Remember The Time: A Tribute By David Nathan
(c) 2009 Copyright by Soul Music.com
"By the time I first met Michael Jackson - around 1977 after the group had signed with Epic Records and were prepping for the release of their first album for the label - I had already seen the Jackson Five in concert (at Wembley in London in 1972 - see the review on this site) and had been immersed in their music. Our meeting was set up by the Epic publicist of the day and it was meant to be an informal lunch at which I got to ask the group questions in a 'non-official' setting. It went well. The brothers were communicative and ready to talk about their move from Motown. Michael? He was quiet, shy, a little reserved but responsive when addressed. Our next encounter would be about a year later when I was asked by the editor of "Blues & Soul" in Britain to do a rather silly questionnaire about the group's likes and dislikes. Initially, Michael and I were alone in the hotel room and he commented on my (bushy, Afro-like) hair, saying I reminded him of British singer Leo Sayer and also admiring my trousers! Strange what small talk can sound like when recreated on a written page! His brothers joined us and Michael concentrated on filling out the silly questionnaire....
Wasn't too much longer that we saw each other at a special event prior to the opening of film version of 'The Wiz' in which he appeared. I was surprised - given the number of people in attendance - that he remembered me and he waved and smiled when he spotted me in the throng of journalists and others gathered for the auspicious occasion. Must have been that hair...
My next MJ memory is quite simple: just prior to the release of "Off The Wall," I was at some music industry event at which different record companies had suites, playing music, plying all and sundry with booze and hoping the assorted journos would be influenced to write 'nice things' about their artists. Michael's "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" was played for the first time and if I say the room rocked, I'd be hardly describing the reaction! The song got played again and again...folks were going nuts...and even today, when that song comes on in a club, I'm on my feet like a fool!
It would be years and years until I came face-to-face with Michael again. This time, around 2002, it was a one-on-one meeting with him at the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Bob Jones, his then-publicist and a longtime friend of mine, had arranged for us to talk ut a book project Michael wanted to do; at Bob's suggestion, I would do the captions. I remember going to the top of the hotel where Michael occupied virtually - if not, the entire floor. Going past at least two levels of security folks, Bob and I were ushered into a very large suite. Michael entered with his son: his father introduced us but Prince Michael who was soon busy playing with assembled toys.
By way of introduction, Bob gave Michael a copy of my 1999 book "The Soulful Divas". He purused the chapter contents, smiling at Aretha's name and then suddenly, stopped in his tracks by seeing the Nina Simone chapter. "Oh, it's that woman!" he declared. "I met her once on a plane and she started yelling at me! I didn't know who she was and I thought she was some mad woman until someone told me it was Nina Simone. She was so angry at me, she made me cry." I didn't quite know how to react but I did recall immediately Nina's comments to me (and on occasion audiences) on the subject of Mr. Jackson's 'changed' appearance. For Nina, it was a matter of great distress that Michael had changed the shape of his nose, that he had altered his natural African-derived features. She was incensed and saw it as an affront that a man who was so held up as a hero for young African-Americans (and others) would have - she considered - such self-loathing and lack of pride in his African roots that he would make such a change in appearance...
Michael's response left me a little thrown and I was happy that Bob got us back on track to talk about the book. We ended a thirty-minute or so exchange talking about a movie of the time (either a monster movie, a dinosaur film or some such) that I definitely did NOT want to see. Michael was enthused about it and couldn't wait to go and as I recall, my parting words were 'Enjoy the movie, great meeting you and I look forward to working with you...'
For a myriad of reasons, the book never happened. What I was left with was my impression of a man who was quiet in demeanor, soft-spoken, smart and thoughtful. My encounters with Michael were brief and has often been the case, it was tough marrying the up-close persona with the artist. For that brief time while we met, it was hard to imagine that sitting in front of me was someone who had revolutionized the art of video, had created the best-selling album of all time and had emerged as one of the greatest entertainers we've ever seen.
Now, with his unexpected passing, I'm left with those scant memories but more importantly a collection of music that speaks to his brilliance. "Human Nature" remains one of my all-time favorite recordings by anyone; tracks like "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Wanna Be Where You Are," "Lady In My Life" are gems. He may be 'out of our life' physically but Michael Jackson has left an immeasurable legacy of music. Peace be with you, Michael."
