Michael Jackson: This “Man in the Mirror” Couldn’t Make It to His Own Concert

I’m using this song to illustrate what I thought about the Jackson memorial documentary, This is It. It’s also the last song that Jackson sings at the end of the documentary before his dancers, singers, band and handlers. Instead of the crowds in London, we have become his audience. His final audience.

Remember, this was essentially 110 hours of rehearsals molded into two hours. The rehearsal footage was shot at the place where Jackson was memorialized: The Staples Center. Jackson never intended this footage to be used in any film; it would have been for his own use. Jackson’s purported physical weaknesses are sanitized out. Jackson is going through the movements of what he would do on stage in London. And like with most rehearsals, he’s trying not to attempt much. He’s feeling his way through his material: about what he could do and what he couldn’t do. And with arthritis in his spine and other maladies, he’s not the same as he was before. The dancers and the singers behind him who revere him and who cannot believe their good are exerting themselves as much as possible. They are dancing and singing for the King–and as extensions of himself. The dancers are all about a little over a quarter of a century younger than he. The singers are about that age and a little older. The band are musicians who have been with Jackson for quite a while, with a couple of newer faces. They can be themselves. But the singers and dancers very much try to reflect Michael as he was in his second fame: young, fresh, seemingly indestructible, and enthusiastic.

I’ve been to one rehearsal concert in my life, and that was for the late singer Frankie Laine in New Orleans. Yep, the same guy whose voice graced some 1950s Technicolor Westerns, like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Blazing Saddles, and TV Westerns like Rawhide. He needed an audience, and we black Catholic school kids were sent, during summer school, to be his audience. I don’t know how we seventh and eighth graders–13 and 14 year olds–managed to keep still. We were dressed up, and I vaguely remember that it was a large supper club, and we were fed for free. I’m sure we would have preferred seeing Otis Redding, or The Esquires, or The Fantastic Johnny C.

Laine ran through his then-current repertoire; corrected himself in mid-flight, sang songs twice, and we applauded every one he did, no matter what it was and whether we knew them at all. We were a largely uncritical audience. In some way, that’s what the movie audience is expected to do with Michael Jackson’s performance, to applaud him even though he is working a concert that was never given. It seems as if the best he has to offer us is what might have been, if… I could have written, if he hadn’t died. But that’s not quite true. Would he have finished those 50 shows with the same kind of professionalism, and the marshaling of his powers he shows here? Would the concerts have collapsed under the strain of his multiple physical and emotional problems? I don’t know. We don’t know.

If anything, I believe got what I was looking for, Michael’s process as a performer. No, it wasn’t the pyrotechnics, the special effects, the large spider prop. It was how he spoke to and negotiated with his band, Kenny Ortega, his dancers. How Ortega told him to be careful not to lean forward on the cherry picker. It wasn’t, for example, like following Gene Kelly around on the old NBC Omnibus show, Dancing Is a Man’s Game, which gave viewers and fans a clue to what drove Kelly and his brand of dancing, and why he wanted to show that dancing wasn’t an effete profession. It was, however, one depiction of how Michael put himself together.

And no, I don’t buy the crap that it was a body double out there doing the dancing. It was Michael Jackson. Believe that.

There were times, though, that I wondered about him. When he’s doing a tribute to his parents and his brothers…he’s not wanting to give it up. He says that he’s having problems with his earphones or something, but I don’t buy it. Either he’s not feeling it, or he doesn’t want to do it. It just made me think, umph, umph, umph, where are you really at, dude?

I also hated the Joan Crawford-like jacket he wore in some of the scenes, the one with the high, but pointed shoulder pads. Perhaps it was made to make him look like a living guitar or something, but I hated it. It made me roll back to the police photos of Michael when he was arrested a second time for abusing a child, where he indeed appeared like Joan Crawford, that weird, abusive, and unhappy woman. No doubt, Michael was the kind of creative individual who transcended not only race but sexuality, but him in that jacket just made me enjoy the film less.

The This is It soundtrack is indeed a killer. From Wiki:

On September 23, 2009, information on and about the album were released. The album, titled This Is It was released internationally on October 26, and to North America the following day. The two-disc album features music ‘inspired from the documentary of the same name’. Sony said of the albums that: “Disc one will feature the original album masters of some of Michael’s biggest hits arranged in the same sequence as they appear in the film” and stated that the “the disc ends with two versions of the ‘never-released’ ‘This Is It’ […] This song is featured in the film’s closing sequence and includes backing vocals by Michael [Jackson]’s brothers, the Jacksons.” Sony also stated that the second disc will feature “previously unreleased versions” from Jackson’s ‘catalogue of hits’ and that It will also include a spoken word poem entitled “Planet Earth” (which orginally appeared in the liner notes of the Dangerous album) and a 36-page commemorative booklet with “exclusive photos of Michael [Jackson] from his last rehearsal”. On October 9, Sony confirmed the songs that will appear on the album. A record label source said of This Is It – a song featured on the album: “It (the song) sounds awesome. The size and scope of the orchestra hasn’t been seen since Ray Charles recorded Georgia. Everyone expects a huge hit” and described the song as being “set to be a huge hit” but stated of the song’s secrecy that “they’re worried about it getting out [..] they’ve hired huge bodyguards to stand by the [music] studio[‘s] door.” Rolling Stone stated that This Is It was recorded during the sessions for Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous.

I may get that, and two others one of these days.

Don’t get me wrong. See it to say goodbye to him. See it for your own reasons. I’m a fan, but then I am not. I’m wanting to look at him, and then study him, and take my own measure of him. You see, I saw him once before at the old Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos with his family. That’s when he still had his nose and his color and when he was still in stasis, putting it all together for that big break. That’s probably the memory I will keep most of all of this black king, The King of Pop. Not his end, but his beginning.

~ by blksista on November 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “Michael Jackson: This “Man in the Mirror” Couldn’t Make It to His Own Concert”

  1. Great read on the King of Pop, thanks!

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  2. […] the original here: Michael Jackson: This “Man in the Mirror” Couldn't Make It to His … Tags: jackson, music, november, richmond, richmond-highPosted in Micheal Jackson Died | No […]

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