by illuminating, challenging, and maybe altering the beliefs or narratives people already have in their minds – as Helnwein says, “it is not my pictures, it’s the pictures that they have in the back of their head that’s the problem. Usually they are dormant and asleep but with art you can really break it out and that’s what they really hate.”

            And this quotation could apply equally well to “Little Susie” and much of Michael Jackson’s work: “I wanted to find out how can you force people to look at something that they would rather not be made to look at.” Or in the case of “Little Susie,” to force people to listen to a story they’d rather not hear. …

          • aldebaranredstar

            Yes, Willa, the connection between MJ’s art and aesthetic and Helnwein’s is enlightening for sure. Helnwein was using child images not only to indicate the plight of literal children but also as a metaphor for the way adult citizens are treated in a politically authoritarian regime (as in the Nazis and the Holocaust), i.e. as children to be controlled, obedient, manipulated, infantalized, and powerless. I think MJ also saw children as a metaphor in that the child inside the adult–the sense of creativity, freedom, and play–needed to be liberated. In other words, their critique of the way children are neglected or denigrated extends to needed change in how we understand ourselves as adults.

        • Thanks for that tidbit of info. Guess my theory of 1993 being an influence is bunked!

          • Even so, I’m still very intrigued by your idea, Destiny, that “Little Susie” describes Michael Jackson’s own situation, to some extent. In the post, we focused on how Little Susie, the nameless woman in “The Bridge of Sighs,” and Tevye’s third daughter in Fiddler on the Roof are all rejected by their fathers, so don’t have a family to support them. But they don’t have a community to support them either, and that’s just as devastating. For example, I keep thinking about these lines from “The Bridge of Sighs”:

            Alas! for the rarity
            Of Christian charity
            Under the sun!
            O, it was pitiful!
            Near a whole city full,
            Home she had none. …

            Where the lamps quiver
            So far in the river,
            With many a light
            From window and casement,
            From garret to basement,
            She stood, with amazement,
            Houseless by night.

            So she’s wandering alone through the city at night, looking through windows at people in warm, well-lit houses, while “Home she had none.” There’s a similar situation in “Little Susie,” like in the lines you quoted earlier:

            It was all for God’s sake
            For her singing the tune
            For someone to feel her despair
            To be damned to know hoping is dead and you’re doomed
            Then to scream out
            And nobody’s there …

            And I think Michael Jackson felt that too, even before the 1993 scandal – that he was isolated, locked in a unique position that no one else could really understand. In fact, maybe that’s one reason the 1993 scandal was as devastating as it was – because he didn’t have a strong community to rally around him and support him against those false allegations.

          • I 100% agree that Michael not having a support system made the allegations of 1993 that much harder for him to withstand.

            There’s also an interview with Michael explaining that he would walk around the neighborhood at night search for a soul to talk with. I think someone famous also talked of finding Michael walking around late at night. This would have been pre-Thriller in the Hayvenhurst area. I can easily visualize Michael in what you quoted.

          • In fact he had a great support system in 1993.
            Both during the 1993 and the 2003 accusations he always had his family by his side. publically and in private, Liz Taylor supported him publically, Many other celebrities did. The African American community had always been of great loyalty .In 1993 rewarded him with the NAACP award Entertainer of the year

            In 1994 explicitly showed their support and belief in him .

            Michaels NAACP speech talking about the allegations
            “I have been strengthened in my fight to prove my innocence by my faith in God and by the knowledge that Im not fighting this battle alone.Together we will see this thing through and Im very proud to be here.”
            Debby Allen( award recipient and longtime Jackson family friend) : “this is indeed a historic moment for many reasons. God be with you Michael, we are all on your side.”

            If you check the timeline in 1993 from the start of the investigations on august 17,even though he cancelled the Dangerous tour halfway, he didn’t stop any of his activities.
            August 17 LAPD investigation starts
            August 21 Michael arrives in Bangkok , has health problems
            Aug 25 Liz arrives in Bangkok for support
            Aug 30 Family joins him
            September 3 Family goes with Liz and MJ to Taipei
            Dangerous tour continues with cancellations in-between.
            Nov 8 search of Hayvenhurst while fam is in phoenix for the funeral of Joes father
            Nov 11 last Mexico concert
            Nov 12 Michael goes from Mexico to rehab. Elizabeth makes a statement

            December 10 Michael back in Neverland
            December14 live interview BET Jackson family in support of Michaeland other public statements
            December 22 Michaels public statement of innocense
            Januari 1994 case is settled, continues public appearances.
            May 1994 after 4 months of dating, marries LMP in Dominican Rep and she becomes his no1 supporter .

            Actually in 1993 Michael had far more support than in 2003 from the public, the press and celebrities. 2003 was different because it was the second time ,many believed that maybe the 1993 allegations were true. But in 2003 he still had his family and many in the entertainment business by his side.But although he won in court, 2005 was far more devastating on many levels than 1993.

          • Sina, whether or not his family and entertainment friends were of support I guess could be a matter of perspective, but it could be that even if they were there for support, Michael may not have FELT he had it. I believe Michael when he speaks and sings of being lonely and alone. But the better question is was any of that part of the inspiration for Susie? I just don’t know…yet!

          • “I 100% agree that Michael not having a support system made the allegations of 1993 that much harder for him to withstand.”

            @ Destiny, My response was to your above quote.
            Michael never publically spoke about the 1993 allegations except for his interview with Diane Sawyer , in private maybe and in his songs. Not perspective, but fact is that he never said or suggested that a lack of a support system made the allegations harder for him to withstand. His speech to NAACP proves the opposite.
            Yes he often spoke of feelings of loneliness in general.I agree you can feel lonely despite well meaning help of friends, family, extended family,spouse or children. There is alot to say about loneliness and Feelings vs Facts, but that is another discourse.
            Little Suzy as Hollywood tonight and DYKWYCA as someone pointed out , is a recurring theme of abandonment in Michaels work, that could definitely have been inspired by his own feelings of loneliness.

            I cannot think of the song without the photo of the child in mind, which purposely has a shockvalue to it, maybe as a wake up call. Personally I would have appreciated more subtlety on the artwork, the song is strong enough on its own. The biography of the photographer is interesting.(thanks for the link) His subjects have similarities to Michaels. He is also an advocate for children and I think that is why Michael choose his work for this song. I like his quotes about his work , maybe Michael did too.”Kunst ist für mich eine Waffe, mit der ich zurückschlagen kann.”,meaning ” For me, art is a weapon with which I can fight back.’ and “My Art is not an answer, – it is a question.”

          • aldebaranredstar

            Sina, you say, “Michael never publically spoke about the 1993 allegations except for his interview with Diane Sawyer , in private maybe and in his songs,” but what about his televised speech from Neverland in 1993–asking for people to let him have his day in court, declaring his innocence, speaking about the horrible media coverage and the humiliation of the body search?

