The Selling Out of Rock & Roll – Say What?

Willa: Two of the most recent biographies of Michael Jackson were written by writers for Rolling Stone magazine – namely, Randall Sullivan and Steve Knopper. Both authors conducted extensive research, including hundreds of interviews with people who knew and worked with Michael Jackson, and both authors seem to believe they’ve written a fairly positive portrait of him. For example, both say that after looking at all the evidence, they are convinced he was innocent of the molestation allegations. Yet many fans were disappointed by their books.

D.B. Anderson and I were talking about this recently, after she published a review of Knopper’s book, and she pointed out that this has been a long-running problem at Rolling Stone. So this week we are looking back at Rolling Stone‘s coverage of Michael Jackson to see if we can uncover some of the root causes behind their mixed reporting on him. And maybe that can help us understand some of the resentment and ambivalence toward him in the mainstream media as well.

Thank you so much for joining me, D.B.! This is a very important topic, I think.

D.B.: Nice to be with you again, Willa! It’s enlightening to shift the focus away from Michael and instead look at the cultural, political, and economic factors that influence the media ecosystem. These influences go far beyond just one publication, but Rolling Stone magazine is an interesting case for several reasons.

When we were talking about Genius, you remarked that it was “amazingly thin, mostly just adding a few new details to a story that’s been told a hundred times already,” and I agree. We wondered about publishing houses and what value they think they are adding to the conversation. Increasingly, I’m focused on what you said in M Poetica about how things get storified:

Once a narrative has been accepted, our minds shape our perceptions to fit that narrative to such an extent that we no longer see what’s right in front of us. We don’t even feel doubt.

Does this explain why these authors, editors and publishers feel that they created positive portraits? I’m thinking it does.

Maybe if you work in publishing (or have more patience than I), these two books are considered brave and remarkable because they assert that Michael was probably innocent. From that point of view, maybe they represent progress.

Willa: Yes, and actually, I think they do represent progress. I’ve noticed that Knopper’s book has been getting some very positive reviews, mainly from readers who don’t know much about Michael Jackson, so Knopper is helping to reach people outside the fanbase. That’s important.

He’s also been outspoken in saying that Michael Jackson was innocent – for example, in this interview in The Denver Post where he says, “I didn’t expect to be so thoroughly convinced of his innocence on child molestation charges.” Randall Sullivan made similar statements after his book came out, and to me, that’s huge. That writers like Sullivan and Knopper are reviewing the evidence – and in Sullivan’s case collecting quite a bit of new evidence – and concluding that Michael Jackson was innocent is very significant and should be applauded by fans. Each of these books is an important step toward vindicating him.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that Knopper has been much more emphatic about asserting his innocence in interviews than he is in the book, where he merely writes, “All evidence points to no – although sleeping in bed with children and boasting of it on international television did not qualify him for the Celebrity Judgment Hall of Fame.” I don’t know if his editors at Scribner reined him in, or if he reined himself in, but it would be refreshing if his book were as outspoken as he seems to be.

D.B.:  You’re exactly right, the book isn’t as warm and positive as his interviews. I find that sentence you just quoted to be dismissive and problematic. It is laid at Michael’s feet for having bad judgment. If Trayvon Martin had only submitted to George Zimmerman he wouldn’t be dead. No. Michael said that on national TV because he had nothing to hide. “He had a fair trial,” wrote Knopper. No mention that having a trial in the first place was profoundly wrong, and completely insane.

Willa:  It really was. I recently talked with Tom Mesereau (which was fascinating – what an incredible mind) and he put me in contact with his lead investigator, Scott Ross. Mr. Ross spent hundreds of hours tracking down evidence, interviewing leads, and basically conducting the investigation the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office should have conducted. And that was his point exactly: it was a travesty the case ever went to trial.

Scott Ross has 37 years of experience, and during that time he’s really had to deal with the dark side of human nature – like investigating the Laci Peterson murder. To be honest, I expected someone with his background to be pretty jaded and skeptical of anyone’s innocence. But he was adamant that Michael Jackson had done nothing wrong. As he said, “Nothing happened. It never should have gone to trial. It should have been thrown out during discovery.”

D.B.:  You spoke with Mesereau? That’s fantastic. I admire him for his integrity and continued willingness to speak on Michael’s behalf. But there you go: Ross conducted the investigation that the DA should have done. And apparently, others are still going to have to do the writing that journalists should have done.

Willa:  Exactly, and Mesereau thinks Randall Sullivan has done precisely that. When I talked with him, he strongly supported Sullivan and felt fans should support him also. For example, he said Sullivan had uncovered evidence that the Santa Barbara DA’s office began investigating Michael Jackson on drug charges as soon as the Arvizo trial was over. That’s very important information. It suggests the police really were targeting him, and were not unbiased in their handling of the allegations against him. It also suggests Michael Jackson was right to leave Neverland – that his exile wasn’t a sign of paranoia, as quite a few articles have implied, but of wisdom. He was wise to leave his home when he did, and Mesereau said he strongly advised him to leave.

My feelings toward Sullivan’s book are more mixed than Mesereau’s, but I really value the information he gathered. I quoted Sullivan a number of times in my “Monsters, Witches, Ghosts” article because he provides new and important evidence that simply isn’t available anywhere else.

D.B.: Sullivan’s book does have some good information in it, particularly around the trial, and I am aware that Mesereau endorses it, which means something. I have a copy of Sullivan’s book and refer back to it sometimes. It is really a shame that he got sloppy with his sources on other topics because it hurt his credibility. Did you know, the missing nose at autopsy story actually was written by another Rolling Stone writer first?

Willa:  No I didn’t. I remember reading that article, but didn’t remember that part. I know Fox News promoted that rumor quite a bit – that he didn’t have a real nose, and had come to the hospital with a prosthetic nose but the morgue lost it – until Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon, Steven Hoefflin, came forward and said it wasn’t true. And the autopsy report, which came out several months later, supports Hoefflin. It’s troubling that Rolling Stone was spreading that rumor also.

D.B.:  Claire Hoffman at Rolling Stone published the autopsy lie on August 6, 2009. Then it was regurgitated around the world. Fox News website shows they got it from the New York Post, and the Post was quoting Rolling Stone. For his book, Sullivan probably relied on the previous Rolling Stone report and got burned because by then, the autopsy itself had been released and disproved all of it. It wasn’t cross-checked.

There is a systemic issue at Rolling Stone. They published the original missing nose story, which you quote in your book, in 1995. The myth-making that goes on over there is just unacceptable. Now they imply Michael somehow stole the Moonwalk. There is no excuse for this. It’s a pattern with them: Jackson didn’t earn his place fair and square. These are narratives designed to appeal to their white male audience, but they are not truth.

My review puts the two book excerpts side by side because I saw an example of a deliberate content strategy by the two magazines. It was interesting to me on that level, and also I thought people could freely read the excerpt and decide if my review felt accurate or not. Yet the two books are very different. Genius disturbs me a lot more than Untouchable, frankly.

When I said “someone else is going to have to write it” I did not mean the trial, which Sullivan did do. I meant the story of how the press contributed to his being charged in the first place. There isn’t much self-reflection. I don’t see them recognizing and destroying their own myths and biases. I see them trying to shoehorn new data into an old mold.

Willa: That’s a very good point, D.B. I see what you’re saying, and I agree with you. Long before the allegations were made, the reporting on Michael Jackson had created a climate of suspicion about him, that there was simply something wrong about him. So when the allegations hit, many people were predisposed to believe he was guilty of something – if not molestation, then something – just being odd, maybe. And then, of course, a type of hysteria developed, and the reporting tended to be not very insightful or self-reflective at all after that, as you say. Publications didn’t want to look at how they may have contributed to the hysteria, and they still don’t.

But I also think that change is going to come incrementally, and these books are important first steps – albeit baby steps – toward shifting the narrative about what happened to Michael Jackson. It’s important to get the big picture about systemic racism in the U.S. – especially the deeply ingrained narrative of black men as sexual predators – and how that contributed to police and public perceptions of the allegations against Michael Jackson. That’s very important. But that type of deep reappraisal will take some historical distance, I think, and the widespread realization that he was in fact innocent. And I’m encouraged that things are already moving in that direction, as we see in these two books. Attitudes have changed more quickly since his death than I would have expected.

D.B.: Really? You are much more tolerant than I, Willa! I’m not inclined to be grateful for tardy conclusions that he was innocent the entire time unless accompanied by some expression of horror that it happened at all.

You may be right that this book represents a crack in the foundation. But it’s a foundation built by the press themselves. To misquote Princess Diana: “There were three of us in this marriage – Michael, the press, and the police.” Come on, you know? It’s just not that complicated. It really isn’t. There are millions of people who knew that Michael was innocent the entire time, and that the case was malicious. “Fair trial” – those words made me want to throw the book across the room.

Willa: It was fair in the sense that he was found innocent of all charges – not that he was made to go through it.

D.B.: Precisely. Did the justice system work? Absolutely not. It should never have gone to trial, as Ross said. And the media is directly responsible for it. They own this. You can’t blame it all on Sneddon. He was influenced by them. He believed their narrative. Mesereau is not wrong but he’s just not focused on this part. There was lots of post-trial coverage about how the jurors got it wrong and were swayed by Michael’s celebrity. This shouldn’t get lost.

Willa:  That’s true.

D.B.:  What really bothers me about Genius is this. It starts out with a prologue about racism, but still manages to impugn Michael when it tries to separate him from an important aspect of black culture, the street dance. Still manages to avoid discussing prosecutorial misconduct or the viciousness of the press. This is not intellectually consistent. This is not self-aware. This is maybe even pandering, giving lip service. I’m sorry, but I call bullshit.

To paraphrase the prologue: There was racism in Gary during the first six years of Michael’s life and therefore he became egomaniacal and that’s why he built that weird HIStory statue. It’s worse than not bringing up racism at all. This is mockery.

I want to be clear that I’m not attacking the author personally. But he is part of a system, the book is part of a system, which includes the publisher’s marketing department. Maybe Scribner tried to turn the book into something it isn’t and Knopper didn’t have control over that. I am not telling anyone to buy or not buy books; I read them all. I’m just sharing my response.

There are many factors operating in the system: a historical white-male-centered perspective, a profit motive, and institutional self-justification. When Genius debuted last month and was getting a lot of press, Bill Whitfield (who struggled to get coverage of Remember The Time, which he wrote with Javon Beard and Tanner Colby), tweeted the following:

Willa:  Thanks for sharing this, D.B. I hadn’t seen it before, and I have to say, I think there’s a lot of truth to what he’s saying …

D.B.:  Remember The Time is chock full of new, never-before-heard information.

Willa:  Yes, and it presents a very different portrait of him, as caring, intelligent, playful – very different than the wacko narrative that was so dominant the last two decades of his life.

D.B.: It really does. It deserved a much bigger splash than it got. So why is Genius getting so much play? You can’t avoid noticing that the press is much happier to promote a book by one of their own – one that doesn’t require them to consider their own accountability.

The history re-writing has begun, but according to Genius, Jackson is still a liar and “the weirdest pop star in history.” The original premise hasn’t changed one iota. No thank you.

Willa: And you believe much of that bias can be traced back to Rolling Stone magazine, right?

D.B.:  During the period of time when I was struggling to understand my conflicted response to the latest book, I did wonder, just what exactly is the deal with Rolling Stone as an institution? The prejudice seems so baked in. So many untrue stories, and two books by writers from that magazine. No wait – three books, counting Dave Marsh. This is a publication focused on music, so you would expect more from them than a tabloid or a regular newspaper. Yet, their coverage has been some of the worst.

Rolling Stone was founded by Jann Wenner in 1967 in San Francisco and it was identified with the hippies counterculture of the sixties. It has been criticized by others for having a generational bias towards musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, for example, they panned Nirvana and rap.

Douglas Wolk wrote in the Seattle Times in 2006:

The basic DNA of popular-music criticism came from the people who wrote for Rolling Stone and Creem in the ’60s and ’70s. They were the first to write about pop interestingly and at length; they loved rock of that pop-historical moment’s Beatles/Stones/Dylan school more than anything else; and their language and perspective and taste have been internalized by pretty much everybody.

Wolk references this 2004 article by Kelefa Sanneh that explains a particular way of writing about music, “rockism”:

Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video….  

Rockism isn’t unrelated to older, more familiar prejudices — that’s part of why it’s so powerful, and so worth arguing about….could it really be a coincidence that rockist complaints often pit straight white men against the rest of the world? Like the anti-disco backlash of 25 years ago, the current rockist consensus seems to reflect not just an idea of how music should be made but also an idea about who should be making it.

Quite a mic drop, isn’t it?

Willa:  It really is, and it provides a fascinating lens for looking at all this, doesn’t it? I think there definitely is a “rockist” bias that “means idolizing the authentic old legend,” with strong emphasis on the word “authentic” – meaning “straight, white men” with guitars who spend their lives on the road, singing songs they wrote themselves on a napkin in some shabby diner, and who make very little money doing it. This notion of authenticity is very important to the bastions of rockism.

D.B.: Lol. What an outstanding description. You left out the roach clips and the girls in every town, but otherwise perfect.

Willa:  Ha! That’s funny. Thanks, D.B. But while I agree there’s a rockist bias, it’s not altogether true that Rolling Stone has shown unwavering loyalty to the “Beatles/Stones/Dylan school.” I’m a little older than you are, and I can remember when John Lennon was considered an embarrassment. Like Michael Jackson, he was too idealistic (meaning too naïve, too simplistic) and too uncool, and it made people uncomfortable. There was also a suspicion that he had become too wealthy and may have sold out. Do you remember the stories about Yoko Ono investing in dairy cows and selling a bull for a quarter-million dollars, or something crazy like that? It was big news for a while. And I need to double-check this, but I seem to remember a completely false Rolling Stone article published a year or so before Lennon died that implied he’d become a chubby real estate developer in Florida.

Rolling Stone even had their doubts about Bob Dylan, especially after he became a born-again Christian. I think that caused a lot of angst over at Rolling Stone. That just isn’t what the rockists wanted their heroes to be.

So I agree there has been a strong “rockism” bias at Rolling Stone, and they’ve tended to see themselves as cultural gatekeepers, but it’s more in support of an ideal than specific people, I think. They want their rock heroes to fit a certain mold. And if a revered figure like Bob Dylan doesn’t measure up – someone who helped shape their notions of what an authentic artist should be – what are they going to think of Michael Jackson, who wore lipstick and danced brilliantly (most rock stars don’t dance – maybe a little shuffle, but not dancing), whose concerts were an extravaganza, who made short films that defy the supremacy of music over image, who worked collaboratively and challenged preconceived notions about authenticity and individuality? He simply didn’t fit the rockist model, and he refused to limit himself to their expectations.

D.B.:  Yes, that’s true. It’s an ideal they are after. Keeping the 1960s hippie dream alive, or something. They gave Lennon a very hard time when he dropped out, around 1975, to become a househusband and raise Sean. That was unheard of back then, and very threatening to their masculinity, I believe. Dave Marsh was a Rolling Stone writer who castigated Lennon in an open letter for failing to perform his duties to the world. The same author wrote a book about Michael in 1985 called Trapped: Michael Jackson and The Crossover Dream. Here is a quote from that one, on why Michael has failed his people:

It’s the difference between Jackie Robinson, whose personal emancipation within the world of baseball inspired not only black Americans but the whole country, and Michael Jackson, whose triumphs in the world of popular music were so private that they were ultimately never shared with anyone and as a result, curdled, turned sour and evaporated into a sickly residue of their original potential.

There must have been a big sale on weed that week. I mean, seriously. Where do you start.

Willa: Yes, I’ve read Marsh’s book, and it’s written from the perspective of a betrayed idealist. He thinks Michael Jackson has the potential to be a Moses figure who can lead Americans, black and white, out of the swamp of racism and onto higher ground. And he is outraged that Michael Jackson isn’t fulfilling his (Marsh’s) fantasies. There’s never any suggestion that maybe Marsh himself should or could do something to help end racism – just condemnation of Michael Jackson for not doing more.

D.B.:  Well, if there was ever a clear cut example of white privilege, this is it. White man gonna tell the black boy how to fix the white man’s problem. It’s weird, Marsh actually wasn’t wrong about Michael’s potential. I have seen so many people commenting that they are amazed how “woke” Michael was. Yet, Marsh is beating Michael up, and this even before he released Bad.

Willa:  Yes, he doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate what Michael Jackson was accomplishing – through his art, as in Beat It, or through his position as a globally recognized cultural figure, or through his very being – and instead rebuked him for what he was not. It’s the same phenomenon you were talking about before, D.B., but measuring Michael Jackson against a messiah-type ideal rather than a rockist ideal. It’s interesting to look back through Rolling Stone and see where that impulse comes from.

D.B.:  Just mind blowing. Marsh even blames Michael for the negative press he received in the very pages of his own employer, Rolling Stone. That’s how it works: blame the victim. If only Trayvon had listened to George.

It’s interesting, Rolling Stone has recently made available an archive of all their covers. And I think you can see the rockism happen, visually, when you look back at the covers of Michael.  Not even the articles, just the covers. There were two of Michael in 1983; the first was an interview done before Thriller became dominant and the second was a commentary on MTV. This would have been two years before Marsh’s book. The second cover is where the rockism really starts to become obvious:

Rolling Stone cover Dec 1983

Many things about this cover stand out. First, it’s cartoonish – the only non-photograph cover of 1983. Second, the subhead: “The Selling Out of Rock & Roll.”

There is a poignant subtext having to do with John Lennon being absent. This was published only three years after Lennon was murdered. And what you see is Michael Jackson literally inhabiting Lennon’s “rightful place” next to Paul McCartney (as the rockists would have seen it). Even though the Beatles had broken up long before Lennon died, this would have been painful.

Willa:  That’s a fascinating way to interpret this, D.B.  I really think you’re on to something, though I think the story is a little more complicated than that. It’s true that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were beloved by Rolling Stone, and by millions of fans around the world. But then things got ugly, the Beatles broke up, people took sides, McCartney was unfairly cast as a light-weight, Lennon was unfairly cast as someone who’d lost his way, Yoko Ono was treated abominably. It was terrible …

D.B.: I do remember parts of the controversy. McCartney had already written “Silly Love Songs” by this point, in answer to that criticism:

Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that?
I’d like to know
‘Cause here I go again

Willa:  Exactly.

D.B.: And the drama about Yoko was intense. She was accused of breaking up the Beatles (it wasn’t true) and the vitriol that was hurled her way was astonishing. She and John left the U.K. because the British tabloids were so absolutely hideous towards her. They moved to New York, but it didn’t stop. In 1969 Esquire ran a story called “John Rennon’s Excrusive Gloupie.” These rockists were brutal racists and misogynists. John and Yoko “dropped out” for about five years, until 1980.

Willa: Yes, they did, and then Double Fantasy came out – Lennon’s first album in years – and it was amazing, alternating tracks by Lennon and Ono. To be honest, a lot of critics weren’t quite sure what to make of it. Then three weeks later John Lennon was gone, murdered, and I can still remember that night – how my friends and I just couldn’t take it in.

After that a kind of nostalgia set in that sort of swept the complexities and complications under the rug and replaced them with hazy, idealized memories of Lennon and McCartney. And then, suddenly, right in the midst of that nostalgia, here’s a cover of Rolling Stone, with Michael Jackson in John Lennon’s “rightful place,” as you say, and a headline about “The selling out of rock & roll.” That’s really significant – I think you’re right, D.B.

D.B.: It is so interesting to look through the archives with the perspective of time. Back then, everyone was traumatized. Lennon was cut down right at his comeback, just as Michael was. That very day he was killed, John and Yoko had posed with Annie Leibowitz for a Rolling Stone cover. The same day.

So you can empathize with the difficulty that Rolling Stone would have been having at seeing anyone in John’s place. Who, this black kid? Who used to do Alpha-Bits commercials? Similar to how we might respond to anyone daring to step into Michael’s place, as Michael Arceneaux expresses in a this piece for VH1: “Let’s Stop Comparing The Weeknd, Chris Brown, + Anyone Else To Michael Jackson.”

But Rolling Stone was also predisposed to be generally hateful anyway. And they had not got their heads around the difference between mourning and the rockist worldview. So right here at this moment in 1983, when he is on top of the world, you see Michael being thrown into the Paul box that existed at that time, classified as a slick, commercial, non-serious artist.

Willa: Yes, and that’s evident in the article itself. It’s mostly about MTV, but everyone even remotely associated with MTV is tainted. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the Rolling Stone writer, Steven Levy, privileges music over all else, and sees videos simply as marketing. As he writes, “After watching hours and days of MTV, it’s tough to avoid the conclusion that rock & roll has been replaced by commercials.” So while I see Michael Jackson as an incredible multimedia artist whose films were amazing and a crucially important part of his art – perhaps the place where his art reaches its fullest expression – Levy looks at those videos and sees nothing but “commercials.” And he sees the artists who participate in creating videos as sell-outs – one of the worst labels a rockist can slap on a musician.

D.B.: I think this is where Rolling Stone and others completely went off track, because Michael was a socially conscious artist in the best Lennon tradition.

Willa:  Absolutely.

D.B.: You know, every time there is a Playlist for Peace after a tragedy, Jackson and Lennon are always on it together.

Willa: That’s true.

D.B.: This has all got me thinking a lot about Michael’s relationship with Yoko and Sean. I wonder if it is a more significant factor than we realized in how Michael was viewed, personally and symbolically. We knew that there was resentment among the rockists around buying the Beatles catalog, but it’s likely much deeper and more emotional than that.

And Michael himself: what did the relationship mean to him personally? Did he relate to the unfair treatment she’d received? Yoko and Sean were the first mother-son combo that he was close to, right? Was Michael inspired artistically by Yoko, the way John was? McCartney has given Yoko the credit for John’s peace song period – “Imagine,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “War Is Over.”  Did Michael promise Yoko he would carry on for John?

Willa: Those are interesting questions, D.B. I don’t know how to answer them, but I do think Michael Jackson wanted to help Sean Lennon after his father died and took on something of a fatherly or big brotherly role with him. They spent a lot of time together for several years, and I’m struck by the concluding scenes of Moonwalker. Sean plays a street kid named “Sean” (that seems significant) who is befriended by the main character “Michael.” Near the end of the movie Michael tells Sean, “I want to show you something special,” then goes onstage and performs a John Lennon song: “Come Together.”

To me, it seems he’s showing Sean that his father’s work is important, that it’s respected by other artists, and that his music lives on even though he himself is gone. That’s a pretty powerful message for a “commercial.”

D.B.: Oh I had forgotten they used their real names.

Willa:  Yes, and they are the only two characters who did.

D.B.: This is sounding more like the personal promise I wondered about.  Michael’s performance of “Come Together” was also included in a 1990 broadcast called Lennon: A Tribute. And of course later Michael combined “Come Together” with “D.S.” in performance, which is connected thematically, because Lennon had been a target of the Nixon administration and was also investigated by the FBI. The INS even tried to deport Lennon.

Willa:  That’s true. I hadn’t connected “Come Together”/“D.S.” with the FBI investigations of Lennon and the deportation attempt (which is so reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin) but you’re right. It all fits, doesn’t it?

D.B.: It certainly seems to. It seems like classic Michael; there is always a reason for what he does. And Yoko wanted Michael to have the catalog, even over herself and Paul. That says a lot about her trust in him. I’d guess it made Michael more of a target to the rockists, given that he was associating with this woman who was hated. Not just that he got the catalog, but did it with her blessing.

Willa:  Yes, Randy Taraborrelli quotes a November 1990 interview where Yoko Ono said this about the acquisition:

Businessmen who aren’t artists themselves wouldn’t have the consideration Michael has. He loves the songs. He’s very caring. There could be a lot of arguments and stalemates if Paul and I owned it together. Neither Paul nor I needed that. If Paul got the songs, people would have said, “Paul finally got John.” And if I got them, they’d say, “Oh, the dragon lady strikes again.”

So she has been supportive of his ownership of the songs. But there have been a lot of snide comments about it among white critics, especially, implying that Michael Jackson did something sneaky, something that wasn’t quite cricket in buying the songs of a fellow artist.

D.B.: Yes. There it is again. Everything Michael does is somehow illegitimate. So, let me ask a question … if the cover shows discomfort with Michael in John’s “rightful place” next to McCartney, and we know people were upset about Michael owning Lennon-McCartney songs, then how might the rockists have felt about Michael taking John’s “rightful place” next to John’s wife and son?

You see where I am going with this? It could get very nasty….

Willa: Yes, and it did get nasty. You know, it’s interesting, D.B. I never connected this back to John Lennon before, but in reading coverage of the 1993 allegations, I’ve frequently been struck by the feeling that writers accused Michael Jackson not so much of molestation – though of course that suspicion was always there in the background – but of stealing a white man’s son, a white man’s family, away from him.

D.B.: Yes they did! I had forgotten! In the beginning it was only – Michael is taking this man’s son. Oh my goodness. Oh. wow.

Willa: Yes, and there are strong racial overtones in the media’s handling of his own children also – that they are not legitimately his, but instead belong to some as-yet-unknown white father: maybe Mark Lester, maybe Arnold Klein, maybe Marlon Brando. I honestly believe the paternity of his kids is only an issue because of race. The underlying narrative seems to be that he was a black man raising “white” children, and that wasn’t a legitimate role for him. It wasn’t his “rightful place,” to use that phrase once again.

D.B.: Right. Knopper does go after the children in Genius, too. I am paraphrasing, but he says only Jackson’s family think the children are his, and that’s just because they come with money attached. I agree with you; this type of attack just fits with everything else we have seen from the white male heterosexual press. It is necessary to diminish someone else only if you are trying to establish or maintain your own dominance. If that person happens to be an extraordinarily potent black man…

Willa:  … then there’s an impulse to trivialize his accomplishments. Yes, I agree.

