That Ain’t What It’s All About

Willa:  So Joie, a few weeks ago we talked about how Michael Jackson seemed to see a connection between his creative life and his spiritual life, something we’ve talked about a couple times before. But you know, he also saw a connection between his creativity, his spirituality, and the physicality of his body, especially his body’s movements as a dancer. He seemed to feel a deep connection between spiritual energy, creative energy, and physical energy, including sexual energy.

All of this has me wondering – how is sex and sexual energy represented in Michael Jackson’s work, what does it mean, and does it perhaps mean different things at different times? For example, what does it mean when he sings about sex in “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough” or “Give In to Me” or “Superfly Sister” or “Break of Dawn”? What does it mean when he zips his fly during the panther dance in Black or White? And what does it mean, exactly, when he’s dancing and grabs his crotch?

Joie:  Hmm. All very good questions, Willa. But you know, I seem to remember Michael telling Oprah that he really didn’t think about it when he was dancing and that the whole crotch grab thing just sort of happened on its own and meant nothing. I think he said he was just a slave to the rhythm or something.

Willa:  Well, I think that’s true, Joie, but I don’t think it’s the whole truth. I think sometimes he’d be dancing and get really absorbed in the music and, Bam! He’d punctuate a dance sequence with a crotch grab, kind of like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. But I also think that sometimes he’d decide he liked that exclamation point and deliberately make it part of the choreography.

So, for example, we have that hilarious dance rehearsal in This Is It where two middle-aged women are teaching a group of young male dancers proper crotch-grabbing technique, and I have to say, that whole scene just cracks me up. First there is the Russian ballet instructor, Irina Brecher, explaining how the movements they’re doing compare with Baryshnikov’s:

“I saw you! You were going like this. What it this? That’s Russian! This is Russian. So Baryshnikov does it like this, and you guys are doing like this. Same thing.”

Then the assistant choreographer, Stacy Walker, helps them perfect their technique. She says, “One more time,” and they all do a crotch grab in unison. And they’re all so earnest – it just makes me laugh. Then she demonstrates proper crotch-grabbing movements while saying,

“We’re straight up and down now, right? I don’t think it’s anything except hand moving…. I think that’s smoother, you know what I mean? I mean, I have nothing to move….”

That is such a funny scene! I get such a kick out of it, but I also love seeing how trusting and respectful these talented young dancers are toward these older women. It’s really wonderful.

So this funny little scene shows us several important things:  that the crotch grab was a deliberate part of the choreography, that it really wasn’t sexual in a traditional sense (and Michael Jackson always said it wasn’t), and that it certainly wasn’t a way to show dominance over women. After all, those two women were the instructors! And they were handling it in a very fun, lighthearted way.

Joie:  Well, I find it very funny that we are having a discussion about crotch grabbing!

Willa:  Oh c’mon, Joie. This is a very academic discussion!

Joie:  Uh huh. But I have to say I agree with you, Willa. I believe that he did like ‘the exclamation point’ of the crotch grab and it really did become sort of his signature move – or one of his signature moves because, we all know, there are several.

Willa:  That’s true. Like there’s that move called the Moonwalk that got a bit of attention….

Joie:   Yeah. Or the twisting leg kick. But he really is synonymous with the crotch grab now. Whenever we see another singer or dancer execute that move, our minds will immediately, and forever, associate that with Michael Jackson.

But you said something that I find really interesting. You said the crotch grab wasn’t sexual and that Michael always maintained that it wasn’t sexual. The reason I find this statement interesting is because I think most people just always assumed the complete opposite. I think to most of the world, the reason the crotch grab was so controversial or provocative was precisely because they projected a sexual connotation onto it that Michael never intended for it to have.

Willa:  Well, now you have me thinking, Joie – what did I mean when I said it wasn’t sexual? Hmmm … Now that I think about it, that seems too absolute because obviously there are sexual connotations, but I guess I meant it doesn’t seem erotic to me, like he isn’t using it to evoke a sexual feeling or suggest a sexual situation – not like, say, that long undulating crotch grab in the “Billie Jean” segment of This Is It. Oh my. Now, that is sexual. So he certainly knew how to do it in a suggestive way if he wanted to, but he never did that on stage, ever. That scene in This Is It was strictly a fun thing for the enjoyment of the cast and crew at the rehearsal, especially those young dancers. He never did anything like that in a real performance.

Instead, it was almost always just a quick exclamation mark, as we said earlier, and it seemed to me to express an artistic impulse rather than a sexual urge, though it’s hard to completely separate that out since he seemed to feel a strong connection between creativity and sexual energy. We talked about that a little bit with Give In to Me last April.

But there’s another element to it too, which is that the crotch grab always kind of struck me as something of a political statement as well, especially when he defiantly continued doing it despite all the controversy. You know, he was a very sexy black man – a sex idol, even – in a country that’s very uncomfortable with sexual black men, and I think he felt a lot of pressure to restrain his sexuality because of that. And in that sense, the crotch grab always kind of felt to me like a way for him to reclaim his sexuality and his own body, in a way. It’s like he’s calling attention to the fact that, not only does he have a beautiful, talented, amazing body, but it’s a sexual body as well.

Joie:  I think you may be on to something, Willa. It could also have been a way for him to sort of flip off the world. I don’t mean to be crass here but, grabbing the crotch was never really seen as a nice gesture. In fact, long before Michael ever adopted it and turned it into a signature dance move, a guy grabbing his crotch was seen as either an insult (if it was directed toward another man) or a very lewd gesture (if it was directed toward a woman). So your suggestion that it could have been sort of political really fits here. It could definitely be considered a defiant, ‘up yours’ type of gesture.

Willa:  Wow, that’s true, Joie. It’s funny but I never thought about that before, but you’re right, it definitely could be interpreted that way. And he did express those impulses every so often, as we see in Scream. And there’s that line in Shaquille O’Neal’s rap in “2Bad”:

Grab my crotch, twist my knee, then I’m through
Mike’s bad. I’m bad. Are you?

“2Bad” as a whole is a declaration that he won’t be broken or bowed – “I’m standin’ though you’re kickin’ me” – and that line in particular is a pretty defiant statement.

Joie:  That is a defiant statement, Willa. In fact, the whole song is pretty defiant, you’re right. But I wonder if we can go back to your original question if we can. You asked what does it mean when Michael sings about sex in his songs and how is that sexual energy expressed in his work? So, obviously I’m thinking you have some thoughts on this?

Willa:  I don’t know that I really have thoughts, or any firm conclusions – just a lot of questions. I see sex represented so many different ways in his work, and I wonder how it all fits together. Like, what do you make of the sexual references in the panther dance? That whole section is a strong protest against racism, but it includes some pretty explicit sexual gestures – more explicit than critics were used to seeing from Michael Jackson, that’s for sure. There was a lot of criticism about that when Black or White first aired. Here was a song that a lot of critics interpreted as being about racial harmony, and suddenly in the panther dance section Michael Jackson is breaking glass, zipping his fly, and grabbing his crotch pretty explicitly. Why is that there? How do you interpret that?

Joie:  Well, I’m honestly not sure about how to interpret it. But you’re correct in saying that it was much more explicit than critics were used to seeing from him, and sometimes I think that was the intended purpose. Perhaps it was done simply to shake things up a little bit. If you think about it, it was done at a time when Michael was going through some changes. He had broken away from his long and successful association with Quincy Jones and he was taking the reins of producing by himself and he was eager to try new things, new producers, new sounds. And the resulting album, Dangerous, really has a much edgier feel because of it. So maybe he simply wanted to do something edgy. And let’s face it, that panther dance is certainly edgy.

But also, I want to point out the fact that those racial slurs that are written on the car and the building in the panther dance weren’t actually in the original version that first aired to millions of people around the world. Those were added in after the initial hoopla over the “disturbing violence and simulating masturbation.” So, I’ve never really held the belief that that section of the video was meant to be a protest against racism. Maybe it was but, it doesn’t feel that way to me. How do you interpret it?

Willa:  Really? Wow, I’m surprised, Joie. To me, adding in those slogans didn’t change the meaning at all, just clarified what was already there. I mean, the title of the song is “Black or White,” and the lyrics are all about standing up to racial prejudices – he even references the KKK specifically when he sings, “I ain’t scared of no sheets.” So when he added in the KKK and neo-Nazi and Aryan Nation-type graffiti, it felt right to me and just seemed to fit right in. How do you see it?

Joie:  Well, that’s true, it does fit right in. But, I don’t know; I guess I’ve just always looked at it as an afterthought, a way to simply try and clean up the controversy. But what you just said makes a lot of sense too, that it was done as a way to sort of clarify the artist’s intentions. You’re probably right.

Willa:  Well, it’s pretty ambiguous. There’s breaking glass throughout Black or White, beginning with the crashing poster and exploding windows in the opening sequence, so the violence of the breaking glass could mean many different things. In fact, the entire panther dance is pretty ambiguous, with so many intriguing elements and so many different ways to approach and interpret them.

It begins with the panther walking down into a basement, just like Michael Jackson’s character does before the first dance sequence in You Rock My World, and in both cases there’s a suggestion that we’re going into subterranean territory both literally and figuratively as well, into the subconscious. He transforms back into a human, and is immediately caught in a spotlight. For me, it doesn’t feel so much like the spotlight of a stage as the spotlight of a prison or an interrogation, and the bars on the windows and over the doorway reinforce that idea. But he strikes a pose in that spotlight nonetheless, with one hand on his crotch. Then he straightens up, stands tall, and a cat jumps out of a garbage can, which is interesting since Michael Jackson is frequently linked to cats symbolically. He was just a panther, after all.