          • @ aldebaranredstar
            In respons to

            “Michael never publically spoke about the 1993 allegations except for his interview with Diane Sawyer , in private maybe and in his songs,”

            This is what I wrote in the timeline

            ‘ December 22 Michaels public statement of innocense’

            He only made a statement before the settlement ,but didnt discuss or explain anything, then or later, except the DS interview after which he was sued by Chandler for breach of the conditions of settlement.

          • aldebaranredstar

            Hi, Sina, well, he couldn’t make any statement after the settlement b/c there was a gag order that no parties could discuss the case except in a court. That was the reason Evan went after him again b/c he did talk about it in the Sawyer interview but only to declare his innocence, which he had written into the settlement.

    • Wow, this letters are very disturbing. I never had think about Little Susie as him talk about himself. But, do you know, it makes sense, because, as was it was told several times, he use the songs to talk problems the are, in the same time, personal and universal. And tha’s it. Negligence is a universal problem and he was a neglected child. So, he knew exactly how Susie and Michael McKeller feel.

  4. This song has fascinated me from the moment I first heard it. It’s a bold departure of what one expects from pop, and evokes such honest emotions. Funny, I never equated the grandfather’s loss of soul with death, I thought that he had long since given up on life and had turned inward, with one foot in either world, hardly aware that his granddaughter even existed. I’ve known lots of elderly who have withdrawn their souls from this world long before they pass to the other. With infinite love and care, Michael proclaims with this song that attention must be paid. I think Seven once had a piece analyzing Little Susie. I agree, Michael would have been a great composer of movie scores. He loved everything about film and immersed himself in movies for much of his life. And the composer he collaborated with at the end said the classical piece they were working on would have fit beautifully into that category.

    • That’s interesting, krisheywood. It seems like I heard one time that “Little Susie” was based on a story where the grandfather was abusive or negligent, so that would support your interpretation of “Grandfather’s soul too had flown” – that he’s not physically dead but emotionally absent.

      • Did you see the piece Raven did on Prince? She had a compilation of video clips about his debut as an entertainment reporter, and I was so pleased with the way Prince conducted himself, and how firmly he insisted what a good father MJ had been. Prince also was quite knowledgeable about film, no doubt in large part due to the life-long education he got on the subject from his father.

  5. I’ll make my comment short but sweet. I always loved this song. True the song isn’t a “feel good” song, but it brings me back to The Man in the Mirror. If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and start with the man in the mirror. Aren’t we put here to help the “Little Susies?” Just a thought.

  6. Little Susie is one of my favourite songs even though it is extremely sad. I had always wondered what this song was about. Thank you for breaking it down and explaining it. Now I understand why I relate to it. Is the little girl singing whilst the music box is being wound Paris?

  7. Kind of sad (and ironic) that this song about neglection and the pain it causes is itself neglected. That said, I’m very glad to see it being paid some attention on your site. It obviously meant a lot to Michael so it only makes sense that it be analyzed. Especially by his fans.

    One thing that you didn’t bring up was the name Susie. I’ve always found it interesting that MJ used the same again name in the song “Blood on the Dance Floor.” Could there possibly be a connection?

    MJ of course used the name Billie Jean in both the song of the same name and “Wanna Be Starting Something.” I always assumed he was referring to the same woman in both songs. This couldn’t really be the case with Susie since she dies as a child in “Little Susie” but is a grown woman in “Blood on the Dance Floor.” Still, I think there must be a connection with the Susie in “Blood on the Dance Floor.” Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • I have been interested in Susie for a long time, and commented elsewhere in this blog about this –

      Susie is also in “Superfly Sister”:

      Susie like to agitate
      Get the boy and make him wait

      Another Susie:

      the song “I was made to love her”

      I was hightop shoes and shirt tails,
      Suzy was in pig tails,
      I know I loved her even then.

      Another Susie observation: I just noticed that when the knife strikes he heart picture at the beginning and end of the Blood on the Dance Floor video, it cuts the writing “susie + me” in half, resulting in “su me”. Hmmmmm, sue me…….

      • Wow, I totally forgot about the Susie reference in “Superfly Sister” and didn’t even know of the fourth reference in “I Was Made To Love Her.” What was his fascination with the name?

        You point out the Sue Me idea, and though I can see how that would be temping to consider, I think a real answer has to deal more with the situations it’s used in the songs.

        Here are the references we’ve spoken about so far:

        Susie likes to tease men
        Susie stabs a man on the dance floor
        Susie is alluring even as a child
        Susie was a neglected child who died alone

        Now that you’ve brought two other mentions of the name to my attention, I’m convinced there is something here. After all, he never used Diana again or even Billie Jean after the Thriller album but Susie keeps on popping up. I’m just stumped as to why.

        Is he saying that if the neglected child Susie hadn’t died, she’d have grown up into the vindictive, teasing woman we see in the later songs? Should the death in “Little Susie” be taken as a literal death or a death of a part of her psyche, a part of her soul? Or are all these Susies not related at all?

        • “Should the death in “Little Susie” be taken as a literal death or a death of a part of her psyche, a part of her soul? Or are all these Susies not related at all?”

          Bruce, thats very interesting! Michael often spoke about neglected children and they grow up and become cruel because they never experienced love. He mentioned this in Oxford speech and in Schmuley tapes. Maybe Susie represented those kids who grow up and take their anger on other people, because they were hurt themselves..

          Thats an interesting angle to connect these songs!

          • “Is he saying that if the neglected child Susie hadn’t died, she’d have grown up into the vindictive, teasing woman we see in the later songs? Should the death in ‘Little Susie’ be taken as a literal death or a death of a part of her psyche, a part of her soul?”

            I agree, that’s a very interesting way to interpret the connection between all these Susies, and it reminds me of the three homeless children in Moonwalker, especially the young blonde girl, Katie. That section, up through “Smooth Criminal,” is a retelling of the “Girl Hunt Ballet” segment of The Band Wagon, which is a retelling of I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane.

            In I, the Jury, a young blonde girl is introduced to a life of drugs and prostitution at a very young age, and then grows up to become a murderer and the head of her own drug ring – so Mickey Spillane’s famous detective, Mike Hammer, shoots and kills her. The story of the troubled Blond in The Band Wagon is much more vague, but the result is the same – she becomes a murderer, and detective Rod Riley shoots and kills her.

            But Michael Jackson handles this story very differently in Moonwalker – instead of shooting and killing “the blonde” as Mike Hammer and Rod Riley do, his Smooth Criminal befriends her while she’s still a child on the streets and prevents her from entering a life of drugs. So instead of focusing on an evil woman and self-righteously killing her, he focuses on the child she once was, intervenes, and protects her.