D.B.:  Or throw him in jail.

Willa:  Or publicly humiliate him and drive him from his home.

This reminds me of something else in Levy’s Rolling Stone article. Levy begins by providing important evidence of MTV’s exclusion of black artists, which I found really interesting, and he specifically talks about the struggle to get Billie Jean on the MTV playlist. But then later he singles out Michael Jackson as a prime example of MTV. So according to Levy, Michael Jackson is both excluded from and epitomizes MTV – both an outsider and the ultimate insider. That doesn’t make sense.

D.B.:  Maybe they were just throwing anything that would stick. But you’re right, it’s very conflicted. Levy says MTV should have expected criticism for not playing black artists because the channel was behaving like a place “where Reagan’s values are honored more than John Lennon’s.” But then there is a sidebar story: “Jackson and McCartney’s Supervideo: Say What?”

Willa: Yes, which is basically a conversation with director Bob Giraldi on whether or not videos are “advertisements.” So we’re back again to the rockist obsession with not selling out.

On a little side note, I was in California last week and visited the Union Hotel in Los Alamos, where some scenes from Say Say Say were filmed.  Here’s the bedroom where they shot the shaving scene:

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And the pool table, though it’s been moved to a different room:

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Here’s the bar where Michael Jackson’s character sees LaToya’s character (notice all the money stuck to the ceiling):

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And the swinging doors where they leave the bar:

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And here are the back stairs they run down to escape from the police:

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D.B.: Oh I am so jealous. No fair, lol. How did you feel being in those rooms?

Willa:  Well, I hate to gloat, but it was fabulous! It’s a beautiful building from the 1880s, and I absolutely loved it. And if you look closely in this picture, you can see the Rolling Stone magazine cover we’ve been talking about. They have it in a glass case:

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So everything’s connected.

D.B.: I’m so happy you had the opportunity to go.

Willa:  So am I! It was really fun. Well, thank you so much for joining me, D.B. As always, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I gain so much from our conversations.

D.B.: Thank you so much for inviting me, Willa. It’s always a pleasure and this has been fascinating.

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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 November 19, 2015, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 193 Comments.

  1. Loving this article! I am relieved to know that I am not the only one who-at the tender age of 12-years-old- to be confused be Rolling Stone’s coverage of Michael.through the years.(I am 46 years now(seriously how did that number sneak up on me?))

  2. Just a few of my thoughts …
    The Beatles also made short films for some of their music. One in particular that I know I am familiar with is Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever. I don’t think that Rolling Stone would ever accuse this video or short film of being a marketing tool, though in the end it most likely was. I am not commenting on the quality of the film, it is very good and would recommend it be viewed by all if you have not ever done so. But in the end the Beatles made money off their art, as do most established artists. And….as does Rolling Stone.

    I for one do not feel that there is anything “cool” or “underground” or “avant garde” about Rolling Stone. To me they cater to a very commercial and corporate rock scene. Perhaps in the very, very, beginning stages of their publication they may have been…but that changed pretty much right away. So when it comes to someone “selling out” perhaps they should take a long hard look in the mirror.

    On the one hand it is all well and good that some are finally begrudgingly admitting that Michael Jackson may have been given a raw deal and he is in fact innocent, but why do we have to settle for such trivial nonsense under the guise of “definitive” biographies of Michael Jackson….it is my hope that perhaps with even more distance maybe…maybe, we may see a truly honest bio of him. But that may never happen in my lifetime and I am not being facetious when I say this.

    I read some of the customer reviews on Knopper’s book and a few of the reviews have commented that he did interview quite a few people but they were low end so to speak, meaning that people that love and respect Michael, that worked closely with him, are not interested in giving anyone, much less a writer from Rolling Stone, the time of day, perhaps in fear that their words will be twisted and misconstrued. So he ended up with record company hacks, and other individuals that either have a score to settle with Michael or Sony, or whoever…

    A nice little entry here, thank you D.B. for all that you have done in defense of Michael Jackson.

    • Thank you Terry. Very good point that Rolling Stone itself is profiting off these lies. Every page view is an ad impression that generates revenue; every untrue story that panders to a specific worldview is a potential subscriber.

      I notice that they have not bothered to issue a correction to Claire Hoffman’s 2009 autopsy story, even though Sullivan was forced to admit the error and Knopper has confirmed it. Perhaps acknowledging that twenty years of their reporting about Jackson’s nose was false is too uncomfortable in light of the current lawsuit for the UVA rape story. Far better to try and distract from it, and justify themselves with some new Jackson shade.

      It’s not working though.

    • “I for one do not feel that there is anything “cool” or “underground” or “avant garde” about Rolling Stone. To me they cater to a very commercial and corporate rock scene. Perhaps in the very, very, beginning stages of their publication they may have been…but that changed pretty much right away. So when it comes to someone “selling out” perhaps they should take a long hard look in the mirror. ”

      So true. Not only RS, but even MTV had snobbish attitudes against the “commercialization” of music back in the 80s and even 90s, which was especially ironic from them. I don’t know if any of you could guess which video won MTV’s Video of The Year in 1989? Well, this one:

      In a year when we had the the timeless classic of Smooth Criminal, this video is declared Video of The Year on MTV… (Smooth Criminal actually did not even win Best Dance Video. Instead that was given to Paula Abdul’s Straight Up. Can you believe it?)

      I always found this in poor taste for several reasons. One is that it is hypocritical of MTV. If they have issues with the commercialization of music they should take a look in the mirror first. They were not any less commercial than any of the artists on their programs. They were a business, that made business out of music, that sold commercial spots between the music videos, for God’s sake!

      Second, Michael Jackson was the artist that basically put them on the map earlier in the 80s, so why do they take petty jabs at him like that?

      Third, of course it is very tasteless to make fun of someone’s painful, life changing accident.

      Maybe I should not be surprised, after all MTV was born out of the same rockist attitudes as RS. Initially they refused to play anything but white rock music. Thing is however, that it was when MJ started to release videos like Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller that highrocketed MTV’s ratings and that made them the phenomenon they were. But maybe the rockist attitudes were still there in them deep down.

      • Thank you so much for sharing this. I don’t remember seeing that video by Neil Young before. The mockery of Michael and Whitney Houston too is outrageous.

        Two black pop artists “who are not the real thing.” I shouldn’t be shocked at all since it supports my thesis, but still. This is so very blatant. And this won MTV’s Video of The Year in 1989.

        I believe that when Michael called Mottola a racist in 2002, it was only the last straw. He finally spoke up after enduring years of racist attitudes. Most of it, he bore with grace.

      • Hi jacksonaktak. This video ties in precisely with the rockist insistence on maintaining a clear division between “authentic” rock musicians who don’t “sell out” their art, and slick commercial pop entertainers who do. Thanks a lot for sharing.

        I remember when this video came out (though I didn’t remember it getting Video of the Year! heavens) and supposedly it was meant as a sharp rebuke of Eric Clapton for this Michelob commercial:

        It’s true the Neil Young video is a direct parody of that commercial. But to my mind, it’s a much harsher slap against Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Eric Clapton was revered as an “authentic” blues/rock artist, so it horrified purists when he appeared in an ad. But still, he’s one of their own. So while he may get a subtle critique (which is easy to miss if you haven’t seen this commercial), he doesn’t inspire the mean-spirited condemnation Michael Jackson receives here.

        btw, I love Neil Young, and have for a long time. He’s a talented songwriter with a beautiful voice and a lovely turn of phrase. But he’s not the artist Michael Jackson was – someone who alters our perceptions and challenges our preconceived notions about how we define art and genre, or social conventions like race and nationality, or even how we define ourselves – which makes it all the more ironic that Young is ridiculing him for not living up to his artistic standards.

  3. “I’m not inclined to be grateful for tardy conclusions that he was innocent the entire time unless accompanied by some expression of horror that it happened at all.” D.B.Anderson

    My sentiments exactly.

  4. Thank you Willa and DB for having this discussion –

    This is basically what we were expressing just last week on our Twitter — — The BIG revelations that both Sullivan and Knopper have regarding Michael’s innocence and them needing to express in their repective BOOKS, is as the old saying goes “a day late, and a dollar short” – Michael Jackson fans have known for nigh over 22 yrs that Michael Jackson was totally innocent of molesting any child. The information has been readily available. FBI files, court documents, testimony, declarations, grand jury findings etc were all there just ready for the taking .. yet it took Michael’s death & 6yrs of contemplating for these two to actually go take a looksee and speak to issue of his innocence? Really ?

    “Progress”

    It is just infuriating.

    As Terry Dutton says –
    “On the one hand it is all well and good that some are finally begrudgingly admitting that Michael Jackson may have been given a raw deal and he is in fact innocent, but why do we have to settle for such trivial nonsense under the guise of “definitive” biographies of Michael Jackson….”

    Exactly .. NOTHING “definitive” about Knopper’s book .. hell reviews have stated that he doesn’t even really speak of Michael’s “GENIUS” which could actually fill Volumes if appropriately studied.

    Most fans would have been greatly appreiciative of these two writers had they did this research years ago – when Michael was being dragged mercilessly by every publication including their own as “weird” “wacko” with negative insinuations and assumptions tagged therein – We don’t NEED these Rolling Stone writers to “begrudingly” or otherwise admit to what we’ve known for decades. Are we supposed to be grateful that they finally figured it out?

    Where were these “jounalists” back then? On the let’s rip Michael Jackson down bandwagon?

    And I’d like to know who they think is the customer base for such books .. except the Michael Jackson fanbase ? Honestly, how many none fans will shell out money for a book entitled “Genius of Michael Jackson”? So one must assume that these two writers felt their assessments of his non guilt will now make all of his fans Thrilled .. enough to buy their damned books- To put money in their pockets? Thinking.. NOT

    We shouldn’t have to BUY their revelations.. All of this should be written up for FREE .. just as all of the slander, defamation and attacks on his character have been for the last +20 years.

    • I feel you. My conclusion is that this book was not intended for Michael’s fans; it is intended for all those people who were maligning him in the past, and who need a rationale for now appreciating Jackson’s music in light of his renewed popularity. It’s attempt to justify why laudatory press is okay now. It’s a book for white people in the press.

      It’s progress only among that circle of people and their unfortunate readers.

      This is my response as a white person; I would love to know what black writers like Mark Anthony Neal have to say. It starts off with a sappy story about racism in Gary in 1927, and ends with a quote by Ghostface Killa, but says nothing in between. It’s a pretty transparent attempt and won’t fool anyone who’s woke.

      (BTW Justice- I should have noted in the text it was a Twitter convo with you that got me thinking about Lennon’s FBI investigation and D.S. Thank you!)

      • It brings me great joy that such a small mention of a thought can springboard you into researching. I remember the tweet where MJJJP tweeted and wondered what was Michael Jackson intention when he performed “Come Together” when it was his practice NOT to do covers .. .. Your ability to make the connections between Yoko and her ill treatment by Rolling Stone and Michael’s as well as the symbolic “famililal” substitution of Michael for John Lennon is a WOAH revelation to be sure.

        “Willa: Yes, and it did get nasty. You know, it’s interesting, D.B. I never connected this back to John Lennon before, but in reading coverage of the 1993 allegations, I’ve frequently been struck by the feeling that writers accused Michael Jackson not so much of molestation – though of course that suspicion was always there in the background – but of stealing a white man’s son, a white man’s family, away from him.

        D.B.: Yes they did! I had forgotten! In the beginning it was only – Michael is taking this man’s son. Oh my goodness. Oh. wow.

        Willa: Yes, and there are strong racial overtones in the media’s handling of his own children also – that they are not legitimately his, but instead belong to some as-yet-unknown white father: maybe Mark Lester, maybe Arnold Klein, maybe Marlon Brando. I honestly believe the paternity of his kids is only an issue because of race. The underlying narrative seems to be that he was a black man raising “white” children, and that wasn’t a legitimate role for him. It wasn’t his “rightful place,” to use that phrase once again. ”

        “Stealing a white man’s son” made me immediaely remember Evan Chandler saying something similar to this on his taped phone conversation – he was complaining that Michael came in and took the love of his son- took his family – (even though he was no longer married to June) So you hit the nail squarely on the head.

        And your point Willa of media trying to find a different father for his children is, in my opinion because they dont want to accept his DNA in Prince, Paris and Blanket. This is repeated in comments by mjtrolls that often stalk articles having anything to do with his children. Him being the biological father just won’t be accepted because it cannot jibe with the idea that he was asexual or gay or sexually deviant & predator n some way.

        and I might add something although it can take this discussion off into a different direction ..but let me digress a bit about B.Howard. There are some people who really WANT to believe that BHoward is Michael’s secret son because they want him to have a black child – they’ve gone so far as to tell him to challenge those “white kids and get your rightful inheritance” Recently saw Marlon Wayans posted a tongue in cheek article about BHoward being Michael’s son – so i wonder just how it’s about to be blown up in other media formats. because THAT would be the “rightful place” of Michael Jackson –

        Let’s take this one step further .. Michael Jackson was/is a father figure to children all over the world- He in fact called them “my babies” and his reason for living and again this had to have made people bristle because he was a black man and him being seen as a Universal father figure was not going to be accepted as his “rightful place”

        Michael Jackson bucked the system and he paid dearly for it .

        “He was a teen idol. The FIRST black teen idol” Willa wrote in M Poetica and that is a post all in itself.

        “In 1983, Michael Jackson had become a sexy young man” Willa also wrote .. and HE said that when white women starting yelling they wanted to sleep with him … a shift in his popularity in media was obvious. ..

        We can never examine any bias against Michael without having the grim reality that racism played and still plays a role in any discussion.

        It’s just a real sad fact.

        • You said: “Michael Jackson was/is a father figure to children all over the world- He in fact called them “my babies” and his reason for living and again this had to have made people bristle because he was a black man and him being seen as a Universal father figure was not going to be accepted as his “rightful place.”

          Not at all convenient for the dominant narrative bemoaning the absence of black fathers, was it?

          • Exactly, Michael was the example of how to be an upstanding black male. . His songs were about personal responsibility and the downfalls that occur when love of money, or lust are driving forces rather than compassion, caring and love. “if you can’t feed your baby , then don’t have a baby” might have been the first admonition to men not to have children if you don’t want to take care of them- He was such a great preacher within the confines of his outstanding art that the rhythm and beat kept listeners from thinking too much about the morals he was trying to stress- but the lessons most certainly did permeate the brain.

            And what do we need in this world MORE than examples of good men .. black, white or any shade in between ? Yet he would be denied that privileged honor based on lies, manipulations and salacious rumor because Michael Jackson as you say was inconvenient to the accepted narrative.

          • Sorry late to the party – only just found this blog – still not getting email notifications from WordPress!!!

            I so agree with this comment from MJJ JusticeProject below

            ‘He was such a great preacher within the confines of his outstanding art that the rhythm and beat kept listeners from thinking too much about the morals he was trying to stress- but the lessons most certainly did permeate the brain.’

            There are many many examples of this throughout Michael’s work, but for me one song that really fits this bill is Abortion Papers. I find myself rocking out to this song every time I hear it while singing such potent words like ‘think about life I’d like to have my child’ WOW

  5. I have read both books and think I need to read them again! But I live to see the day that one of MICHAELS children would take that stand and write the book of MY FATHERS LIFE MICHAEL JACKSON A MAN THE WORLD MISUNDERSTOOD! it may not happen in my life time or they will not be allowed but I wish this will come true!

  6. Thank you for this discussion. When you spoke about ‘rockism’ and protecting a particular
    belief system…the originals as ideals and anything/anyone after, especially a black man, doesn’t deserve/stole/lied/manipulated/copied, etc…It just makes so much sense…not the action and belief, per se, but the truth of it..the whys and hows and anger and dismissal of someone who rocked their world of music dogma. Michael was up against that wall of denial and racism and he didn’t stop pushing against it…courageous man.

  7. I haven’t read Sullivan’s book, because in reviews, people said that he believed that Michael never molested a child, and in fact, never had sex of any kind! This is why I was shocked to hear that Mesereau endorsed the book. This statement emasculates Michael, and I would think that Mes would have stood up for him. If people accept this statement, then it goes back to the question of Michael being the biological father of his children. I’ve never heard of another celebrity being so badgered about the parentage of his children the way it has been done to MIchael. It seems that Mesereau felt it was more important that Sullivan believed Michael never molestated any child, I would have hoped that he would have challenged Sullivan on such a ridiculous statement.

    I bought Knopper’s book, based on the title, with the hope that this was a book that would finally speak to Michael’s genius instead of the usual harping about his perceived idiosyncracies. I haven’t had time to read it, and then I began to hear about the excerpts mentioned here, and I lost interest in opening it. I guess I will have to wait a bit longer for the book that will finally speak to Michael’s genius.

    I have high hopes for Kerry Anderson’s book that will be released next year. He was Michael’s bodyguard during the trial and for a period of time after. I heard his interview on The “King Jordan Radio Talk Show”, and he has the utmost respect for Michae. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

    • Yes, Sullivan did write that he believed Michael died a virgin. Freud would have a field day with these things. The missing nose can be read as symbolic castration. This is just desperate wish projection.

      Mesereau cooperated extensively with Sullivan on the trial portion of the book because he believed it was very significant that a writer for Rolling Stone was going to state Michael’s innocence.

      But Sullivan perpetuated some of the prevailing rockist narrative about Michael. And in my opinion, that original narrative is the root cause that led to the trial. People inside the press struggle with gaining enough perspective to realize that their entire industry failed in a spectacular way. White writers especially.

      It is common in the publishing industry to avoid publishing negative reviews – if you don’t like a book you stay silent. But in this case, the books themselves are my topic. No good can come from staying silent and allowing them their delusions. One of my Twitter followers tweeted something interesting last night – not about Michael but it fits. To paraphrase, “I was discussing white privilege with a friend and she said I am too hard on white people….to them I say, the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

      Her essay is here. http://oceanbetweenus.com/2015/11/19/how-is-white-privilege-like-global-warming/

      • D.B . does Sullivan state how he came to this conclusion, when Lisa Marie Presley has stated, publicly, more than once, that she and Michael had a normal marriage which included sex? There have also been other friends of Michael who have spoken to this topic as well. I think it is unconscionable of Sullivan to make such a hypothosis when there is definitive evidence to the contrary.

        • Sullivan barely mentions Presley, unless I am missing it. What he says in the conclusion is this – referring to the small, secure room which William Bone had built in (and which is very common in estates of the wealthy):

          “One legitimate possibility was that the secret room was where MJ came to join those babies on the wall, to be one among them, not necessarily wearing a diaper or sucking on a milk bottle (though such notions couldn’t simply be dismissed in Michael’s case) but to travel back in time as far as it was possible to go, where he could imagine being born again as the child he had so long yearned to be….

          Of all the answers one might offer to the central question hanging over the memory of Michael Jackson, the one best supported by the evidence was that he died as a fifty year old virgin, never having had sexual intercourse with any man, woman, or child.”

          The “central question hanging over Michael” is a fantasy existing only in the minds of men – “how can we sexually neutralize/castrate this guy.”

          • DB That is a very perceptive comment– “the central question hanging over Michael” is “How can we sexually neutralize/castrate this guy?” — all based on men’s fantasy and their feeling threatened in various ways — by his success/talent/ genius/ popularity/ charisma/ sex appeal.
            I was a fan since the first J5 records and I well remember what a phenomenon it was as the cute lil black kid grew up and so many white girls joined us in our admiration and were screaming and fainting and showing their attraction to a Black man. My grandma was afraid racists would kill him. (Which in a way, they did. It was just via a decades-long torture.)

            I don’t mean it was all race. It also drove some men crazy that so many women were attracted despite him not behaving in a stereotypical macho fashion.

          • Neolsis, for some reason I am unable to reply directly to your comment so I hope you get this. You said:

            “….so many white girls joined us in our admiration and were screaming and fainting and showing their attraction to a Black man. My grandma was afraid racists would kill him. (Which in a way, they did. It was just via a decades-long torture.)

            “I don’t mean it was all race. It also drove some men crazy that so many women were attracted despite him not behaving in a stereotypical macho fashion.”

            This makes ALL the sense. So many of Michael’s qualities that made him so attractive to women – empathy, kindness, humility, (not to mention physical) – were the opposite of what “real men” thought they should be. In attacking Michael, there is a great deal of misogyny – getting their women back in line.

            I still remember that after Thriller there seemed to be an expectation in the press that Michael would be out clubbing every night and banging every girl in sight. Doing the alpha-male chest pounding thing, and I don’t know, maybe sharing his leftovers with the boys in the band? I seem to recall a sense of disappointment. For women though, not doing that only made him more desirable, because he just radiated an innate respect for women that was rare in those days.

  8. This week, and for several to come, right through the Christmas season, certain popular cable channels, such as Reelz and Ovation, are regurgitating years old unauthorized, poorly researched “documentaries” of Michael’s “life and times including his problems with drug addiction and child abuse charges”. There are repeats of Shephard’s autopsy series, not only on Michael, but also Whitney Houston, Anna Nicole Smith and even Elvis. BETtv has ManInTheMirror, that dreadful 2004 “biopic” with Flex Alexander that Michael himself complained about, first shown as he awaited trial. Reelz is starting a new series in a few weeks “Dr.Feelgood”; guess who is the subject of the first episode?

    As has been stated in this post, while some authors are now reluctantly begrudgingly acknowleding that Michael may be innocent and “got a fair trial” (which in my opinion is still not enough), as long as cable and network stations, with their vast reach, continue their scandalous, erroneous depictions of the man as a drug addict with an unhealthy interest in young children, while showing interest only in increased ratings, there is still a very long way to go in attempting to convince young viewers with short attention spans of the horrific miscarriage of justice that occurred in 2005 when Michael Jackson was put on trial.

    I somewhat agree that Sullivan’s and Knopper’s “admissions” are a step in the right direction but it is not enough, and with our system of freedom of an unrestrained media, I don’t see an outright apology to Michael or his children anywhere in the foreseeable future as long as money can be made advancing the opposite agenda.

  9. I think that those books by Sullivan and Knopper may have some good information, but i can’t accept those books as “definitive biographies about Michael Jackson’s life” like they’re being marketed. I can’t overlook the fact that despite researching about the trial and talking with Tom Mesereau about the lack of evidence of Michael’s guilty, the amount of exculpatory evidence and the overzelous prosecution perpretated by Sneddon, Sullivan based his conclusion about MJ’s innocence by saying he was “pressexual” and probably died virgin so he didn’t molest any boy that accused him. I can’t recomend this book.

    In regards to Knopper’s book, i can’t endorse a book that seems to suggest that Michael Jackson “stole” the moonwalk from past entertainers when Michael never claimed to have invented the moonwalk and always named his artistics infuences in his career. And another thing that i can’t get pass is some of the Knopper’s comments being made in the interviews promoting his book like this for example:

    “You were able to speak with Donald Trump, who obviously had considerable contact with Michael Jackson in the past. What was he able to shine a light on that maybe you didn’t know as much about?

    A couple of things. He was present for some key moments in Michael’s life. Michael lived in Trump Tower in New York, where he was recording the HIStory album, so Trump came into contact with him then. Also, when Michael and Lisa Marie Presley stayed at the Key Largo, and Trump owns that. He claims he was present for when Michael and Lisa Marie went up in the tower and stayed up in one particular tower for four or five days straight. That’s one of the closest testimonies we have that maybe Michael and Lisa Marie actually did have relations.”

    Like Sullivan, he totally disregard the numerous times that Lisa Marie Presley confirmed through the years that her marriage with Michael was a normal marriage. But i guess for the general public, those kind of comments are fair since they only started to see Michael Jackson as a human being recently, more precisely, since 2009.

  10. Good point; it always has been and still is very insulting to Lisa Marie to doubt her statements. The questioning of Michael’s marriage is another example of the assumption that everything he did was illegitimate. Interesting that it takes a white man who wasn’t even in their bedroom to clear it all up for us.

    There is an interesting recent piece in Atlantic called ‘All Music Magazines Are Men’s Magazines’ that give some historical examples of the women-as-object nature of the music press:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2015/10/all-music-magazines-are-mens-magazines/410551/

    • I completely agree with you about this biased narrative that everything Michael did in his personal live or career was illegitimate. A couple of days ago, Paul Mccartney posted on his instagram account and on his twitter, a picture of he and MJ together and some of the replies were like “before he betrayed you”. Since when Michael bought the ATV catalog, the press (and paul to a lesser extent) started this myth that Michael betrayed Paul and obtained that catalog in a illegitimate way. This agenda was evident by the press coverage about Michael through the years. These books about Michael simply follow the old mold like you said by trying to reinforce the idea that Michael wasn’t “that great”, that he was dishonest, that he was manipulative by saying that Michael “stole” the moonwalk, Michael “stole” Bob Fosse’s moves, Michael “stole” ATV catalog, Michael “stole” songs from others songwriters. The same pattern followed in his personal life, they say Michael lied about his marriages, about his children, about his skin disease, about his plastic surgery, about his pure love for children. In resume, they want to feel justified for have judged him because It was his own fault for being a dishonest and “weird” person.

  11. Interesting conversation. I have been interested in why RS is so dismissive of MJ but by now I guess I just came to accept that they simply never understood MJ either as a person or as an artist and probably never will. And it doesn’t really matter – MJ doesn’t need their approval at all. He is doing very well without their support as well.

    But to address that dismissive attitude of RS against him: it did not just start with MJ’s huge commercial success and big budget videos. They simply NEVER got him as an artist. Remember when they refused to give Off The Wall a cover story in 1979 despite of MJ’s record label asking for it and despite of the album’s great success? Here is the letter:

    “We would very much like to do a major piece on Michael Jackson, but we feel it is not a cover story.”