So the cat’s out of the bag, or out of the can, and it feels like some aspect of Michael Jackson himself has been released. He pulls his shirt back like a gunslinger about to enter a duel with the town marshal, and an eerie wind blows past him that seems to suggest he’s entering an alternate space and time. (For example, a similar wind blows past him when he opens the door to Club 30s in Smooth Criminal, a wind that transports him back to Dem Bones Cafe of The Band Wagon.) He begins a dance routine that evokes a long history of dance in the U.S., then he and the panther yowl in unison, and that’s when he begins the segment that had critics in an uproar.

Joie:  I like the way you put that, Willa. That some aspect of Michael Jackson himself has been released. And I think you just hit on exactly what it is that I feel whenever I watch the panther dance. You asked me how I interpret it, and you were surprised when I said that I have never ascribed any sort of racial protest to it. But I think you just touched on the reason why. Because to me, it just feels like Michael unchained and free. It is a very passionate, expressive dance sequence in which we are given the pleasure of watching one of the greatest dancers in the world just … let … go!  We are treated to four blissful, astounding (and yes, erotic) minutes of Michael Jackson doing what only Michael Jackson can. And to me … there is nothing racially motivated about it. It is beautiful, it is celebratory, it is alive!  It is the Eternal Dance of Creation that he talks about over and over again in Dancing the Dream, and it is pure joy to witness!

Willa:  Oh I agree with that, Joie! But I also think it’s especially significant because of who he was and the cultural position he occupied.

We live in a very strange age where we as a culture are both over-sexed and overly repressed. It’s a bizarre combination. And I think Michael Jackson felt that much more intensely than most of us because of his unique position as the first black teen idol – a sex symbol who clearly aroused desire in white women, black women, women of many races. That was a potentially explosive situation, and he had to be very careful about how he presented himself in public. He was obviously very sexy on stage, but off stage he made sure that people – white people in particular – felt he was “safe,” asexual. In fact, I remember a Saturday Night Live skit years ago where Eddie Murphy pulled the pants off a Michael Jackson doll and used that as proof that he was literally asexual – without sex organs.

The panther dance feels like a dramatic departure from all that. He’s reclaiming his sexuality – he is black, beautiful, and sexual – but that doesn’t mean he plans to spend a lot of time with groupies. In other words, resisting sexual repression doesn’t seem to mean advocating a life of one-night stands. As he sings in “Superfly Sister,”

Push it in
Stick it out
That ain’t what it’s all about

So he isn’t talking about mindless sex. As we’ve talked about a couple of times before, he seems to see sexuality as much more than just a physical act. Instead, he seems to be saying that we need to reclaim our sexuality as part of our whole being, so that our sexuality isn’t something that only appears behind closed doors but is integrated with who we are as a person – creatively, emotionally, psychologically.

So to me, when looking at how sexuality is represented in the panther dance, the most significant part isn’t the “release” sequence that got critics in an uproar – though that’s important – but the “integration” sequence that happens immediately after. He’s standing on the sidewalk with that ethereal wind blowing, and the camera zooms past him four times as he repeatedly pushes his hands from his heart to his groin, visually joining them, integrating them.

Joie:  Well, that’s an interesting interpretation, Willa. And it seems to me that our ideas are not that far off from each other. You seem to see the panther dance as a bold statement on reclaiming our sexuality. While to me, the panther dance is a very sexually charged, incredible dance sequence. One that Michael Jackson seems to delight in performing. Dancing just for the pure joy of dancing.

Willa:  Well, actually, I see reclaiming his sexuality is just one aspect of it – to me, it’s really about reclaiming the entirety of himself and his body, including his sexuality. But I love what you just said, Joie, and I think you’re right, we’re not that far apart, and I think you put your finger right on the central point – it’s joy.

I think that, in the panther dance, we see Michael Jackson pushing back against all the cultural narratives that have been imposed on him and his body – ideas about what it means to be a man (or woman), what it means to be black (or white), what it means to be normal (or abnormal), what it means to cool (or uncool), what it means to be desirable (or not desirable), what it means to be lovable (or unlovable) – a human being worthy (or unworthy) of love. He pushes back so hard he shatters the confining narratives written on his body, just like he shatters the ugly confining narratives written on the glass.

And what we find when we break through all those labels and prejudices and false ideologies is something so simple yet so profound – a person fully inhabiting his body, and finding joy in that. As you said so beautifully, Joie, “It is beautiful, it is celebratory, it is alive!  It is the Eternal Dance of Creation.”


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 March 6, 2013, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 85 Comments.

  1. Thanks for another great one ladies.

    I’ve always thought of Black or White as a song about racial injustice, but more specifically a song about the injustice of a mixed race couple. It’s what the lyrics express and in some ways it reminds me of John Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane. So the Panther Coda to me is an anger, maybe even a sexual frustration, over or between two lovers of different races. Maybe even a sexual awakening or a coming together.

    “We live in a very strange age where we as a culture are both over-sexed and overly repressed.” Oh wow. I’m always saying this exact same thing. Very complicated and must be hell on children growing up in these times. And I think you are spot on in how Michael traveled in that space, on and off stage. I think that is why we hear so many accounts of people who knew him, and befriended him, say that they saw him as asexual. I never really understood it, but now I’m understanding that that was most likely Michael’s choice to be seen that way.

    Thanks and look forward to everyone’s comments.

    • I wanna add to “strange age” – i think this duality has always been there, but there is over-exposure of both extremes thanks to technology and media.

      I never understood the hysterics about banning things like that, it only makes people wanna see it more anyway. So, clever move, Michael. Censorship surely adds to overly repressed end, but people also just like to overreact. Its funny what sets people off, really. Like Susan Fast said, Michael made people uncomfortable just because they didn’t know which box to put him in.

      But who called him asexual? All his guy friends comment on how he would always check out women and all that guy stuff. It was probably people who didn’t know him well like business associates who could think that, because he would be either business-like or quiet around “suits”. Compartmentalizing.

  2. Interesting analysis as always! Especially loved the “integration” reference…

    In case you have not seen it:

    The very short, very commercial, pre-Panther Dance: the L.A. Gear commercial:

    • How cute! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before. Isn’t that his niece, Brandi, in the window?

    • Hi Chris. I have seen this clip before and, to be honest, it’s pretty troubling to me. In fact, I’ve been holding off on responding while I sort out how I feel about it.

      You know, I read a funny newspaper article one time protesting the use of “meaningful” songs for commercial purposes, and the author concluded with something like, What’s next? Commercials with hymns? Will we have a Kraft commercial backed by “What a friend we have in cheeses?” It just made me laugh (and I’ve always remembered that one line) but I know what that writer was saying, and I feel the same way about this. It just feels wrong to me, sacrilegious almost, to see the origins of the panther dance in an L.A. Gear commercial.

      And I know there’s a long history of serious art blending with commercial art. (It’s nearly indistinguishable in Andy Warhol’s work – that’s one reason it’s so fascinating.) But it still troubles me.

      btw, I have issues with Bud Light using Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” also, especially the way they completely reverse the meaning of the song. The song lyrics are about fighting against false beliefs:

      When you believe in things
      That you don’t understand
      Then you suffer
      Superstition ain’t the way

      But the Bud Light commericals (with Stevie Wonder’s participation) have a very different message: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.” And it’s kind of a joke but kind of not, and kind of ironic but kind of not … and it troubles me.

      btw, here’s the Bud Light commercial from the Superbowl, with Stevie Wonder playing the role of a witchdoctor (and laughing at all these superstitious sports fans, which is interesting – it suggests he doesn’t believe the superstitions … he’s just capitalizing on the gullibility of those who do):

  3. I think the panther dance was always about racism. But in the original version of the video the message of the coda was to unleash the power, to show black man’s power – which, to a large extent, was always perceived to be in black man’s sexuality. Michael had always been considered a “safe” type of the black man, which did somewhat “compensate” for his social and financial power. And even when he started to come up with sensual songs and videos like TWYMMF, they were largely dismissed by white critics as unconvincing or weird. “Black or White” was Michael’s rebellion. It was, as Willa says, his claim of his own sexuality. Like Armond White notes, it’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t underestimate me. I’m an adult man. And I have a dick!”

    Now, with the added graffiti, the whole coda changed its tone. It was no longer a rebellion, but now a message of fighting for peace, fighting against prejudice. It was more okay to break windows if it was in the name of a good cause. They reshaped the message from something that in the eyes of the conformist society was purely intimidating to something that, in the eyes of that society, could be justified.

  4. Thanks a lot for this courageous post!

    As a man I’ve always wondered why the vast majority of MJ fans seemed to be women.
    When I discovered MJ at the age of 10-12, it was like a liberation! I remember laughingly discussing the crotch grabbing with some of my (male) friends.
    Growing up in a world where women were often more visible or present than men (in kindergarten, at school), it was liberating to see an adult man who was neither ashamed nor nor misogynistic nor perverted (as I’m sure many later came to view him!), but simply proud and happy and with the courage to admit that ”… I have a dick”, as Armond White put it in that quote (thanks, Morinen!)

    Recently, there was a case in a US school, where a young boy had been expelled for imitating MJ’s crotch grabbing…

    Of course, society wouldn’t work if everyone (men and women), just went around ”grabbing” themselves… 😉

    But I think that as an artist, MJ used even that gesture to make a statement.
    In a way, he just continued the tradition Elvis had started (Elvis the Pelvis!), and took it to the extreme.
    It has also a lot to do with the perception of (Black) male sexuality, as you say, Willa and Joie. Why were all those Black men lynched?
    Because many White men feared their women would find them more sexually attractive than themselves.

    As a ”white” male with friends of all shades in a very liberal society, I can confirm that ”white inferiority myths” about ”white” men being less endowed (and by extension, worse lovers) than ”coloured” men, are still alive in some circles. (It’s quite ridiculous and outdated, but such feelings of jealousy and fear still seem to shape relations in a lot of places.)

    Michael Jackson was aware of this, and he went ”spot-on”.

  5. As Joie did so beautifully say – “It is beautiful, it is celebratory, it is alive! It is the Eternal Dance of Creation.”, and I have always loved it just as that, but as we all know by now, there was nothing random in anything that Michael did, so this ‘dance move’ has to have significance. I think you have both explored it very well, and it is certainly everything you have ascribed to it.