            To me, that’s the exact situation you’re suggesting, Bruce, when you ask, “Is he saying that if the neglected child Susie hadn’t died, she’d have grown up into the vindictive, teasing woman we see in the later songs?” I think you’re really on to something.

            btw, Sandra, I remember your pointing out all these Susies a long time ago, but didn’t know how to connect them since they seemed to be such different characters with such different lives – unlike My Baby, for example, who appears again and again and represents a similar character every time. But maybe Bruce has found the key, or at least one very interesting way of interpreting them. …

          • Wow – Willa, your connection between “I, The Jury”, the “Girl Hunt Ballet” and the young character Katie in “Moonwalker” blew me away. You consistently find patterns and connections when you write about MJ that make so much sense but are so subtle… reminds me of a wonderful PBS series years ago called “Connections”, where the host would do the same thing with people and events over time, leaving you marveling at the connections you never realized. I love the way your searching mind finds order and reason in these seemingly discrete things…

        • You know, Bruce, your idea sit well with the sense that Michael’s music is a endless history he back over and over again. Look to “Scared of the Moon”, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” and “Hollywood Tonight”. In “Scared of the Moon” we have a girl which soul is strangled by the scared of the moon. But, in fact, the she scared not of the moon, but of the night, because “things” happens at night. Joe Vogel says in his book Michael wrote “Scared of the Moon” after Brooke Shields tell him about her sister’s bad experience with abuse, or something like that. So, the Moon is just a metaphor. And, then, in “Do You Know Where You Children Are”, we have a girl sexual abused by her stepfather and she runs away and go to Hollywood, and a man wait for her in the train station, but she was arrested. And, now, we have in “Hollywood Tonight” a girl in Hollywood and we know, from the script, she is very young, not a grown up girl shown in the short movie, and we know if they had not changed the bridge, her fate would be not good. So, I’m just thinking about it: if he is telling a terrible history is sections (in deferent songs) that start with a little girl being abused in “Scared of the Moon” and ending with she became a prostitute to survive in “Hollywood Tonight”?

  8. I am amazed once again with the depth and breadth of your knowledge Joie and Willa. Every blog leads us so much deeper into Michael’s art, and again you have done it. I feel it is a real privilege to be part of this blog and to gain such an education along the way by you and all the contributors. Thank you all.

    I have always loved this song also, and I agree that the melody has a very classical/movie score feel to it, and I used to hum it long before I knew the words. Yes it is sad, but I always felt somehow that this song is more of a celebration or acknowledgement of whoever Susie was, and listen to it in that spirit. I was aware of the Durufle introduction, but had never made the Sunrise Sunset connection musically, and you have put it into such fantastic context in terms of a rite of passage etc. I had read somewhere that Michael wrote this song after reading a story in a newspaper about a little girl who had died in such circumstances, and while that can still obviously be true, it makes much more sense to know about the Thomas Hood poem, and as you point out some of Michael’s lyrics are very similar. How clever of him to take that poem which is very old and bring it into the 21st century – but then he did that with his blending of many musical genres as well in his lyrics and music to make it current and relevant as he evolved.

    I totally agree about the commercial aspect, as Michael wrote many songs that would probably not be commercially viable, but because he had something important to say, and this was his way of doing it. I was surprised, and still am, when he said during the 1992 Oprah interview that he had not spoken in public for years because he felt he had nothing important to say!! I feel he had many very important things to say, and thank goodness he found his voice and the courage to express his messages to the world through his art. I really feel that his music and lyrics got richer as he got older, and for the most part I much more enjoy his later rather than his earlier work.

  9. Another “lightening bolt” moment for me when I saw the subject of your post, Little Susie. From the History album, between History and Smile, I had been bypassing it to get to Smile, my absolute favorite Michael song. However, these past two weeks, coincidentally, I’ve been listening to and “hearing” Susie; then so surprised to see it posted here! But I had concluded that the winding of the music box was something else, something darker, maybe tightening of leg or wrist irons? Over these weeks, however, as I listened, I never thought it odd, as Michael was so unique in expressing his art, that I concluded my interpretation was logical. The fact that it’s a winding music box is, however, much more fitting to the story. I will no longer skip over “Susie” on my way to Smile!

  10. Just a thought on the requiem: it is said that a society is judged by how well it treats its most vulnerable. Is it possible that the use of the requiem is saying, Susie is really the most important of all?
    Thanks, Willa & Joie for another thought-provoking entry.

  11. Thanks for this great post. I love Little Susie and I absolutely agree it don’t gets the attention it deserves, as the most MJ’s not-dancing songs.
    And I love the use of operas in the intros and others, it’s superb.
    To me the more poignant part of that song is when the little girl hums, as the music box plays and, in the end, she sighs, just before the start of chords of “Sunrise, Sunset”. It seems to me her life is fading, as well as the music box is losing power. So, the girl is dying. And it’s very curious that he go immediately to a song that is used in a rite of passage usually happy – the wedding.

  12. Just found this:
    …the picture (in the booklet of the HIStory Album, page 37) of Little Susie, from Gottfried Helnwein is originally named “Child Of Light”

    • I read some time ago that the girl in the photo was found dead at the bottom of the stairs and nobody knows what happened – whether she was murdered or killed himself. It was also said that her father was in a clinic for addicts and that the mother had died and that his grandfather, who raised her was bad for her. There were two coins beside the body, and, like his grandfather kept money in the house, it was raised the suspicion of a robbery.

  13. This is such a fascinating song I feel like there is really no end to this discussion! Such astute observations, I resonate very strongly with the idea that “Susie” expresses a part of MJ’s own psyche as Destiny and others have pointed out. I’ve also thought about the “Man Next Door” as another part of MJ as well, the part of himself that is more adult, and the only one who might possibly care for this neglected child.

    Chris Kohler, thanks so much for pointing out the waltz time of this song and the waltz time of Thomas Hood’s poem, really, really interesting. Because this song is an orchestral ballad, in the sense that is a narrative song, it made me wonder if this is also a ballad in the literary sense of the word? Maybe someone knows about “quatrains,” “ballad metre,” “couplet,” etc.? Just curious how the lyrics of this song would also follow the structure of a poem, or if anyone sees a comparison.

    There was a really great discussion some time back on MJFC about “Little Susie,” and I remember someone pointing out that the tolling of the bells at the end was related to Charles Dicken’s short novel “The Chimes,” another work about Mary Furley – the woman who is depicted in Thomas Hood’s “Bridge of Sighs.” The bells at the end of the song are actually played on chimes, so it seems to be a direct reference to Dickens’ short novel. I just found a fascinating piece about Dickens’ perspective on Mary Furley from a book by Barbara Gates, scroll about 1/2 way down to the Dickens section: It seems that Thomas Hood published a magazine at the time where Dickens’ discussed his views on the case!