    It is ironic that now RS will say that Off The Wall is MJ’s best album and they will give it five stars. I guess by now they just cannot get around the fact that it is an album with an influence that is felt until this day. Probably more so than any album by any artist they did put on their cover in 1979.

    Another interesting point about RS was made by Joe Vogel who pointed out in one of his articles how few MJ covers RS has compared to many other artists and it doesn’t only include the usual suspects – the predictacle RS favourites: Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Springsteen etc. Considering their target audience and aesthetics that could be explained away simply by RS being rock focused – especially earlier in their history. However white pop artists like Madonna and Britney Spears(!) also have more covers than MJ. Here is what Vogel wrote:

    “Yet over the long haul, Jackson’s initial concern seems legitimate. As shown in the breakdown below, his appearances on the front cover of Rolling Stone, the United States’ most visible music publication, are far fewer than those of white artists:

    John Lennon: 30
    Mick Jagger: 29
    Paul McCartney: 26
    Bob Dylan: 22
    Bono: 22
    Bruce Springsteen: 22
    Madonna: 20
    Britney Spears: 13
    Michael Jackson: 8 (two came after he died; one featured Paul McCartney as well)

    Is it really possible that Michael Jackson, arguably the most influential artist of the 20th century, merited less than half the coverage of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna?”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/02/the-misunderstood-power-of-michael-jacksons-music/252751/

    Please notice that out of the 8 MJ covers two came after MJ died, so during his lifetime it was only 6. And one of those was the above mentioned shared one with McCartney and I think there was one another which was a cartoon – more a caricature. Here: http://assets.rollingstone.com/assets/images/music/2009/galleries/michael-jackson-the-rolling-stone-covers/rolling-stone-cover-issue-509-michael-jackson-cartoon-and-september-24-1987-79185/28852403-28852404-large.jpg

    To be honest, while RS was once considered a cultural gatekeeper, I think nowadays more and more people are starting to take issues with their obvious biases, one-sided and outdated aesthetics and call them out on it. The other day I found this article published in the Wall Street Journal in 2012: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303567704577514400041298544

    Extracts from the article:

    “Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is now on the newsstands. But if you miss this year’s rendition, no worries: The top 21 albums on the list are the same as on Rolling Stone’s list from 2003. To call it predictable or a cliché is to let it off easy.

    The magazine doesn’t publish the criteria for judging what makes an album great, nor does it explain why it chooses 500 instead of 50, or 50,000, but the usual suspects fill out the top 10 slots: four albums by the Beatles, including “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at No. 1; two by Bob Dylan; and one each by the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye and the Rolling Stones, all released between 1965 and 1972. Rounding out the top 10 is the Clash’s “London Calling,” the youngster of the bunch: It was issued in the U.S. in early 1980. This affinity for music of an ever-distant past may provide comfort for generationally biased boomer-era rock fans, but for the rest of us, it reinforces the fiction that popular music reached its zenith four decades ago.

    The Rolling Stone 500 would be easily dismissed as a marketing stunt were it not for the sad fact that the superiority of boomer-era rock is viewed by some as truth. These folks would agree with what Rolling Stone says about its top album: “‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ is the most important rock & roll album ever made”; it is “rock’s ultimate declaration of change.” No, it is not. It had predecessors that made it possible and that are thus at least as important. And “Sgt. Pepper” brought no greater change to rock and pop music than did subsequent recordings like “Crosby Stills & Nash,” “The Ramones,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” or Radiohead’s “Kid A.”

    (…)

    “A look at the raw numbers shows how the list is skewed toward preserving the boomer-rock myth. Of its 500 albums, 292 were released in the ’60s or ’70s, a highly improbable 59%. Only 8% of the listed albums were released in this century; only two were issued this decade—and one of those, “Smile” by the Beach Boys, was recorded 46 years ago. The other listed album from the current decade is Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” which Rolling Stone’s panel of “artists, producers, industry executives and journalists” rank at No. 353. Albums by the Yardbirds sit at Nos. 350 and 355.”

    (…)

    “In the introduction to the issue, Elton John writes: “In the Sixties and Seventies, you could buy 12 albums a week that were all classics.” No you couldn’t. Maybe one week a year, especially if you were catching up by buying those you missed. But not every week, not most weeks or even some weeks. Mr. John’s memories speak to our sentimental attachment to the music of our youth. It’s a powerful thing, but the power often resides in the sentiment rather than the quality of the music. That power can blind us so that we may delude ourselves into believing in the supremacy of one era in music, an era that ended more than 40 years ago.”

    The good thing is, however, that Michael Jackson does not need the Rolling Stone’s support or stamp of approval. He never did. He became huge despite of their dismissive attitude against him and his star is shining bright in spite of everything that the RS wrote about him over the years either as an artist or a person. MJ is simply bigger than the influence of RS. At the end of the day people will listen to what they like, not what someone tells them to like (except for the extreme snobbish types). Especially on the long term when all dust of initial hype and media favouritism settles. And when I look at current streaming services which are probably used mainly by young people, MJ’s catalog is doing phenomenally well. It stood the test of time, so I am not worried about some baby-boomers’ opinion about him.

  12. It would be nice if Lisa Marie stood up for MIchael, and called-out Knopper on his outrageous theory. It would be a the decent thing for her to do, since she ranks pretty high on the list for those who trashed Michael publicly. The absolute worst, was the interview she and her mother gave to Oprah Winfrey, They had so much they wanted to get into the public that it actually took two shows to do it. Oprah, who also did her best to put doubt in the mind of the public about his innocence, never questioned a thing they said. It is ironic that Priscilla was especially vicious, considering her ex-husband, Elvis Presly, could be considered a child molester since he brought her to live with him when she was only fourteen, but you never hear one peep about that in the media, do you? The one thing that speaks to Michael’s character, was that when he was asked if he wanted to respond to Lisa Marie’s various comments/accusations, he, like the gentleman he was, merely said that he only wished Lisa the best.

  13. I’m going to play armchair psychiatrist and suggest that RS’s coverage of Michael may have been influenced by Jann Wenner’s personal struggles with his own sexuality. Wenner left his wife and began living openly with a male partner in the 1990s , when coming out of the closet was still a very big deal, especially for a married man with children. Throughout his life, Michael Jackson was a sexy, black, forbidden object of desire for both women and men. Perhaps Wenner (and Sullivan, and Knopper) fought an attraction to Michael by publicly denigrating him. It may seem far-fetched, but at least two current TV personalities, who still, in 2015, are compelled to make disparaging ‘jokes’ about Michael, are gossiped about as deeply – closeted, maintaining sham marriages for the sake of their careers.

  14. I am back again…I am attaching a link to a review for Knopper’s book. It seems like Michael’s legacy is being re-written, yet again. Now thanks to a book like Knopper’s, it’s like, “well he was pretty damn good early on but his talent denigrated, and he became a sad and pitiful human being, BUT…. we should remember him for the early days.”

    As much as I find it good that he is being given some credit now for being a great artist, it is still hooked with these “buts” so to speak…to me his music became more powerful as he matured. I find this aspect of these new bios even more troublesome…

    And to top it off, the writer of the review is praising Knopper for being such a good researcher and not “paying” for information regarding Michael Jackson….I find this quite laughable.

    http://www.popmatters.com/review/mj-the-genius-of-michael-jackson-by-steve-knopper/

    • This is exactly why I can’t endorse these books even though they have some good bits here and there. I realize, of course, as i have stated many times, that the popularly held narrative of Michael Jackson isn’t going to change overnight. It will have to come by degrees. Nevertheless, I have a hard time accepting these half baked accounts, which unfortunately, will be deemed as “credible” in the mainstream media just because the authors happen to have writing for “Rolling Stone” as a credit on their resume.

      I still have an issue with the attempts to emasculate his sexuality; to perpetuate falsehoods about his surgeries; to denigrate his post-Thriller work, and so on. It’s great that these books may be changing some perceptions about the allegations. However, many blogs are still better researched (however, I’m well aware of the flip side of that argument, which is that most blogs are still only reaching other fans). What is even more frustrating is that when fans attempt to correct these issues, or even simply to point them out, we are labeled as being “in denial” or of only wanting books to succeed that praise Michael like a god (which is far from the truth, for me, at least).

      The danger is that any time a false narrative is put out, it impacts that person’s legacy for many years to come. I still routinely get research papers from students about Oscar Wilde that will mention that he died from syphilis, even though no such discussions are ever raised in class. I always know where that information comes from. It was the pet theory of biographer Richard Ellman, whose book went on to great acclaim, won numerous awards, and became accepted for many years as the definitive biography of Wilde-except that the syphilis theory was instantly denied by Wilde’s grandson and since then, has been thoroughly debunked by most recent researchers. Wilde’s medical records all point to the validity and accuracy of the original diagnosis of meningitis. Fortunately, when I am able to point out to students that this is, in fact, disputed information-not verifiable “fact”-it allows us to open the dialogue about the validity of information and the caution that has to be taken with assuming that anything written about a famous person is bona fide truth just because some source says so.

      • Only just got this far in this wonderful discussion, and have felt conflicted as to whether or not to get Kindle versions of these books. Not any more!! I agree that yes it is wonderful to have Michael’s innocence proclaimed, though as many previous respondents have said, we already knew that. However that seems to be totally outweighed by the constant repetition of false information such as Michael’s virginity – such obviously wrong statements just simply put me totally off these publications. How can one believe any of it when there are such gross untruths written???

  15. In these comments D.B. stated on Nov 19th she would love to know what black writers have to say (about Knopper’s book). The Popmatters review posted today by Terry Dutton was written by an experienced black writer although imo it’s barely distinguishable from all the others with, yes, “but” being the operative word.

  16. Thank you, guys, once again for an enlightening and much needed conversation.

    I can speak quite a bit about the “rockist” attitude perpetuated by Rolling Stone because this was my own early indoctrination into the world of rock and roll. When I was a teen, the world of rock musicians seemed so glamorous and cool (seriously, my fantasy in those days was to become a groupie and life the life of “Almost Famous!”). But something interesting I learned early on was that the driving need to compartmentalize the music and to assign labels of what was “cool” (and thus okay to listen to and still be within the realm of “hipness” did not come from within. With but a very few exceptions, most of these white rock artists were unabashed in their open appreciation of the black music and black artists who inspired most of them. But the echelon of publications that pandered to that demographic-Rolling Stone, Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, etc-were unquestionably those that were pandering to, and promoting the rockism ideal, which was steeped in the sexist, racist, and homophobic ideals of white, straight males. I didn’t realize any of that at the time, of course. I was just a kid, and wasn’t bothering to internalize things that deeply.

    But these attitudes permeated everything within the culture, even down to the radio stations-yes, the same stations that so many of my friends and I thought were so “cool” and “hip” back n the day because they didn’t play all of the bubblegum stuff that was on Top 40 radio. I have mentioned this story before, but when Michael Jackson came out with “Beat It” and used that guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen as its centerpiece, it was single handedly one of the most brilliant crossover moves ever made. When that song entered rotation on many AOR rock radio stations across the country, that was revolutionary. I still remember a dj on my favorite rock station from out of Birmingham, Alabama playing that song and giving an almost apologetic qualifying statement beforehand, saying, “I never thought we’d be playing a Michael Jackson song on this station, but this is just so cool that we have to.”

    But time hasn’t really changed or softened those attitudes much. I know that these days radio has become more and more irrelevant, as there are so many other alternatives now, but on many rock radio playlists, we still see the continual perpetuation of rockism. What gets me, however, is the blatant racism that I still see so evident in these playlists. It’s not that I’m advocating that radio stations should completely do away with the idea of formats-I “get” the wisdom of creating stations that will appeal to certain demographics and tastes. However, where the anti-black artist bias is most prevalent is in the pervasive number of covers these stations often play. For example, the alternative rock station that also happens to be the highest rated radio station in my area routinely plays the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ versions of “Higher Ground” and “Love Rollercoaster”-but never the original versions by Stevie Wonder, or the O’Jays. They will play Alien Ant Farm’s version of “Smooth Criminal” but never Michael’s version (in fact, this was the station where some of the dj’s made really disparaging comments about Michael on the night he died, while many others were paying tribute-one reason I still have a bitter taste for them to this day). They will play songs by Prince like “Darling Nikki” as long as it is some cover by a white rock band, but they would never play Prince’s version.

    This, for me, encapsulates the whole problem with this kind of arbitrary compartmentalization and categorization of music. If it was only about genre, then why is the same song acceptable when it is covered by a white artist, but not acceptable for the playlist by the original black artist? Just because they’ve tweaked the arrangement a bit? Hmmm. But the Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly didn’t take out Stevie Wonder’s funk (they just amped it up a little with louder electric guitars) and Alien Ant Farm’s version of “Smooth Criminal” is essentially still Michael’s arrangement, to the letter. So the only justifiable reason is that it is all about the name that is on that recording’s label, and nothing more. White rock artists are part of that rockism elite.

    What I remember most about the attitudes toward Michael Jackson in those days, from within that culture, was a certain resentment that he had become so huge; such a commercial force. For many, this justified the hip belief that “pure” music was somehow immune to such commercialism. Let’s not forget, these were the same people who killed disco. The resentment only increased when Michael actually made inroads into the genre-utilizing Slash and Eddie Van Halen; making videos like “Dirty Diana” which was essentially a metal video, with a song that would have been hailed as the latest great “power ballad” if it had been covered by Motley Crue or Whitesnake. For these efforts to bridge musical styles, he was labeled a “poser” and worse. They welcomed the news of the allegations because many saw it as an opportunity for him to be brought down from his pompous throne. And there was a certain satisfaction in it because Michael had projected a squeaky clean image whereas rockers were always being lambasted about drugs and drinking. Then there is the whole issue of how Michael’s appearance and other aspects were judged, when held to the standards of “accepted” white male rock stars. In an era where it was considered cool and manly for metal stars to wear big hair, lipstick, spandex pants, and mascara, Michael was singled out as looking “feminized” or “androgynous,”

    Even as a teenager, I couldn’t help but notice that whenever Rolling Stone would put out a commemorative rock book, there would always be the obligatory opening chapter dedicated to “the pioneers” but these chapters were always brief, under researched, and generally only serving the purpose as that “obligatory nod,” a way of saying, “Okay, we know this is where it all began, and we will tip our hat to these guys, but we know everybody really wants to get to the good stuff; when things really start to happen with Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, etc.” The black faces and black names were always just the obligatory nod in passing’ never the focus. They weren’t the faces you would see on the cover. This was exactly what Michael meant when he said, “You won’t see one black person on the cover.” I am convinced it was a thinly veiled jab against Rolling Stone and their ilk.

    Today, anytime there is a list of “Greatest Artists of All Time,” whether it is by Rolling Stone or any other publication, Michael Jackson, invariably, will always fall at #2. Why? Because it is considered a kind of sacrilege to dare even think about giving the #1 spot to anyone except The Beatles, even though Michael as a single artist AND as a a member of a group trumped most of their records and achievements. But still, the idea of allowing Michael to usurp the Beatles’s throne is something they remain determined will not happen.

    • “What gets me, however, is the blatant racism that I still see so evident in these playlists. It’s not that I’m advocating that radio stations should completely do away with the idea of formats – I “get” the wisdom of creating stations that will appeal to certain demographics and tastes. However, where the anti-black artist bias is most prevalent is in the pervasive number of covers these stations often play. …

      If it was only about genre, then why is the same song acceptable when it is covered by a white artist, but not acceptable for the playlist by the original black artist?”

      Raven, this is such an important point, and has been for a long time. In fact, this is a point Steven Levy focuses on quite a bit in his Rolling Stone article:

      But even though MTV’s format was freer than that of AOR, they shared the same flaw: their purpose was not to provide the best, most challenging music possible, but to ensnare the passions of Americans who fit certain demographic or, as [MTV creator Bob] Pittman puts it, “psychographic” requirements – young people who had money and the inclination to buy things like records …

      This was the essence of the “narrowcasting” principle (designing programming with a select audience in mind). It was good business but bad politics, especially since, in practice, it just about eliminated the chances of certain artists’ appearing on MTV. Particularly black artists. …

      MTV’s response? It’s the format! …

      This type of explanation sounded rational, but it fell apart simply by evidence of MTV’s playlist. Why can Phil Collins sing the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” on MTV while Motown acts get no exposure? … Even the powerless veejays seemed embarrassed by the contradictions.

      He then goes on to document the now-familiar story of how Michael Jackson helped break MTV’s color ban, though it wasn’t yet the stuff of legend back then. (Levy’s article was published in December 1983 – the year the Billie Jean, Beat It, Say Say Say, and Thriller videos were released.) As Levy writes,

      The widespread rumor has it that CBS Records threatened to pull all its clips from MTV unless it aired “Billie Jean.” MTV and CBS have denied this officially, but it was clear that this was the showdown. Inside MTV, employees urgently prodded their bosses to go with it. “I think we all wanted to see ‘Billie Jean’ on the channel,” says veejay J.J. Jackson.

      And it happened. In early March, “Billie Jean” went into heavy rotation, followed by “Beat It,” another of the singles off Jackson’s record. And suddenly, MTV’s playlist seemed a bit more reflective of the fact that blacks make music, too. Of course, MTV claims that by this time, more blacks were making videos slanted toward their requirements. Back in early February, the only blacks on the sixty videos listed on the MTV playlist were Tina Turner (in light rotation) and the English Beat (in medium). But after Micheal Jackson’s videos were telecast, this changed: by the end of April, the list had eleven black acts, three of which (the two Jackson clips and one by Prince) were in heavy rotation.

      So Levy knows all that history. Which makes it so perplexing that he casts aspersions on Michael Jackson as epitomizing the MTV pop/commercial act, with a sidebar column and his face on the cover. That just doesn’t add up. It reminds me of the old Mark Twain joke, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Levy’s point seems to be that Michael Jackson helped break the color ban on an organization so soulless and corrupt, no serious artist (black or white) should want to belong. So a hollow victory, at best.

    • Raven, I hear you, and I understand your criticisms. But as to Michael Jackson falling at #2 (or #3 or #5) on various “greatest” lists, it’s possible that this ranking reflects the *genuine* opinion of whoever the voting body may be—-readers’ polls, or a panel of “experts”—rather than simply a perverse determination to squeeze out any potential “usurper.”

      As Martin Luther King once said (quoting the nineteenth-century American transcendentalist Theodore Parker), “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This very much echoes what Michael himself stated: lies run sprints, and the truth runs marathons.

      Who except jazz aficionados remembers Paul Whiteman, the tremendously popular bandleader (often billed as the “King of Jazz”)? His acclaim soared in the 1920s and 1930s, eclipsing that of Duke Ellington, the black jazz composer. But who today would consider Whiteman a more important figure in music than Ellington? Ironically, and perhaps counterintuitively (given what have been arguing here about the racial politics of certain artists and genres), it’s *Ellington* who is now considered the genuine, “authentic,” even “avant-garde” artist, while Whiteman (literally, white man) has been demoted to “mere” pop star status.

      Of course, racism is virulent in the music industry, as it always has been, as it is in every other industry or institutional setting we can name. (Can there be any question of this anymore?) Yet the social ramifications of “rockism” and its purported alternative, “poptimism,” are still very much in flux. The racial politics these terms describe are much more complex than any simplistic account—based on dualistic understandings “race”—can render.

      As for Rolling Stone magazine, they recently came out with their list of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time,” where Michael Jackson was ranked at #35.

      Of course Bob Dylan and the Beatles were going to be at the top of any such list! And, at the risk of committing sacrilege here, these choices—in my opinion as a listener and a fan of ALL these musicians—are not wrong!

      http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-songwriters

      To put things into perspective, consider the songwriters who came in BEHIND Michael on this list. Some heavy hitters are among them. They include:

      Sam Cooke
      Madonna
      Kris Kristofferson
      Stevie Nicks
      Billy Joel
      Johnny Cash
      Ashford & Simpson
      Marvin Gaye
      Loretta Lynn
      Isaac Hayes
      Patti Smith
      Radiohead
      James Taylor
      Morrissey
      Neil Diamond
      John Fogerty
      Jerry Garcia
      Bono
      Gamble & Huff
      Harry Nilsson
      David Bowie
      Willie Nelson
      Tom Petty
      George Clinton
      Elton John …. and many more.

      Not too shabby. And this is a *Rolling Stone* ranking, after all.

      So I can’t get very exercised about whether MJ is listed at #1 or #2 on anyone’s “hit parade.” He’s up there, in the pantheon. Sometimes you want Zeus, and sometimes you’d rather hang with Apollo. That’s all.

    • ‘Then there is the whole issue of how Michael’s appearance and other aspects were judged, when held to the standards of “accepted” white male rock stars. In an era where it was considered cool and manly for metal stars to wear big hair, lipstick, spandex pants, and mascara, Michael was singled out as looking “feminized” or “androgynous,”’

      Yes Raven and I still don’t understand why this was so? anymore than I understand how The Beatles can top Michael on anything for the reasons you have given. Michael did it all – wrote music and lyrics, wrote poetry, danced and choreographed , acted, directed, produced, made movies etc etc. A GENIUS in every sense of the word.

  17. Raven, I think you hit on something very important when you talked about covers of MJ and other black artists being celebrated on white radio stations, while the originals are not. That’s exactly the rub – and why it isn’t just about genre. For it isn’t intellectually honest to denigrate the man while appropriating his work. If Jackson was a “poser” then how is the work worth covering?

    If he was a poser, then why are the publicists desperately trying to find his replacement every other week.

    Posing was the last thing Michael did. It’s not like he came out of nowhere; he’d been a public figure since he was a child, and he worked hard for every accolade he got. He didn’t accidentally walk into chart domination. But he did surprise people – no one expected the success of Off The Wall and certainly not Thriller. There was a different narrative in play at first, which is that boy bands fade away and Michael was expected to go the way of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. I remember the controversy about his voice; common wisdom was that his singing days would be over when his voice changed. When this was proven wrong is when speculation started: something weird was going on.

    So the “sneakiness” and the “illegitimacy narrative” started then and intensified when he began to break Elvis’ records and the Beatles’ records. The press did not see this coming. One has only two choices: accept it, or refuse to accept it on grounds he won unfairly. I believe that the white press chose the “unfairly” route.

    We’ve seen this another time: “he’s not a real American, he was born in Kenya…” You don’t have to like the music, you don’t have to like the politics. But inventing stories about the monster lurking in the dark – I don’t think you can read this as anything other than fear and/or supremacy.

    The illegitimacy narrative is a house of cards built on other people’s egos and has little or nothing to do with Michael himself. This latest book has really made it clear, as James Baldwin said, “the cacophony around Jackson is fascinating in that it has nothing to do with Jackson at all.”

    • “If he was a poser, then why are the publicists desperately trying to find his replacement every other week.”

      The (mostly white) music establishment is positively giddy over the notion of Adele as “the new Michael Jackson”, since she’s one of very few artists whose music sells in the millions these days. Certainly nothing would make the Brits happier than for one of their own to supplant Michael. While his UK fans are passionate, the British media seem to have a pathological hatred for Michael, exacerbated by resentment over the Beatles catalog purchase. I think Adele is enormously talented, and her future prospects seem great, but she’s hardly in Michael’s league just yet. Her team is doing a stellar job of creating her legend. We’ll see if she can live up to it.

      • I think the media and the entertainment world lives off hype. Adele is a successful artist, especially in today’s climate, but I can’t see how she has anything to do with Michael Jackson. They are not doing the same kind of music, they are not really targeting the same audience, their art is completely different. I listened to all of her three albums so far and I am not impressed, though I can see why she is popular.

        But not only I have seen her being called the “new Michael Jackson” in recent days, but also the “new Whitney Houston” on ABC as a vocalist. I think this is simply a part of Adele’s current hype, I doubt those who write down such things do it with a straight face. Even they must know it’s a hyperbole.

        Sometimes it feels like everyone and their mother is a “new Michael Jackson” now. I mean only this year I have seen the following artists being called that:

        Adele
        Taylor Swift
        The Weeknd

        And then of course there are other “new Michael Jacksons” every year from Justin Timberlake to Bruno Mars.

        None of these people really are new MJs, of course, but In a way I think we should consider it a compliment that Michael is a standard for so many people. Even if such comparations can get annoying sometimes because they are being thrown around so easily – as if a current hit or temporary success makes someone a new MJ. But that he is always the one being used as a standard, I guess that should be considered positive for him.

        Re. UK media. I noticed that too. MJ has some of the best and most loyal fans in the UK, but at the same time the UK media always seems to be so hateful and dismissive of him. Fortunately it does not seem to affect his popularity in the UK.

        • Exactly. This reminds me of how back in the 70’s and 80’s every up and coming band was always being touted as “the next Beatles” or “they’re going to be bigger than the Beatles.” In fact, it became such a cliche that movies and TV shows routinely recycled the phrase every time some fictional manager was promoting his latest discovery. Of course, no one ever really became “the next Beatles.” It was always just hype, and most of those bands turned out to be flash in the pans who disappeared as quickly as they came. I think it has become a kind of standard cliche in the industry to tout someone as “the next this or that” and, as you say, it is really just a way of gauging which artists are considered the standard by which all others are measured. I remember that back in the 70’s and 80’s, whenever I would be crushing on some new singer, my grandmother would always say, “None of them will ever be as big as Elvis.” Well, she was right, in a way, but of course, we know that at least one did-his name was Michael Jackson!

        • I agree. It’s all about marketing, about finding the “next new thing” before the artist has even retired, much less turned cold in their grave.