    I love the idea of it being an expression of dualism as the song itself is called Black or White, and yes it does express all those opposites very well indeed, with or without the added graffiti on the windows. The first time I saw it was with the writing on the windows, so I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, until I found out later that it had been added.

    If I am right, then the first time we saw this ‘move’, was during the BAD short film, when of course it would have had much significance, and again meant all sorts of things in that context other than just a dance move – afterall he was being “BAD” wasn’t he?

    I loved it when Michael aged 50 did that very suggestive Billie Jean routine in This Is It, when of course he knew exactly what effect he would have on those young mesmerised dancers, and I am sure they weren’t the only ones who were mesmerised!!! I can remember other times during the DVD of the Dangerous concert when he seemed to be quite definantly grabbing himself, and again during the History tour in those gold pants – remember at the end of Wandering in the Rain? who could forget…………………

  6. Midnite Boomer

    Thanks for a great post!
    Piece of trivia: The “Panther Dance” as it has come to be known, is a “dream ballet,” believed to be first utilized in Black films in “Stormy Weather.” It is a strategy by which the actors enter a dream-like state to advance the plot or to act out their wishes. We are transitioned to this dream state in the Panther Dance by the changing from the panther into Michael (and out again, at the end, by doing the reverse).
    One of the qualities of great art is to move people, sometimes by disturbing them. That the Panther Dance succeeded is evidenced by the uproar that followed its first televised appearance. Michael was struggling (and I would argue, would until the end of his days) to be accepted FIRST as an artist, in his own right. Everything else that made him human came secondarily: being a man, being Black, etc. And I think that one thing the Panther Dance is saying, is “Yes, I’m a man, and yes, I’m Black, now can we get past all that and let me be an artist FIRST?” (In the Oprah interview, he kept gently trying to get her there, but she never got the hints).
    Finally, I have always associated the crotch-grab with the root chakra, which is the site of creative energy. So I see the gestures of joining his heart to his crotch as a clear way of saying, My creative energy comes from my heart. So I don’t see sex as a primary focus in this particular dance; it’s about creative energy, for me.

    • “The ‘Panther Dance’ as it has come to be known, is a ‘dream ballet,’ believed to be first utilized in Black films in ‘Stormy Weather.’ It is a strategy by which the actors enter a dream-like state to advance the plot or to act out their wishes.”

      That’s so interesting, Midnight Boomer, and it’s interesting to think about the panther dance as a way for Michael Jackson, as an artist, “to act out [his] wishes.” Joie and I didn’t talk about this in the post, but the dance sequences in that part of Black or White are performed under a sign for the Royal Arms Hotel, and they culminate in the complete destruction of that sign – its neon tubes explode in fireworks, and then the entire sign falls to the ground and shorts out. To me, that sign is representative of British imperialism and colonialism – ideologies that led to slavery in America and much of the racism we’re still struggling against today. So looking at the panther dance as a dream ballet, it’s significant that it ends with the collapse and destruction of “Royal Arms.”

    • Midnight Boomer, I keep thinking about the panther dance as a “dream ballet,” as you called it, and that reminded me of something. I was watching Ziegfeld Follies recently, and parts of the “Limehouse Blues” number – which definitely contains a sequence where “the actors enter a dream-like state to advance the plot or to act out their wishes” – reminded me of You Rock My World, and parts strongly reminded me of the panther dance. See what you think (and yes, that is Fred Astaire playing the Chinese peasant):

      Oh, and I just looked up the lyrics to the song “Limehouse Blues,” which is sung in the background during the intro and outro. Here they are:

      And those weird China blues
      Never go away
      Sad, mad blues
      For all the while they seem to say

      Oh, Limehouse kid
      Oh, oh, Limehouse kid
      Goin’ the way
      That the rest of them did
      Poor broken blossom
      And nobody’s child
      Haunting and taunting
      You’re just kind of wild

      Oh, Limehouse blues
      I’ve the real Limehouse blues
      Can’t seem to shake off
      Those real China blues
      Rings on your fingers
      And tears for your crown
      That is the story
      Of old Chinatown

      Rings on your fingers
      And tears for your crown
      That is the story
      Of old Chinatown

  7. Wonderful topic, ladies.

    When writing of the crotch grab, Willa says “but there’s another element to it too, which is the crotch grab always kind of struck me as something of a political statement as well”.

    That has been my feeling on it as well when watching (over a dozen times!) Michael’s tribute in 1990 to Sammy Davis, in which Michael’s words so succinctly celebrate Sammy’s “door opening” for Michael and so many other black artists.

    At the end Michael softly sings “we are here ’cause you were there”, puffs out his cheeks and puts on the grunt, quickly raises one arm with the peace sign and the other arm goes to the crotch. It was a “wow” moment for me, his punctuation point “take this” emphasizing how far black entertainment artists had come, while simultaneously honoring and continuing Sammy Davis’ “take no prisoners” entertainment style.

    • Wow, that’s a really interesting connection, Juney07, especially since those lyrics he wrote for Sammy Davis Jr. are so political:

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

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

      And we are here, for all to see
      To be the best that we can be
      Yes, I am here
      ‘Cause you were there

      I just love this song, his performance of it, and Sammy Davis Jr.’s reaction to it, but I’d never noticed the peace sign before, which is itself a political gesture. It’s really interesting how he combines those lyrics and gestures with a very stylized performance, and subtly pays tribute to a pioneer who made a statement before him. …

  8. Awesome topic!

    I must say that I can’t agree with Michael intentionally making himself seem asexual in order to combat the stereotype of black man’s sexuality. I have read Willa’s reasoning and I understand her points, but I just don’t think he would adjust himself in order to “fit in” with people who might have seen him as a threat. Also, black men were lynched for looking at a white woman because white men were offended that he would dare to do such a thing. Back then they were perceived as less than human, so it wasn’t about a threat. Maybe subconsciously white men could be jealous of the stereotype of well-endowed, but thats not what set them in rage.

    I think the “mystery” about Michael’s sexuality has the same origins as most of the misconceptions about him – his desire for privacy, his love for mystery plus people’s own projections. He didn’t intentionally make us believe he wasn’t sexual, but he was naturally shy person off stage, who believed “the mushy stuff” are private and who was very self-conscious because he was always watched.

    I remember the story from “conversations in Neverland” where Michael would rather eat in the car than risk having talk show hosts psychoanalyze him based on what he ate that day. If he was that careful about such a trivial thing, imagine the kind of privacy he would like to have for even more intimate moments.

    However, that of course didn’t translate to performing. I really think he was consumed by the music and in touch with the universe when he danced, so he wouldn’t stand in the way of creation, how he liked to say, if thats what the music told him to do 😉 although you don’t see him doing a lot of crotch grabs in his TV performances and I mean the real grab where he actually grabs *lol* many times he would just place his hand a bit below his waistline, without grabbing anything!

  9. aldebaranredstar

    Great topic–thanks to Wila and Joie and all the comments! My take: Michael was heavily controlled as a child performer–told what to wear, how to sing (he mentions this in an interview that he couldn’t “sing free”), what to say at interviews, etc. This control came from Joe, Jehivah Witnesses, and the Motown label.

    To me, his big break through as an artist and dancer is in May 1983 at the Motown 25 performance, where he dances to his newly released Billie Jean. He had to negotiate just to do one of his own songs (what he called ‘the new songs”); he said he would only perform with his brothers if they let him do that. The performance is of course legenday–not only for the Moonwalk, but for the dancing and delivery of the song. He is not the smiling, happy singer that he was before–he is snarling, ferocious, angry, almost spitting out the words. And in the first part of the dance he does the crotch thrusts, which took on a life of their own from then on–to the various incarnations that we know and love, but which the Jehovah Witnesses hated and threatened to exclude him from the chiurch over. To me, this was the moment where the butterfly broke out of the cocoon.

  10. I have a very short comment about something I read, that Michael ‘zipping up’ in ‘Black Or White’ was symbolic of black men being forbidden to openly express their sexuality, especially around white women; sort of ‘keep it hidden’, literally!.

  11. Black men were lynched for being black and being men. They were most definitely perceived as being a sexual threat by white men, which continues to this day. It had little to do with black men ‘looking’ at white women. I was shocked to see a bit from the Conan O’Brien show which featured President Obama wearing computer generated lipstick and lavender eyeshadow. Black comedians are constantly pressured to put on dresses and wigs, because the juxtaposition with their black virility is supposedly “hilarious”. As the film Django Unchained illustrates, black men were once routinely castrated, for the pleasure and amusement of white men. Now it’s done metaphorically.

    Michael Jackson was acutely aware of all this. The panther dance, and the gold pants which left little to the imagination, visually asserted his manhood, as did his frequent onstage erections. The white male power structure has to go into overdrive to counter these manifestations of his masculinity. (Many who serve this structure are neither white nor male – some of the writers dedicated to an asexual, “pre-sexual” image of Michael are women and black men.)

    • I think you’re on to something.

      I’ve heard comedian Dave Chappelle in an interview describing his first possible sitcom project. The network thought it would be funny for him to dress in drag. He refused. They continue with the assertion that Eddie Murphy and Flip Wilson had done it so it must be ok. He still refused and the show never got picked up.

      “Many who serve this structure are neither white nor male – some of the writers dedicated to an asexual, “pre-sexual” image of Michael are women and black men.”

      Intriguing and I think you are right. As I think of the people who said they believed that Michael was asexual, all were women: Whoopie Goldberg, Carrie Fisher and Jane Fonda.

      • Add to the list of people who have been quoted in print as saying they did not perceive Michael Jackson to be sexual: choreographer and director Vincent Paterson and long-time dresser and costume designer Michael Bush.