    Was there a more current news event that inspired “Michael McKellar”? I keep thinking I’ve heard about another case, but can’t recall it. The two songs seem so close. Thanks for the great video Aldebaranredstar!

  14. Does anyone recognize these stress patterns as a literary meter or form? Just curious!

    VERSE 5 + 3:

    SOMEbody KILLed little SUsie the GIRL with the TUNE,
    who SINGS in the DAYtime at NOON.

    SHE was there SCREAMing, BEATing her VOICE in her DOOM,
    but NObody CAME to her SOON.

    a FALL down the STAIRS, her DRESS torn, oh the BLOOD in her HAIR,
    a MYStery so SULLen in AIR.

    CHORUS 2 + 2:

    she LIE there so TENderly,
    FAshioned so SLENderly.

    LIFT her with CARE,
    oh the BLOOD in her HAIR.

    BRIDGE 4 + 3:

    it was ALL for god’s SAKE for her SINGing the TUNE,
    for SOMEone to FEEL her desPAIR.

    to be DAMNed to know HOPing is DEAD and you’re DOOMed,
    then to SCREAM out and NObody’s THERE.


    she KNEW no one cared.

    • aldebaranredstar

      I think the meter is dactylic. A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
      SOME bo dy KILL’d lit tle SU sie the GIRL with the TUNE.

      • Thank you Aldebaranredstar! It takes a village to analyze an MJ tune 😉

      • I’d need to look into this a lot more – I haven’t studied poetry in about 20 years! – but I agree “Little Susie” is composed primarily of dactyls, and it seems to be alternating tetrameter (a four-foot line) and dimeter (a two-foot line). And that makes me wonder – if you read the alternating lines together as one long line, you get dactylic hexameter (a six-foot line), or the Heroic Hexameter. That’s what Homer and a lot of the ancient Greek and Roman poets used in composing epic verses.

        But I really need to research this a lot more – I’m just groping around in the dark with this. … We need a poet!

        • Or is it alternating tetrameter and trimeter? My first thought was that the second lines were dimeter (two feet) with an extraneous beat, which is allowed. But that extra beat is stressed, often with an extra unstressed syllable as well, so now I’m thinking the second lines are trimeter (three feet). And alternating tetrameter and trimeter is very common in poetry, though usually it’s with iambs, not dactyls.

          I am really over my head with this. We definitely need a poet. …

          • Just did a quick search and found this on dactylic hexameter. Looking at some of the lines she’s scanned, there’s quite a bit of variation (which is often the case in poetry – if the beat is too regular it becomes sing-songy and tiresome) and lines with 7 stressed beats apparently are fairly common.

            So I’m back to thinking “Little Susie” may be Heroic Hexameter with a caesura in the middle, in part because that fits so well with the high tone of the requiem at the beginning. See what you think.

          • Yes, Willa, you’re right that the heroic hexameter often has a caesura or ”break” in the middle of a line! But I still think the (semantic) pauses in ”LS” are too abrupt to make the claim that MJ wrote it with the hexameter scheme in mind… See my other reply below!

    • Well, I wrote my MA thesis about rhyming and I regularly write poetry! 🙂

      There sure are a lot of dactyls (DUM-dee-da) in ”Little Susie”.
      But I don’t see a strict literary meter. There is too much variation. For example, most verses have 6 lines. But the verse ”Father left home…” has 7. And the rhyme patterns change a lot. Here are the rhyme schemes for ”Somebody killed” and ”Everyone came” (x = no rhyme): xbbx(b)b, xcccdd

      To me, ”Little Susie” sounds more like a ballad. A Medieval troubadour at the court in Southern France might have sung it. There isn’t a fixed number of syllables, but room for variation and improvisation. Ballads and European folk tunes mostly rhyme in couplets: AA BB CC DD EE FF… (Or in couplets that are interrupted by non-rhyming lines: xAxA…)

      Notice how Hood wrote with a more ”literary scheme” in mind, rhyming abab:

      Take her up tenderly
      Lift her with care;
      Fashion’d so slenderly
      Young and so fair!

      Michael changed this to ”ballad” couplets aabb:

      She lies there so tenderly
      Fashioned so slenderly
      Lift her with care
      So young and so fair

      And I’m sorry, Willa, but I do not think LS is written in heroic hexameter… 🙂

      A line of heroic hexameter, as used by Homer in ”The Iliad” and ”The Odyssey”, in ancient Greece consisted of
      • 6 syllables with long vowels
      • any number of syllables with short vowels

      In modern European languages like English or Italian, stress – not long syllabels – is used as the beat in poetry. Therefore, in an English translation of ”The Iliad”, a line should have
      • 6 stressed syllables
      • any number of unstressed syllables

      Dactyls as such have nothing to do with the heroic hexameter – using them exclusively would actually ruin the flexibility of the ”any number of unstressed syllables” factor! 🙂

      Let’s take the first and third verse and try to make them hexameters…

      SOMebody KILLed little SUSie the GIRL with the TUNe
      who SINGS in the DAYtime at NOON || she was THERe SCREAMing
      BEATing her VOIce in her DOOM || but NObody CAME to her SOON

      EVeryone came to SEE the GIRL that NOW is DEAD
      so BLIND stare the EYES in her HEAD || and SUDDenly a VOICE from the CROWD said
      This GIRL lived in VAIN || her FACE bear such Agony, such STRAIN

      Okay, it IS possible to ”force” 6 stressed syllables into each line, but to me it sounds to strained to be a free-flowing heroic hexameter. ”She was there screaming” is clearly a wholly new line, and I’ve just written it together with the preceding line in order to make it LOOK like a heroic hexameter. Had MJ written the song as a heroic hexameter, the text would’ve run more or less in this vein:

      an UNknown MURderer ENDed the LIFe of the NOON-singer SUSie
      TRAPped in the CHAMber she SCREAMed as she BEAT her VOICe in her DOOM
      aLAS! neither MAN nor ANimal CAMe to the NOON-singer’s REscue

      but ALL of them FLOCKed to STUdy the STAre of her LIFeless EYes
      a MOMent thereAFTer a VOIce eMERged from the CROWD like a SIGH
      ”the STRAINed FACe of the NOON-singer tells me she LIVed all her DAYs in VAIN.”

      Okay, this is not an attempt to make advanced poetry, but I hope you see my point! 🙂
      Furthermore, true hexameter poetry DOES NOT RHYME! The Greeks did not rhyme at all…

      • A poet to the rescue! Thank you so much, Bjørn. I tried to wade into the deep waters, but there are times when only a true poet will do. … Thank you!

        It’s also interesting to think of how “Little Susie” might fit within the tradition of the ballad – as you say, “A Medieval troubadour at the court in Southern France might have sung it.” There’s an interesting thought!

      • Bjorn,

        Thank you so much! This is absolutely brilliant and just what I was curious about. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time to share this! Fantastic explanation.