          I remember seeing an interview with the actress Janet Leigh, where she said that in th early 1950s, her studio was touting Debbie Reynolds as “a young Janet Leigh.” She said that she had been flabbergasted: “A ‘young’ Janet Leigh? I’m only 23!”

    • Here here DB – this response says it all and some!!!

  18. D.B. Anderson, you said, “it’s enlightening to shift the focus away from Michael and instead look at the cultural, political, and economic factors that influence the media ecosystem.”

    I totally agree with you there. In particular, the whole question of “rockism” (along with its antithesis, called “poptimism” by some music writers) is directly relevant to where Michael stood as a musician and cultural icon who had attained unprecedented international fame in the 1980s and beyond.

    In a twitter exchange a couple of days ago (with MJJJusticeProject, I think), I cautioned against the simple equation of rockism=racism=MJ, and suggested that the whole matter of race, genre, and “authenticity” was more complicated than it may at first appear. I provided a number of links to articles where these issues issues had been debated, beginning with Kelefa Sanneh’s New York Times article from 2004, “The Rap Against Rockism” (which I think you mentioned, D.B.).

    The whole rockism/poptimism controversy has been a source of fascination to me, ever since I started reading about Michael Jackson (and also “around” him), exploring his musical antecedents. There have been plenty of articles written since 2004 by music critics (academics and popular writers alike), as well as discussions at conferences on popular music.

    One venue where I’m sure such conversations have taken place is the EMP (Explore Music Project) conference that takes place yearly in Seattle. This year they’ve put out a call for presentations for their 2016 conference. The theme is “From a Whisper to a Scream: The Voice in Music.” Here are some of their suggested topics:

    * Vocalization: the technical, theatrical, and technological underpinnings of bringing out the voice in music; creating vocal “characters” and characteristics

    * Vocal Cords: the body in music; sonic materiality; medical and scientific factors

    *Communal Voices: group singing, from choirs and quartets to karaoke; choices of accent and identity

    *Instruments as Voices, Voices as Instruments: talking drums, crying guitars, wailing horns; vocal breathiness, sound but not words, articulate inarticulacy

    *Voces: speech, song, and noise outside Eurocentric sound making; how voices carry U.S. pop styles around the globe, and how forms from beyond the U.S mainstream are woven into that fabric

    *Challenging Voices: naturalized ideals or expectations of race, gender, sexuality disrupted by the androgynous, post-human, transcultural, “freak”

    “Voices of Protest: the noisy voice in politics and as an expression of dissent

    *Writing Voices: methodology; finding a voice as a music writer; authorial voice developed in relationship to singing voices

    *Vox Populi: fan and audience voices, reality TV singing competitions, new media platforms, amateur/professional divides, good and bad singing, listening
    __________________________

    Sorry to stray so far from the topic at hand; but all of the above is really exciting to me. I SO wish I had submitted a proposal for this conference! Alas, I missed the deadline—but you can imagine how Michael Jackson’s vocal styles and techniques might easily lend themselves to exploration through these questions. Every one of these topics is relevant, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least *one* person at this year’s conference presented on an element of Michael’s vocal performance.

    Anyway…. I can share links to some articles on “rockism” and “poptimism” if anyone’s interested.

    But about the two (disappointing) biographies by Randall Sullivan (which I’ve read in its entirety) and Steve Knopper (which I’ve so far read through Chapter 2), I have a specific question. I wonder if you—-D.B. or Willa, or anyone else—might be able to describe what an ideal biography of Michael would look or sound like. What information might a reader (say, one who isn’t necessarily familiar with the details of MJ’s life and work), find in a really satisfying biography?

    I ask because I find that I’m hard pressed to come up with any vivid notion of what such a book might consist of.

    • “I have a specific question. I wonder if you – D.B. or Willa, or anyone else – might be able to describe what an ideal biography of Michael would look or sound like. What information might a reader (say, one who isn’t necessarily familiar with the details of MJ’s life and work), find in a really satisfying biography?”

      Hi Nina. This is an excellent question. For me, it isn’t so much about which specific details of his career are included (though of course that plays a part) but how that information is used to tell the story of his life. That’s the important thing: the over-arching narrative. The details then follow from that.

      So far every biography I’ve read (and I think I’ve read all of them) tell the same story: Michael Jackson was a talented singer and dancer who peaked too early, couldn’t handle success, fell apart, and died too soon. The details may change from one bio to the other (this one says he didn’t have a nose, this other one says he did) but still, they all tell the same story. And I think that story is wrong.

      If I were to write a biography of Michael Jackson, it would tell a different story: that Michael Jackson was the most important artist of our time. He revolutionized how we think about race, gender, sexuality, nationality, the family, the media, the judicial system, and other institutions of power. He was the most influential artist since Warhol, but his impact extends well beyond art and into the daily lives of people around the world. We have barely begun to measure the magnitude of the shifts Michael Jackson brought about as an artist, icon, and cultural figure …

      That’s the story I want to read.

    • Not putting my vision of the ideal book on the internet 🙂 But a book with no obvious lies would be just fabulous.

      Like Willa, I believe the over-arching narrative that is out there is incorrect. Correction: I know it is incorrect; and so do all the researchers, and many fans, and people all over the world who never believed all the nonsense no matter how badly corporations wanted them to.

      Good books are nutritious, not empty calories. When I read Man in the Music for the first time, it was like a huge vitamin milkshake after years of sugar. Telling us something we didn’t already know, thinking about things in a new way, stepping outside the box. Joe Vogel, Susan Fast, Bill Whitfield & Tanner Colby did that.

      The whole rockism/poptism debate of course goes far beyond Michael, but no sense can be made of Michael’s story without examining the culture he lived in. To ignore the prevailing elitist attitude of the owners & editors of the influential music magazines of the day, and how they responded to Michael, is missing a huge chunk of the picture. To refuse to take seriously how black artists obviously have felt about this issue leaves an incomplete picture. To ignore exploring whether the first black crossover artist was perceived as a threat by those with something to lose is – well, just more of the same old, same old.

      • I agree, D.B.. Obviously, no sense can be made of Michael’s story without examining the culture he lived in—but I’d say that that culture would include at least his recent forbears and influences.

        I’d also suggest that *we* are the ones who actually “make” history—those of us who write, research, talk, post, blog, and otherwise communicate about any topic. Neither you nor I, nor Steve Knopper, nor Willa Stillwater, nor Vogel, Fast, Whitfield, and Colby, are *outside* the process of *creating* stories about the past’s inescapable relation to the present.

        So, the first (and second, and third, and millionth) black “crossover” artist was *undoubtedly* perceived as a threat by white owned and controlled record labels, radio and television stations, etc. (and more broadly, entertainment) industries in the U.S.

        Some pertinent (and, I believe, urgent) questions remain if we’re to get a better sense of what happened specifically to Michael Jackson.

        What, exactly, do we mean by “crossover”? Is it a question of massive sales for one song, album, or artist (à la MJ)? What about smaller-scale events that took place earlier, but also brought about significant cultural shifts (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc.?) How was the music industry *qualitatively* different when those artists did their groundbreaking work, as opposed to the 1980s when Michael made the biggest-selling album (to date) of all time? How did the “race music” (so-called) of the 1930s and 1940s give way to market segmentation/segregation in the 1950s, ’60s, and beyond? Plus, Willa mentioned the shopworn narrative of Michael as an artist who “peaked too early, couldn’t handle success, fell apart, and died too soon.” This is one version of the story, and an absurdly reductive one.

        Yet it seems that some version of this story has circulated around nearly *everyone* in American entertainment: from Billie Holiday, to John Lennon, to Elvis, to Marilyn, to Kurt Cobain, to Judy Garland, to Amy Winehouse…. and so on. In fact, this story predictably covers just about EVERYONE who didn’t live to see eighty-five or so; and dying at that decent, ripe old age, where all excesses seem to be forgiven.

        I think it really behooves us to consider biographies of other artists who, according to those who have written their lives, have met “untoward ends” in similar ways. We need to look at Michael’s antecedents, especially those who endured virulent racism in their own time; and then we should compare their experience with Michael’s. And learning more about trends in criticism (poptimism, rockism, etc.) might help us to discover even *more* about the ways race, genre, Michael Jackson, and (last but not least) US, are all mutually entangled in ways that can be productively addressed through more dialogue, rather than fixed conclusions.

        My point is this: I am against any attempt to construct a “master narrative” of *any* kind. Any such effort borders on futility, because in the end we cannot control what people will say anyone, living or dead—or about ourselves. The day we believe we’ve written—-or read—-a “definitive” biography of ANY kind is the day we all ought to throw in the towel, having collectively decided that we have nothing more to learn.

        • “I am against any attempt to construct a “master narrative” of *any* kind. ”

          Could not agree with you more. This is exactly why I write, to present an alternative to the master narrative, or at least, raise some questions about it. Is my viewpoint a sound, rational, possibly accurate one? Obviously, I think so, but whether anyone agrees with me is their decision. The point is that it IS an alternative.

          You said that no one is “outside the process of creating stories about the past’s inescapable relation to the present.” That is very true. However, what many consumers of stories do not see is the Process That Goes into Making Stories. That process is my particular subject. It’s based on my experience as a communications professional, with a master’s degree, author of many books, white papers, and press releases for some of the biggest nonprofits in higher education, and several universities and colleges.

          The benefit of my being in those environments, as opposed to corporate ones, is that I did not have to confront the issue of writing something I didn’t believe in very often, but even there, it came close. I think there is some value in discussing how media works when considering Jackson’s case; people can take what they like and leave the rest.

  19. In a discussion with a friend, she offered this view of a potential author(s) who could take on such a biography:

    “Jackson’s life was very BIG and panoramic — overarching many decades of achievement, influence and scrutiny. So, it requires imo a scholar, an historian, a philosopher, a social historian, a music, media and popular culture historian, data gatherers and sifters, etc. In other words, one genius with all of these skills, or a team with one vision.

    I see it has a huge endeavor taking many years to do it justice.
    He’s been dead only 6 years.
    Consider that books are still being written that contain new insights into the lives of Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and other greats.

    Work may have already started …”

    I’ll know it when I read it…

  20. This work most certainly *has* started, layne4. In fact, it has been going consistently for about 30 years.

    The output has been uneven, as all forms of writing inevitably are. But rather than bewail Steve Knopper’s inability to deliver on what no single author should promise (“The Genius of Michael Jackson” is a generic title that’s probably cooked up by an editor, anyway), anyone who’s interested in reading about the many ways Michael Jackson may be considered a “genius” can do worse than to read books and articles by Susan Fast, Joe Vogel, Armond White, and dozens of other writers whose work has been published in various journals and edited anthologies.

    In fact, those who are really curious about Michael’s multifaceted achievements would do well to read the many posts that have appeared since 2011 on the “dancing with the elephant” blog.

    Thanks for your response, Willa. You say that MJ “was the most important artist of our time. He revolutionized how we think about race, gender, sexuality, nationality, the family, the media, the judicial system, and other institutions of power, and I agree with the essence of this. Though I’m not given to superlatives (I think he was ONE of the most important figures to emerge in popular music in the twentieth century), his influence was vast, important, and radical, in my view.

    I think the kind of narrative you’re calling for would easily fill a thousand volumes. I’m just not sure if that’s the stuff of popular biographies, at least as they’re conceived in the present time. I DO wish someone would write about Michael as perspicaciously as, say, some writers have in their biographies of the Beatles (as a group and as separate individuals). But then, “The Beatles” ceased to exist as a vital entity in 1969…. so it took awhile. The same is likely to happen with Michael, I’m convinced.

    • Yes yes yes Nina – ‘In fact, those who are really curious about Michael’s multifaceted achievements would do well to read the many posts that have appeared since 2011 on the “dancing with the elephant” blog.’

      Thought that after I had commented to Willa that she consider writing a biography herself. These posts do indeed do that. Have often wished that the postings could be put into a book format somehow, and still wishing that one day that will happen.

  21. “If I were to write a biography of Michael Jackson, it would tell a different story: that Michael Jackson was the most important artist of our time. He revolutionized how we think about race, gender, sexuality, nationality, the family, the media, the judicial system, and other institutions of power. He was the most influential artist since Warhol, but his impact extends well beyond art and into the daily lives of people around the world. We have barely begun to measure the magnitude of the shifts Michael Jackson brought about as an artist, icon, and cultural figure …”

    Am I a bad fan if I don’t believe that any of that is true? I would be pleased with any biographer who took Michael Jackson seriously as a great performer and musician, and who respected the audience of fans, who are very knowledgeable about personal aspects of his life. For a black fan, fair or not, a biography by a white author who has no specific interest in or knowledge of African American life is going to be suspect. It will require a very cosmopolitan individual to bridge the racial divide in the fan base. For example, I doubt that AAs in general believe that Michael challenged anyone’s ideas about race. He was born black, and that blackness defined the treatment he received in every aspect of his life and death.

    • “Am I a bad fan if I don’t believe that any of that is true?”

      No, not at all, VC. It simply means that you see him differently than I do. I realize that my particular view is somewhat unique to me, and is influenced by my life experiences and what Michael Jackson has meant to me personally over the years. And I know that many other fans have their own unique perspectives shaped by their individual histories.

      My point was not that I wanted my perspective to be adopted by everyone. Rather, I was protesting the fact that, for the most part, one and only one narrative has been repeated over and over until it has been accepted as Truth: that he was “a talented singer and dancer who peaked too early, couldn’t handle success, fell apart, and died too soon.” (And as you pointed out, Nina, this story isn’t even unique to Michael Jackson. As you wrote, “it seems that some version of this story has circulated around nearly *everyone* in American entertainment: from Billie Holiday, to John Lennon, to Elvis, to Marilyn, to Kurt Cobain, to Judy Garland, to Amy Winehouse….” And you’re absolutely right. It’s the story of A Star is Born, and it existed long before Michael Jackson. We just keep plugging different names into that same old story.)

      I don’t believe that story is true, but even more than that, I believe it’s preventing other stories from being heard. And I don’t think any one narrative can capture all that Michael Jackson was. Instead, I think it will take many different narratives accumulating over time.

      A good metaphor for this is the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait project. Each person – Maya Angela, Jessie Jackson, Jermaine Jackson (those are just the ones who happen to be featured today) – has their story of what Michael Jackson meant to them. And when you gather those many different stories together, collectively they create a portrait.

      That’s what I feel needs to happen with Michael Jackson, which makes it frustrating when I read yet another biography telling the same old story one more time. I do see a shift happening – an important shift – in that the latest biographies have all concluded that he was innocent of child molestation. That’s a critically important first step, and begins to chip away at the accepted wisdom surrounding him. But now I think it’s time to start taking on the entire Star is Born mythology and allow other narratives to be heard as well.

  22. I guess I am looking to read something that taps into Michael’s humanity so to speak. Remember the Time is mentioned here, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard’s book, the MJ Bodyguards, is a very memorable book for me. While not a true bio so to speak, it was in my opinion truthful, it described Michael in a way that I feel was unvarnished. It neither gave us a candy coated version or him or a harsh cartoonish image of him…it gave us a portrayal of a real man.
    I think that there are people out there that knew Michael, the real Michael, but they protect and guard him, they fear that if they reveal the Michael that they knew to interviewers, bookwriters, etc…they will be burned, their words and stories will be used to portray Michael in a negative manner and they don’t want that….so they remain silent or only reveal tidbits to the fan community through blogs, on-line sites, etc.
    So in the end, perhaps it will be many, many years before we can get a more honest portrayal of the “real” Michael.

  23. Nasty article just posted in New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-two-lives-of-michael-jackson
    “He claimed to suffer from vitiligo, which causes skin to lose its pigment in patches—a condition his autopsy confirmed, though that explanation had always been met with skepticism from the black community. (Vitiligo can arise spontaneously or be inherited; it can also be triggered by bleaching.) Whether or not the disease was behind the dramatic change in his skin color, Jackson surely was motivated, at least in part, by a belief common to Americans: that light skin, thin lips, small noses, and straight hair represent the most perfect example of beauty.”

    • Notice how they say it’s specifically the black community that is sceptical of his vitiligo. I don’t remember to have seen any more scepticism of his vitiligo by black people than by white people. Actually, I remember whites being the more nasty ones. So what is exactly the reason for claiming that it is specifically the black community that is sceptical?

      “it can also be triggered by bleaching”

      As far as I know if someone bleaches and then stops bleaching then the pigments will simply come back and the person will go back to his natural color. So I am not sure how bleaching could trigger vitiligo. If I remember well this claim about MJ triggering the vitiligo by bleaching comes from J. Randy Taraborelli, another author with so many missed opportunities to write a good book about MJ.

    • Has it not been stated, maybe by himself, not totally sure of that though, that his motivation in using the skin or bleaching agent, whatever you want to call it, was that he didn’t want to appear on stage with all the blotches. That he at first, with the help of Karen Faye, tried to even out the skin tone so that he appeared more brown, but that after it grew worse, he was not able to do this….he was an entertainer first and foremost…he wanted to look his best in front of an audience…what the heck is wrong with that….

    • This piece, unfortunately, underscores everything that has been said here about the Knopper book and the inherent problems of books like this. This author’s article makes it abundantly clear that he, himself, has taken absolutely nothing new or revelatory from this book. It’s the same old, cliched’ narrative of the genius with promise whose life spiraled out of control. And it is painfully obvious from this author’s response that the book accomplishes nothing in the way of clearing up major issues like vitiligo or Michael’s innocence. Instead, it appears that, as per the usual course, these things have been less than thoroughly researched and again, the reader is left merely to draw their own conclusions and speculations. If any of these issues had been thoroughly researched and addressed in the book, we wouldn’t now be seeing dribble like this in The New Yorker in response to it, so it is clear that all Knopper has succeeded in doing is either confirming some of the worst suspicions about Michael in readers’ or leaving the kind of doubt that doesn’t allow any of these questions a satisfactory answer. Which begs the question: Do we really, really need another biography that is making no serious attempts to address these issues in the minds of the public, but rather, simply leaving the same ol’ open ended questions? Ultimately, it seems, this is where every mainstream biography of Michael Jackson leaves us.

      I just find it rather puzzling and disturbing that here, in November of 2015, I’m still reading something like this in The New Yorker, perpetuating many of the same falsehoods, disproven facts, and cliched’ narratives about Michael that I thought we had, at least, partially overcome (or perhaps “hoped” is a better word). It only serves to further drive home the futility and frustration many of us feel. How can we ever really hope for a more truthful, or at least more enlightened, view of Michael as a man and as an artist when this is the kind of narrative being spouted by publications like The New Yorker, who in turn is reviewing a book by a writer from Rolling Stone? Is it any wonder that the mainstream media’s chosen narrative of Michael Jackson continues to be the only one that apparently can be universally accepted without question? I know, of course, that much progress has been made (I even recently wrote a celebratory piece about the inroads that scholars and bloggers have made) but sometimes I still can’t help feeling very frustrated, and this is one of those times.

  24. You’re right. Nasty.

  25. The New Yorker piece is not just nasty, it’s inaccurate: Vitiligo cannot be caused by “bleaching”, Michael didn’t undergo “dozens” of procedures, he was not “addicted to painkillers”, etc. The author seems to feel that he has the right to be sloppy (mean, bombastic) because he’s black like Michael, and he and his wife cried when he died. It doesn’t work for me. Black writers, especially those who work for the likes of The New Yorker, tend to be very hard on Michael, perhaps to pre-empt any notions that they are displaying race-based loyalty. It’s a sophisticated variant of being an Uncle Tom, and oh too prevalent an attitude among the black intelligentsia, who are not allowed to simply love Michael Jackson.

    • What is really sad is that the part about “dozens” of procedures..“addicted to painkillers” came straight from the book he was reviewing. Don’t have the book in front of me, but Knopper said something along the lines of ‘Jackson looked straight at Bashir and straight up lied about the procedures.’

  26. Today, a twitter discussion occurred between the author of the NYer piece and several MJ supporters, during which the author admitted he was not a researcher but was, in deed, a huge Michael Jackson fan! In fact, he was asked by the NYer to write an article about Michael. The author’s website is a rather banal concoction of various unrelated stories having nothing previously to do with Michael Jackson. So what would make him an expert on his subject? In our twitter discussion, while he was somewhat defensive, he did admit that the portion of his article dealing with vitiligo was added by NYer editors because they have to explain why people doubt the autopsy. When queried on “what people” doubted the autopsy, of course there was no response from him. IMO, he’s a lightweight who, for a few pounds of flesh from media intent on prolonging their never ending agenda, could be persuaded to leave his own thoughts at the door in favor of the publishers pre-established plot.

    • When the media wants to pull a takedown of a black star, they usually get somebody with a black face to do it. But it is rare that the “writer” just comes out and admits that (all white?) editors had complete control over the tone of the piece. Not that we didn’t know it.

  27. “For a black fan, fair or not, a biography by a white author who has no specific interest in or knowledge of African American life is going to be suspect,” as you stated, VC. “It will require a very cosmopolitan individual to bridge the racial divide in the fan base. For example, I doubt that AAs in general believe that Michael challenged anyone’s ideas about race. He was born black, and that blackness defined the treatment he received in every aspect of his life and death.” —-V.C.

    It would seem that the “racial divide” isn’t as ironclad as it might appear. Or maybe that it doesn’t necessarily split along the lines of the writer’s race, as much as their consciousness.

    Anyway, it’s instructive to hear about what goes on “behind the scenes” in magazine writing, andI believe it raises some important questions about how much authorial control *any* writer can expect when publishing their work.

    I can still see Carvell Wallace as a huge fan; just not necessarily the kind of fan who obsesses about the same kinds of things that most here, or on other online online discussion boards tend to do. I think he raises one very interesting and important question here:

    >”We have a deep and consuming desire to capture the divine and somehow align it with our human selves. Jackson was a vehicle for something divine, and so, perhaps, we find it pleasing to tether him more firmly to our world, by proving that he is exactly as shoddy and vulgar as we all are.”<

    Does anyone have a response to this passage?

    I always maintain that, in the grand scheme of things, being a fan probably has less to do with "who Michael was" than we suspect: much more, it's about who WE, collectively, are. "Truth," as I see it, isn't always about rote facts and how accurately they are presented; and in the above statement, it seems to me, Wallace has perfectly encapsulated the truth about our struggle in coming to terms with the tabloid press…. and perhaps ourselves.

    • “Jackson was a vehicle for something divine, and so, perhaps, we find it pleasing to tether him more firmly to our world, by proving that he is exactly as shoddy and vulgar as we all are.”

      Yes this is very well said. And for that reason, Michael’s vitiligo isn’t a mere detail about which some people “obsess.” It’s central to the story because it was no secret that some black people had questions about whether “he wanted to be white.” Oprah was clearly skeptical. Quincy Jones flat out called him a liar. Michael’s brother said “you changed your shade” in his diss track. The loss of support by some of his own people made him the butt of jokes on television. It made him more vulnerable to the press. It made him “a plastic freak” for whom no empathy would be shown.

      It is heartbreaking, and I watched it happen in real time. I even understand it, I think. I obviously cannot speak for anyone who is black, but having been the first black man to break so many boundaries, there was immense pride, and Michael became symbolic. To have his skin change then was betrayal; so said Jermaine and Quincy, “proving that he is exactly as shoddy and vulgar as we all are.” Taking Michael down a peg. And yes this is a universal phenomenon, and in particular I think sibling rivalry is quite interesting here.

      It is lovely to have an honest essay by a black man addressing his feelings on these things (though I’m not sure it was well placed in a book review). It is very important to hear and to accept the perspective of black men, most of all. At the same time, the topic of vitiligo is exactly where the fault line is; the precise point that has always been exploited by white people to slip in the knife. That’s apparently what happened here, with an insertion by an editor, after the fact, of an brand new theory that the autopsy itself is in question, and random unscientific facts. A touch of the shoddy and vulgar to an otherwise good piece, and that’s really not OK.

      • So, I have a question to pose here, D.B.

        What if Michael *were*, in some way, dissatisfied or even ashamed of the “natural” color of his skin—-and even dissatisfied the “natural” contours of his nose, chin, and possibly other elements of his visage? So much so that he underwent repeated procedures to “correct” the features he was born with?

        What would it mean? What DID it mean, in the context of popular culture in the 1980s, 1990s, and aughts? Why have so many taken so much trouble to “prove,” beyond any doubt, that he had vitiligo, or that his plastic surgery wasn’t as extensive as was commonly thought?

        As you’ve indicated, and as I’ve understood it through extensive reading, both black and white commentators were skeptical about Michael’s claim to have vitiligo, especially as the 90s wore on. Even his visual transformation attracted attention of the press (around the release of the “Bad” album), many believed that he was exhibiting signs of black “self-hatred.”

        I don’t know what the answer is; and I don’t believe I’ll EVER know. I’m still stumped, even after saving some 40,000 photos of Michael Jackson (at every age) to my hard drive, and even after reading perhaps hundreds of articles that deal, at least in part, with this topic.

        But at the risk of pressing too hard on the question, I still wish to ask: what would be so very terrible if he *did* hate his appearance? If he *did* want to reconfigure his face and skin to look more phenotypically white?

        Please note that I an NOT saying that I believe these things to be true. I’d just like to gain a bit more insight about what may *really* be at stake in these questions—for you, for Michael Jackson’s fans, for the public that you long to convince, and for society at large.

        • Hmm… “would it be so very terrible if he ‘did’ hate his appearance? If he *did* want to reconfigure his face and skin to look more phenotypically white?”

          Not for me personally.

          “I’d just like to gain a bit more insight about what may *really* be at stake in these questions—for you, for Michael Jackson’s fans, for the public that you long to convince, and for society at large.”