        I wonder if MJ used The Force to fog their minds?? LOL

    • Well, if you think about how racism works psychologically, it is about inferiority. A threat comes in because there are certain stereotypes attached to certain races and nationalities, for example like stereotypes attached to jews.

      What happened to black people back then, could have happened if they weren’t perceived as less than human. The French have a reputation of great lovers, you don’t see jealous and pissed germans and englishmen lynching french guys.

      Its important to separate apples from oranges and not mix it all together. Comedians and actors dressing up like women is common place everywhere. I believe Michael transcended racial barriers because he never felt confined by them. Of course he was aware of them, but the whole thing was that he expressed his creativity the way he felt like, not the way a black man was supposed to. Michael himself didn’t see himself as asexual, so he had nothing to prove. People tend to try to see a clever plot behind Mike’s every move, but more often than not the simple explanaition is the one that makes most sense. For example, short films like ITC, RTT – everyone was like “Michael is trying to be all manly macho now but we ain’t buying it” lol Simple explanaition was that those videos made sense artistically as a visual representation of those songs, no contortions needed 🙂

    • “Black men were lynched for being black and being men. They were most definitely perceived as being a sexual threat by white men, which continues to this day.”

      I agree, VC, and I think Michael Jackson was very aware of that. For example, one of his favorite movies was To Kill a Mockingbird, which is the story of a black man on trial for accosting a white woman. The truth is that she approached and kissed him, but when her father walked in and saw them, she said he had attacked her. A number of people have said that Michael Jackson watched that film frequently during the 2005 trial – maybe to help put his ordeal within a historical perspective. Here’s what Bryan Michael Stoller told MTV right after the trial:

      “His favorite movie is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,'” the director said. “He has an actual 35-millimeter print of the movie. We watched it together once and, you know, he was into serious pieces.

      “I said to him one day, ‘You’re living ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ right now,’ ” Stoller remembered. “It was all about a black man who was on trial. And [both Jackson and the character in the film] were innocent. It was just really weird that that was his favorite film even before these allegations happened. The trial was kind of a modern version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.'”

      I think it’s true that he was “living ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” during the trial, as Stoller said. And in that sense, it’s interesting that Gregory Peck, the actor who plays the defense lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird, was one of the few celebrities to publicly support Michael Jackson during the trial, even writing a letter as a character witness for the defense. (Apparently, he and his wife were longtime friends of Michael Jackson’s.)

      • aldebaranredstar

        Willa, another terrible thing about “To Kill a Mockingbird”–Jordan Chandler mentions it in his interview with Dr. Richard A. Gardener in October 1993:

        “Now I remember because I had a book to read for finals. It was called To Kill A Mockingbird. Supposedly that was one of his favorite books. And so he helped me study and he read the book to me and then he continued to masturbate me.”

        It makes me so sad to know this and to realize that Michael read this book to a person who would falsely accuse him like that and who did not understand the meaning of the book at all. And that accusation by Jordan paved the way for the trial.

        • Aldebaranredstar – I am so horrified I’m speechless. What a terrible, terrible enactment of precisely what that book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is fighting against. The irony of that is just too horrible for me to express.

          It reminds me of Diane Dimond’s book, Be Careful Who You Love. The title comes from “Billie Jean,” of course – a song about false allegations of sexual misconduct, and how awful it is to be falsely accused. And in the video, Michael Jackson’s character is pursued by a relentless reporter/photographer trying to “prove” those false allegations are true. Does Diane Dimond have no idea what that song and video are about? Can’t she see that she is enacting exactly what he was fighting against?

          And Billie Jean came out in 1983 – ten years before the Chandler allegations. It’s like Michael Jackson had a horrible premonition of what his life would be. But of course, he was a student of history and knew what had happened to celebrities before him – stars like Charlie Chaplin, one of his heroes, who ended his career as a social pariah, reviled by many who once loved him. As Michael Jackson once said, “Sometimes I feel like I am Charlie Chaplin.” I can see why he would feel that way, on so many levels.

          The ironies of Michael Jackson’s life are just too overwhelming for me sometimes. We’ve talked a couple of times about the lack of irony in his work, but really, he didn’t need irony in his work. His life was ironic enough.

          • aldebaranredstar

            I agree with you, Willa. Billie Jean deals with false accusations in a prophetic way (not my lover). It is truly revolting the way Jordan says “supposedly” one of his favorite books–the ‘supposedly’ just denigrates Michael so much. I hate it. Neither JC nor DD knew the person Michael Jackson at all–just a distorted caricature of their own sick minds. Because there is so much distortion by them and others, even people who knew him well, I prefer to go with Michael’s words directly to know him, rather than take someone else’s version of who they thought he was.

  12. Michael is saying: “I really believe we should all be behaving the way I just finished describing. I have a LOT to be pissed off about — let me express it here now– but yet you don’t see me acting like this do you? No, you don’t. So you privileged people who sit on your butts criticizing and judging …. STFU.”

  13. aldebaranredstar

    Thinking about Michael as a dancer is very intriguing and brings up all kinds of associations. (Some people even think he was primarily a dancer; he was inducted into both the Dance Hall of Fame). What male dancer can be compared to him? I come up with the Hindu god Lord Shiva, who in his attribute as Lord of the Dance, is called Shiva Nataraj. The image of Shiva Nataraj is very stylized and loaded with symbols. One is that the dancing Shiva represents the destruction and creation of the universe: flames surround the image in a circle and a flame in one hand represent destruction; a small drum in another hand represents the sound of creation, the beat of the heart, the passage of time. The figure is very lithe with one foot raised and Shiva’s loosened long hair is flying. Dance is movement in time, balance, union. It takes up space. The recent One Billion Risiong dance to end violence against women showed how dancing is also revolutionary movement.

    Here is a quote from Abhinavagupta: “Shiva’s cosmic dance has no purpose. It is the spontaneous expression of overflowing bliss; it is art.” Somehow this fits Michael. He emphasized the playfulness of life. Interestingly, physicists compared Shiva’s cosmic dance to the dance of sub-atomic particles (The Tao of Physics, Frithjof Capra) and an image of the Nataraj is outside the big labratory of CERN where so much research is done (Fermilab, etc). I think Michael tapped into very deep levels of human consciousness (like archetypes) and hence so many different cultures and countries and peoples related to him and saw something familiar in him.

    The Wikipedia entry on Shiva Nataraj is good. Here is a youtube discussion (maybe there’s a better one but this one is pretty good).

  14. Michael will tell you himself at the end of this video –

    • Thanks Suzette for posting this interview. Isn’t it just wonderful too hear Michael talking about his art and nothing else – he is alive, interested, and coherent. I enjoy listening to the court depositions in that they are like a master class, but in this interview he is so relaxed, and above all else happy!! thanks for the reminder.

    • Thanks Suzette. I enjoyed this so much.

  15. This is a very good discussion. I don’t know which post to answer, so I’ll just drop ”a new line”. As I said, I often wonder why there are so few male MJ fans, at least online. (No offense to all the great female fans!) In many ways, MJ was a good role model to me as a boy: He showed it was okay for a man to dance, that you didn’t have to be gay to be loving and tender, that you didn’t have to be ashamed of ”what you got”, etc. In effect, an alternative to the typical ”policeman” or ”soldier” macho stereotype.

    It never struck me that some of the negative reactions towards MJ that I’ve often heard – especially from the typical ”white male rock fan” (I must take care now not to create another stereotype!) – might have something to do with racism or subconscious racism, for that matter.

    VC’s comment about the ”white male power structure” is very interesting. (Thanks!)

    Two observations:

    1. MJ’s crotch grabbing (not thrusts, but direct grabbing) seems to have begun in the Bad era – when his skin had become so light that many people saw him as ”white”. (As it was said: ”In which other country [than the US] can a Black Man grow up only to become a White Woman?”) I do think MJ caught the opportunity that his new hue gave him. I’m quite sure it would have created an outrage had he grabbed his crotch during for instance the Victory tour, when his skin was still medium brown! To many people, especially white, he would have ”proved” the stereotype of the Black sexual predator (”That’s what I said! He’s no more ’sensitive’ or ’different’ than the others, it’s all just sex-and-go”). But with his new appearance, (white) people didn’t know how to react: If they condemned him for being a ”hypersexual black male shamelessly showing off”, they would have to provide an explanation for his ”white” skin AND, most importantly, reflect on their own, ”white-skinned” sexuality in ways that wouldn’t go too well with the dominant worldview.

    2. Many of the MJ debates discuss whether he did something ”on purpose” or not. Was he ”calculating” and aware or just spontaneous, overwhelmed by his art? The latter is the more romantic image of MJ that many fans seems to hold. I think he had an amazing ability to be BOTH extremely aware AND let totally go of things. So I do believe his crotch grabbing is BOTH a spontaneously felt expression AND a conscious statement.
    In interviews, MJ would rather present the ”ignorant” version of himself: ”Oh, that’s art.” Or ”Oh, that’s business”. Or ”Gee, I never thought about that.” (Okay, I haven’t checked if the quotes are 100 % literal!) I think he showed that side of himself because the scope of his art was to great to be explained. (Or that explaining it would ruin it, as Willa points out in her book.)
    In this context, I’m especially thinking about a female pendant to MJ highlighting his crotch – his sister Janet’s ”Nipplegate”. (Whether that was a ”wardrobe malfunction” or somehow a conscious ”stunt” involving Jackson and Timberlake.)
    When asked, MJ claimed he didn’t really notice it. I don’t think so!
    He was so observant, saw everything in society. (People who knew him, have described him as a ”hawk” or a ”sponge”.) But I think that, like his own crotch grabs, his shying away from the question was yet another try to change a society obsessed with sex, race and fear into ”a better place”. It’s like he’s saying: ”Take it easy. It’s just a breast. It’s just a dick.”

    • @Bjørn

      Lol for the last line!