  15. aldebaranredstar

    Here is a beautiful video about MJ with Jennings Michael Burch, who was in 17 different foster homes, and who wrote They Cage the Animals at Night (after that the video goes to clips of Miss Castaway and are not so relevant to Little Susie):

    “Michael told me often he felt like he grew up as an orphan, like a foster kid, because he never was in one home,” Stoller said. “To him every hotel was like a different foster home. He said he used to sit in the window and see kids playing outside and cry because he couldn’t be part of that.”

    • Thanks for the reminder of that video, aldebaranredstar, I remember seeing it several years ago, but mostly because the question about suicide jumped out of the video at me. MJ’s level of compassion was astonishing.

      The accompanying Reuters story quotes Bryan Michael Stoller describing his impression that MJ was definitely committed to immersing himself in film production and direction, but had no interest in acting. That jumps out at me too because what I saw of MJ the actor in the long version of the short film “Bad” and also “Ghosts” proved to me that he had great potential as an actor and could easily command the camera and the scene even when he wasn’t singing or dancing. (Certainly no other individual has ever spent more of his life with a camera in his face and he was totally accustomed to being filmed.) If only…

      Perhaps his perceived disinterest in acting was an admission on some level that he recognized his fame and notoriety would automatically bias or stigmatize his acting efforts as some sort of “star turn” or vanity project, rather than a serious and dedicated artistic effort which was his true intention. Stoller’s comment about MJ wanting to produce films that “the Academy would like” is proof of MJ’s artistic integrity, if proof is needed.

      I have to wonder though about Stoller’s involvement, because frankly, “Miss Castaway” is cringe-worthy. MJ’s cameos in that film and MIB II say a lot about his youthful/playful sense of humor and wide range of film interests, but certainly not much about his latent acting talent. The producers of those films benefited much more from MJ than he did from their projects.

      • aldebaranredstar

        Hi, Chris, It’s well documented that MJ DID in fact want to act (a lot), but after the accusations could not get funding b/c producers would pull out if he was going to be the lead actor. They didn’t want to back him b/c of the feared public blacklash. For example, he was going to play Edward Scissorhands before Johnny Depp but the producer pulled the plug after the accusations. So when Stoller says that MJ didn’t want to act I think MJ was just bowing to the sad circumstances.

        “Although not publicly known, Burton’s first choice for the role of Edward was Michael Jackson, but there were circumstances that made this impossible, as explained above. Burton acknowledged that the main themes of Edward Scissorhands, a fairy-tale book, deal with self-discovery and isolation. Edward is found living alone in the attic of a Gothic castle, a setting that is also used for main characters in Burton’s Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Edward Scissorhands climaxes much like James Whale’s Frankenstein and Burton’s own Frankenweenie. A mob confronts the “evil creature”, in this case, Edward, at his castle. With Edward finally unable to consummate his love for Kim because of his appearance, the film can also be seen as being influenced by Beauty and the Beast. Jackson was of fan of all these movies and tales and could identify with the protagonist characters and people’s often erroneous and grotesque perception of them. Edward Scissorhands is a kind and pure-hearted young man created by an elderly inventor. Although widely accepted at first, his innocence and obedience eventually get him into trouble, which was very much the case with Jackson throughout his life.” option=com_content&view=article&id=84&Itemid=95

        • “when Stoller says that MJ didn’t want to act I think MJ was just bowing to the sad circumstances.”

          I agree with that assessment too. How devastating it must have been for MJ to watch so many artistic dreams die slow painful deaths. He would have been an incredible Edward Scissorhands and the pairing of MJ and Edward would have been intensely poignant for anyone who “got” his life. He should have had better opportunities, self-created ones, than the two cameos that remain. Thankfully we have the short films…

          • Michaels first major role in film was actually in the Wiz when he was 19 . It was that experience that spurred his interest in the medium. He also did Captain EO, not Oscar material, but still an opportunity to work with a director of his choice and learn. He produced most of his short films and had a lot of creative input, andworked with directors from John Landis to David Lynch.
            He already talks about film as his next step in his authobiography Moonwalk, in 1988 . The BAD album and tour he said would be his last and he kept repeating it after every album and tour.
            He was interested in both production and acting. There were talks with Dreamworks and Marvel. He took acting classes with Marlon Brando and in his last year camera.
            That is how serious he was about it . Sadly we will never know what was lost filmwise.
            But the short films are indeed master pieces.

          • I think a lot of Johnny Depp’s roles were perfect for MJ. I heard he was also looking into Tim Burton’s movies.

            I think Depp is fantastic but can’t help but wonder what could have been. There were many talks about different projects including Edgar Allan Poe bio.

            Too many things have gotten in the way unfortunately. I’m gaining so much respect for people who manage to create their visions in this short-sighted environment we have… Michael managed to create a lot in spite of everything still.

          • Aldebaranredstar, thank you for the links re MidKnight – I had not heard about that project before.

            The reaction of that b*itchy screenwriter is exactly why I commented that any acting attempt on MJ’s part would be labeled by the media and so-called critics as another star vanity project not based upon actual ability, just another ego trip. The later allegations really slammed the door shut. Obviously though, she had not seen Bad the short film — and Ghosts came later. Incredible that the media satire and caricaturing of Michael Jackson became the accepted norm, and the truly gifted man underneath was forgotten.

            While it was definitely a welcome sight, Spike Lee’s recent BAD25 documentary left me a bit frustrated too, because he had the perfect opportunity to question Scorsese (the director of Bad the short film) about MJ’s acting and what it was like to direct him – Scorsese was obviously taken with Michael and impressed in spite of himself – but we don’t hear anything of real value on that topic in the documentary.

            But there was definitely an actor under all the layers of protection he put between himself and his attackers. His portrayal of The Mayor in Ghosts must have been a wonderful and ironic catharsis.

            Seems that Sony supported the MidKnight project though — how ironic is that?

            I second Gennie’s words: “The fact that nobody had the guts to offer Michael a decent project blows me away.. There was nothing strange about him, it was strange what he had to deal with indeed…”

          • Oh there was an actor there allright!

            People like that screenwriter just couldn’t see him behind the caricature and wasn’t try to look either. It seems common actually with famous people, certain expectations are formed and people don’t really look at MJ in front of them, but a set ideas of him in their heads.

            Remember when Leo DiCaprio started to play serious and dramatic roles? Many people had trouble taking him out of “pretty boy” box he got shoved in after Titanic and into “serious talented actor” box. Took a few movies.

            So I think Mike could have made them see him too, though he would have been against more preconceived ideas than anyone.

        • Edward Scissorhands was released in 1990, so Michael not playing Edward has nothing to do with the allegations. I have heard it was Michael who declined the role. That’s one version. Another is that it’s an urban legend he’s been ever offered the role at all.

