MICHAEL JACKSON / “MJ Tribute Mixtape”

The Thriller Is Gone michael jakson 08.jpg The darkness has descended easing the pain of daylight exposés. Over & over the ugliness screamed at us. What ugliness? All the embarrassing eeriness we turned away from in public but which were our private fascinations. Is that his nose or a piece of fleshy plastic? Do klieg lights & spotlights lighten the skin? Even the dance moves were a composite, an artful bundle of other people’s steps. Michael was such a genius of collage, a serious student of entertainment. But after a while no matter how well done the Peter Pan persona grows old, cold. I for one am glad the twisting is terminated, the financial failure finally finished and the come back no longer a necessary consideration; done with the drugs that made it possible to believe being weird was normal. All our crocodile crying really does is diminish the diminutive giant lil Michael had grown into. Are we afraid to speak truth about expensive facades? This man’s life is a cautionary tale, a signpost denoting the road that should never be taken. Is it really worth destroying yourself just to make other people happy? Le roi es mort. Merci, merci, merci beaucoup for all that you’ve given but I feel like a life thief when I consider the exorbitant cost you paid to deliver your gift to us.

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michael jakson 10.jpg This tribute is an acknowledgment that being normal simply means being like most, an acknowledgment that there are those of us who are not like most of us and that most of us are different in some small ways from others of us but that some of us are different in big ways, decisive ways, ways that mark us as not normal, as an “other”—someone who in some serious way is different from most of us. (Talk about a circular sentence, one that spins around and around like Michael’s famed pirouettes. Kalamu couldn’t you have said that in a more straightforward fashion?) Mike was different. How could he have been otherwise—that’s a statement, not a question. Have you seen his childhood? I work with high school students, a teacher to most, a mentor for a good number, a surrogate parent for some, and a trusted confidant for a few. Sexuality is a major issue among today’s youth both in terms of dominant culture reification and in terms of the commodification of sex, which thereby turns sexual activity into a thing to consume. michael jakson 12.jpg The big problem is that regardless of how we “think” about sex, sexual activity deeply affects us from both a physical health and a mental health standpoint. Moreover, beyond our individual particulars, sex and entertainment have been merged into an inseparable context of daily life in America. Everywhere you go, everywhere one looks, we are bombarded with constant references to and reminders of sex. To talk about Michael Jackson and not talk about sex is to take a blind person’s approach to describing the elephant in the mental bedroom. The circumstances and social contexts of Mike’s life left him twisting in the winds of both public adoration and public rejection. Who among us has not heard—or told—a joke making fun of Mike’s perceived sexual identity, whatever we thought it was; “hee-hee!!!” etcetera, etcetera. It’s not funny. It’s tragic. Rampant homophobia. The pervasive, and perverse, turning females into sexual objects for male consumption. Michael was more artful than most in how he did it, but nevertheless when you examine his videos, you see the same syndrome. In fact, Michael was even able to up the ante because we didn’t want to believe he was actually talking about what his song lyrics said, what his hyper-sexed dance moves graphically illustrated. And while we didn’t want to believe, while we were in denial, at the very same time we tried to pretend that Michael was breaking barriers, opening doors. On the one hand, it is true that Micheal did what other black artists had not been able to do. But look at it closely, especially Michael’s break through on MTV—it was a deal with a racial devil, the deeper dark-skinned Michael got into that scene, the physically lighter he became. What is the cost of assimilating and being embraced by the mainstream? Remember that Michael Jackson is partially a product of Motown’s school of assimilation, which in turn is partially based on the labor movement of Detroit and the unity of workers, many of whom were not only black and white but also native born minorities and 2nd and 3rd generation emigrants—breaking from one’s past to become a “true American” is the major rite of passage that group of ethnic citizens must confront. The problem for blacks in this matter is that for a long, long time the mainstream blocked us from crossing over. In music Motown was the first major black initiated movement toward wholesale assimilation into the American way during the Civil Rights era. A major part of black assimilation into America was black self denial and an equally sinister