04 July 2009

The moment music changed: my MJ tribute

My first thought on the obligatory Michael Jackson Tribute article was to share some fascinatingly wrong covers of MJ songs. But then I started thinking about all the other reactions to his death that I've read. Everyone seems to have a "first memory of Michael" moment to share. I suppose my first memory was of him singing "ABC" or "One Bad Apple", but that is boring even to me. The one MJ moment that stands out for me is what I have always thought of as "the moment music changed," one instant in the Motown 25 Anniversary special. A lot of people point to MJ's performance in that show, particularly the moonwalk, as revolutionary, but the significant moment for me came before that.

To understand what and why, you will have to see a bigger chunk of the show. Clips below, with my thoughts as I watched it the first time next to the clip.

All the brothers together again for this special. They owe so much to Quincy Jones. Gah, what happened to his nose? Good performance. Oh, Randy, what are you wearing?

What is missing from the clips was a bridge when the brother and extra mics are whisked offstage; MJ gets the hat and then makes a comment about the old stuff being great, but new stuff is good too.

Looks like more dancing. [bass line starts] WHOA! WOW! Grownup. Intense. Damn. Wheee!

Everything about him and his performance was a new thing, right from the first bass notes. His facial expressions and body language we so deliberate, so intense, so non-Jacksonish, completely riveting. It was all done as a declaration of his independence from other people's vision of what he should do. It completely left his old music in the dust. And all in that one first moment. The moonwalk was gravy.

This last video is from AbejaMariposaJr; you should definitely click through and read his description of the history of the moonwalk dance step.

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

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