          Nevertheless, I absolutely LOVE Edward Scissorhands and to me he’s absolutely Michael (whether Michael was ever offered the role or not). In 1990 it would have been prophetic also: because he was different people were easily led to believe anything bad of him. Just like of Edward. To me Michael was the real life Edward.

          • aldebaranredstar

            Yes, Jacksonaktak, I think that blog author was confused that MJ was in line to play Edward Scissorhands. However, I came across an article in the LA Times (August 1990) that said he had wanted to play the role but was not offered it (this is also repeated in Wikipedia entry on Edward Scissorhands).

            “But the lead role of Edward was picked over by a strange assortment of actors before Burton and Fox settled on Johnny Depp, the former star of Fox Television’s series “21 Jump Street.” Fox urged Burton to consider Tom Cruise for the role, but after several hours of meetings, the two parted ways. (One topic of those meetings, sources say, was Edward Scissorhands’ lack of virility.) Michael Jackson was eager to play the role but wasn’t offered it. Tom Hanks passed up the project in favor of “Bonfire of the Vanities.” William Hurt and Robert Downey Jr. both expressed interest.”


            However, there WAS a movie planned in 1991 to be called “MidKnight” in which MJ was supposed to star. The screenwriter was the same one that wrote Edward Scissorhands, Caroline Thompson, and she went out to NL to talk to MJ about it. That project did get pulled due to the allegations. Caroline has some nasty things to say about MJ, unfortunately, so maybe it’s just as well it never happened.

            “I think the reason we decided to do a story about a knight was that a knight usually wears a helmet mask and we wanted to cover up Michael’s face because we thought a film audience wouldn’t take him seriously as an actor. We ourselves had a hard time taking him seriously as an actor.”


            Tight Wraps Over Jackson Movie
            November 14, 1991|DAVID J. FOX 

            “Sony Pictures Entertainment is keeping a heavy wrap over the Michael Jackson movie project, “MidKnight.” Is it the story of a meek young man by day, who secretly changes into a heroic singing and dancing knight at the stroke of midnight?
            A Sony executive declined to comment.
            But he did say that the storyline based on Jackson’s idea would encompass elements of action and, of course, music. And that it will be presented in “different” ways not before seen on the screen.
            Based on Jackson’s unspectacular track record with film acting (“The Wiz” and in Disneyland’s “Captain EO”) some doubt his ability to carry a full-length feature film of his own. But the Sony executive said that the company sees Jackson’s appeal and the film as a means to link up to the company’s software markets.
            Produced by Jon Peters, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment (which is still headed by Peters’ partner Peter Guber) and by Oscar-winning “Batman” set designer Anton Furst, “MidKnight” could go into production in the first half of 1992. The movie would be distributed by the Columbia Pictures division of Sony.
            “Now the focus is on the release of Jackson’s new album, but it will shift soon,” the spokesman said.
            He called it the “perfect” vehicle for a summertime release, but no target date has been set. Next summer is too soon, and summer 1993 may be too late, he said.”


          • Aldebaran, it is just so frustrating to read that kind of stuff.. Why the F.. was it so hard to take him seriously as an actor? One thing is for the public to be rigid in their opinion and all but industry people? The guy was talented beyond words…

            If nothing else, a movie featuring Michael Jackson as a lead had all the potential for a blockbuster almost regardless of what be was doing in it. People were curious enough to come see him. The fact that nobody had the guts to offer Michael a decent project blows me away.. There was nothing strange about him, it was strange what he had to deal with indeed…

          • To be honest I would have a hard time ‘believing’ Michael in any other role than Michael. He is already so fascinating being himself. He can sit quietly in an audience , with the worlds best dancers and performers working their but off on stage and all the attention still goes to him.
            For the same reason that any attempt at a biopic will fail. Michael can only be documented , not played. I agree with Spike Lee on that.

          • aldebaranredstar

            Gennie, Chris, yes, I agree it’s sad he didn’t get to do what he wanted to in film. He would have been great IMO. I would have loved to have seen him play Peter Pan, and I heard there was a stage production of that planned but it was scrapped when the 2003 accusations appeared. I agree with Sina that a biopic is going to be very hard as opposed to a documentary, but I do think MJ would have made a fabulous Peter Pan! He also wanted to do more serious roles, such as a movie about Edgar Allan Poe. I agree, Chris, that it would have been great if Scorsese had spoken more about MJ as an actor–why not?

            There is a connection to The Adams Family movies too. He wrote the song ‘Ghosts” as a soundtrack but maybe it wasn’t done in time for the film? But I noticed in his film ‘Ghosts” there is a scene right out of the Adams Family movies, specifically the house and the big wooden staircase. You can see it when the townspeople first enter Maestro’s house. That shot in Ghosts is right out of a shot in The Adams Family Values.

            I find that clip with Jennings Michael Burch very moving when MJ says, “I understand you. I understand you very much. We’re the same.” He relates to his experience as a foster child. That’s where I see the Michael McKeller, Little Susie connection. This was his experience when he was in so many hotel rooms on tour or on the road, away from home.

            I found this amazing poem MJ wrote. It was written at NL in early 90’s underneath a handcrafted table depicting elephants walking together:

            Home gives you courage to know yourself.
            Home gives you beauty for your eyes to see.
            Home gives you love to complete your life.
            Home gives you sunsets to warm your heart.
            Home gives you friendships to brighten your being.
            Home gives you patience to accept the truth.
            Home gives you comfort on a difficult day.
            Home gives you rainbows beneath the clouds.
            Home gives you hugs when your spirits sag.
            Home gives you faith so that you can believe.

            “May all who walk upon this land, be blessed from above in my Neverland.” ~ Michael Jackson [dancing the dream]


            I think home meant so much b/c he didn’t have it as a child.

          • Thank you, Aldebaranredstar. What a beautiful table and poem! And I find it so charming that he wrote the poem on the underside of it, a secret treasure for someone to find – most likely a child, since they’re more likely to be crawling underneath. Creating a secret message like that seems like such a child-like thing to do. (Think of all the kid’s stories you’ve ever read or heard that have a secret passage, or a secret treasure, or secret words you have to say.) There’s something very appealing to kids about that.

            I remember when my son was little, he used to draw this one picture over and over again. It was a big tree with a tunnel underneath leading to a fox den, and there was a hole in the trunk with an owl inside. He would draw the owl very carefully, and the fox and her babies, and then he would completely cover the owl nest and fox den with black crayon so you couldn’t see them. I kept wanting to swipe one of those pictures before he blacked out the foxes and the owl, but he was pretty insistent that they needed to be covered with black crayon before I could have them.

