by Claude Jay
“Just call my name, and I’ll be there”, these lyrics Michael sang from an early hit, “I’ll Be There”, recorded with his brother The Jackson Five. Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009, however, we continue to call his name loud and clear because he was there in our lives with songs with music that entertained and connected. Just a couple of notes sung, “Why, Why tell them that it’s human nature”, Michael, “I’m Bad…Michael or “I’m gonna make a change for once in my life…I’m looking at the Man in the Mirror…” Michael, “It’s thriller…” Michael…”Ben” Michael, ”When I had you too myself” “The Girl is Mine”, “Can’t Stop Til I Get Enough”, “You Are Not Alone”, “Lady in My Life”, “Blame It On the Boogie”, it is undeniable the voice, the songs and music of Michael Jackson, King of Pop!
We no longer have Michael in the physical, but his music plays on and he lives on through his legacy. It is his legacy of music that captured the world, set records and cross barriers and cultures. In his life time, it is estimated that Michael Jackson sold over 750 million albums, the most of any recording artist. His music videos on MTV were visual phenomena’s for their ground breaking movie style, imagery and introduction of new technology. Michael’s talent was a force to be reckoned with, his success with his music videos, open doors world wide. Michael’s image, an African American man broke down stereotypes and images put forth in the media. Now the world had another perspective, a window to another perspective of African American culture and yes people would watch, support and buy product with images of African Americans. Musicians, entertainers and actors benefited, it was out, the world love Michael. He was selling albums promoted through his image and because he did it other artist were given opportunities.
In the Michael Jackson concert movie, “This Is It”. It was clear the show Michael created with his friend and director, Kenny Ortega he was ready to go on tour and share with the world his music. I had the pleasure of attending a screening of, “This Is It” sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild and Variety. In attendance was the director Kenny Ortega. I can only say I had planned to see the movie, but when this opportunity presented itself, I was in the right place at the right time. In the concert movie documentary, Michael is a consummate performer; he commands the stage with the clear intent of entertaining and taking his audience on a journey and a ride. Watching the footage in the movie, it felt like this is it, the concert, even though it was the footage of the rehearsals. I was totally taken with the music his dancing, the concept, his dancers and musician.
As part of the screening there were questions and answers with director, Kenny Ortega. He spoke how he was devastated by the death of Michael Jackson, he talk about how he had to push forward in a short period of time and to make the movie from the footage to celebrate and honor Michael memory. When ask, if he thought Michael was ready for the tour, he said, “you see him in the rehearsals and how his dancers had to keep up with him”. Michael was 50 years old and was dancing with all the Michael moves, moonwalk, spins, turns and fast foot work. There is footage of Michael dancing and his dancers are memorized, just cheering. During the interview Kenny got emotional when he spoke of his friend Michael, clearly he had lost a friend that was gone to soon.
I had a chance to meet and talk with Kenny Ortega after the screening. Yes, the right place the right time. Kenny Ortega was very friendly we talked and he took pictures. I spoke of my meeting Michael and spending the day with Michael and The Jackson’s when we were kids. I had the awesome experience of spending a day with Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. I wrote about it in an article, “The Day I Spent with Michael Jackson” published in the Harlem World Magazine Blog and Harlem News. I spoke to Kenny Ortega of my Uncle Al Cleveland a songwriter with Motown who made it possible for me to meet Michael and many of the other Motown artist. Kenny Ortega said to me with a look in his eye, “you met Michael you know,” I could only say yes, for that day I spent with Michael and The Jackson inspired me as a singer.
Just a note, in Michael’s songs, music and lyrics he did not have to use the N word or put down, women or use derogatory language to entertain or connect with his music. A great legacy and a lesson Michael Jackson, King of Pop, left in his music.
Michael’s legacy is his children, family, friends and unprecedented charitable contributions. Michael Jackson’s legacy of music sings and soars. His large catalogue of recorded songs with his brothers, The Jackson Five, collaborations and his solo albums, he was there in our lives. We can just call his name, Michael, Michael, Michael, and he is there for us through his legacy of songs.