          Believing him, Nina. Believing Michael’s own words. Not assuming that he is a liar. Start trying to understand the man by listening to his own words. There is not much about Michael that is difficult to understand if you just begin with the presumption that he is being honest.

          All the viciousness, the arrest, the trial, everything, were based on the assumption pushed by the tabloids that Michael was a liar. He wrote all about this in his songs. Didn’t you listen?

          • He wrote about A LOT of things in his songs, D.B.. Lyrics that dealt with his mistreatment by the media were ONE subject, among many, that he wrote about—especially in his later years.

            And I DID listen. To take from these songs an overarching “message” that can define his entire oeuvre, life, and career would be an error. It’s a conceit that reduces and restricts Michael Jackson’s life story, and the MANY meanings that might be attributed to it. I think it would be more helpful to consider how an *expansion* of ways to appreciate Michael’s art and life can be made possible.

            Nobody is calling him a “liar.” And yet, from a very early age, Motown taught Michael Jackson to present “facts” to the press that he knew to be false. Some well-known examples: he gave his age as eight, instead of eleven; and he perpetuated the convenient and saleable myth that the Jackson 5 were “discovered” by Diana Ross, when (by all accounts I’ve read and seen), it was Bobby Taylor and Gladys Knight who *incrementally* persuaded Berry Gordy to review the group’s audition.

            From the very beginning, Michael learned that complete candor would not be his friend in the marketing and promotion of his “brand.” No doubt there was much he concealed—–as did many other stars, I’m sure. There’d be no getting by otherwise. So what else is new?

            There are many cogent explanations for why Michael Jackson was *particularly* singled out, for that long stretch of time, as an object of ridicule and harassment in ways that other stars were not. I think Susan Fast gets it exactly right in her essay, “Difference That Exceeded Understanding” (2010):

            “While some of this difference was demonstrated through what was viewed in the mass media as “eccentric” behavior (the presence of his companion, Bubbles the chimp, the black surgical masks, the rumor that he wanted to buy the Elephant Man’s bones, some of this surely calculated to attract attention), it was really his more substantive, underlying differences that were most troubling— racial, gendered, able-bodied/disabled, child/teenager/adult, adult man who loved children, father/mother. These differences were impenetrable, uncontainable, and they created enormous anxiety. Please be black, Michael, or white, or gay or straight, father or mother, father to children, not a child yourself, so we at least know how to direct our liberal (in)tolerance. And try not to confuse all the codes simultaneously. Jackson tested the boundaries of subjectivity, not with the ironic distance of his contemporaries, Madonna and Prince, but with his heart on his sleeve, and he eventually lost. On those rare occasions when he tried to explain himself he seemed instead to dig a deeper hole. Many remained skeptical; too many normative social codes were in flux, and none were ever neatly put back in the container (again, unlike Madonna and Prince, who were both eventually domesticated—in “normal” ways).”

            Read here:

            http://z3.ifrm.com/432/80/0/p314858/Exceed_Understanding.pdf

            Seen this way, the full force of what Michael endured wouldn’t have been possible without the tacit consent, and in fact explicit cooperation, of the buying (and believing) public. An insatiable public appetite for consuming celebrity news—-whetted by the aggressive media outlets themselves, AND by the consistent decline of the educational system in the U.S.—were, I think, mainly responsible for taking Michael down.

            All the racism, all the homophobia, the trans-antagonism, the whole panoply of isms and phobias that made Michael appear “uncontainable,” frightening, an enduring threat to “Normal Valley” and its cherished way of life, are the inevitable result of bad (or nonexistent) education, as well as the frenzy of fear and panic that can be whipped up at any moment by someone like the Mayor (or Tom Sneddon).

            Look what’s been going on today, D.B.—-just recently, in the past month or so. And look at our presidential candidates, especially on the Republican side. This is where Michael’s “Ghosts” can certainly be read as a timeless allegorical tale. The film and its three songs can also be understood as a story that previsages some very frightening developments in the larger world that would emerge some twenty years from the time it was made.

            Didn’t you listen? Didn’t we ALL listen?

            What happened to Michael Jackson—all the ideological structures that animated that protracted campaign against him—-have had long-term consequences that extend far, far beyond the need to “vindicate” or “defend” only Michael himself.

          • I completely agree with you that the issue is far bigger than Michael itself. That’s why I’m interested in it. And I love Susan Fast – she elucidates beautifully the full scope of the questions Michael faced.

            You said: “From the very beginning, Michael learned that complete candor would not be his friend in the marketing and promotion of his “brand.”

            This is where we diverge, for it is precisely the illegitimacy narrative I’m intentionally, and I hope thoughtfully, disputing. That is someone’s else’s idea of Michael (Tarraborelli?), whereas I try to start with Michael himself. I find that Michael was persistently honest in public statements: from the letter he wrote to the press in 1987, begging them to lay off him; to his telling Bashir that he let kids sleep in his bed. These aren’t the actions of a dishonest man; they are the actions of a ruthlessly honest person who was by the refused to play the press game. A man who, just maybe, knew it was going to cost him, but did it anyway to make a larger point. For which, Michael has earned some serious brownie points with me.

          • The fact remains that it is Michael Jackson’s lyrics and music that people ALL over the World still relate to especially in these times of obvious police brutality, unrest, and continued social & economic inequities in our world.

            And because its so much better for the agenda to consider him a self loathing black man- rather than a proud black man that beat them all with his talent grace and racial pride even though he faced serious health, as well as, unwarranted legal and social push back.

            From DB to Nina – “You said: “From the very beginning, Michael learned that complete candor would not be his friend in the marketing and promotion of his “brand.””

            How would Michael have developed his ideas for marketing and promoton of his “brand”? Since he was lacking maturity, as a child, he had to learn it from those he depended upon for support.

            Let us remember that Michael had a mole on his left cheek when he was a child that was removed – He was only a child, so someone in authority decided that mole needed to be removed to IMPROVE Michael’s physical appeal. What kind of message do you think this sent to an impressionable kid who had been told his “nose was too big” by his father and siblings?

            How did they approach Michael when they wanted to remove that mole? If he asked, “Why?” and let’s face it .. at that age, any child would want to know why. Their answer would most likely have to be “It will make you look better.”

            Certainly, through that decision by adults who were controling his life at that time – he could come to the conclusion that if you have a real or perceived flaw, you can easily fix it – THAT was the lesson ADULTS taught him at a very early age- So yes- he learned EARLY to perfect his BRAND. He learned that if he didn’t like his nose or chin, he could change it.

            He could perfect his image.

            Also, let us remember that EVERY single sibling in the Jackson family has had some work on their noses. Maybe other work as well. This can be ascertained as fact just from looking at old pictures of the group in their early days. To imagine that Michael alone who had some psychological angst and needed to FIX a real or imagined flaw is to deny the real serious issues of self-image, self-worth and control that went on in that Jackson household.

            The age of each member of Jackson 5, as their meteoric rise to fame soared, is really important to keep in mind. In trying to assess Michael’s view of himself, we have to look at how HE saw the world adults presented to HIM at what, the age of 5?

            He didn’t have the privilenge of school yard politics and that is how most of us develop our sense of self isn’t it? Besides the self- confidence our parents and family do or do not instill in us, its our other relationships, the ones outside our family. that shape how we think. Speaking in general, of course, because we all different but MOST of our formative years were filled with social experimentation. Who were your friends in grade school, versus middle school versus college? Which friends betrayed us and what did we glean from it. Who broke our hearts? When did we have a puppy love, then mad crushes then real love? We all learned how to deal with people through interactions with different individuals through difference phases in our lives but Michael Jackson never had that chance. To me this is crititcal when trying to figure how he saw the world and how he fit into it. The lack of any schoolytard socialization skills, the absence of real friends must be factored in as well as the pressure placed upon his young slim shoulders as the front and most talented of the group – was cruelly oppressive and borderline mentally abusive.

            Going to only touch lightly on the factor of the physical abuse as that is a whole other can of worms but suffice to say any physical scar can most likely be matched by hundreds of emotional scars that never scabbed over. Imagine his young mind reeling everytime he performed – “I’ve got to get on stage and if I mess up a beating is waiting for me in the wings.” What did this teach him except that he had to be perfect or ELSE.

            As a young child before puberty had even kicked in, he knew that his talent brought them out of poverty. And whether or not he understood the severity of the economic conditions in their home, the money/fame, brought them Hollywood – and other things that sparkle.

            Of course, he learned at a very tender age his BRAND had to be honed, developed and polished. Michael did not self-loathe, nor hate his race. He simply continued to do what he’d learned as a child: to make himself as perfect as possible- because that was critical to success.

            HE had to be perfect and nothing else was going to be acceptable.

        • I became a fan in 1988 when I first heard the Bad album as a 10-year-old. I never heard of MJ before. My first view of him was the cover of the Bad album. Until 1993, his interview with Oprah all I read about his appearance was that he intentionally changed it “because he did not want to be black”. That was the only narrative in the media here at the time. I did not care, to be honest. I plastered his pictures on my room’s walls – and those included photos both from Bad era and from Thriller era, where his skin was dark. I never thought much about the difference. To me it was the same cute, good-looking person on all of those photos. And yes, I was aware he was a black man, he identified as a black man and I never considered him anything else. I have to point this out because I have seen black fans accuse white fans of pretending MJ was white or not wanting to know he was a black man. Maybe some do, but to me it was always natural that he was a black man and I think the kid’s mind is really interesting because I never considered it contradictory with his skin tone. In fact, it was through him that I familiarized myself with other black artists and the rich cultural and musical heritage of African-Americans, black music and so on and I was into R&B way before it was cool or even widely known in Eastern Europe. MJ’s appearance was simply no big deal to me. But I was a white Eastern European kid. I would guess it is a much more complicated issue in the US – both for black and white people – due to a very different historical-social context and I can understand that too.

          Since the Oprah interview I do believe that he had vitiligo. I have no reason to question his words and until evidence does not come up to the contrary I will consider it the truth. I have nothing “at stake” in this. Like I said, I loved MJ just the same before the 1993 Oprah interview.

  28. I was going to write a different response on the subject at hand , but reading Nina Fonoroffs last comment and after reading the NYers review of Knoppers book, I think you hit the nail here re some of Carvelle Wallaces statements. (And I do not often agree with you ).
    Wallace is cynical , has strong opinions (on plastic surgery and Michaels supposed ambivalence with his blackness) probably does not know the facts and figures that many fans can recite by heart and he raises questions that fans find offensive. So he does not fit the fan ‘badge’, but he is very much aware of Michaels impact as he himself is/has been part of it . How many of us here can say that our childrens first memory of MJ is seeing us crying our heart out when he died.?

    He is also far from the ‘typical ignorant hater’ and I do not see him choosing one side or other on the controversial subjects , he rather confronts both ends of the spectrum.( angel – devil , victim – perpertrator) . And he definetely knows enough about Michaels music to write that
    “his music and work are filled with an abiding appreciation for the music, art, and deeply powerful soul of black folks. From the “Nigeria 70”-inspired breakdown in “ABC” to his 1991 solo album, “Dangerous,” on which he eschewed the jazz and melodic direction of his earlier work in favor of Teddy Riley’s urban R. & B. club beats, to outright pro-Africa songs, like “Liberian Girl,” Jackson’s debt to African and African-American culture was always clear ‘

    So rather than attack him it is better to seek a dialogue with people like Wallace , because right now the discourse about Michael Jackson is fans preaching to the choir and there is little to no development.

    As for what a good biography should be : there is no such thing as a perfect biography. There is a whole range of conflicting expectations and projections – see Wila’s vs VCs- about and on what/who Michael Jackson really was and his impact on society. Then there is the complexity and the many dimensions of Michael, his life and work , that no biography , no matter how well researched can ever cover completely, accurately and unbiased .
    Six years after his death many aspects of his life are still not conclusive and may never be. I personally am constantly re-evaluating “my 50 years with Michael Jackson/ the Jacksons.”

    It is also an illusion to think that a biography, let alone a review on a biography can take away doubts about controversial subjects .The most a biography can achieve and at least should is be accurate, ask relevant questions and challenge the narrative , ‘common knowledge’ and myths about the man and give us food for thought . Whether Knoppers book succeeds depends on our expectations and what he presents.The things fans want ‘ to ‘sway” the public about ( vitiligo, plastic surgery and allegations), require a book of their own because the explanation comes with a lot of legal and medical technicalities that even among fans are interpreted in many different ways. Maybe fans with enough knowledge and writing skills can take on the task to write a comprehensive book about these subjects, backed up by independent professionals

    I do agree with VC that an interest and /or knowledge , either by study or by personal experience, of the culture of a man who made such an impact on other cultures all over the world, is mandatory to write his biography. To quote Wallace
    “Your blackness is not a result of your skin but of the experiences that that skin brings to you.”

  29. The illegitimacy issue was elegantly challenged in this terrific discussion between Dr. Michael Dyson and Dr. Cornell West on June 30, 2009. http://video.pbs.org/video/1169160819/

  30. Maya Angelou used to quote her mother about the African American community’s regard for John Johnson’s Jet Magazine – “If it wasn’t in Jet, it didn’t happen.” One subject that was covered in Jet and Ebony fairly often over the years was the devastating effect of vitiligo on black people. Today there are stories in the general media about fashion model Winnie Harlow, and ballet dancer Michaela DePrince, who both suffer from it.

    Most black people have seen numerous people with it. It doesn’t look remotely like “bleached” skin. If Quincy Jones, or Jermaine Jackson, or Oprah, or any other grown black person expresses doubt that Michael had it, they’re full of it. Jermaine claimed he didn’t write those “changed your shade” lyrics anyway, which would make sense, because Michael’s loss of pigment began in childhood, when they were still living in Gary, and weren’t rich and famous.

    Accusing AAs of bleaching their skin is considered an insult, which I don’t doubt is how Michael’s black detractors intended it, out of envy and jealousy. Haters also accuse Beyoncé of bleaching her skin, even though she’s been in the public eye, and obviously the same color, since she was ten years old.

    ” And yet, from a very early age, Motown taught Michael Jackson to present “facts” to the press that he knew to be false. Some well-known examples: he gave his age as eight, instead of eleven; and he perpetuated the convenient and saleable myth that the Jackson 5 were “discovered” by Diana Ross, when (by all accounts I’ve read and seen), it was Bobby Taylor and Gladys Knight who *incrementally* persuaded Berry Gordy to review the group’s audition.”

    Michael was a child, not a public relations consultant. I have never understood why people have held those little white lies against Michael as if he were some kind of pathological liar – “Oh, he must be lying about his skin color, his marriage and his sexuality, because once when he was eleven, he said he was nine.” It’s ridiculous.

    I wish future biographers would examine the impact on Michael’s psyche of being subjected to a “high tech lynching”, with millions of taxpayer dollars burned in the effort to tear him down. I am sick to death of reading “What happened to Michael Jackson?” They know damn well what happened. They did it.

  31. Have spent 2 and a half hours working my way through this blog and all the comments.

    Have commented as I went along, but just want to say finally, that I think this blog is the best work on Michael ever!!!

    No one book could ever come close, unless it was a book of this blog.

    (just wish I could get myself back on as a subscriber with WordPress!! Seems almost as impossible as a ‘definitive biography’ of Michael)

  32. VC, you said, “Accusing AAs of bleaching their skin is considered an insult, with I don’t doubt is how Michael’s black detractors intended it, out of envy and jealousy.”

    I wonder VC: is it also “insulting” to accuse Angela Davis of wearing an Afro wig—-as you have claimed on another site? Do you believe it’s OK to spread falsehoods and perpetuate misperceptions about important black figures whose names are NOT Michael Jackson? I haven’t been able to find any evidence that Angela Davis wore an Afro wig; nor have the people I know who studied with her personally, aware of anything of the kind.

    More importantly, though, Angela Davis’s image, beginning with her “iconic” Afro, is the subject of an article she herself wrote in the 1990s. Here, Davis addresses the broader set of issues that have surrounded her hairstyle, and the ways she has been remembered (or, more accurately, *misremembered*) by history on account of it.

    “Afro Images: Politics, Fashion, and Nostalgia,” in *Critical Inquiry* (Autumn 1994), pp. 37-45:

    [….]

    “One woman [at a performance by incarcerated women artists in the Bay Area] introduced me to her brother, who first responded to my name with a blank stare. The woman admonished him: “You don’t know who Angela Davis is?! You should be ashamed!” Suddenly a flicker of recognition flashed across his face. “Oh,” he said, “Angela Davis—the Afro.”

    “Such responses I find are hardly exception, and it both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo. It is humiliating because it reduces a politics of liberation to a politics of fashion; it is humbling because such encounters with the younger generation demonstrate the fragility and mutability of historical images, particularly those associated with African American history…..

    Later on, she DID mention the use of a wig, as a way to DEFLECT an “armed and dangerous” image that the F.B.I. (Davis was then on their “most wanted criminals” list) had implanted in the popular imagination.

    “The props I used consisted of a wig with straight black hair, long false lashes, and more eyeshadow, liner, and blush than I had ever before imagined wearing in public. Never having seriously attempted to present myself as glamorous, it seemed to me that glamor was the only look that might annul the likelihood of being perceived as a revolutionary. It never could have occurred to me that the same ‘revolutionary’ image I then sought to camouflage with glamor would be turned, a generation later, into glamor and nostalgia.”

    _________________
    _________________

    “Remembered as a hairdo.” And Angela Davis was, from the 1960s on, among the most important leaders of the Civil Rights movements. Still going strong as a writer, activist, and teacher.

    I’ve posted these paragraphs from her essay, in part because they show the “mutability” that certain public reputations over time…. perhaps over decades. Regarding Angela Davis, the “dangerous revolutionary”—no doubt she’d be considered a “terrorist” in today’s terms—-has been neutralized as a threat, a “fashion icon,” remembered because of her Afro.

    Secondly, if we are ever going to move the dialogue about Michael Jackson “forward,” I think it really behooves us to learn about the MANY people who have undertaken to “make the world a better place,” often risking their lives and careers in ways that were fundamentally different than Michael’s (often tepid) “humanitarian” commitments.

    Decades after her initial rise to prominence, the memory of Angela Davis is reduced to a “hairdo” (or a fucking WIG, to hear some tell it); her contributions to crucial social movements in the U.S. trivialized by those who are petty enough to regard Michael Jackson as the *foremost* (if not the *only*) victim of racist scapegoating our country has ever seen.

    * * * *

    “The fragility and mutability of historical images, particularly those associated with African American history,” Davis reminds us, in an article she wrote over twenty years ago. And if you take a broader view of the ways “official” history has treated prominent African Americans—-including those who made the cover of JET (and many whose names never even appeared in its pages)—-you’ll probably find that Michael Jackson hasn’t fared nearly as badly as you thought.

    • Wow, I went to a Michael Jackson fan site and an Angela Davis symposium broke out! Why is mentioning that someone wears a wig insulting? Even in the rather hubristic quote from Davis herself, a wig is merely a fashion accessory, very popular during the time when she was on the run. (While Ms. Davis is a formidable intellectual, for the life of me, I can’t think of anything she accomplished that was for the good of African Americans. She is at most a footnote to history, so it’s a mystery why her nose would get out of joint when she isn’t immediately recognized on the street, forty odd years after her Newsweek cover.)

      Bleaching one’s skin is very hazardous to one’s health, and indicative of deep-seated mental problems. The afore-mentioned Sammy Sosa looks like a person in dire need of psychiatric care. (And he doesn’t look white at all, so all that effort and risk was for nothing.) When AAs accuse someone of bleaching their skin, they’re really saying, “You’re a self-hating nutjob.”.

      I believe that Michael Jackson was not a nutjob, and he was not a liar. Quincy, Oprah, or even Jermaine can keep their insinuations to themselves.

  33. D.B. Anderson, VC, I *never* implied that Michael was a “pathological liar.” Others may call him that: I will not. If he was told, in his childhood, to stretch factual truth (by Berry Gordy and others), that doesn’t make him “a liar.” I’m sure Michael could be honest to a fault—AND he could ALSO dissemble, if the occasion arose. Here, I am not casting aspersions on his character as a whole; I’m talking about specific instances. It’s entirely possible that that the most scrupulous honesty AND “little white lies” may coexist within the same person. (In fact, that’s probably the case for most of us.)

    VC: “Michael was a child, not a public relations consultant.”

    Yes. And he was also human, after all. By all accounts, he was also a very fast learner who early in his career absorbed, spongelike, many lessons the music industry had to offer.

    According to Randy Taraborrelli (a source that I know some here may not trust), when the Jacksons first moved to California, Diana Ross hosted a “welcoming party” where the Jackson 5 were billed as a group “featuring sensational eight-year-old Michael Jackson.”

    Taraborrelli goes on:

    “Michael said, “I think you made a real mistake. I’m not eight years old. I’m ten.” Berry explained that they were not lying, but this was a matter of public relations. As far as the media was concerned, Diana Ross was the one who brought him and his brothers to Motown. Diana explained to him, “It’s all for your image.” Michael recalled, “I figured out at an early age that if someone said something about me that wasn’t true, it was a lie. But if someone said something about my image that wasn’t true, then it was okay. Because it wasn’t a lie, it was public relations.” ”
    __________________________
    This ^^^^.

    So he wasn’t a “public relations consultant” when he was ten or eleven. And yet, by his own telling, even at that tender age he was learning a thing or two about public relations.

    I can imagine that a confusing pattern may have been established at this point, one where he may not have rightly known where Michael Jackson (the person) left off, and the “image” began. Seen in this way, things can become a lot more complicated than the simple polarities of “lying” vs. “truth telling” might suggest.

    • “Seen in this way, things can become a lot more complicated than the simple polarities of ‘lying’ vs. ‘truth telling’ might suggest.”

      I agree, Nina and Caro, and I think the situation is further complicated because I see his public persona as a work of art. There’s a famous Picasso quote that has been translated a number of different ways – that “Art is a lie that tells the truth” or “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” I think this is true of Michael Jackson’s public persona as well. Just as a novel – a work of fiction – can express deep truths, so can the iconography of Michael Jackson.

      But still, like you, D.B., my first instincts are always to believe that what he says is true.

      • Oh good topic for a different post Willa! If his life was a work of art, I nominate the Medieval morality play “Everyman.” I’m afraid I will also insist on discussing how Socrates’ defense at trial relates to Michael dancing on the SUV. 🙂 But not today.

      • I so agree Willa. Michael was a very complicated man and so has this discussion become.

        I am thinking of the story that went out about Michael coming from Mars (I think it was) and eating off the heads of chicken,, and his remark that if people read it in the tabloids then they would believe it, but if he said it himself they would not!! how twisted is that!!

        The best quote of his for me is ‘lies run sprints, the truth runs a marathon’ – says it all

    • No, you didn’t call him that, I wasn’t saying you did Nina. However, the illegitimacy narrative does charge him with being a fraud and habitually fabricating things. The illegitimacy narrative is a “story” and set of psychological speculations made up by others that is simply not born out by facts, when evaluated logically.

      I sense that perhaps you are frustrated with a level of thinking that you believe isn’t on a high enough level (defend MJ at all costs). But I’m saying we need to think at even one level beyond than that. Let’s go beyond literary analysis and psychology, and turn to logic and philosophy.

      Occam’s Razor applies here: “don’t make make more assumptions or assume more causes than the minimum necessary to solve a problem or find a cause for something.”

      *****

      We can clear up the actual science pretty quickly:

      IF>THEN>ELSE
      IF Michael’s grandfather had vitiligo
      IF There is photographic evidence of vitiligo
      IF Michael’s son has vitiligo
      IF Vitilogo is an inherited disease
      IF The autopsy confirms vitiligo
      THEN Michael had inherited vitiligo
      ELSE Search for a different explanation

      *******

      But you’re not asking me that, I don’t think. So on to part 2:

      IF Michael learned at age 11 how the public is routinely misled
      THEN He could have been disgusted by it and refuse to engage

      IF Michael was a god-fearing, Bible-reading man
      THEN He would have recognized the evils of this system of falsehoods

      IF Michael had his own vehicle by which to teach people truth
      THEN He would have written many songs about the press

      IF Michael was expertly trained in press manipulation
      THEN He could have easily lied to Bashir, but chose not to

      IF Michael could have lied to Bashir, but chose not to
      THEN He did it intentionally

      IF Michael was literally put on trial for practicing radical honesty on national television
      THEN All doubt about his honesty & psychological state must be reconsidered

      IF Anyone has a hard time with this logic, it’s because the end result will horrify and scare the bejesus out you about what it all means, because
      THEN “the whole system sucks” and we have a serious, serious problem

      • A word about your turn to logic and philosophy, D.B.

        The whole system DOES suck. Of that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, and it doesn’t even sound *remotely* jacked to me because I’ve KNOWN the system sucked from my earliest childhood.

        It follows, then, that we DO indeed “have a serious, serious problem” on our hands. It’s been there for a very long time. (Here, although you haven’t named the problem, I assume you’re talking about racism.)

        And I can’t help but wonder: at what point did you discover the existence of this problem?

        What’s more: given the fact that we’re aware that we have a serious, serious problem, then WHY aren’t we at work addressing that problem, rather than being distracted by trivia….. like Michael Jackson’s nose?

        • No not racism in this instance. I meant specifically the ways that the press, in different forms, manipulates the public. About which, I will have more to say in the future.

          • I *am* doing something about it – I have been since last December – and will be revealing more about how the press operates and why this is matters far beyond “defending Michael”. I think HE thought it was important for people to know, as well.

        • The more I think about this comment of yours Nina, the more disturbed I am:

          “And I can’t help but wonder: at what point did you discover the existence of this problem? What’s more: given the fact that we’re aware that we have a serious, serious problem, then WHY aren’t we at work addressing that problem, rather than being distracted by trivia….. like Michael Jackson’s nose?”