            He also loved the idea of a mystery suddenly being revealed – like he went through a long period where he liked to “hatch.” He’d climb into a pillow case or turn the laundry hamper over on top of himself, and transform into a big giggling egg. I’d walk into the bedroom and be amazed – Where did this enormous egg come from?! What could be inside?! How did it get in the bedroom?! Then it would start to giggle louder and rock back and forth and, wonder of wonders, it would hatch! And it would be my own sweet boy inside! He just loved playing that game (so did I!) and sometimes he’d hatch three or four times a day. Other times he’d go several weeks without hatching, but he played that game for at least a couple years. And then one day I realized he hadn’t played it in a long time. …

            Something about this week’s post and comments is making me very nostalgic. I think it’s that song, “Sunrise, Sunset” – it really gets me.

            Is this the little girl I carried?
            Is this the little boy at play?
            I don’t remember growing older
            When did they?

          • And then he basically got chased out of his home .. :'(((((((

    • Michael Burch’ story is so sad. His book is available at amazon. “They cage the animals at night”. He was severely mistreated in orphanages: crel punishments, strickt rules, he couldn’t do anything !
      It remembers Michael’s life in Joseph’s hands…
      It’s so dirtubing see a grown man crying for waht happened to him several years before. 😦

  16. I was one of those that “found” this song after Michael left us. It’s haunting lyrics and melody has always brought to mind a song from a dark musical like perhaps The Threepenny Opera or Sweeney Todd….One could imagine the very compelling story of this little girl being told a whole musical or opera.
    Very interesting discussion (as usual). Thank you.

  17. Sina – ” For me, art is a weapon with which I can fight back.’ and “My Art is not an answer, – it is a question.” I loved these quotes and they do indeed fit in so well for Michael.

    Love all the poetry and hexameter stuff. Have a friend who is translating the Homeric works as part of her classicist career, and it is great to think of Michael’s songs being epic tales and oddessys.

    • Caro , Helweins work is intriguing and that simple quote says everything about his artistic drive. and his work is exactly that, bold and provocative. He has more interests in common with Michael than you would think at first sight. He also sincerely loves Disney, but his approach is quite different , with much irony.- Hitler and M.Manson with Micky mouse ears, a develish looking Micky – lol, Michael would be shocked 🙂
      He also made the artwork for MJ/JJ ‘s Scream, which looks inspired by Munch. Here is a link about his collaboration with Michael on the History album.

      Destiny thank you for the article, Michaels interest in acting goes back a long time.
      They also did the Jackson variety show with little sketches inbetween and Michael did very well. Even then it was not uncommon for singers/dancers to start acting, though mostly in musicals or music related films. From Elvis, to Sinatra, Sammy Davis Barbara Streisand, and today many rappers without a professional training have very decent acting careers.
      So he WAS offered a role that could have helped his acting career, but refused for fear of typecasting or indentification with the gay character. It is at that time when rumours about his supposed sexual preferences and a sex change started.
      The suggestion of drug use in the article- another rumour- may have to do with visiting Studio 54 while filming the Wiz. The man fought a lifetime against labels people tried to put on him. Seems he was much more outspoken and assertive then. I think along the way he got tired of defending himself.

  18. As we are talking about Michael and movies, seems there was an offer (???) of him to star in A Chorus Line after The Wiz. Here is an interview from Feb 1, 1979 in Jet…

    He explains why he is not doing the part.

  19. Thank you Aldebaran for this lovely poem, Home – it isn’t in my copy of Dancing The Dream. I have read that Michael wrote on all sorts of surfaces and how wonderful to look under a table and find this poem written by him – wonder where that ‘treasure’ is now? and yes Gennie how very very sad that he was indeed “chased out of his home” – it must have broken his heart even more. Makes Little Susie even more poingnant!

    • aldebaranredstar

      Caro, that poem about home isn’t in Dancing the Dream. It was found written underneath a handcarved table in NL. If you go to the link there is a photo of the writing (I think). These are 2 different quotes that I cited–the table and something from DTD.

      • Hi Aldebaran

        I misunderstood, thinking that it was all one quote. However, I have looked at your link and someone asks where the second quote comes from but there is no response – it definitely isn’t in Dancing the Dream, as the poem isn’t either.

        I just love the idea of Michael writing such a wonderful poem under a table which also has other treasures under it in the form of carving as well. (Couldn’t find a photo of it on your link??) When I visited Russia last year, there was a wonderful Birch table in a dining room of the Yusopov Palace, and because I work for a small firm that makes wooden things, I looked underneath it, and there were wonderful carvings also, but alas no poem – only Michael hey?

        • aldebaranredstar

          Hi, Caro, I just clicked on the Positively Michael link I gave you to page 12, and there is a photo of the table, both the top, which is carved, and the underneath, which has the poem on it. Hmmmm–wonder why you don’t see it??

          • Hi Aldebaran perhaps because I am a bit of a technodweeb!!! and didn’t go down far enough!! got it now though thanks very much, and the next poem written behind a landscape picture. Both poems are so beautiful and can only wonder why Michael had to write them in ‘hidden’ places that only he knew about??? fascinating I think – any ideas?

    • I know, It breaks my heart all over again. He felt like an orphan growing, never allowed to be a kid, so he pours all his heart in creating Neverland. When I read about NL, his attention every little detail in incredible, he dreamed it into existence. Only to become a vagabond once again.

      Between Neverland and all his surrogate families, its so obvious that Michael longed desperately for a home and to be part of a family.

      In Lost Children as well, he is obviously out there with homeless kids, looking at happy families from the outside.

  20. During his hospital visits Michael must have come upon children he no longer could help to live and must have known some where moribound.There was a crackcocaine epidemic with devastating results in NYC and i would think elsewere too.That caused many miscarriages and premature births.Certainly Michael knew of this dark side of matters when visiting hospitals even though his main attempt was to make it easier for children while hospitalised.
    As has been staed he was not a superficial person. And what might he have thought as a child when beaten and expieriencing immense pain.I have often wondered why his mother never demanded a stop to the beatings. This is neglect by proxy. Maybe that is why he had some difficulty trusting females.

    • This reminded me of what Frank Dileo said once around Bad tour (i could be wrong, maybe it was someone else?) but the story was about Michael vising children who were terminally ill and Frank said Michael would be kneeling to take a picture with them and talk to them. Frank said he couldn’t take it and had to step out in tears. Michael came to him afterwards and said something like this was their job really, if he could brighten their day for a moment or add just one day by inspiring them, forget the stage, THAT was his job and it was worth all the trouble. I don’t remember the exact quote, but I can’t ever tell this little story without tearing up. He believed with all his heart that it was nothing less than his job to lessen the suffering of others.. Of course he knew he couldn’t save everyone, but whatever difference he could make was worth it for him.

      Remember that sick kid Michael gave his Beat It jacket to and concert tickets? The kid didn’t last til the concert but his mother believed that he lasted longer because of looking forward to it and Mike made him feel special. I think he was burried in that jacket.