part of acceptance required going along with the dominant attitudes toward sexuality. michael jakson 21.jpg Homophobia and female sexual objectification were an unacknowledged hallmark of Michael’s videos. His macho poses and impersonations (yes, impersonation—we all knew he was not like he projected in those iconic videos and especially his signature move of grabbing his crotch). The question is not why did he do it. The real question is why we consumed it and at the same time denied how hyper-sexed… Media elevation of sexual attractiveness as the main marker of one’s social identity combined and contrasted with sexually transmitted diseases and dysfunctional personal relationships, how does a teenager deal with all of that? Young people are forced to face an onslaught of social issues that teens and pre-teens are generally unprepared to tackle. Chronologically, Michael Jackson was long past his teenage years, but emotionally, I’m not sure he ever really had any teen times and for sure he never fully enjoyed his adolescence and young adulthood. At 50 years old, and under the glare of an invasive public spotlight, Michael Jackson obviously had childhood issues he was still trying to work through. I’m not glad that he is dead but I am glad his trials and tribulations are now over. Enjoy the joy of his music but don’t forget, don’t ignore the social context. We have a lot of work to do to make our society safe for children to grow into healthy adults.
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michael jakson 18.jpg In preparing Mike’s tribute mixtape, as I listened to beaucoup songs, one thing quickly became clear to me: Mike had two things going for him that many of his contemporaries lacked. One, Mike was a hell of a dancer. Two, Mike was an astute observer of human psychology; he knew were all the intimate buttons were. Or to put it in gruesome terms: who knows the master as well as a beloved and trusted manservant, someone who has seen all there is to see of the private, and often perverse, side of a master acting out his fantasies. And in case the Michael Jackson connection is not clear, I believe that Michael Jackson fully understood what people thought of him—I’m talking about those thoughts we don’t often share. He knew many of us thought he was a freak but he also knew many of us lusted for freaks. We can pretend otherwise, I’m not trying to force anyone to agree or disagree, I’m just calling it the way I see it. When I think of Michael as a dancer the person I think of most of all is Sammy Davis Jr. Most people today are unaware of how young Sammy was when he started out in show business as a pre-teen. Go to U-tube and watch a couple of clips of Sammy dancing as a child and see if you don’t see a foretaste of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson was phenomenal on his feet and for all his stunted social development he was also phenomenal in judging the psyches of adults and the sexual intricacies of those psyches. michael jakson 16.jpg From “Off The Wall” on, Michael’s career was built around the spectacle of dance rather than the rapture of his voice. Michael Jackson understood that a major part of Elvis Presley’s appeal was bound up in dance, or should I say, “liberated” through dance, dance that consisted of both expert execution and frankly sexually movements. When Mike rose up on his toes or “moonwalked” it seemed impossible. But all you have to do is know the history of American dance and you will see each and every one of the steps Michael did. Mike’s genius was in how he combined utterly different sources into a whole that became quintessential Michael Jackson moves. For those who are interested in a brief but informative rundown on Michael’s dance moves, go here to the FLYPmedia website. If you’ve never seen Mike’s precursors, this will amaze you. BoL is a music website, so we don’t feature video but nonetheless I know that one can not achieve a thorough understanding of the music if one has no appreciation of dance. Indeed, popular Black music shorn of dancers does not long remain popular, or Black, or musical.
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michael jakson 14.jpg Our MJ Tribute Mixtape is a unicorn. It’s not a best-of rundown of MJ hits. Nor is it an overview of his decades-long recording career. It’s not even a homage to our favorite MJ songs. So what kind of horse is this mule? What we have tried to put together is a multi-mood, montage of Michael Jackson-related music. Some of these versions will surprise you, hopefully a few will delight you. Well over half the tracks are interpretations of Jackson associated music. We feature pop, jazz and soul singers mostly from the USA but also Monday Michiru from Japan and Sandra da Sa from Brazil. The tracks that do feature Michael include Michael doing songs that are associated with others. Plus, many of the songs directly associated with Michael are presented in remix form. So even the songs you know, you may not know