      I think you have a point about Mike “playing dumb” when he didn’t want to explain himself. Crotch grabbing question by Oprah was a pretty dumb question – like asking an artist why do you sing/dance/act/paint etc the way you do? Because thats how I do it, dummy! Mike got this reputation of being super calculating probably because of his attention to detail, perfectionism and love for creating a show out of everything. But I just love this story about CTE being totally random letters, almost a prank 🙂

      But back to playing dumb, he knew if he had said anything else about nipple-slip, it would have made front pages, out of context and exaggerated beyond belief. Kinda like they did with Paris and her “wearing masks was stupid”. Michael mentioned that as early as late seventies/early eighties that the media misquotes him (and everyone else) to sensationalize it. So, conveniently he didn’t notice!

      But I think its important to distinguish between Mike constructing his image and making himself into the greatest show on earth and Mike in his creative and artistic element. I believe these two things were very distinct for him, image was games, smoke and mirrors while creating was so spiritual and with great purpose.

      Though i think you are right about him being able to let go and be in control somehow at the same time – if he was really that shocked to see himself crotch grab the first time, he would have figured out how to stop doing that 🙂

      • Hi Gennie

        “But I think its important to distinguish between Mike constructing his image and making himself into the greatest show on earth and Mike in his creative and artistic element. I believe these two things were very distinct for him, image was games, smoke and mirrors while creating was so spiritual and with great purpose.”

        I love this comment and tend to agree with it, but feel that no matter what Michael did in all aspects of his life, he did it all ‘with great purpose’. Thinking about the short film Ghosts and all the symbolism it contains when explained by Willa, and for the most past, lost on most of us without that explanation.

        • Hey Caro,

          Well Ghosts was definitely his art, one of the most important pieces I’d say, so it goes to great purpose 🙂 i meant his pranks and him messing with our heads with fun as only purpose. There are a lot of stories where people would over analyze something he did, when he was just being a prankster and having fun 🙂

    • Lovely to hear a man’s point of view Bjorn, and well done for expressing it. When one looks at the concert performances there do seem to be as many men as women in the audiences, but the girls do seem to be able to make it to the front first!! Perhaps they are just more determined to get a closer view, or know they are likely to faint and so be nearer to getting help ha ha!!

    • Bjorn —

      That is so great! “Another try to change a society obsessed with sex, race, and fear into a better place…It’s just a breast. It’s just a dick.” I think you are exactly right and that is what he thought/how he felt.

      I also agree with your statement that MJ would present the “ignorant” or naive version of himself in some interviews — especially when he did not trust or think highly of the interviewer. I have always thought he was putting Oprah on — with the exaggerated high voice and the sort of “oh, did I grab my crotch … surely just the music…” routine — as if he was almost unaware.

      Of course he knew what he was doing — and was aware of every implication and interpretation!

  16. aldebaranredstar

    Hi, Bjorn, I am so glad you shared how you were affected as a boy–what you said is very beautiful–that he made it admirable for a man to dance, to be tender and loving, not to be ashamed of what you’ve got physically (flaunt it, even), and got us all away from the soldier/policeman macho stereotypes that are so destructive.

    I am still in my MJ as Shiva mode, though. So I will say, in keeping with this theme, that Shivaratri (a night where Shiva is celebrated with all-night chants) is coming up soon, so it seems appropriate (?). Shiva is also known as part male and part female (Ardhanareeshwara) and is depicted this way in statues (one side male, the other female). He is the oldest continuously worshipped deity on earth. Sound is what creates the universe–OM.

    “The two most common forms of Shiva’s dance are the Lasya (the gentle form of dance), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of weary worldviews – weary perspectives and lifestyles. In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are just two aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again
    Nāṭaraja is derived from the Sanskrit words narta rājan “lord of dance”.
    ◦ A cobra uncoils from his lower right forearm, and the crescent moon and a skull are on his crest. He dances within an arch of flames. This dance is called the Dance of Bliss, aananda taandavam.
    ◦ The upper right hand holds a small drum shaped like an hourglass that is called a ḍamaru in Sanskrit. A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta (Sanskrit for “ḍamaru-hand”) is used to hold the drum. It symbolizes sound originating creation or the beat of the drum is the passage of time.
    ◦ The upper left hand contains Agni or fire, which signifies destruction. The opposing concepts in the upper hands show the counterpoise of creation and destruction or the fire of life.
    ◦ The second right hand shows the Abhaya mudra (meaning fearlessness in Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the righteousness of dharma.
    ◦ The second left hand points towards the raised foot which signifies upliftment and liberation. It also points to the left foot with the sign of the elephant which leads the way through the jungle of ignorance.
    ◦ The dwarf on which Nataraja dances is the demon Apasmara (Muyalaka, as known in Tamil), which symbolises Shiva’s victory over ignorance. It also represents the passage of spirit from the divine into material.
    ◦ As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. Shiva’s long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a knot, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.
    ◦ The surrounding flames represent the manifest Universe.
    ◦ The snake swirling around his waist is kundalini, the Shakti or divine force thought to reside within everything. This also parallels the cords of life worn by the Brahmins to represent the second rebirth.
    The stoic face of Shiva represents his neutrality, thus being in balance.
    An essential significance of Shiva’s dance at Tillai, the traditional name of Chidambaram, can be explained as:
    ◦ First, it is seen as the image of his rhythmic play which is the source of all movement within the universe. This is represented by the circular or elliptical frame surrounding the Lord.
    ◦ Secondly, the purpose of his dance is to release the souls of all men from the snare of illusion.
    ◦ Lastly, the place of the dance, Chidambaram, which is portrayed as the center of the universe, is actually within the heart.
    Dancing is seen as an art in which the artist and the art s/he creates are one and the same, thought to evoke the oneness of God and creation.” [from Wikipedia entry on Nataraj]

    • Hi Aldebaranredstar! Thank you for the kind words.
      Sharing personal stories on the internet is always a bit risky… You never know who might google you!

      I agree – the parallels between Shiva and MJ are interesting. Perhaps his friend Deepak Chopra gave him some lessons…

      • aldebaranredstar

        Bjorn, thanks for your comment. I promise not to google you! LOL.

        Re Deepak, Michael gave him a ‘thank you for your love and inspiration’ in Dancing the Dream, so it’s very possible. Also some of the ideas in DTD are very similar to ideas about the Shiva Nataraj and Vendanta/Kashmir Shaivism. For example, the quote about Shiva Nataraj above could be said by MJ: “Dancing is seen as an art in which the artist and the art s/he creates are one and the same, thought to evoke the oneness of God and creation.” This is pretty much exactly what he says in DTD and also his idea that art is the union of the divine and the secular (Oprah interview). In DTD he says while dancing “The creator and the creation merge into one wholeness of joy.” This very in line with Shiva, and also Emersonian (who was influenced by Eastern thought). About Shiva Nataraj: “the purpose of his dance is to release the souls of all men from the snare of illusion.” Well–“make that change”–MJ wanted to do much the same–heal the world.

        No doubt, Chopra deepened MJ’s understanding but I read in an article that when he went to Neverland for the first time, MJ had Krishna statues all over. Deepak even made fun (a little) of MJ’s pronunciation of Krishna, using a long e sound (Kreeshna) instead of a short i sound. This reminds me of what Quincy said–MJ pronounced Socrates as So CRA tes (during the Wiz). When you read on your own with no teachers, this is what happens.

        MJ was a seeker IMO.

  17. aldebaranredstar

    Whoops–forgot to say that the crotch-grabbing relates to the shiva lingham–an ancient phallic form of Shiva that is a big part of his worship, but even here the form is bisexual.

  18. I wonder if Michael ever ‘made fun’ of Deepak Chopra’s heavy, sing-song manner of speaking? I’ve never heard Chopra reference anything from Hinduism. Isn’t he more new-agey?

    While the discussion of Shiva is of interest, the fact remains that Michael was not a Hindu, and there’s no evidence he ever embraced Hinduism’s religious precepts. (But he did think that Indian women were beautiful, and that the darker they were the more beautiful they were, in direct contradiction to Indian ideals.)

    • aldebaranredstar

      Hi, VC, about Chopra, he was raised in a Hindu tradition, studied Transcendental Meditation with Mahareshi, and basically popularized Hinduism with a Western spin. This is one reason why I have a problem with him myself. He watered down the teachings for Westerners and got rich that way. Here is an article criticizing him from a Hindu doctor who accuses him of not acknowledging his heritage:

      IMO his teachings/messages don’t awaken spiritual growth/transformation, so although he had a friendship with MJ, initiated when Mike wanted to learn to meditate, I don’t think he was able to give him what he was looking for (self-realization).

  19. …Thats right, Michael was not a Hindu. He was raised as a Jehovas Whitness,- but I think he was very interested in all kinds of religions – he was very spiritual – and so he was certainly inspired by a lot of things and aspects of other religions. For him there were no boundaries between religions. God wasn’t something, belonging to a certain religion, he/she was universal. Michael said that in his poem “GOD” – from Dancing The Dream:

    >>”It’s strange that God doesn’t mind expressing Himself/Herself in all the religions of the world, while people still cling to the notion that their way is the only right way. Whatever you try to say about God, someone will take offense, even if you say everyone’s love of God is right for them.
    For me the form God takes is not the most important thing. What’s most important is the essence. My songs and dances are outlines for Him to come in and fill. I hold out the form. She puts in the sweetness.”