  21. aldebaranredstar


  22. Not Edgar Allen Poe but John Donne of course!! couldn’t log off the blog to go look it up while writing, but have checked now. All very fascinating just the same. Michael must have read soooo much – no wonder that his brain never stopped and he wasn’t able to sleep, he just crammed so much in there, and then got so much out with his art – we keep saying it, but …………………….what a genius he was.

  23. There’s been some discussion about the name ”Susie”. Just though I’d share what happened when I searched for ”Little Susie” at Grooveshark… Before coming to MJ’s song, there was…

    Wake Up Little Susie!

    I literally shuddered…

    I already knew this song as sung by ”Simon and Garfunkel”. Wikipedia tells me it was a hit for the Everly Brothers:

    So, perhaps MJ’s title is part of a ”pop song” conversation?
    If so, might ”Little Susie” symbolize a more innocent, happier ”pop spirit” that was there in the 1950’ies, but is gone in 1995?

    Just think about it – a lot of people would have known ”Wake Up LS” when Michael released LS… But now she can’t ”wake up”! (Shuddering again!)

    • aldebaranredstar

      One more Susie–“Suzie Q” by Creedence Clearwater Revival:

    • aldebaranredstar

      Don’t forget Elton John’s Crockodile Rock. “I remember when rock was young, me and Suzie had so much fun”:

    • aldebaranredstar

      Here just might be an original Susie–Eddie Cantor singing the hit song ‘If You Knew Susie Like I know Susie” 1925:

    • You might be on to something. I was in the car this weekend and thinking of this post when at least two songs came on with Susie in the name. One was a Paul McCartney song, and I forget the other. But maybe there is something to it. Maybe Susie refers to an earlier version from another song that would make sense in the context, just like Hood. Thanks for pointing this out.

    • Very interessing point! A lot of time, the girl in Mike’s music isn’t onlya girl, She symbolizes fame, problmes, the public, his life, his privacy, and why not the innocent and happier spirit that was gone ? Or maybe his purity, his honesty, his dignitythat were so assaulted. Just thinking about the abusive stripped search that he was obliged…

    • Bjorn —

      I had also made the “Wake Up Little Susie” connection — and thought about the girl asleep and the girl dead — and also was reminded of the John Crowe Ransom poem, Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter — about the death of a little girl who is described as being in a “brown study.” Don’t know why….But these associative connections can be revealing. It is always interesting to follow them and see where they lead.

  24. aldebaranredstar

    Wow–blast from the past–Thanks for reminding me of the Everly Brothers and Little Susie. Great song and reminds me of Elvis. Not sure when it came out but it was so popular and so were the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, etc, lots of great early rock and roll artists. Yes, MJ could very well be referring to this Little Susie, a Susie who can wake up.

    The other thing is that the name Susie is good in a song, two syllables (like Michael’s name) and it has good vowel sounds for singing (ooo, eeee). The first line of MJ’s Little Susie will work with his name instead: “Somebody killed little Michael the boy with the tune.” (Now that makes me shudder as someone actually did–CM.)

  25. >“Somebody killed little Michael the boy with the tune.” (Now that makes me shudder as someone actually did–CM.)<

    ….I always had the lines of Little Susie in my mind – during the Murray-Trial…especially when they showed those photos of Michael 😦 …. this whole song – text, melody, mood -was just appropriate.

    • aldebaranredstar

      I didn’t think of the LS lyrics at the time of the CM trial, but they are so appropriate for Michael, it’s uncanny. He was a prophet.

      Everyone came to see
      The boy that now is dead
      So blind stare the eyes in his head…
      And suddenly a voice from the crowd said
      This boy lived in vain
      His face bear such agony, such strain…

      It was all for God’s sake
      For him singing the tune
      For someone to feel his despair
      To be damned to know hoping is dead and you’re doomed
      Then to scream out
      And nobody’s there…

      He knew no one cared…

      No one to care
      Just to love him
      How much can one bear
      Rejecting the needs in his prayers…

      Neglection can kill
      Like a knife in your soul
      Oh it will
      Little Michael fought so hard to live…
      He lie there so tenderly
      Fashioned so slenderly
      Lift him with care
      So young and so fair.

      It amazes me that he was so open in the 1993 Oprah interview about his pain, his loneliness, and later that same year he gets hit with those allegations and that was such a blow. I was reading a transcript of the interview and he emphasizes how sad he was as a child. He really made a big point of it b/c it was something he wanted the world to know and understand.

      • Wow, it is appropriate indeed..

        Except that little Michael managed to grow up and change the world – he sure did not live in vain and I think he knew that too.

        You are right about Oprah interview, actually he is like that in all his interviews. He is almost too open and vulnerable in his attempt to be understood. That is a universal need we humans have – to be understood – and it is tragic that he kept trying and it kept backfiring. We all probably tried to have a small rumour spread about us and the desire to defend yourself and set the record straight is quite overwelming for most. Can’t even imagine what such character assasination like MJ had to indure would do to one’s psyche.

        Opening up did work with Michael’s Oxford speech judging from the reaction he got from the audience. However, ever that speech got criticism in the press. I think some even wrote the opposite of what actually happened..

  26. Hello to everyone,

    What I most love and admire in Michael is his capacity to care for others on a universal level. Litle Susies are to be found all over the glove, this is a grave crime on the part of society, government agencies, and religious organizations, to allow this be perpetuated. Michael was among the few in world history who tried to make a change, if only his art could inspire many more people to do something about neglected children and alleviate the consequences.

  27. Upon reading the title to this blog entry “Lift her with care” and Michael’s inclusion of it in the lyrics to “Little Susie” reminds me of an extremely moving creation by Michelangelo, who was obviously his favourite artist, the “Pieta”, This piece of sculpture is so powerful, evoking the extraordinary love, tenderness and grief of a mother over her ……the idea is too painful even to utter. Such tremendous care is given to every detail concerning how Jesus is being held, I think this would melt even the hardest person. The idea of “lifting with care” some unknown stricken child is so deeply spiritual, at least in death the child is offered is due tenderness.

    Another essential element these lyrics underscore is the role of parental love, how it moulds a child’s personality, granting it the necessary inner strength to handle both the joys and the upheavals of life. To Michael this was pivotal, only God knows who much he did to promote the premise that is on a par with nourishment.

  28. I was listening to my ‘Immortal’ soundtrack today and it sorta occured to me that a little part of LS is placed right after Scream in the show. I noticed that before as well of course but since this discussion here it made me wonder why it was placed there. I know it wasn’t Michael himself, but since the show seems to place much more importance in song that were important to MJ than what general public may have wanted, I find it interesting.

    I think it makes sense somehow that Screaming about “all the injustice” ends with bars from LS, tragically. Its still amazes me how in tune with MJ that entire show is..

  29. aldebaranredstar

    Here’s a jazz version of ‘Little Susie” by Enrico Rava–it starts about 1:37.

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