the versions on the mixtape. Plus in two cases we have the authors of the songs presenting them even though Michael’s version is better known. Check especially Leon Ware doing “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which he’s quoted as saying he wrote for Michael in 1972, except one listen to his version and you can hear Marvin Gaye all over it! On another note, the last (and only post Quincy Jones produced) song by Michael I liked is “Butterflies” which was written by Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry fame and I’ve included a live Floetry version. Trivia note: "Butterflies" was Jackson's last Top 40 single and Ambrosius sings background on the Jackson version. So, anyway, the mixtape is two minutes shy of two hours long and there are long stretches without Michael’s voice and a couple of stretches where it’s back to back Michael, including a rip roaring “Who’s Lovin’ You” from the Jackson 5 days. michael jakson 20.jpg Finally, we wrap it up with one of the most poignant songs Michael ever recorded, “Childhood (Theme from Free Willy 2).” michael jakson 06.jpg
“It’s been my fate to compensate for the childhood I’ve never known.”
I hear you Michael. I feel you, little brother. I feel your pain. —Kalamu ya Salaam Michael Jackson Tribute Mixtape Playlist 01 "Se Liga, Brother - I Want You Back" - Sandra de Sa - Traduz Os Sucessos da Motown 02 "I Want You Back (Feat. Abram Wilson)" - Jazz Jamaica - Motorcity Roots 03 "I Want You Back" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 04 "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" (Demo Version) - Michael Jackson - Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection 05 "ABC (Saleem Remi Krunk-A-Delic Party Mix)" - Jackson 5 - Motown Remixed 06 "Working Day & Night (Demo Version)" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 07 "Working Day & Night" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 08 "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson - Off The Wall 09 "Rock With You" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 10 "I Can't Help It" - Will Downing - Sensual Journey 11 "Can't Help It" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 12 "I Wanna Be Where You Are" - Monday Michiru - Soul Source - Jackson 5 Remixes 13 "I Wanna Be There" - Leon Ware - Musical Massage 14 "Wanna Be Where You Are" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 15 "Human Nature" - Inspiration - The Inspiration 16 "Human Nature" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 17 "Human Nature" - Miles Davis - Live Around The World 18 "She's Out of My Life" - Kevin Mahogany - Pride & Joy 19 "Never Can Say Goodbye" - Isaac Hayes - Soul Men soundtrack 20 "Never Can Say Goodbye" - Victor Brooks - Samba Soul 21 "Never Can Say Goodbye" - Kevin Mahogany - Pride & Joy 22 "Got To Be There" - Boyz II Men - Motown Hitsville USA 23 "I'll Be There" - Michael Jackson - J.Period Presents... Man or the Music (MJ Tribute) 24 "It's Your Thing" - The Jackson Five - Motown Alternate Remixed vol 10 Various 25 "Who's Lovin' You" Jackson 5 - The Ultimate Collection: Jackson 5 26 "Butterflies" - Floetry - Floacism: Live! Floetry 26 "Butterflies" - Floetry - Floacism: Live! Floetry 27 "Butterflies" - Michael Jackson - Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection 28 "Childhood (Theme from "Free Willy 2)" - Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection  

This entry was posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 5:34 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “MICHAEL JACKSON / “MJ Tribute Mixtape””

Carmen Says:
July 8th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Beautiful. Thank you Kalamu. Gotta say, Stevie knocked it out of the park yesterday, brought me to tears. Rest in peace Michael.

Btw, here’s a great little clip of the Godfather and the King:

Ravenelvenlady Says:
July 9th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Thank you for this thought provoking tribute to a Master entertainer and humanitarian.

R Joyce Johnson Says:
July 13th, 2009 at 12:08 am

Loved being reminded of Kevin Mahogany and Leon Ware and hearing other’s takes on this music. I heard Lalah Hathaway sing Rock With You in NOLA and that she did loverly.

Questions: Do you see any comparisons yet in terms of spectacle and sacrifice with President Obama’s appeal? Who is another Black (without campaign financing) who has this impact on the world and what has been their cost?

MJFan Says:
December 24th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

MJ was not only the best entertainer this planet has known (and possibly will ever know) but also a genius and the biggest heart. He may have built on others’ work but that’s no reason to discredit him and his amazing talent! Michael is irreplaceable!
Where can that tribute tape be purchased? Does anyone still make/sell tapes? Did you mean a double CD (an audio CD is up to 80min not 2hrs)?

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