    And here is another quote of Michael’s interest in Krishna and about reading The Bhagavad-gita:

    >>“He was offered Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita and said he already had the Bhagavad-gita and when the Host asked if it was Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita, Michael Jackson said yes, it was. He was then presented with a Krishna Art book, of the first Krishna Art print-run, and he looked through the illustrations and said he liked the paintings. He took that Krishna Art book home.“

    And something about the grotch-grab:
    I don’t think he does that only accidentally. Maybe, it once accured during dancing, but later on, he made it part of the routine – and he did it most of the time with purpose. (That doesn’t mean, he had to think about it, while dancing, while performing – than it just happened, because he had it already internalized) He does a lot of hand gestures in his dancing. He uses mudras, which are symbolic or ritual gestures in (again) Hinduism and Buddhism. I think you all know the beginning of his Earth Song Performance in Brunei – there you can see, how he uses his hands. (I don’t know, how to post a video here..) He knew a lot about these religions and the symbols, belonging to them – so he has to know about these gestures and their meaning. And he does such gestures all the time, while dancing, and often he uses special hand gestures, together with the grotch-grab – so to me most of the time it has a meaning, it’s an expression of his sexual energy, it’s kind of letting this energy flow, taking over to the audience…connecting…
    (It’s a very interesting, to look at Michaels hand gestures, which are often part of his dance, and reading about the meaning of these mudras…)

    • Thanks for this quote from “God.” It is very revealing. I think that Michael’s religious beliefs, his values, were evolving throughout his life. Although he was brought up a Jehovah’s Witness, later in life his understanding of the nature of ultimate reality was not conventionally Christian — as the Christian God does not embrace sexuality the way Micheal clearly did, nor is God the Father by any stretch a “she.” Christianity also does not believe that the Christian god is expressed in all the religions of the world. And, for Christians the form their god takes IS the most important thing. So, I think that MJ’s understanding of the term “god” had strayed far from its Christian origins — and no doubt had been influenced by his exposure to other religious teachings. As usual, he was trying to seek and find and express truth — his truth — and it had to be truth as he authentically experienced and understood it.

      Seeking truth can be a lonely undertaking, especially when it takes you away from the comfort of a religious tradition you have grown up with. But, being Michael, he didn’t have any choice.

      (Of course I am only talking about conventional, traditional Christianity. But, then, what other kind is there?)

    • aldebaranredstar

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. The mudras in the Brunei performance of Earth Song are clearly done with awareness and knowledge of their meaning and relevance to this song. One of them copies that of the Shiva Nataraj– where one hand has the palm up, signifiying upliftment and creation (and is also the Abaya mudra signifying protection and fearlessness), and the other hand has the palm down, signifying dissolution and destruction (although there are other interpretations specific to the Nataraj). This is the dual action of creation and destruction that Shiva also presents. This mudra is very powerful and has multiple meanings.

      Michael often used the Abaya mudra, which is beautiful, and also the namaste gesture–which other people described as “a little Eastern bow.” He put his hands together to his face in a prayer gesture and bowed. He did this a lot in his later years.

      Here are the opening mudras in Brunei:

      • aldebaranredstar, thanks so much for this performance of Earth Song. Could you explain about the relevance of these mudras to Earth Song?

        • Here the names and meanings of these mudras, Michael uses in the beginning of Earth Song/Brunei:
          -first he does the “Akash Mudra” (both hands – thumb and middle finger are joined) which helps to center your energies. Later he raises his right hand for the “Abhaya Mudra” (open right hand rised up to his shoulder) it represents protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear. (Abhaya in Sanskrit means fearlessness) And at the same time his left hand shows a “Varada Mudra”, called the “wish-granting gesture”.
          “Namaste” (greeting gesture) – which Michael used frequently – means “I bow to you” or: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you” or “the God within me greets the God within you.” The Namaste gesture says that we are all equal and share a common divinity.

          • Aldebaranredstar and All4michael – Thank you so much for explicating those gestures from the Brunei concert. They tie in so beautifully with the meaning of “Earth Song,” and with ideas he expresses throughout Dancing the Dream – especially his ideas about “energy” and that we are all part of “the eternal dance of creation.”

          • Hi all4michael — Thanks for explaining these mudras. His grace adds to their power. This is all so fascinating.

        • aldebaranredstar

          Hi, Eleanor, thanks for asking a great question! The answer is of course open to interpretation due to the meanings of the mudras.

          The first mudra can be seen, as all4michael says, as a mudra to center your energies. It can also be the Vitarka mudra, which is used for the transmission of teaching, and is a gesture associated with Buddha and Bodhisattvas (enlightened teachers). I like this way of looking at those gestures before Michael starts Earth Song, one of his great songs and messages. In this way he shows he is going to impart a teaching. The circle made between the thumb and index finger signifies a constant flow of energy; the three raised fingers signify the 3 jewels (the Buddha and his teachings; dharma–righteousness and living in harmony with righteousness; and sangha, the community of like-minded individuals who support and sustain each other). (Buddhism and Hinduism have much in common and their linkages are historical).

          The Abhaya mudra all4michael explained (right hand raised, palm outwards) as peace, protection, fearlessness. Left hand pointing downwards in the same gesture, as all4m says, shows giving or wish-granting. Putting the 2 gestures together by showing them at the same time is interesting as this is what some statues of the Buddha show and is similar to what we see in the Shiva Nataraj.

          After he reached enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Buddha was challenged by the demon Mara to present a witness that he had in fact achieved self-realization. The Buddha pointed to the earth and said “The earth is my witness.” (In other versions the earth itself speaks and says, “I am the witness.”) The downward hand gesture is most often shown with the palm facing inside, but there are statues where the 2 simultaneous gestures are exactly as seen in Michael’s mudras. I like to see this as pointing to the earth as a witness for what he is about to teach us in Earth Song. (This gesture of the Buddha has led to a movement of eco-buddhist concern for the earth.)

          In terms of the Shiva Nataraj, the 2 hands–one upwards in the Abhaya mudra, the other pointing down are close together. The downward hand can be seen as pointing to the foot that is raised (pointing to enlightenment) or to the foot that is standing on the image of the “unenlightened self” (showing that Shiva is a refuge to release one from ignorance and bondage). The downward hand is also likened to an elephant’s trunk, and Ganesha, the son of Parvati and Shiva, is the remover of obstacles.

          When the 2 hand gestures are put together, as in the case of Buddha, they have an amplified meaning IMO. In terms of the Nataraj, the dance of bliss (ananda tandava) that Shiva performs is a way to see that destruction (fire) creates new life and a path to rebirth. The hand gestures form a kind of wheel or turning movement, showing the cycles of death and renewal. In the midst of this cycle, Shiva’s dance shows balance, beauty.

          It is really interesting and many thanks to all4michael for drawing attention to these mudras in the Brunei concert. Wow–Michael–you had so much to tell us!! (I have a feeling that the first mudras he shows are classical Indian dance gestures–there’s a lot here, for sure.)

          “Eons pass
          Deep inside
          I remain
          Ever the same
          From Bliss I came
          In Bliss I am sustained

          Join me in my dance
          Please join me now
          If you forget yourself
          You’ll never know how
          This game is played
          In the ocean bed of Eternity”

          “Are you listening?”, from DTD

          • Fascinating Aldebaranredstar! I researched a bit about the Akash mudra, and found in Ayurveda this mudra is associated with the ears. Also, I read a while back that Gotham Chopra helped write the “What About Us?” section of the song. His father, Deepak is very knowledgeable about Ayurveda. Interesting…

          • Thank you aldebaranredstar. So, in using these mudras, he is indicating that Earth Song is a significant teaching, and that the teaching and the giving of it are part of the sacred flow of the energy of life — the cycles of death and renewal or what Joseph Campbell called the cosmic round. That it is a sacred righteous teaching and that it is being given to and is supported by a community of like minded individuals — and earth (a conscious earth) is witness to this teaching.

            So interesting. Thank you and all4Michael so much. Reading all the comments here. Seeing the videos…It just shows again and again what a terrible loss his death was — and what a miracle he was.

            I believe that the wanton destruction of Michael Jackson comes out of the same negative energy responsible for the wanton destruction of the earth he sings about in Earth Song — and is as tragic.

          • aldebaranredstar

            “I believe that the wanton destruction of Michael Jackson comes out of the same negative energy responsible for the wanton destruction of the earth he sings about in Earth Song — and is as tragic.”

            Amen to that, Eleanor!!! i was listening to Kenny Ortega’s testimony in the Murray trial and he talks about how he and Michael were co-directors and co-creators of This Is It and how they were “conceptualizing” the concert together in April 09. He was asked why Michael wanted to do the concerts, and Ortega said, among other reasons, such as wanting his children to see him perform, he wanted to emphasize how his songs like Earth Song and Heal the World had even more relevance today that when he first performed them–he felt his environmental message was more needed than ever before, so I agree very much the earth and Mike were intertwined.

          • This is absolutely fascinating. It makes you want to study about it, and also see all the MJ videos seeking such mudras. Thanks.

      • Thanks for the video, A.R.!
        The hand gestures are interesting.

        One thing bothers me, though…
        Why is he using playback? I’d be very disappointed if I had paid for the show…

        Any ideas?

        • aldebaranredstar

          I think it’s live–BJ. Go to 5:58 and it’s clear (to me) it’s his voice not playback.

          • Its playback until he reaches ad-libs. He did the same with a lot of songs, using playback for the most of it, then turning his mic on for ad-libs.

        • Michael lip-synched a lot during history tour, I remember here was rumors about him having throat problems at the time.

          But with Earth Song specifically, he would have destroyed his voice had he sang it live all those times. Remember how he even left those ad libs til last when recording it, because like he said “he would kill his vocal” hitting those notes.

          He just sang less live as got older, seems like and some songs he never sang live like Man in the mirror. I don’t think its a big deal, most artists use playback to some extend and you really don’t notice it from the audience.

          • aldebaranredstar

            Hi, Gennie, Raven Woods at http://www.allforlove has a blog post just up where she talks about the Brunei performance. She says it was live.

            “For the Brunei performance, he had none of these tricks to fall back on.”[She means here the tanks, children, etc. that became part of the show for that song.] “The performance is simply Michael, by himself, on a stage-and incidentally, one of the few times he sang this song live, with no backing track.”

          • Thanks, Gennie and Aldebaranredstar!