          The treatment of black men by the media is the MOST SERIOUS THING I can think of to be discussing, given my skill set. If you spend anytime on Black Twitter it is a constant source of discussion and a constant source of distress to people in the black community. Only because of the protests of the public is the media at large starting to become aware of their own blindness to the ways in which the have treated black men.

          Today there was a CNN article about the trial of one of the officers in the Freddie gray case. In it, Freddie was described as “the son of an illiterate heroin user” which has zero to do with the officer’s trial. They were forced to change it.

          Vox followed that story and commented as follows:

          “The media has a bizarre history of demonizing black men and characterizing them as troubled. For example, last year, the New York Times drew widespread criticism for describing Michael Brown, whom a former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer killed, as “no angel.” At the same time, white murderers, serial killers, and terrorists very often get a pass. The Times, for instance, described the suspect in the Planned Parenthood shooting as “gentle.” http://www.vox.com/identities/2015/11/30/9821780/cnn-freddie-gray-heroin

          If you imagine that the way Michael Jackson was treated in the press “is trivial” and has nothing to do with this, then you are not woke and you better check to see where your white privilege is. The blindness that you have displayed towards this matter all day today, all with getting personal with me, is the exact same thing that was done to Michael all along. How dare you. I AM doing what I can; you don’t even realize there is anything to be done.

          I don’t even know why you are here in this discussion if you believe this is trivial. Wake up.

      • Still, I DO have a hard time with the examples you’ve presented here, D.B. You may consider them the very epitome of logic; but I find your points kind of impenetrable, and I wish you would simply come forth with what you really believe, instead of evading the issues through this exercise in “logic.”
        _____________________________________________

        You say,

        1) “IF Michael learned at age 11 how the public is routinely misled
        THEN He could have been disgusted by it and refuse to engage”

        >>> Sure, he could have. So, what of it? He may have been disgusted by this knowledge, or self-interested, or both. He may have been under duress. There are hundreds of possibilities, I’m sure. I’m not understanding your point here.

        2) “IF Michael had his own vehicle by which to teach people truth
        THEN He would have written many songs about the press…”

        >>> Here again, D.B., your meaning is opaque to me. So far, I’m coming up with thousands of possible alternatives for your hypothesis (if that’s what it is). He COULD have written many songs about the press, or only a few, or none.

        3) “IF Michael was expertly trained in press manipulation
        THEN He could have easily lied to Bashir, but chose not to…”

        >>>Maybe he did lie; maybe he didn’t. Again: I’m reminded of nothing so much as my mother’s lamentation, when I was growing up: “Oh, if only….” And my father would often reply, “If. If. If. If Grandma had balls, she’d be Grandpa.”

        Again, I’m not understanding how your statement connects with the larger issues at hand.

        _______________

        Now we come to a couple of propositions that I admit have left me extremely confused. You say,

        “IF Michael was a god-fearing, Bible-reading man

        THEN He would have recognized the evils of this system of falsehoods…”

        Really, D.B.? If this is what you truly believe about Michael Jackson, then I wish you would say so in a straightforward manner, without prevarication. And if this statement does indeed represent your own opinion, then we’ve gotten VERY far afield from anything that can be remotely considered “logical” or “scientific.” If this is the case, your BELIEF that Michael never communicated a half-truth or a falsehood would have to be considered an article of faith.

        Hmmmm. “A god-fearing, Bible-reading man.” D.B., can you take a guess at exactly HOW MANY men who fit this very description have been congenital liars, bigots, and criminals?

        And finally,

        “IF Michael was literally put on trial for practicing radical honesty on national television
THEN All doubt about his honesty & psychological state must be reconsidered…”

        >>>Well, no. As wrong as that trial seems to us, Michael was NOT, to the best of my knowledge, put on trial for “practicing radical honesty on national television”; either literally or figuratively. He was put on trial (unjustly, in our opinion), for several counts of child molestation. And he was acquitted of those charges, as well he should have been.

        If you’d like to make the case that Michael practiced something you’re calling “radical honesty” in the face of Martin Bashir’s camera (or in any other context), I’d be interested in hearing it. It’s an intriguing idea.

        What Michael said in front of Bashir’s camera, however, at ONE moment on national television in 2003, doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on what he chose to do—or not do —at any other moment of his life. That’s just simple logic.
        ________________________

        When it comes to philosophy, D.B., I like what Aristotle wrote in his “Metaphysics”:

        “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

        And for a more modern variation on this theme, here’s F. Scott Fitzgerald in an interview in 1936:

        “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

        You may favor “Occam’s razor,” while I find I prefer the principle of “Hanlon’s razor.” It says: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

        While both our razors could probably do with some sharpening, I wish I found your propositions more helpful in parsing the questions that are really difficult to answer….. which may also be the *only* questions really worth asking.

        • Nina, you said that you would never know the truth about Michael’s vitiligo. You asked me to explain “what is at stake” for me and other people who say there IS an objective truth.

          I replied to you that believing Michael’s statements on the matter were at stake. All of Michael’s statements are backed up by evidence. None of the speculative other theories are backed up by objective evidence. None of them.

          >>Still, I DO have a hard time with the examples you’ve presented here, D.B. You may >>consider them the very epitome of logic; but I find your points kind of impenetrable, >>and I wish you would simply come forth with what you really believe, instead of >>evading the issues through this exercise in “logic.”

          I am rarely accused of being obfuscatory or impenetrable. I was rather thinking I been TOO straightforward; but if I need to clarify further, OK.

          >>You say,
          >>1) “IF Michael learned at age 11 how the public is routinely misled
          >>THEN He could have been disgusted by it and refuse to engage”

          >>> Sure, he could have. So, what of it? He may have been disgusted by this >>knowledge, or self-interested, or both. He may have been under duress. There are >>hundreds of possibilities, I’m sure. I’m not understanding your point here.

          This was a direct answer to your raising the Tarraborellian theory that Michael had learned to lie at an early age, and because of that was a manipulator and/or – as you said – confused and didn’t necessarily know where he left off and his image began.

          It is objectively true that Michael was early exposed to public relations falsities. But the conclusion – that he was confused, or lied a lot because of this – is not. The conclusion is actually 180% degrees from accurate. All the evidence suggests that Michael was very disgusted by the pushing of falsehoods onto the public. There are hundreds of examples I can give to support this.

          >>2) “IF Michael had his own vehicle by which to teach people truth
          >>THEN He would have written many songs about the press…”

          >>> Here again, D.B., your meaning is opaque to me. So far, I’m coming up with >>thousands of possible alternatives for your hypothesis (if that’s what it is). He COULD >>have written many songs about the press, or only a few, or none.

          Michael DID write extensively about lies in the press (perhaps 30 or more songs). That is Exhibit A supporting evidence that, rather than being confused or complicit with by press falsities, he was opposed to the entire shady business. It can even explain why Michael sometimes wouldn’t speak to reporters directly, and went through Janet instead.

          >>3) “IF Michael was expertly trained in press manipulation
          >>THEN He could have easily lied to Bashir, but chose not to…”

          >>>Maybe he did lie; maybe he didn’t. Again: I’m reminded of nothing so much as my >>mother’s lamentation, when I was growing up: “Oh, if only….” And my father would >>often reply, “If. If. If. If Grandma had balls, she’d be Grandpa.”

          >>Again, I’m not understanding how your statement connects with the larger issues at >>hand.

          Michael made a statement about on national television that he allowed the kids to use his bed. This was true. The mere fact that he dared say these words on television, is what got him arrested. I’m making the observation that his radical honesty in this situation must, logically, call into question all past speculation about his deceitfulness. For surely this is a situation in which choosing to lie might be expected.

          IF Honesty is a crime
          THEN Lying is not a crime

          IF Lying is not a crime
          THEN Lying is the norm

          IF Lying is the norm
          THEN Accusing an honest person of lying is a lie

          IF The norm is not truthful
          AND Michael was truthful
          THEN Michael would be punished for being truthful

          Now we come to a couple of propositions that I admit have left me extremely confused. You say,

          >>“IF Michael was a god-fearing, Bible-reading man

          >>THEN He would have recognized the evils of this system of falsehoods…”

          >>Really, D.B.? If this is what you truly believe about Michael Jackson, then I wish you >>would say so in a straightforward manner, without prevarication. And if this statement >>does indeed represent your own opinion, then we’ve gotten VERY far afield from >>anything that can be remotely considered “logical” or “scientific.” If this is the case, >>your BELIEF that Michael never communicated a half-truth or a falsehood would >>have to be considered an article of faith.

          The fact that Michael read his bible every day, and was deeply and firmly committed to a following Jesus all his life – his words not mine – is an objective truth. It is documented many places. I have no idea what you mean by my prevarication. There are many quotes by Michael about his faith. If one is learned about the Bible, then one knows its many cautions against speaking falsehoods. This is Exhibit B supporting evidence that, rather than being confused or complicit with by press falsities, he was opposed to the entire shady business, on grounds of his faith.

          >>Hmmmm. “A god-fearing, Bible-reading man.” D.B., can you take a guess at exactly >>HOW MANY men who fit this very description have been congenital liars, bigots, and >>criminals?

          Yes but irrelevant to Michael and subject at hand; those are people who twist the scriptures into something they are not.

          >>“IF Michael was literally put on trial for practicing radical honesty on national >>television
THEN All doubt about his honesty & psychological state must be >>reconsidered…”

          >>>Well, no. As wrong as that trial seems to us, Michael was NOT, to the best of my >>knowledge, put on trial for “practicing radical honesty on national television”; either >>literally or figuratively. He was put on trial (unjustly, in our opinion), for several counts >>of child molestation. And he was acquitted of those charges, as well he should have >>been.

          It was precisely his statements on TV that got him arrested. It was on the mere strength of those [honest] statements that Sneddon INVENTED a new scenario with which to charge Michael. If Michael was interested in playing a public relations game, or hiding anything, he could have easily done so.

          >>What Michael said in front of Bashir’s camera, however, at ONE moment on national >>television in 2003, doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on what he chose to do—or >>not do —at any other moment of his life. That’s just simple logic.

          Disagree because the “fabrication charge” has been used consistently to disrespect Michael many many times. His lying tendencies could not therefore, suddenly go out the window with Bashir, and leave the “fabricator theory” intact. It shreds the fabricator theory.

          >>When it comes to philosophy, D.B., I like what Aristotle wrote in his “Metaphysics”:
          >>“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting >> it.”

          It certainly is.

          >>“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind >>at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

          Yes, agree. But only until such time as it becomes clear that one is more useful than the other, in which case, to continue holding them both will only waste time.

          >>You may favor “Occam’s razor,” while I find I prefer the principle of “Hanlon’s razor.” It >>says: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

          If you are referring to my analysis of Rolling Stone, I agree that stupidity [defined as believing a narrative that they invented and still hold] is in operation over there, and that malice may not be of the conscious variety. Nevertheless, it is misguided and untrue.

          >>While both our razors could probably do with some sharpening, I wish I found your >>propositions more helpful in parsing the questions that are really difficult to >>answer….. which may also be the *only* questions really worth asking.

          Maybe you should write a book.

  34. I agree that “lying vs. “truth telling” is very complicated, but am aware that some of the things about Michael are conflicting, like for instance the story of him inside the oxygen chamber which has been claimed to have been promoted deliberately by Michael as a publicity stunt to outright denial and that someone else took the picture and leaked it???

    (just to let you know that I have taken out a second email address to be able to resubscribe to this blog, and so far so good!!)

  35. Michael Jackson was arguably the most famous man on Earth, Michael Jackson was a black man, racism against black people is a terrible reality globally. Michael Jackson was a victim of racism during his career. Talking about the role that racism had on MJ’s career and personal life is perfectly adequate and expected. It would be surprising if racism wasn’t mentioned at all when people discussed MJ’s life. Michael Jackson himself talked publically about racism that he felt as a black man. It’s redundant to say that Michael Jackson wasn’t the only black man that suffered from racism, because obviously racism existed before he was born and continue to exist after his death.

    In regards to Wallace’s review, some things written obviously disappointed many fans. The deshumanizing terms used agaisnt Michael, the part about doubting the autopsy report and the part about trial were problematic in the eyes of fans because they were words that used to be hurled at Michael when he was alive. Those arguments were the same things that Michael, himself complained about and felt hurt. Michael Jackson himself said that he felt hurt when the media and part of public accused him of not wanting to be black. Fans see Michael Jackson as a family member, they love him and feel hurt by the things that he said hurted him, obviously that some people think this is ridiculous, but it’s a fact that MJ means very much to his fans. Michael Jackson himself recognized this when he said that he and his fans shared something very strong that most people can’t understand. Why everything that he did has to be deemed false or it’s up for scrutinize? Why his fans have to accept people stil questioning his vitiligo when his autopsy report confirmed? If nothing about him can be accepted as a fact, the fact he was a male can be in doubt too despite his autopsy report confirming.

    • “If nothing about him can be accepted as a fact, the fact he was a male can be in doubt too despite his autopsy report confirming.”

      Believe it or not, I have seen people express doubt about that. Here is the article and to add to the insult it was posted on a website that calls itself Science2.0.

      http://www.science20.com/quantum_gravity/blog/michael_jackson_castrato_comparing_jackson_great_singer_past_who_was

      The author is so in love with her theory that Michael was a castrato, that no evidence to the contrary mattered to her. She claimed in her article Michael did not have facial hair. Fans showed her photos in the comment section that he did have facial hair. Fans also showed her the autopsy which clearly states that he had the genitals of an adult male and that the genitals were intact. Nothing mattered.

      Actually, this shows me very well that some people fall so much in love with a theory they have that they will not accept anything that could refute that. Of course, this has very little to do with “science”. Science is actually about revisiting your ideas and theories when new evidence proves the initial ideas and theories were wrong.

      • There it is, the original illegitmacy story. I distinctly recall the DJs on a Miami radio station speculating about what surgical procedures had been performed to enable Michael to continue singing – this was around the disco/Dancing Machine/Rock Your Body period. I don’t believe it was unrelated to the intense dislike of disco that was bubbling up in the white male rockist world.

        And we can’t forget the intense controversy around feminism during this period. Equal pay, the ERA, abortion rights – all this was going on as well. The traditional white male dominated system was cracking open.

        What do you do when your wife or girlfriend wants to get dressed up and go to the disco, and wants you to learn how to dance? Real men don’t dance! (White men can’t dance??) How do you solve this problem? You reject the entire thing by attacking some who seems to symbolize your dilemma: “Michael is not a real man. He’s been surgically castrated.”

        The author of the article you posted is proposing, not physical castration, but some hormone deficiency that would have the same effect. It is, I guess, her effort to resolve the wild speculations with science. The problem is that the wild speculations are absurd in the first place. The man was kinetically gifted, and worked very hard. Like I been saying, it’s just not that complicated.

        • Yes, I remember as soon as Michael turned 18 there were rumorurs that aimed to emasculate him. Like that rumour about him having a sex change operation and marrying Clifton Davis.

          I think the whole castrato thing comes from the fact that he had a high voice, but it is stupid, because a) his voice wasn’t castrato high, b) his normal speaking voice was deeper.

      • I remember reading that post, and others like it. They express the deeply held desires of a weird segment of society that revels in emasculating black men. The author is a black man who had himself castrated as some sort of fetish and thinks of it as positive, although most of other sites seem to be wishful thinking from “unusual” whites.

      • It’s unconscionable to me that despite of medical evidence that Michael Jackson was indeed a male with not only the genitals of a adult male intact but actively producing sperm at the time of his death, the amount of video evidence that his natural voice was deeper than his commonly known public voice, this person person will still not acknowlege these facts and would insist in her theory. The same happens with the vitiligo, those people don’t want to accept that they were wrong to assume that Michael Jackson lied about his skin disease and he, in fact, told the truth regarding his skin disease. No, we have people that despite the autopsy report, medical evidence mentioned in three trials when he was alive and after his death, still have the nerve to state that “we’ll never know the truth about his vitiligo”. We have people that still state that “bleaching” can trigger vitiligo without any reasonable or medical evidence, only their opinions that Michael didn’t like being black and lied about his skin condition. Michael Jackson wasn’t a fictional caracther, he was a human being. So obviously when writing about him people need to abide by the facts of his life.

        • “…we have people that despite the autopsy report, medical evidence mentioned in three trials when he was alive and after his death, still have the nerve to state that “we’ll never know the truth about his vitiligo”.

          When people reach this level of ignorance it’s because it serves their purpose to deny the truth. They don’t WANT the truth. They want to believe what they want to believe. The truth is irrelevant.

          Same with the science20 castrato article which is nothing but the hard copy version of Reelz TV..

      • There was also a story circulated that Michael’s father had kicked him in the genitals and he was unable to have children. Once again, the autopsy stated that he was “actively producing sperm”, which I have to admit, I thought was a strange thing to report, but maybe this is normal for an autopsy. However, it did put the theory of him being sterile to rest- or it should have.

        I noticed that in Wallace’s article, that in his little fantasy scenario about Michael growing up in a place other than Gary and living a different life, that this little media favorite was slyly slipped into the story, “..maybe he would have had his own children”.

        Once again, the media cannot grasp the fact that Michael could, indeed, father his own children even though they may not “look” black. There are scores of people who are bi-racial that many would not think are African American in the world, but the public, and the media, hammers this all the time. e.g. “Michael Jackson “bought” those white kids.”

        I don’t know of any other celebrity that has had to deal with this kind of accusation. How insulting to Michael, as a perfectly functioning adult male who longed to be a dad, that he would ask other men to father his children. If I were a genius like Michael, I would surely want to pass my genes on to my child; Why wouldn’t he? It just doesn’t make sense that he would search out sperm donors.

        This is changing the subject, but one year after Michael’s death, there was a 20/20 TV program called, “Michael Jackson:After Life”. There were various friends and associates of Michael who were interviewed. Three of them were Michael Bush, Dennis Tompkins, and Karen Faye. They talk about how Michael felt about his body as “art”. They also also discuss Michael’s condition during, “This is It”.

        Here is the program segment that addresses these topics:

        • “I don’t know of any other celebrity that has had to deal with this kind of accusation. How insulting to Michael…”

          I see your point, beagleladywv. Of course, we have no way of knowing whether Michael himself would have experienced a statement like this “insulting” or as an “accusation.”

          And after all, Carvell Wallace didn’t refer to Michael’s ability to function sexually, for the purposes of reproduction or anything else. That’s an assumption that you bring to his statement. In his fantasy scenario, Wallace envisions that “maybe he *would* have had his own children”; he says nothing about whether he COULD have them. So I don’t believe Wallace is implying that Michael was *incapable* of fathering biological kid….. just that he may have *chosen* not to. (Here, Wallace doesn’t speculate about the possible reasons why this may have been so.)

          As I have said elsewhere, people—-geniuses or not—- choose to adopt children, or conceive them by non-traditional means, for *all kinds* of reasons. So I consider it no great aspersion, IF Michael had done so.

          I recently posted an interview with Michael, conducted in 1975, where he stated that he might like someday to adopt children:

          Walter Burrell, SOUL, Vol. 11, No. 2, May 10, 1975
          “Michael Jackson: Now 17, Quietest J5 Plots His Future”

          “I think there’s much fun to be had in a big family. You can do different things and relate to one another. We used to kid around and say things like ‘If it wasn’t for you I would get to eat all the fruit in the house,’ or ‘It would be great to have the peanut butter to myself,’ but that was all in kidding and we never felt sorry for being part of a big family.’

          In fact, Michael insists that he would himself consider fathering a large family. ‘I don’t really know,’ he says hesitatingly, but I think I’d like to have a pretty big one.’ He is even seriously thinking of the idea of adoption. ‘Sure. That would be great. There are so many children all over the world who die from hunger. I’ve seen them myself in Manila and India. The poverty is really incredible. So to bring a child into your home and take care of it is saving a life. And life is important.’ “

          And shortly after Michael’s death, an interview with Brooke Shields appeared in …. Rolling Stone (!):

          “Michael Jackson Remembered: Brooke Shields on Singer’s ‘Pure Soul,’ ” Alex Tirpack:

          “There were times when he would ask me to marry him, and I would say, “You have me for the rest of your life, you don’t need to marry me, I’m going to go on and do my own life and have my own marriage and my own kids, and you’ll always have me.”

          “He never actually formally proposed to me, though. He would sort of say, “Why don’t we adopt a child together? The way your heart works is what I want in my life,” and I said to him, “You’re always going to have my heart, we don’t need to adopt a baby, and I think it’s wonderful that you want to have children, adopt a child.” I wanted to fall in love and get married and have my own babies, and I said, “I don’t think that you need to necessarily do that.” This was just before he married Lisa Marie in the Nineties, I guess. He had discussed it with me, and I said, “I don’t think that’s the best thing to do for me.” I was just out of college, and wanting to fall in love and have a fairy tale, I was holding on to that. He just felt so bad that there were so many little children in Romania in these orphanages, and he wanted to try to give them homes, and I really wanted to be able to do that with him, but it would have divided my life too much.”

          Read here:
          http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/michael-jackson-remembered-brooke-shields-on-king-of-pops-pure-soul-20090713
          ____________________________________

          As it happens, this scenario—-international adoption—-wasn’t the route that Michael pursued. But these items show us some evidence that he wasn’t averse to the idea of raising children who—-biologically speaking—-weren’t “his.”

          I do know people who *have* adopted children; some for the very reasons Michael apparently considered. I’ve also known people who used sperm donors. In this day and age, there is (or shouldn’t be) ANY stigma attached to these ways of raising children, outside of “natural” conception.

          The iimplication that these parents’ relationships with their children are in ANY way *less* binding, or less loving, is an insult to them.

          • It was insulting to Michael. How do we know this? Because he always said that his children were his biologically and always denied the rumors from the press.

            “TV Guide: Lets talk about your kids [Prince Michael, 2, and Paris Katherine, 1]. I have to ask you about this business in the papers recently about you and Debbie not being the biological parents of your children, about her being implanted with another women’s egg and then impregnated by artificial insemination.
            Michael: That’s total garbage. It’s just trash and not true.”
            TV Guide Interview, December 1999

            http://www.allmichaeljackson.com/interviews/tvguide99interview.html

            So if people argue otherwise, they’re calling him a liar and calling someone a liar is a insult and obviously it’s offensive. The same way it’s a insult to Michael’s children because they identify themselves as biracial, so people arguing otherwise are calling them liars and calling them liars it’s a offense to them.

            Fans pointing the fact that Michael always claimed his children biologically isn’t a offense to adopted children and adoptive parents. This doesn’t make any sense. In reality, it’s the people who are always speculating about MJ’s children paternity that are trying to undermine the relationship between adoptive parents and adopted children.

          • In Michael’s own words in Ghosts

            Who gave you the right to shame my family.
            Who gave you the right to shame my baby, she needs me

            etc etc etc

            Definitely ghosts of jealously!!

          • Although he wrote, “who gave you the right to scare my family,” Caro, the song dates from 1995… before the birth of Prince. I’m sure the “suckin ghost of jealousy” was a very real real reflection of the way he felt about certain people. But the details of who is in the “family” remain ambiguous. (In “Ghosts, he tells the assembled Mayor and townspeople: “meet the family,” and then introduces all those ghouls and (un)dead dancing people with whom he shares his big, drafty house.)

          • “You’ve got the people confused, you tell the stories you choose

            Your cameras can’t control, the minds of those who know
            That you’ll even sell your soul just to get a story sold

            Stop maliciously attacking my integrity”

            –Privacy, from Invincible, 2001

  36. Speaking to Michael’s way of presenting himself to the public, here is the link to the “Rolling Stone” interview with Lisa Marie Presley in 2003. Scroll down the article until you find the section about her relationship with Michael through their courtship, marriage, the accusations against him in 1993, and the eventual divorce.

    http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/interview_lisamarie_rollingstone.shtml

    I thought the following comments by Lisa were particularly interesting. We know Michael had a much deeper voice than he chose to use. You can hear his natural voice when he speaks during his Super Bowl performance, and I’ve also seen videos on YouTube where he speaks to the audience in a much deeper voice. Here is a portion of the interview:

    LM: “He was very real with me off the bat. He immediately went into this whole explanation of what he knew people thought of him and what the truth was’.

    RS: Which was persuasive?

    LM: ‘Yeah. You get sucked into the ‘you poor, misunderstood person, you’. I’m a sucker for that. Then we sat down to talk, and he was so not what I thought he was. He was very real — he was cursing, he was funny, and I was like, ‘Wow. . . ‘. I fell into that ‘You have this whole Howard Hughes thing that goes on in the press, and you’re not anything like that’. ‘

    RS: But why wouldn’t he want people to know that?

    LM: ‘I don’t know. I think it worked for him to manipulate that image for a little while. The hyperbaric chamber thing and all that monkey shit and the elephant shit. It made him mysterious, and I think he thought that was cool. But then it backfired, like it always does.

    ‘I was always saying, ‘People wouldn’t think I was so crazy if they saw who the hell you really are: that you sit around and you drink and you curse and you’re fucking funny, and you have a bad mouth, and you don’t have that high voice all the time. I don’t know why you think that works for you, because it doesn’t anymore’. ‘

    And this:

    LM: “It’s very strange, because there’s not a lot of people who he’ll allow to see who he really is — there’s probably only five or six people, not including kids, who have seen who he really is. But when you do . . . ‘ She smiles. ‘He didn’t get where he is because he’s an idiot. You see a real person who’s very much the opposite of what he was presenting’.