            To me is sounds like playback… It’s like hearing the cd on extremely good loudspeakers… But I guess I have to give it another listen! 🙂

          • Guys, with all respect to Raven, it is playback, you can tell 🙂 i just listened again and it is exactly 100% like the cd, every word and every note is sang exactly the same. When you hear Michael sing live, you can tell. Try watching him sing some ballads from Bad tour, or gone too soon from Clintons inauguration, or even human nature from this is it. You can hear its live. I can also see it on Michael when he is singing and not singing. Not to fight over this or anything 🙂

        • I was just reading the latest entry of the AllForLove blog and the author states that this performance was entirely live:
          “In fact, some of Michael’s most powerful and memorable performances were those where all of the pomp and circumstance was stripped away, and he simply sang or performed. A good case in point is his Brunei performance of Earth Song, which is one of my favorite performances of this number. By that time, Earth Song had evolved into a huge performance showpiece, replete with rolling tanks onstage, a full back drop of video images, “villagers” in costume, and Michael being lifted onto a cherry picker for dazzling effect. For the Brunei performance, he had none of these tricks to fall back on. The performance is simply Michael, by himself, on a stage-and incidentally, one of the few times he sang this song live, with no backing track.”

          • Interesting discussion! One of the dominant discourses in popular music is the issue of “authenticity.” Rock critics have long valued the idea of live performance, unplugged, gritty, slightly noisy musical sound, free from artifice. Pop music in general seems to challenge these values, with more polished sounds and higher production values.

            Here is one of my favorite performances from MJ, with lots of great crotch grab moves! I am also crazy about this performance because it is explicit that he is in no way attempting to create live sound here. It is strictly a live dance performance of a recorded work of art:

            1967 is considered a turning point in popular music history, the year that the Beatles released “Sergeant Pepper.” With this recording, it is no longer assumed that recordings are simply replicas of a live performance. “Pepper” flips this expectation, any attempt to perform this work live is understood as a replica of the work of art itself, the recording. I understand Michael Jackson’s mature work in this way as well, the recording itself is the work of art.

          • Wow, Ultravioletrae, that is fascinating! Simply fascinating! You know, I’d heard that idea expressed before – that Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper established albums as art, separate from live performance – but I didn’t really get what that meant until now. That is so interesting!

            And I would say that Michael Jackson pushes this idea even further, where the fullest expression of his work isn’t a live performance (as much as I love his performances) or a well-produced album (as much as I love them all) but his short films – in other words, where his voice, his body, his choreography, his instrumentation (the sounds he hears in his head) join with visual elements to complete his vision for a work.

            You know, one thing the Deconstructionists in literary theory focus on is binary oppositions and how we tend to privilege one side over the other – for example, speech acts over written texts. Speaking is seen as primary, and writing as simply an imitation of speaking. What Deconstructionists like to do is flip those oppositions to help undo them, so Jacques Derrida famously undid the speech/text hierarchy by showing how it changes our perspective if we privilege written text over speech.

            I see a direct correlation to what you’re describing, Ultravioletrae, where “live performance, unplugged, gritty, slightly noisy musical sound, free from artifice” is revered by critics as the “authentic” ideal, and recorded music is seen as simply an imperfect imitation trying to recapture that ideal. (Hence the frequent criticism that Michael Jackson’s later albums, especially, are too polished, over produced, lacking authenticity.) So it’s interesting to apply Derrida’s approach to live versus recorded music, flip that hierarchy as you have done, and consider “the recording itself” (or maybe the video?) as “the work of art.” Fascinating!

          • Hi Ultravioletrae. Just had another thought – it’s interesting in this context that Michael Jackson’s early videos (Don’t Stop til You Get Enough, Rock with You, She’s out of My Life) all imitate the act of singing, but then the Thriller videos are a big departure from that. Suddenly, with Billie Jean, Beat It, and Thriller – and Say, Say Say and Can You Feel It as well – he’s doing something very different. It isn’t a reenactment of singing and dancing. Instead, it’s incorporating song and dance into a narrative, more like one of the song-and-dance numbers from a big Hollywood musical. Maybe that’s another reason he cited Fred Astaire as such an important influence.

            Though as usual, he’s taking it to another level. Billie Jean, Beat It, and Thriller are like nothing anyone had seen before. And Michael Jackson was very deliberate about that. As he says in Moonwalk,

            The three videos that came out of Thriller – “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “Thriller” – were all part of my original concept for the album. I was determined to present this music as visually as possible.

  20. Great post as usual and wonderful, informative comments. I learn so much here…

    I think about the words “That Ain’t What It’s All About” from Superfly Sister a lot … and wonder what is it all about. It reminds me of something Michael said about his date with Madonna when she apparently grabbed his hand and put it on her breast and he withdrew it, and he explained his behavior by saying pretty much “that ain’t what it’s all about.” Which I have never interpreted as a rejection of sex (a rejection of Madonna, maybe?), but a recognition that sex as a purely mechanical operation leaves something to be desired — just as movement to music as a purely mechanical operation can hardly be described as dance.

    Willa — Thanks for pointing out the heart to groin movements and bringing to consciousness a message which I’m sure my unconscious had already picked up.

    I like aldebaranredstar’s shiva references. Michael’s dance was a dance of creation, just as sex is a dance of procreation, and procreation is a metaphor in many religions for the act which creates the universe — and Michael in his art was creating a new perception of reality — a new world.

    To me, Michael Jackson is amazingly sexual, and his sexuality is wonderfully physical, but his physicality is so powerful because it is energized by deep, powerful emotions — emotions which recognize the deep creativity and creative possibilities of sex. Michael Jackson was exposed to raw sexuality from a very young age — in the strip shows that often followed J5 performances and in his older brothers’ and father’s sexual “exploits” — often in beds right next to him. Sex as a commodity or a mechanical and exploitative act surrounded him — and as he grew older was no doubt readily available to him — a very different experience from, for example, the repressed white bread childhood of many children, who knew something was going on, but didn’t know what….a childhood MJ missed….hmmmmm

    Let’s face it, we as a society are soooooo FU about sex. Michael wasn’t. Which is why he’s so sexy.

    And, a few other thoughts …

    I think MJ thought of sex as a natural part of being human — of being a part of the natural world. Nothing evil about it — how could some religions put sex in such a bad light (JW’s?) when others saw the sex act as ultimately sacred? And also, in this age of contraception and abstinence and over population, the emphasis where sex is concerned is ensuring that no babies happen. But MJ loved children and sex does create them — a miracle.

    As to the race/sex angle, I agree that he had to tread carefully and got tired of it and the crotch grab was to say — I am not a eunuch, how could you have come to that conclusion//I am a proud sexual fully human black man. And I think the panther dance is a dance of anger. Black or White expresses a hope, an ideal. The panther dance expresses the anger at the racist reality he had to deal with. His anger does in no way cancel out his hope for a better world. It fuels it.

    • aldebaranredstar

      “Michael’s dance was a dance of creation, just as sex is a dance of procreation, and procreation is a metaphor in many religions for the act which creates the universe — and Michael in his art was creating a new perception of reality — a new world.”

      Beautiful, Eleanor! Thank you. It makes the crotch-grab part of the creation of a new world that Mike wanted to bring into being.

  21. Michael never presented himself as other than Christian , but his interest was broader than religion, it was spirituality. So he might have had an interest in Hinduism, like he had in Kabbala and African rituals( he was ritually crowned king of Sanwi in Ivory Coast).
    Dance was divine to him as it is in every single culture and country Maori , Native American, Africa, Arab, India , Japan……
    About his actual dance moves and how they developed, he made perfectly clear who had not influenced him (Elvis) and who had: Fred Astaire, James Brown, Jacky Wilson , Gene Kelly, Nicholas brothers and streetdancers like Jeffrey Daniels. But also old Hollywood movies ,musicals like west end story and mimes like Charley Chaplin and Marcel Marceau.
    Sometimes his choreography is an enhanced copy of these performers ( FAs bandwagon, moonwalk , JD electric boogaloo and poppin/lockin, J’Bs mash potato and slide, old school camel and cakewalk) but most of the time its eclectic with his own moves(with help of some great choreographers). He inserted moves that resemble Hindu or Balinese dance, but I doubt whether he was aware of the exact meaning of it. There is no book on Michaels choreography yet, hopefully someone with a real interest in dance will do it.

    The first crouch grabs were actually during the victory tour and later became more ‘graphic’ But like the cakewalk and early moonwalk the crouch grab is a move that already existed though not as a real signature and not as graphic and smooth as Michael performed it.These are some dances that influenced Michaels choreography.

    Jeffrey Daniels/Streetdance

    Fred Astaire/Bandwagon

    Fred Astaire, Bill Bailey, Buck and Bubbles, Cab Calloway, Clark Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., Daniel L. Haynes, Rubberneck Holmes, Patterson and Jackson, Eleanor Powell, Bill Robinson, Three Chefs (only the feet), Tip Tap and Toe (feat. Ray Winfield), Earl Snakehips Tucker. ( also read the description)

    James Brown/ Sammy Davis/ signature moves

    • Sina, these are all outstanding examples! Thanks so much for sharing these. I would love to see a book about Michael Jackson from a dance history perspective, MJ is like an encyclopedia of dance! I think the Nicholas Brothers influence on is something that is especially overlooked. Just thought I would share this in case anyone hasn’t seen MJ as a teenager dancing with the Nicholas Brothers:

      • Ultravioletrae, they are definitely one of his influences. I love the performance . Michael is still all limbs and the finesse is not there yet. But so promising and so courageous to dance alongside these two legends. A legend in the making.
        He is the only pop dancer to be honoured in the National museum dance hall of fame.
        I remember there was alot of hoopla then, there was a group going to protest against his induction.This was 2 ½ years ago . So much has changed for the better since

      • I would love to see a movie about Michael Jackson from a dance history perspective. I think Sina has gotten off to a good start!

    • Hi Sina. How amazing to see the Moonwalk in black-and-white film clips from the 1940s and 50s! I had no idea! I really want to learn more about this now. (I agree, Ultravioletrae – “a book about Michael Jackson from a dance history perspective” is desperately needed.)

      Also loved listening to Jeffrey Daniels (who I thought was the father of the Moonwalk) talk about the origins of “locking” and “popping” – what I tend to think of as “robot moves.” btw, I happened upon this a few days ago:

      It’s a tribute to Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis, Jr., and it includes some clips of Michael Jackson incorporating locking and popping moves earlier than I thought he had (see, for example, about 2:10 minutes in).

    • Sina, These are great. Thanks so much. There is so much to learn.

  22. aldebaranredstar

    Here’a another mudra that Michael used–he crossed his hands over his chest, one over the other (the Vajrapradama mudra). This has such a beautiful meaning: it represents “I come with peace because I am at peace.” The hands are placed near the heart to show the golden energy of healing and to express strength and confidence in the heart–the heart is the strongest communicator. I love you MORE!

  23. Michael did say in an inteview what the Panther Dance represented to him.
    At the end of this particular Panther Dance video there’s a quote from John Landis (the director of it) about it also.

  24. This question is for all4michael and aldebaranredstar and anyone else who knows about these things —

    Do you relate mj’s energy to kundalini?

    I once went to a lecture on yoga and the yogi said that kundalini energy was so powerful that if you released it within yourself and ready for it, the power of it could kill you. We may have discussed this before, but doesn’t hurt to revisit. Crotch-grabbing and pointing seems to relate to kundalini to me — sexual energy as the creative energy of the universe…

  25. Whoops — previous post got garbled.

    Should be

    This question is for all4michael and aldebaranredstar and anyone else who knows about these things —

    Do you relate mj’s energy to kundalini?

    I once went to a lecture on yoga and the yogi said that kundalini energy was so powerful that if you released it within yourself and were not ready for it, the power of it could kill you. We may have discussed this before, but doesn’t hurt to revisit. Crotch-grabbing and pointing seems to relate to kundalini to me — sexual energy as the creative energy of the universe…

    • Hi Eleanor,

      As I understand it, the kundalini energy is the vital life force that flows energy centers or chakras corresponding with the physical body. Here is a good description from the Chopra Center:

      It’s funny that about 2 minutes ago I was just reading a passage from a book about Sri Aurobindo and Tagore, two Indian authors MJ was known to have read. (The book is “The Rainbow Bridge” by an Indian poet, critic and Professor of English, Dr. Goutam Ghosal.) In this book, the author describes the zone between the heart (anahata) and the sex-center (svadhisthana) as the most problematic zone in human consciousness. I think he’s right. Money, sex, and power, (what I call “the big three”) are all associated with these lower chakras, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all tripped up a time or two in these areas.

      It’s interesting to compare what Madonna was doing in 1991, the same year “Dangerous” was released. She made the documentary “In Bed with Madonna.” For me personally, as a woman, I don’t think she did me any favors with the way she portrays feminine sexuality, power and control. (I’m sure there are those who would disagree with my take on it though!) I think Michael is also touching on sexuality, power and control, but from the perspective of a black male, the lyrics and title of his song makes it especially clear that he intends to address the issue of race in this song. I think people were very uncomfortable with being confronted with black male sexuality he depicts, and that was the end of that, it was censored. Madonna’s over the top behavior didn’t seem to cause so much trouble, but “Like A Prayer” I think did cause some controversy, as it also addressed the issue of black male sexuality. I do believe she lost her Pepsi sponsorship over it. As a human race, we’ve got a ways to go in straightening all this confusion out.

      • Hi Ultravioletrae, aldebaranredstar and all4michael. Thank you so much for your answers. I have been giving them a lot of thought. And, all4Michael, thanks for the Barbara Kaufmann reference. Perfect.

        I think the source of Michael’s electrifying performances and presence is kundalini manifested and kundalini coiled and waiting in the wings — to mix things up.

        People may be “very uncomfortable with being confronted with black male sexuality”… but I love it. 🙂 It is interesting that black male sexuality — the most powerful sexuality on the planet as we all know — is the conduit MJ uses to express the creative energy of the universe. But, it is not surprising that it aroused discomfort in the many who were not ready to go on the journey he was making.

        I think in many ways he was mystified by his own power and so sought help in understanding it. But those he sought out really couldn’t help him (Chopra, Boteach), as you point out, because they are too caught in their own takes on the world and ultimate reality — and Michael was actually too far ahead of them. So, they would give him counsel, but it didn’t/couldn’t work for him, because they are working out of an old paradigm and he was moving into the new. They really didn’t/couldn’t recognize him for who he was. Too much ego involved.

        So, he was really “out there” on his own. He himself was his own teacher and guide, and I think he knew it and finally came to the realization that to be at the tip of the spear in the avant garde means you are really all alone — except for the tremendous support you get from authentically connecting to that energy within — which he was able to do. The only people who really “got him” were his fans — and even we/they weren’t sure what we were getting. Just knew it felt so good that we wanted more and more…

        But to have that kind of power coursing through you……

        As the yogi/guru said, kundalini can be fatal. Too much adrenaline, too little sleep. It probably contributed to his death as he really could not get the support he needed from anyone else on the planet — too much for one person to carry.

        Rambling on…

        But, thanks again.

        • aldebaranredstar

          Hi, Eleanor–I think you are on to something here–how Michael was “authentically connecting to that energy within,” and this may have been his greatest gift, to show us how someone can be so in tune with that “creative energy of the universe.” Several people have commented on this who knew him. For example, Anjelica Huston said, “He was on fire as a performer,” and she had seen nothing like it (I think this was in a Time/Newsweek tribute).

          Here’s another comment from Sarah Kaufman along the same lines:

          “As his solo career grew, so did the power he could project through that lithe, boyish body. By the time he was singing in stadiums, the electricity in his dancing could be felt in the highest rows. Look at the jolts and shudders he delivered when he performed “Billie Jean,” for example. This wasn’t a vanity moment, an opportunity for a costume change and some mimed makeout with a backup dancer, as you see in so many other pop concerts. It was a demonstration of the barely contained fire in this performer, the volcanic self-expression that . . . found a positive outlet in a perfected physical display.”


          Interestingly, the chakras and kundalini lead us back to the shiva nataraj–the dancing shiva. When Kundalini uncoils in the muladhara chakra and begins the ascent up the spinal column through the chakras, the final chakra in the sahasrar unites her–the shakti (or life energy)– with Shiva.

        • Eleanor, aren’t you stereotyping a bit when you call Black male sexuality

          ”the most powerful sexuality on the planet as we all know”


          Black people are just as different as people of other colours. There are very ”sexual” black men, but also black men who’re not so ”sexual”.
          If I were Black, I don’t know if I’d be flattered or offended by your comment.

          • Hi Bjorn —

            I was just acknowledging the stereotype — I wasn’t promoting it. Sorry for the confusion.

          • Hi Eleanor,

            that’s allright! 🙂

            Thanks for the clarification!
            I’m a bit sensitive to the issue, as I’ve got African friends, and I know that some people suffer because of those stereotypes (while others ”profit” from them!)
            This also extends to Black women.
            I recently read a discussion about racism in China.
            One of the participants – an African-American woman – said she was so tired of being seen as a some kind of ”sex machine”, that her sexuality wasn’t any different than that of ”the Chinese woman down the street”.

            Such prejudices were just what MJ was challenging – I don’t wanna spend my life being a color!

  26. aldebaranredstar

    Hi, Eleanor, I hope all4michael and others will comment on this–great question. My take is that the kundalini energy at the base of the spine, which is pictured as a coiled snake, rises when awakened through the different chakras (power centers) of which the sex organ is one and awakens the chakras as it rises. It goes through all the lower chakras (if it keeps rising) up through the heart chakra, the throat chakra, and finally to the third-eye chakra. When it gets to this last chakra, the person experiences self-realization, the opening of the thousand-petaled lotus. However, this kundalini rising is something that takes a lot of spiritual practice, including meditation, and I would say you need a teacher, or guru, as well. This is why I wish Michael had found a really good spiritual teacher. He did try–with Deepak, Boteach, June Gatlin, and probably others as well we don’t know about. Just don’t think he found the right person.

    Personally, I don’t think the crotch-grabbing is related to kundalini–but I could be wrong. If so, it would mean the kundalini energy found a particular reason to emphasize that chakra especially when he was dancing. When he wasn’t dancing, it seems to me he emphasized the heart chakra. (I love you, I love you more, etc.). We do see him in a meditation pose in “Scream,” so I am sure he did mediatate. Wish Deepak or his son would talk about this.

  27. Sorry Eleanor, I don’t know too much about this, I only read about it. – it’s very interesting. But it seems that Michael often used Mudras combined with his crotchgrab, that he transformed his sexual energy with the other hand forming an abhaya mudra, or that the other hand touches his head – and that he did this consciously.

    Here’s e.g. an excerpt of an article, where Kundali is mentioned:
    >>„I always loved his dancing but wondered why the sexual “beyond innuendo” in some of it. Watching him in the act of creation—I now understand that it comes from the passion of someone who “rocks it” not because he wanted to or had to but because that was what came through him, through his body. The driving beat of Michael’s music carries an intensity that demands the body move, gyrate, leap, growl and grind. The intensity centers in the groin and solar plexus because it comes from the “seat of emotion.” Intensely emotional, it is the language of pure passion. Hindus have a name for that passionate grinding, grounding energy that rises from the place in the human body where spirit meets matter, where physicality meets soul. It’s the energy of gestation, birth, genesis, of force and forceful release—that rises into and becomes creation. It’s the impulse energy that rushes hot and upward along the backbone from the groin and solar plexus. It is the place of the Kundalini force, the juice of life. And it’s explosive. Like orgasm, that creation energy sends waves of physical earthquakes up the backbone. It is obvious that Michael felt it in his music; it exploded through the music, through him and through his body.“
    ( – B. Kaufmann/Goodbye Michael- a Quiet Tribute)

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