    In the interview she gave to Oprah after his death, she said that, in her opinion, he was “high as a kite” during some of the parts of the interview with Bashir. The only time I thought his behavior was off, was after he had held Blanket over the balcony and he was being criticized all over the world. Bashir was talking to him about it, and Michael was trying to feed Blanket a bottle under the veil he was wearing. He was talking a mile a minute and shaking his hands and legs non-stop.

    At 3:12

    I can’t imagine how it would be to live your life in the public with everyyone watching your every move. Smokey Robinson spoke to this after Michael’s death. He said people not in the public eye, don’ thave that kind of scrutiny. How many times have we made decisions that weren’t the best, or that we regret, but we don’t have someone photographing it and splashing it all over the headlines? It must have been torture for him at times.

    • Rolling Stone again. Faker, poser, manipulator.

    • Remember his 1979 Manifesto and his decision to craft his life to be ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. He used his immense, various talents to attain his goals…his ex-wife said he was always perfecting…everything. She also said that he could be a rebel…he would do exactly what he was advised/counseled not to do just cause…

      Personally, I listen to his spoken word and his music to discover who he was as best I can. Couple of books helped…RTT, Van Valin’s stories, Bush’s wonderful book and even FCascio’s memories. All little pieces of a huge puzzle.

      In The Studio just recently made a comment…
      “After MJ died the Rolling Stone printed an article about the Bad album that was like reading fiction.”

      Just like so much else invented about him.

      • An important aspect that’s often not accounted for: “could be a rebel…he would do exactly what he was advised/counseled not to do.” There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Michael was just not going to play at what he considered to be wrong, regardless of consequences.

      • Rolling Stone could do so much better regarding MJ if they wanted. Most of their articles about him read like tabloid articles. After his death they talked about his nose or his relationship with Brooke Shields in an article more than about his music.

        Why isn’t a music magazine more interested in what they are supposed to be interested in: his music? Why don’t they contact those guys who worked with him in the studio to make an honest and fair portray about Michael as an artist? I am sure it would be a surprise for many of their readers who still think Quincy Jones wrote Michael’s music and all he did was show up in the studio, sing them and leave. I remember a couple of months ago the Beat It demo that is on the This Is It album, went viral on the internet. People were in awe of it and many very surprised. Positively. That Michael wrote music this way was something that has been well known to his fans for a long time, but it was obviously news to much of the general public. And music magazines like RS have a lot to do with that, because instead of introducing him as an artist they still would rather focus on the tabloid caricature. I have the feeling this is deliberate. Magazines like RS do not want to give their audience a chance to get impressed by someone like Michael Jackson.

  37. I remember Oprah once mentioning on her show, that there was a thing in the African-American community that “lighter-skin color” was considered better than darker skin. It took me by surprise that there would be this kind of discrimination inside the African-American community itself based on “color”.

    It is not surprising, that the long-held belief that Michael didn’t have Vitiligo, even by those who were close to him, like Quincy Jones, was debunked by Michael’s autopsy. It seems it is hard for the media to let go of that hard-held opinion, that now they have startd to slip into their articles tht “bleaching” could cause Vitiligo. They can’t admit they were wrong, so they are now grasping at whatever new theory they can to save face, instead of admitting they were wrong, and apologizing for their promoting that lie for years.

    • I remember Oprah once mentioning on her show, that there was a thing in the African-American community that “lighter-skin color” was considered better than darker skin. It took me by surprise that there would be this kind of discrimination inside the African-American community itself based on “color”.

      That is why I insist that anyone who writes about Michael Jackson should know about the culture where he comes from, in order to understand some of the dynamics. It is not easy to understand for someone who was not raised in that cullture. In a nutshell : this stems from slavery and was also what the apartheid system in South Africa was based on : racial seggregation , categorizing people depending on how much ‘white blood’ they had or how white they looked or could pass for white, which also determined their privileges. This caused an inferiority complex with many blacks ,some tried to look white to also get those privileges or at least be accepted. .
      Colour is a very sensitive iopic in black communities all over the world because of their experience of not being accepted becase of it. There is enough literature on this subject to study that you can find online.

  38. I love what you said, MJJJusticeProject- I’ve often discussed these very ideas with others. Michael didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with friends his age, experience relationships, etc.where we learn so much about life and ourselves. It definitely had to have an effect on how he viewed the world. It also had to have and effect on the way he viewed relationships with women as well. He had his mother, who he felt was perfect, and then he had a philandering father who took him to strip clubs to perform when he was just a little boy, and his brothers who had sex in front of him when they were on the road. It is no wonder he was suspicious of women and their intentions. I’m sure it is hard for any celebrity to know who loves you as a person, and who loves you for your fame and what that can do for you. I’ve read stories from fans who said that, when they told him they loved him, he asked them, “Why”?

    • Thank you for your comments and I agree with your points regarding women, sex and how the introduction of seedy sex in stripclub format, with stench of cigarettes/liquor at such an early age, affected his perceptions. I imagine with his father and older brothers’ womanizing on the road, and then coming back to his religious Jehovah Witness mother, created another conflict in his mind/heart.

      I think about Michael’s perspective of the world all the time, and how his lack of childhood, the violence in the home and lack of privacy too, made him develop into the man he became. I don’t think we can judge him too harshly by any normal matrix because he grew up in abnormal environment. I try to be empathic as Michael seemed to be able to do when he interacted and helped people in need, because Michael was surely in need. He said he walked the streets looking for someone to be a friend to him- for HIM and not because he was Michael Jackson.

      ” I’ve read stories from fans who said that, when they told him they loved him, he asked them, “Why”?”

      If true, he clearly was searching to find what was about him that anyone could love, except his stardom/fame. I wonder if any of those fans were able to give him a satisfactory answer. His habit of taking his friends on crazy spending sprrees certainly points to possubility that he felt he HAD to lavish them with gifts in order to have their friendship at all.

      I also believe he most certainly KNEW that it was a detriment to his development and was drawn to people like Shirley Temple and Elizabeth Taylor because he felt they could possibly grasp where he was mentally. He probably thought they could not want notoriety from his friendship since anything they were in their own right, legends as well. But those are not friendships developed out of knowing someone or caring about them as an individual or developing friendship through shared interests.

      His marraige to Lisa Marie also seemed to be motivated by that same thought- she had her own wealth as the daughter of Elvis and she couldn’t really want anything materially from him. But when asked if he loved her.. she said “as much as he knew how” But was it really a matter of him not knowing how to love OR was it that he didn’t trust her love? She claimed he wouldn’t let her see him without makeup and if your life partner is not trusted at our most vulnerable moments ..then who can be trusest?

      Another indication that Michael distrusted not only women but others is because he rarely got the chance to KNOW people or they, him. I feel he was always guarded, watchful. Why would he break ties with some of the boys he befriended when they were young but maintained long term friendships with others. I’ve often wondered if he was testing them and as they grew into young men began to display attributes that he did not appreciate and was done with being the cash machine, even though he’d set that pattern in motion himself.

      He surrounded himself with things to fill that void, games, fun, carnival atmosphere made him happy at Neverland. He wanted to bring chlldren there who had similar stunted childhood, bereft of true joy. He try to coddle that inner child that never got to experience at the appropirate time the joys of carefree life awaited him behind the security of his gates. I remember he said “Childhood” was one of the best songs to understand him. When you listen to “Childhood” it seems to be one of less meatiest of songs ..but in reality it’s deeply messaged.

      Sorry for being so long winded.. there is always another layer when we start peeling the onion.

      • “She claimed he wouldn’t let her see him without makeup and if your life partner is not trusted at our most vulnerable moments ..then who can be trusest?”

        Doesn’t this claim come from Taraborelli’s book? I have never seen LMP actually claim this.

  39. Speaking as to who could write a good biography about MIchael, I think it would take several people who “really knew who he was” as Lisa Marie said, in different phases of his life. His mother wrote a great book about the early years, “My Family: The Jacksons”, which is very honest. It is out of print, but you can find it on Ebay or used book sites at times.

    Frank Casio has written his version, although I’ve not thought much of him since Michael’s death because he seems to be selling anything of Michael’s he could get his hands on in auctions.

    There is Jermaine’s book as well. I thought it was interesting that it was mentioned here that Jermaine said that he didn’t write part of the lyrics to, “Word to the Badd”.
    This article says differently- in his own words no less:

    http://articles.latimes.com/1991-11-07/entertainment/ca-1387_1_jermaine-jackson

    Here are the people listed as the writer’s of the song:
    Simmons/ Jackson/ Reid/ Babyface/ Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

    The irony is that L.A. Reid is now the “curator” for Michael’s music, after helping to write that disguting song. I hated those interviews they had with the various producers for the album, “Xscape” Reid made the comment that the “contemporization” of Michael’s demos made his music, “listenable”. REALLY??? This is the man chosen to be in control of Michael’s music?? It makes me sick.

    I think Nanny Grace,and Miko Brando would be good ones to write their rememberances, but I don’t think we will ever see that happen, and Karen Faye has already stated she will not be writing a book. I hope that one day Michael’s children will write about their father before they forget their memories. We know that as we grow older, we forget all the little things we experienced as children. Their memories will fade with time as well.

    I’d love to know who those five or six persons that Lisa Marie was referenced that she felt knew the “real” Michael. Those would be the ones who could do it, but everyone should be able to have their secrets not revealed to the world, including Michael, and as it has been said here, those people would keep his confidences..

    If you put all the books already written together, they would make a pretty good compilation. I loved the bodyguards book, because they shared about Michael’s last years right up to, “This is It”. Kerry Anderson, who was one of Michael’s bodyguards during the trial and after, will be releasing a book next year. He loved MIchael, and I’ve listened to the radio interview he gave to King Jordan. His book will be another piece of the puzzle of Michael’s life.

    We also have Shmuley’s book which could have been a good one if he hadn’t inserted his own pompous opinions. One of the best I’ve ever read was also by Shmuley, “Honoring the Child Spirit” which was also from his interviews with MIchael. It is all about Michael’s views on children. It is a beautiful book, but you never heard of it in the press, and clips of the interview were never played on TV- were they? Of course the more sensational book is the one that got the air-play.

    The pieces continue to being filled-in, and a more complete picture of his life is being revealed.

    I heard a rumor, that MIchael may have been writing another memoir at the time of his death. I wonder if it is true, and if so, if Sneddon and company got it during their raid on Neverland, or if The Estate may have found it and will perhaps release it in the future..

  40. I am mostly interested in choices Michael made himself as an adult and how they affected his life, And how come after he left Hayvenhurst as a wealthy, healthy man at almost 30 years old, within a few years things changed so drastically , for the good (Neverland, buying the beatles catalogue, unprecedented worldwide succes , charities, becoming the most iconic person in the world) and for the bad (allegations, drugabuse ,ugly divorces , financial problems, mismanagement) and how these two extremes are connected.
    Everyone has a piece of their life with Michael and it is THEIR story with him made fit for public consumption and for who they think will buy it. They add a personal flavor, couleur locale and pieces of the puzzle ,but do not neccesarily make a biography.
    If a biography was only written by people who knew someone, there would be no biographies of most historical characters, These were mostly written decades or ages after they died.

    • Very true, but how fortunate that we still have people alive who DID know Michael. Of course eeryone has their own perceptions of any event or situation, but nothing would be written if we threw out their remembrances just because of “personal flavor”.

      It is generally considered that the allegations in 1993, and the subsequent settlement, which was seen by many as a smoking gun, e.g. “Why would he settle if he were innocent?” that forever tainted his reputation, and opened the door for the Arvizos. He lost a lot of lucrative deals because no one wanted to be associated with someone who was perceived as a child molester. Who knows how/where his career track might have gone if not for the whole sordid Chandler accusatons.

      During the trial, many celebrities that Michael thought were friends, were asked by Mesereau to stand up for Michael in court, and they refused. They were afraid their own careers would be tainted. These same celebrities then showed up at the memorial service all smiles and posing for the camera, not to mention the smiles of Randy Phillips and Kenny Ortega.

      • but nothing would be written if we threw out their remembrances just because of “personal flavor”.
        That is not exactly what I wrote.

        It was not only Philips and Ortega , even Bruce Swedien in an interview admtted that when called as a character witness he refused because he ‘ could not vouch for Michaels character’. There are others too who refused . Mesereau is too decent to name them. Some shortly after Michael died had nothing good to say about him, probably not expecting that the public opinon about him would change for the better. Now they have changed their tune completely because it is more profitable for them. Roger Friedman is a ‘journalist’ who hit many nails in Michaels coffin so to speak .He even pushed Marc Shaffers fabrication that Michael had payed off Brazilian boys for molesting them. He is one of only 2 or 3 tabloid writers who Michael isssued a statement against. Today he has jumped the bandwagon to get in the fans good grace and they fall for it.

        imo there is no excuse whatsoever for endangering a child be it by dangling it or other irresponsible behaviour, Anyone who does it needs a reality check.
        Michael should not be helt to different standards than others who did the same;

        • I thought I’d studied endlessly but was shocked to read your comment abt Swedien not wanting to vouch for MJ’s character. Very distressing!. Do you have a link to that? I remember Friedman saying that Swedien & Q told him they wld never work w/ Michael again – loved him (BS) but wld never work w/ him again. There was a break – $$ perhaps. I blew it off at the time as typical RF. Now I’m not so sure…

          • I’ve never heard Bruce say anything disparaging Michael other than this one small comment: “Michael is not the kid next door, and he hasn’t always made the best decisions for himself, I would go with him any place, any time.”

            Watch at 3:18 for this comment in this interview with him after Michael’s death. Starting at 8:13 he states, “I will “always” go to bat for Michael.” He does give his opinion about Michael’s plastic surgery. He thought Michael was a “beautiful young black man”, and he didn’t need it. All three parts are great.

            Here is Part 2:

            Here is Part 3:

            The sad thing is that Swedien’s daughter is writing a book about growing up in the music industry. It is going to be a “tell all” about her parents. She hates them and accuses them of mental and physical abuse. It is supposed to be released soon, and she is also going to talk about Michael. I hope she doesn’t rake him over the coals as well.

  41. I found this video on YouTube where they talk about Michael “dangling” Blanket off the balcony, and Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”, with his one month old son being held close to a crocodile and even dancing the baby across the ground in front of the croc. He also held his daughter while feeding a crocodile.

    Today, we hear over and over about the Blanket incident, but you never hear that mentioned about Steve Irwin when talking about his children today. It truly is shocking to see Irwin with the baby in front of the crocodile, which by far more dangerous than what Michael did.

    Here is the video showing him with the chidlren and the crocodiles, and then Irwin’s defiant defense of his actions. Why Mikchael, but not Irwin?

    • You are exactly on point with pointing out the blatant difference in how media covered both of these events. Also, don’t forget Britney Spears driving her car with her 8 month old baby in her lap- same goes for that model Gisele Bundgen driving ATV on a beach holding her one yr old – And Kelsey Grammer not only took his 4-month-old baby to wild Halloween Playboy Mansion party the baby once again in a vehicle WITHOUT A CAR SEAT … and it was all caught on tape. – Yes these incidents were reported but not ad nauseam – You didn’t see Gloria Allred going on about how CPS should take their babies away.

      When it comes to Michael everything is exaggerated – If he drinks wine, he’s an alcoholic- If he take pain killers for real injuries is a dope addict- When he has children they can’t be his, their paternity is questioned and its reported that he asked friends to donate sperm!!

      The donate sperm story has always been a doozy – After garnering a promise from Lisa Marie to immediately start a family he was heartbroken that she refused to fulfill that dream. Can we imagine that after wanted so desperately to have a child of his own, he’d go ask some other man for his sperm to create a child for him??? It boggles the mind and it always reminds of Michael famous quote;

      “Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, “I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,” people would say, “Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.”

      and we all remember Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair DID claim Michael used voodoo! and cows blood in some riitual against his enemies.

      He knew what he was up against- and yet he just kept going – kept excelling – kept beating them becaues his realtiy was so much louder and better than their exaggerations, misstatements and downright lies told about him.

      • Oh, and let’s not forget Tom Cruise dangling his daughter over a boating dock…

        • And just noticing today People Mag’s cover of S.Bullock with her children, one with back to camera, the other wearing a mask. Surely made me think of the continuing grief media tossed at Michael for fiercely attempting to guard his childrens’ privacy while out in public during their younger years.

  42. Thanks for all who have contributed so much to this discussion–yes, it’s layers of the onion for sure, but I agree with D.B. about the need for logic and rational thinking as well as having a grip of how to think philosophically in order to really make progress here. Interesting comments about who can write the bio, if it ever happens. IMO it would be a multi-volume work. This is an incredibly rich and complex life on so many levels–it is really in some way a ‘history of the world.” MJ wove himself into that ‘tapestry’ he spoke of in TII–and now it is come to the point “how can we know the dancer from the dance,” as Yeats wrote. “You know, the force has a lot of power,” and when the force is that big and that powerful–wow–such a powerful force will not be easy to define in in a bio or a movie or anything on that scale. In some ways, I think his power lies in his fans–namely, how he inspired the ‘people all over the the world’–to make that change–and some of us have done that or are in the process of doing that. That is amazing power.

  43. Regarding the conversation about “Normal Valley” and how Michael was attacked in the media for not being “normal”. I am sure all of you have realized the ongoing hype around Adele. Regardless of what someone thinks of her music, I think this hype is about something else than the music. I cannot count how many times I have seen people say they like her “because she is so normal”, “she is like one of us”, “we can see ourselves in her”. I found it interesting how much this is a selling point for her.

    I just thought of the difference between how she is being treated now by the media, after her blockbuster 21 album and how Michael was treated after Thriller. She still gets the same media support and hype – or even more. On the other hand, when Michael came out with Bad after Thriller there was such a huge PR backlash and the media was all about his supposed “abnormality” and they already had their knives out and entered into “tear down” mode in the “build up to tear down” cycle. I think this has other reasons as well – and yes, race is one of those reasons too.

    Anyway, “normal” is a selling point and I find that very interesting. People do seem to trust a pop star who is “like us” more than someone who is eccentric.

  44. “In her tirade, the unnamed woman calls the black officer an “Uncle Tom” and repeatedly suggests that he kill himself. She also compares him to the late pop singer Michael Jackson and asks if he would like to bleach his face. ”
    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/29/minneapolis-black-lives-matter-activists-taunt-black-cop-tell-kill/

  45. Forgot to mention: I posted the above article because of the discussion in this thread of the nasty article by a black author in the New Yorker who implied MJ was bleaching his skin.

  46. Sfalkus and all,

    Here’s the headline and a bit of the article Sfalkus has linked above. It’s from breitbart.com, a site that’s well known for its sensationalistic pieces, BLATANTLY biased, and mostly skewed toward a right-wing point of view as we see here:

    “Minneapolis Black Lives Matter Activists Taunt Black Cop, Tell Him to Kill Himself”
    by LEE STRANAHAN
    29 Nov 201527

    “A video uploaded to the website LiveLeak shows the high-pressure, racist antagonism flung at Minnesota police by the Black Lives Matter activists who have occupied the area in front of the 4th Precinct police station.

    “In the video, a black police officer with the patience of Job can be seen shrugging off a torrent of abuse from a heavyset woman standing just a few feet away.
    a
    It’s just the latest chapter in the long siege of Plymouth Avenue by anti-police activists that has been documented by Breitbart News in an on-the-scene investigation.

    “In her tirade, the unnamed woman calls the black officer an “Uncle Tom” and repeatedly suggests that he kill himself. She also compares him to the late pop singer Michael Jackson and asks if he would like to bleach his face. At one point, the unnamed woman mocks a nearby white officer for his weight.

    “The occupation of the block in front of the police station began after the police shooting of Jamar Clark on November 15th […..] Clark, 24, was a convicted felon who had pled guilty to making terroristic threats against a former girlfriend earlier this year. Police were called out because Clark was allegedly beating his current girlfriend, and when they arrived, police say he grabbed an officer’s gun. Clark’s advocates, including Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, claim Clark was handcuffed when shot, a charge the police deny.”
    ____________________________________________

    We read:

    “high-pressure, racist antagonism FLUNG at Minnesota police….”

    “a black police officer with the patience of Job.” (Really?)

    “a torrent of abuse from a heavyset woman.”

    “a tirade…. her despicable comments”

    “Clark [who was unarmed at the time he was shot and killed by the police, btw] was a convicted felon who ….. [made] TERRORISTIC THREATS against a former girlfriend….” (emphasis mine).
    ____________________________________________

    What that woman said about MJ was indeed disgraceful, and her hectoring of that cop wasn’t pleasant either.

    But that aside, this style of reportage is (or should be) a complete embarrassment to its writer, AND to those who believe in it. Moreover, the video clip—whatever the comments on MJ may have been—has been taken totally out of context, and is being used here to buttress an argument that so flimsy, so badly crafted, and so false, that at *least* a dozen other perspectives could instantly appear that would expose the whole article as a sham.

    Another taste of breitbart.com’s “house style.” This is from an article on a protest involving black students at Guelph University in Canada:

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/28/enough-enough-obama-demands-gun-control-colorado-shooting/

    “EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Black Students In Canada Barricade Vice President, Accuse College Of ‘Anti-Black Racism’ ”

    “A mob of black students at one of Canada’s liberal arts colleges has been caught on camera intimidating white administrators, including an Associate Vice-President, yelling, “You will give us the respect that we ask of you,” and presenting a list of segregationist demands.

    “But they appear to have absorbed the worst excesses of batty liberal academic thinking, making statements such as: “Respect does not mean respect against black people. Look at intersectionality.”

    “This echoes much of the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been called reverse racism by commentators such as Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro.”
    ________________

    Wow. Just listen to this stuff.

    “A mob of black students….,” “batty liberal academic thinking….,” “segregationist demands”—-plus the notion of “reverse racism”: the use of which, in my view, is among the most despicable instances of bad faith to come along in decades.

    It beggars the imagination how *anyone* can take this kind of crap seriously. They honestly believe “reverse racism” is a thing, and they even defer to the authority of a member of *their own* staff to attest to it!

    I’m sorry, folks; but in all honesty it’s THIS sort of thing—much, much more than any bad reporting on Michael Jackson—-that outrages my own sense of common decency, intelligence, and logic.

    Though in the final analysis, I think this has EVERYTHING to do with Michael—-and is key to understanding why he was subjected to the kinds of abuse we all saw.

  47. IMPORTANT NOTICE: Helena’s Vindicate MJ blog has been suspended. There has been a concerted effort to silence those of us who have been ringing the MJ fact truth bells … Get ready for a full on assault of any blog that challenges the media’s version of MJ events.

    Buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night –

    • I saw that earlier today and was very sorry. . Does anyone know what reason was given?
      I have read there a long time , though I have not commented much. I am so thankful to Helena for the huge amount of research and analysis she has done.
      I strongly hope it will be back up soon
      I had just been catching up on the last few posts. Some of those recent posts have been so good, thoroughly debunking the claim that there was all this evidence of payoffs to other “victims” that was barred from the 2005 trial, and revisiting/further debunking the claim that Jordan’s description was a match.

      Somebody must be feeling really threatened.
      Seems like the anti-MJ fanatics are really on a rampage to shut down the truth.

      .

      • “Seems like the anti-MJ fanatics are really on a rampage to shut down the truth.”

        Which is very interesting. If they are so confident they have the “undeniable truth” and their arguments are so strong then why do they feel the need to silence opposing opinions?

      • Yes, the MJTrolls are greatly “threatened” – They routinely comment on VMJ and VMJ2 about how the MJ Vindicate blogs are “crap” yet they prove with their actions that the findings within the research scares the hell out of them. One might wonder WHY? IF these people really are seeking TRUTH why would they work so hard to prevent court documentation from being explored in an open forum? Their actions belie their words. The work of MJ Advocates all over the world is bringing about the much needed change in the discussion regarding Michael Jackson .. WE all must continue to work together to make sure the truth is told .. not the media distorted view that the public has been fed for almost 25 yrs. ..

      • I read that had something to do with copyright infrigement. I don’t know if it’s true because the recent posts were discusssing the motions from prosecution and defense before trial. Those court documents are public record. Interesting that they were debunking Stacy Brown’s lies about those supposed “huge amount of evidence” that were barred from trial by the judge.

  48. MJJJP: Oh, no! Why? On what grounds?! Who’s suspending her? Facebook? Very, very distressing! Her research has been massive, impeccable and relentless. I have relied on her so many times for truth and details few others speak about. What the hell is going on?!

  49. Is Helena all paid up? (Maybe these “anti MJ fanatics” are really just an internet hosting service, looking to collect on an unpaid account.)

  50. Suspended Blogs and Sites
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    If we find your blog or website to be in breach of our Terms of Service, we will suspend it.

    In some cases, we may add a warning note in your dashboard. It will contain a link that you can use to contact us regarding the issue. We might also disable posting on your site, or discontinue other features on your account.

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  51. Read Helena’s post. Grateful she’s back. She does very important work & was obviously getting way too close to the truth for the trolls to get their panties in such a knot.

  52. There is a new article on Michael’s purchase of the catalog here, with some of the same old, same old.

    https://readthink.com/i-was-sued-for-sounding-like-myself-da089f34d953#.p1bwmqu69

  53. I just found this Christmas letter from Michael to his staff for sale on Ebay. It is so touching to read his words as they truly show his heart. I wish I were rich!

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Michael-Jackson-Autograph-Signed-Neverland-Certificate-Letter-Unused-Envelopes-/262174735615?hash=item3d0ad4fcff:g:zxEAAOSwwE5WYQar

  54. Another recent book: “Michael Jackson FAQ”. Has anyone read it? I have been looking for fan reviews before buying, but haven’t found any. According to a radio interview with the author, the book focuses on his music and the source for some of the info is the fan community. Here are links to the radio interview and the book information.
    http://wgnradio.com/2015/12/03/michael-jackson-faq-all-thats-left-to-know-about-the-king-of-pop/
    http://www.halleonardbooks.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=125022&lid=21&menuid=10225&subsiteid=164

  55. Years ago, after doing charitable work in Africa, and before he married Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt expressed the desire to adopt a dozen kids. After becoming a father, and experiencing how much work parenting is, whether the children are bio or adopted, he changed his mind. But at no time was talk of adopting a bunch of kids held against him, the way it is with Michael.

    Wallace ‘ s dig about Michael having “his own children” takes on a more nuanced meaning when black people say it. Yes, lots of people adopt, or use artificial means to conceive children, but the black rap against Michael is that he allegedly bought white children and foolishly tried to pass them off as his own. This, even though every African American family I know of has members who could pass for white, including a number of Jackson grandchildren.

    I’ve often wondered if anyone knows the story about the pendant in the shape of Africa that Joe Jackson always wears around his neck? This is not the usual behavior from old black people of his generation. It indicates the Jacksons have a deep connection with their African roots.

    • I just saw this comment on Twitter to Taryll Jackson who had posted a funny picture of his son’s hair all messed up from sleep. His son’s hair is a natural blond color:

      “gyenyameskfa: You need to leave Breana. She is a gold digger, I cannot understand why you do not see this. Go solo, 3T is done and marry someone that has more Black in them than Breana, the lineage will end up no longer being Black lol”

      • Everyone will have their own take on the photo. I like it very much as well. Michael loved to experiment with his look and his art. Just a look over the forty some odd years this vision has been before us and we see a plethora of different versions. His hairstyles, the way he trimmed his eyebrows – and different types of makeup and also WHO applied the makeup makes all the difference in the world. I find a great vulnerablility of Michael’s coming though in this Gorman photo – Michael once said in an interview “every shot, is my shot” so I agree that he had much to say about the final shot. Gorman said that he and Michael would talk for hours as to what they wanted to bring out and that also sounds so much like Michael – It’s been rumored there may be more of this particular shoot coming out soon .. .. Am very pleased and excited to see them- Buds from MJJJP

    • “The kids are not his” is an insult; just one more instance in a string of insults that make up the fictional illegitimacy narrative in the press. The fact that Michael was also interested in adoption is irrelevant. He stated that those kids are biologically his and that should be the end of it; the act of continually questioning their parentage is something no other person has had to endure.

      “The kids aren’t his, the voice isn’t real, his marriage wasn’t real, the catalog shouldn’t be his, he doesn’t want to be black, he’s a criminal, he’s not authentic.” All of these things are exactly like the other. There is no difference. It is all verbal violence by people projecting their own stuff onto Jackson.

      Anyone who considers these peccadillos – small, relatively unimportant offenses – is continuing to perpetrate verbal rape. They insult not just Michael, but the wisdom and empathy shown by those people who recognize wrongdoing when they see it.

  56. Glaucia says,

    “Fans pointing the fact that Michael always claimed his children biologically isn’t a offense to adopted children and adoptive parents. This doesn’t make any sense. In reality, it’s the people who are always speculating about MJ’s children paternity that are trying to undermine the relationship between adoptive parents and adopted children.”

    You have a point there, Glaucia. And the same goes for those who claimed he was “sissified” (à la Rev. Louis Farrakhan in 1984), or who chided him for “turning himself into a white woman,” or that he didn’t biologically father his own children, or that he changed his look because he was ashamed of his race; or self-hating; or, ….. or, … or,…. or a multitude of choices that many people continue to believe are “wrong”—-even if they’re also widely held, in some communities, to be “normal.”

    There is only one thing that Michael was ever said to have done (or to be “accused” of doing) that, by my lights, is actually WRONG…. and illegal. The rest? All the elephant bones, babies dangling, babies birthed by “unnatural” means, hyperbaric chambers, surgeries, skin lightening (or whatever), “bizarre” behavior, and so forth? Bah. Mere peccadilloes, at the most. Many elements of his visual presentation gave him distinction and honor. All the cool young people today, from Jaden Smith (Will and Jada’s son), to R. Kelly’s possibly trans child, are repeating tropes that Michael—-intentionally or not—-experimented with decades ago.

    And that’s *precisely* why I don’t relish hearing any more about “accusations” that aren’t *really* accusations, but instead tend to reflect some fans’ own prejudices and hangups.

    Michael set so many precedents, fer chrissakes! I can’t say for certain who he may have been; but I’m pretty damn sure of what he wasn’t. HE wasn’t “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” He was ahead of the curve in so many ways!

    Everywhere you turn now, celebrities are having their faces surgically altered. When cultural standards and mores change so rapidly around us, wouldn’t it be more effective to simply *ride out* the latest in a series of storms? Why put ourselves through those all paces of conformity, continually jumping through hoops and twisting ourselves into a pretzel, all in a vain attempt to prove how “normal” and “respectable” Michael Jackson was? I have no interest in what’s now called “respectability politics.” It almost never works.

    It doesn’t work for me, anyway. The kind of rhetoric these “rebuttals” would require can only give credence to a system I don’t respect in the first place. I want no part of it.

    • Michael Jackson himself did these “rebuttals”, he denied that he was ashamed of his race, he said that he had plastic surgery because he felt insecure with his looks due to his father’s verbal and psichological abuse during his childhood. Michael denied that he had a sex change surgery. Michael denied being gay. Michael denied not being the biological father of his children. So It was important to him to adress those rumors, he said that people forgot he was a human being worthy of empathy and respect. I think the majority of people would be offended if they were the subject of those rumors and people judged them based on this. All those rumors are tied with the allegations in people’s mind, that’s the reason the american public condemned him before he was tried in a court of law. It’s deshumanizing. Michael Jackson wasn’t a fictional caracther, something of that you are free to create or a simply abstract object of study and personal projection. Michael Jackson was a human being. He had a right to define himself and people need to respect this.

  57. On a lighter note (or maybe not for some): a new semi-nude photo of Michael popped up that is causing a bit of a stir within the fandom. Depending on fans’ own value system (social environment, religion and so on) people react very differently to it and I find it all a bit amusing.

    So the pic: http://s017.radikal.ru/i403/1512/b0/2ab9c74635b5.jpg

    It is coming from an exhibition that photographer Greg Gorman has in Germany: http://i016.radikal.ru/1512/ff/b3935bd06432.jpg

    Gorman worked with Michael at the end of the 80s. Among others he made these photos as well:

    He is also credited as a photographer on the Bad short film. Some fans say it is fake but I can’t see why a photographer of Gorman’s level would risk his professional reputation by faking photos. BTW, he made lot more revealing nude photos of other celebrities, like Keanu Reeves or Rupert Everett.

    Yes, the face looks a bit “odd”, but I think it may have to do with the angle and the fact it was photographed through a glass. Also that Gorman’s own team did the make-up and the hair. In any case, I don’t think this is a fake.

    By the way some fans talked about it (with disgust) I had the feeling the denial has more to do with their own “values” (or religious beliefs or whatever) rather than anything. I wish fans just stopped projecting themselves onto MJ. How do they know MJ wouldn’t do such a photo? Didn’t he do You Are Not Alone (which is actually more revealing than this photo)? Gold pants, anyone? Does anyone really think he did not know what he was doing there? In The Closet wasn’t exactly about angels either. I just wish some fans would let MJ be who he was rather than imposing their own “values” on him.

    I’m glad he did this photo and I think he had a beautiful body. Here is what Gorman said about his nude photos in a book published in 2002 and I think it is fitting to this photo as well:

    “”I think I was going for an innocence and a vulnerability,” Gorman said. “For me, those are areas that add a tremendous amount of sexuality and sensuality to a male or female nude.”Gorman said he also chose to stay away from “overly muscular, overly masculine guys.”
    “I had plenty of kids come to see me who were beautiful and who had great bodies, but they came in with too much confidence,” the photographer said. “I was not looking to photograph people who were going to be exhibitionists.”
    Gorman was looking for men with strong eyes and lithe bodies, qualities that he said made the subjects more accessible. A lot of nude photography is interchangeable, he said, with too great an emphasis on physique.
    “I’m trying to focus more on the individual and allow you to come into the picture,” he said. “And then the body, hopefully, is just a nice adornment to what you’ve already discovered.”
    Some may find the photography too pristine and pretty, but Gorman welcomed the criticism: “Some people are going to love it, some people are going to hate it, some people are going to think it’s not relevant. But the cross-banter is always good.”
    Gorman does bristle at the way in which male nude photography is often perceived. Nudes were commonly accepted in antiquity, and the past century has had its share of photographers who have depicted them, from Man Ray and Edward Weston to Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts.
    “Now it’s more in vogue to say, ‘I can’t believe this, it’s gay,’ ” Gorman said. “It’s a wanton amount of labeling. People don’t look at female nudes and say, ‘Oh, these are heterosexual.’ ”

    http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Impressive-Bodies-Of-Work-Celebrity-2734669.php

    • There’s something off about the photo, in fact, several somethings – the pose, the hair, the nose. It’s frustrating that you can’t see the face clearly. I think it’s odd that the article mentioned Keanu Reeves and Rupert Everett, but not Michael.

    • I maybe the only one who finds nothing sexy to Gormans latest photo , and I cant imagine it was intended as such. To me its more tongue in cheek with the legwarmers and the pose , like a parody of Jane Fonda 80s workout .
      Compare it to Annie Leibovitz powerfool photoshoot from the same era , Or Todd Greys some of my absolute favorites especiallly the one on stage, mike in hand, Nikeshirt and cowboyboots on. Goes to show that less clothes isnt neccessarily sexier

      http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/michael-jackson/images/23173497/title/michael-jackson-annie-leibovitz-photo

      • And it is definetely photoshopped , changing his facial bonestructure and features that AL captured so perfectly

      • The leg warmers. I wonder if they have to do with this:

        “Jackson would tell Bush to “never let ’em see my legs. Because if my fans could see my legs I’d lose all of ’em”.”

        http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/how-i-dressed-the-king-of-pop-26876435.html

        I don’t know what he could have meant by this, I see nothing wrong with his legs. LOL. Maybe he found his ankles too thin, I don’t know, but this would explain the leg warmers.

        • I’m pretty sure Michael was joking about his legs! They were thin, but when it came to dancing, they got the job done.

          It’s established then that the photo is authentic, which makes it just one of the many authentically bad photos of Michael. I am curious about the photos of other subjects, like Keanu Reeves. This one isn’t even an actual nude. That draped shirt gives it a bedroomy soft porn look. Some early nude photos of Madonna have surfaced that are more expressive, and they were taken by students.

        • He had splotches on his legs from his universal vitiligo, so perhaps that is what he meant.

  58. I like the photo and I love that he experimented with the art form. I expect that Michael had a say in every aspect of the photo, right down to the leg warmers…maybe he didn’t care for
    the final result…which reportedly occurred with Bani’s shoot, also. I was a bit taken aback at first look…was it really Michael? I guess the hand convinced me initially…for me, it’s lovely…and the (maybe) look of consternation I see is meant to convey something that I haven’t found an answer for. It’s very interesting to read the various reactions to the photograph…perhaps that was exactly the intent.

  59. I hate the photo. He looks like Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance”.

  60. If you are not familiar with it, you should visit the website, gearslutz.com, which is for people in the recording industry. Shortly after Michael’s death, a thread was started on those who worked with Michael on the “Dangerous” album, but soon branched off into other projects as well. There is also a Bruce Swedien thread.

    There are a lot of technical recording questions that were asked, but there are also many great stories that are shared. It is fantastic to hear from those who actually worked with Michael.

    You have to register to be able to post. Here is a link, but I don’t know if it will work for you or not. If it doesn’t, just go to the site and do a search.

    https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/403276-post-here-if-you-worked-michael-jacksons-dangerous-album.html?highlight=who+worked+with+michael+jackson+on+dangerous

  61. I like the picture. Think it is both sexy and yet vulnerable at the same time, i.e. the usual Michael conundrum. It is so nice to have something new of Michael. Copied it straight into my collection with great glee.

    • I agree, Caro. I’m glad to hear it’s the genuine article, as unlikely as that seemed.

      I’m also a connoisseur of Off-the-Wall era photos, so I appreciate the video you posted, Sina, with Todd Gray’s pictures—I love that book! My personal feeling is that Michael didn’t show quite enough skin as a photographic subject over the years; but I guess he had his reasons for the (false) modesty he often seemed to show. The vitiligo may account for part of it.

      Anyway, this photo by Greg Gorman is a wonderful revelation. I just hope Karen Faye isn’t pulling our leg!

      • Here is another comment my Karen Faye about the photo. It seems Michael didn’t like the photos either, as he decided he didn’t want them published. As Karen Faye notes in her tweet, Gorman should have honored Michael’s wishes.

        “I have a collection of photos and items. I have a treasure trove of memories. For those who spread rumors and lies about me, I have not ever stolen from a fan, wrote or sold a book, auctioned off items, or lied. I will not share photos from that shoot, because Michael decided he did not want them released. ❤️ please be satisfied to just enjoy what the photographer (probably shouldn’t have) released. Greg Gorman is an artist too, that Michael CHOSE to shoot this. I find this very different from having his unreleased music finished by lesser artists chosen by the estate and sold. This photo is really Michael, it is beautiful and authentic.”

        • Where does she say MJ did not like the photos?

          • It also does not say it was MJ’s express wish not to release the photo. She simply reflects on the fact that MJ did not release it in his lifetime. This does not necessarily mean he did not like it. There can be a million reasons as to why something wasn’t released during MJ’s life.

            Remember that other photo Gorman did about him with the lace in front of his face? (I posted it earlier here.) For example, that one was originally intended by MJ to be the Bad album’s cover but it was because of Epic Record’s wishes why it remained unreleased as they thought it was “too feminin”.

            I also do not consider Karen Faye as the ultimate authority on what MJ would or would not want. According to her, BTW, MJ would not want most things out there that have been released after his death.

            Of course, there will always be a question of ethics over material released after MJ’s death and without his approval and wheter MJ would or would not want it, but this is true about almost everything released after his death: music, demos, behind the scenes, bootlegs, other photoshoots, This Is It – and so on. I don’t think there are many fans who are absolutely not guilty of buying, watching, downloading at least some of the above.

            I wonder if fans would pull the “it shouldn’t be released because he did not in his life” card if it was a photo of a simple face portrait. Somehow I doubt it. Even though the same thing would be true of that: MJ did not release it during his life, so does anyone have the right to release it now without his approval?

          • It’s doubtful that Karen Faye has knowledge of the contract/release form between Gorman and Micheal. While she may pretend that she was privvy to all of Michael’s business that is clearly not the case. And I sincerey doubt Michael would have approved of most of what she discloses on her twitter about his body, physical appearance at autopsy etc..yet she sits in judgement of Gorman? As for fans who are complaining about this beautiful photo by a professional photographer who was hired by Michael, how many of the paparazzi pix of Michael have they posted and tweeted that Michael would have abhorred? Michael wore sunglasses, and mask NOT only to protect his skin friom the harm the sun could do to his vitilgo but also to keep papz from taking his picture. I’d venture to say MANY of the unprofessional shots of Michael fans tweet would not pass Michael’s snuff test – Let’s also remember fans who photoshop themselves into photos w Michael or photoshop him into scenes of sexual romps. . . Seriously, the hypocrisy simply drips across the board.

          • Thank you, jacksonaktak.

          • True, MJJJusticeproject. Inconsistency, anyway…. if not downright hypocrisy.

            Stuff’s going to get released one way or another. There are *all kinds* of photographs going around that have been altered—for a variety of purposes. It’s an illusion—-for the Estate and the fans alike—to imagine that it’s possible to control the narrative.

          • Well said, MJJJusticeProject.

  62. Gorman talking about Michael some time ago:

    • Hi jacksonaktak. I loved hearing Greg Gorman talk about working with Michael Jackson, especially how involved he was conceptually. As Gorman says,

      Michael Jackson … really was a creative genius and a great subject. He was someone who would call me up a week or ten days before we would do a photo shoot, and we would have like a two-hour conversation on the phone about what we were going to shoot, how it’s going to go. We spoke as though I was speaking to an art director more than the talent.

      That really confirms something that seems implicit throughout his work – that he wasn’t just “the talent” in front of the camera (though he excelled at performing!) but that he was also very involved behind the camera, helping to create the ideas he wished to express and plan how to express those ideas visually.

      • I agree, Willa. Michael’s fine sense of design set a standard for the ways music is currently produced and marketed. It makes it hard for us to remember what promotion looked like before the rise of MTV. This is similar to those times we try to remember how we functioned before the computers and the internet changed our lives. It’s hard to imagine!

        To return to the idea of MTV and music videos as “mere” advertising: I think it was a common conception in those days. The idea of the presentation of music as a “gesamtkunstwerk” (a “total work of art”) was still quite foreign to some purists, at a time when sensory “multitasking” was not as prevalent as it is today. When you listen to music, you’re supposed to sit down, close your eyes, and *listen*. When you watch a movie, you mostly *watch.* “Film is a VISUAL medium,” they say—even if it’s not strictly true for most movies.

        TV itself, as a multimedia experience, had already exploded people’s habits of viewing/listening. Surely by the 1960s, people had seen some milestone TV specials with great music (like the T.A.M.I. show), as well as TV series featuring one band (The Monkees, for instance). Then there were variety music shows (Hullabaloo, Shindig, American Bandstand, Soul Train, etc.), and variety shows (like Ed Sullivan) where important artists—like Elvis, the Beatles, the Jackson 5—-performed for a national audience for the first time.

        Even so: for many in the “counterculture” that grew out of the ’60s, TV as a whole was still considered a thoroughly “compromised” medium. Television, unlike cinema, was often thought to be just a venue for advertising, a drug, the “opiate of the masses.” So it follows that music videos were thought to have compromised musical quality, because the images were often thought to be a crutch. And unlike concert films, the artists were mostly lip-synching.

        It would be interesting to consider “mashup” culture vis-a-vis Michael’s work as a musician and as an artist who was very involved in the conception and design of his short films. On the one hand, his music was highly hand-crafted, conceived from scratch and worked on as a whole (as many parts of Knopper’s book reveal). On the other hand, his work is often described as mainly pastiche: an assemblage of other artists’ styles of dance and music that he drew from, assembled, and made his own. We might think of the *entire* format of MTV (and music videos) as a kind of pastiche in this way. it’s fitting that Michael excelled at it, although he took the genre further than anyone before him, adding longer running time, a narrative structure, incorporating song and dance numbers into the “frame story” of the scripted short film, etc.

        As for Rolling Stone, the magazine is probably singing a different tune about Michael these days (at least in pockets)…. especially since his death. Here’s an article by Christopher R. Weingarten from June 24, 2014.

        “Michael Jackson’s 20 Greatest Videos: The Stories Behind the Vision. The most important visual artist in music history, remembered by the directors he collaborated with.”

        Weingarten writes:

        “No single artist has shaped, innovated or defined the medium of “music video” more than Michael Jackson. The popularity of MTV itself was rocketed into the stratosphere by a clip so good that it defied antiquated, racially biased ideas of rock music programming. The iconic directors behind decades of cinematic masterworks – The Godfather, Raging Bull, Do the Right Thing, Boyz N The Hood, The Social Network – can all claim his as a collaborator. And 13,597 people in Mexico City didn’t break the world record for dancing to Prince now did they? Here are his 20 best, with stories of how they came to be.”

        http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/michael-jacksons-20-greatest-videos-the-stories-behind-the-vision-20140624

  63. Some people are displaying some homophobic views. I saw some fans mentioning not liking the picture because It looks “gay”. A lot of rare pictures are being “leaked” since 2009 and we didn’t see all this fuss.

    • Glacier said —

      “Some people are displaying some homophobic views”.

      That may be true; but resisting the idea that MJ was gay does not necessarily translate into homophobia. Thousands, millions? of women and girls have fallen love with Michael Jackson over the years, and they don’t want to believe that they fell in love with a gay man, because, if he were gay, then that means he really wasn’t sexually attracted to women, and all those love songs and everything he said about being straight, etc. would have been lies, and we all would have been betrayed. No one wants to believe that. Understandably. Especially about MJ. We want to believe in him. At least I do. I believe he was a man of integrity.

      When a woman discovers she has fallen in love with and/or married a gay man who was pretending to be straight, it is devastating.

      • The infatuation of female fans with male stars is not necessarily dependent upon the reality of their sexual orientation. Ricky Martin, Matt Bomer, Jussie Smollett, have fans who find them incredibly hot, even though they are openly gay. For some women, their gayness, combined with their handsomeness, is a turn on, just as many, if not most, men are turned on by beautiful lesbians.

        That said, objecting to the constant media attempt to turn Michael into some kind of gay icon is not “homophobia”. And it’s entirely possible to simply dislike the Gorman photo, as I do, without any political agenda. To my eye, it doesn’t do him justice.

        To me, it’s ironic that arguably the sexiest photos ever taken of Michael were by Annie Liebowitz, a gay white woman not known for attractive portrayals of black subjects.

      • I’m refering specifically to people mentioning not liking the picture because It makes Michael look “gay” especially because the “leg warmers”. The majority of Michael’s fans are women and most of these women think of him as a sexually attractive man. It’s obvious the fact that he was a sexy symbol for the most part of his career and his sex appeal was a important part of his image. You’re right that women would feel cheated knowing that he was lying, that’s the reason that many famous gay men hide their sexuality, Ricky Martin only came out of the closet a few years ago. I don’t think the Michael’s semi-nude picture looks gay, nor do i think he was gay. To me, he looks perfect.

      • I don’t think Michael was gay, but I get what Glaucia says. I have seen homophobic responses to this photo and that doesn’t have anything to do with MJ’s actual sexuality. A photo does not make anyone gay or straight – sexual attraction does. So the response is not about MJ’s real sexuality, but about what some fans see in this photo based on their own prejudices (eg. leg warmers=gay, nude male=gay etc.) and some of those responses have indeed been homophobic. I have seen them as well. When fans say they do not like it because (in their view) it makes MJ “look gay” then it is homophobic. And also narrow-minded. And it is exactly what Gorman himself addressed in that interview I copied here earlier:

        “Gorman does bristle at the way in which male nude photography is often perceived. Nudes were commonly accepted in antiquity, and the past century has had its share of photographers who have depicted them, from Man Ray and Edward Weston to Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts.
        “Now it’s more in vogue to say, ‘I can’t believe this, it’s gay,’ ” Gorman said. “It’s a wanton amount of labeling. People don’t look at female nudes and say, ‘Oh, these are heterosexual.’ ”

        • Let me put it this way: I don’t think only gay people can be victims of homophobia. Think of the kid in a school that is constantly bullied because his peers perceive him to be gay, even if in reality he is not. But because of less than heterostandard, macho behaviour he is getting mocked and homophobic slurs are being thrown at him and so on. I think MJ was sometimes a victim of homophobia this way – even though I do not think he was actually gay.

  64. Hope it’s ok to post here–wanted to let people know about a free ebook on Amazon through December 30th: “That Wonder in My Youth: Michael Jackson and Childhood.” Enjoy!

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MR5EN3Q?keywords=that%20wonder%20in%20my%20youth&qid=1451268543&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

    • I know nothing at that book, but If anyone here wants to read, indepth, Michael’s own words on his thoughts about children, on a variety of topics, you need to read, “Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children” by Shmuel Boteach. Unlike his first book, where he inserted his own unnecessary and inppropriate comments, this second book is just the transcription of the tapes of his conversations with Michael on his views of children, and why they were so important to him. It is at the top of my list of favorite books and, unfortunately, it didn’t get the press that the first book did as there was no stories about other celebrities, his marriages, etc.

      The book can be purchased on Amazon, and I can’t ecommend it enough. I always suggest this book for those who want to know the heart of Michael.

      • Yes, thanks for the reminder re the Schmuley book and I agree it’s excellent as a source for understanding the way Michael felt about children. The ebook is one that Joie and Willa did a blog post on last Christmas. Today is the last day for a free download. dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/2609/. Raven Woods also wrote an excellent review on her blog allforloveblog.com in case you are interested. Her reciew is also posted on Amazon in the review section of the book.

  65. Hello D.B. and Willa,

    I’m so glad you decided to tackle the thorny issue of biography and Jackson. It’s one of the most controversial sides of discourse about the artist. Firstly, wow, Willa in getting to speak with Mr. Mesereau, He remains one of Jackson’s most stalwart defenders. You two get it so perfectly right in terms of what exactly the focus is in writing a biography on Jackson in the first place.

    It’s stunning that an acquittal later innocence and guilt are still points of discussion in print. However, perhaps things play differently in Europe than in America. Rolling Stone have always had significant issues with Jackson. I read a source some months ago on their refusal to cover Jackson early on in his career and Joseph Vogel writes in his introduction to ‘Featuring Michael Jackson’, that even Britney Spears has more RC covers than Jackson, even though its a rock magazine and she’s a pop artist. Do you remember the cover with the teletubby teddy bear?

    I also noticed was some surprising editing in their tribute issue recently. It omitted ‘Dancing the Dream’ in its book selection, and I couldn’t help feeling that the issue was rushed. I also think it’s fantastic that you mention Marsh, Susan Woodward completely discredits Marsh’s book, Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream in her book, Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics. Also, I loved that you quote Taraborrelli, whose version of events is more widely cited by academics than Jackson’s own autobiographies, Moonwalk and HIStory: Past, Present and Future Book 1. Make of that what you will.

    It’s interesting that biographers can create their own version of the ‘truth’ and in any case, what is that truth? These days it’s only what enough people have decided to draw a consensus on.

  1. Pingback: Review über MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson | all4michael

  2. Pingback: Recensione di Tony Bowers del libro “MJ: The Genius Of Michael Jackson” – ONLYMICHAELJACKSON

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