Michael Jackson - 1958-2009 - Simply The Best By Jeff Lorez
(c) 2009 Copyright by Soul Music.com
"It’s very hard to really write anything coherent about the death of Michael Jackson. The shock and sense of disbelief is overwhelming. Tributes and timelines of his career can be found all over the internet but for the soul and R&B music fan, the person who provided his initial catapult into superstardom, the first million people who purchased “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” and before that, who loyally purchased his albums with his family, his loss is so much more stultifying and heartbreaking.
Let me state the obvious. He was the best. The best singer and pop music entertainer that ever lived. Prince may have been the best songwriter, musician and entertainer combined but for pure hi-octane entertainment Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. The next few weeks as more stories emerge about his personal life and after the autopsy results are analyzed I’m sure people will draw their own conclusions about his life off stage but on it he was the best there will ever be. Ironically, though Jackson and former Sony Music head Tommy Mottola had a falling out around the release of his “Invincible” album, I believe he summed up his former artist’s career better than most, calling him, “the cornerstone to the entire music business” and going on to say, “He bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and pop music and made it into a global culture. No one has ever done what he did in his time - and no one will ever do what he did after his time.”
Anyone who has ever seen Michael at his peak, and I was very close to the stage for the “Bad” Tour, can attest what an exhilarating experience it was. Remembering him then makes his death at only 50 all the more shocking. What cannot be denied was the desperate tragedy and loneliness of his life. In many ways it makes me think that some things are just meant to happen. If, as initial reports would confirm, that he was heavily medicated on pain killers and perhaps unable to perform to the exalted standards that he and his fans expected of him during his forthcoming London shows, could he or his fan base handle the disappointment? Could we seriously ever imagine seeing an 80 year-old Michael Jackson?
I believe, through hearing the many people who have worked with him that he was a gentle, kind soul and perhaps too gullible and divorced from reality for his own good. I also believe that sycophants and blood suckers ruthlessly took advantage of that aspect of his nature. Most artists get bored when they have to deal with the annoying minutia of business. Those that have stayed on their game business wise have flourished even after their record sales hey day is over. Unfortunately, I just don’t believe Michael ever really knew or was overly concerned with his expenses versus income balance sheet and let other people handle that side of his career, ultimately to his detriment.
It is unnatural for a 50 year old man, who for many years was in peak physical condition and who as recently as a few months ago (prior to announcing his tour) was given a clean bill of health to pass away so suddenly from cardiac arrest. The truth will eventually emerge but clearly someone, somewhere was allowing him to mistreat his body during rehearsals for his tour, probably with quick fix pain killers when what he needed was a healing, homeopathic long lasting treatment.
I could ramble on and on about Michael, hoping to receive some kind of cathartic release from the sadness and sense of loss through writing and venting but I will stop here and send my deepest condolences on behalf of soulmusic.com to the many fans worldwide and in particular to his children and his family."
It‘s taken me nearly a week to process my thoughts about Michael Jackson’s untimely passing. While it seems untimely to us, it seems as though it was time for him to move on. Michael has been a part of my life and my love for music from my childhood. He was born on August 29, 1958 – the day before I was. So I always felt an astrological connection to him beyond the love of his artistry. I always had such strong sense of pride that someone so much like me was so talented and admired by the world. From the first pleading moans of “I Want You Back,” I was hooked, like everybody else I knew. My first concert was The Jackson 5 at the Hollywood Bowl in 1971. Michael’s first solo LP. GOT TO BE THERE is still one of my favorites of all time. His vocal performance on that recording is beyond compare. And he was 13 or 14 when he recorded it! Simply incredible. Such precision, dynamics and feeling - far beyond his years. I grew up with Michael, through his teen years through the classic PIR phase with hits like “Show You The Way To Go” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” As we entered adulthood, Michael took over the world with the Off The Wall LP and didn’t look back.
It pained me to see my beautiful brother alter his appearance as his successes multiplied. I never understood it, but I tended not to judge him, not knowing what life was like in his shoes. Nothing stopped the onslaught of slings and arrows that came his way. His best response was to continually release unparalleled music and to give performances that the world has never seen before or since. That will always be the basis by which he is measured in my eyes.
When he announced his concert return in London earlier this year It appeared he was ready to come back and re-create that excitement . But as the limited run swelled to 50 sold-out concerts, something didn’t sit well with me. It just seemed like too much. How could someone my age who hadn’t toured in so many years make such a commitment? As it unfolds, I think we will see there was some undue pressure on him to make everybody a lot of loot just one more time. As always, Michael gave his all as he struggled to prepare. I’ve heard first hand stories from someone who auditioned for the tour. She was amazed by his energy and commitment.
Michael Jackson’s life had become an ongoing struggle in so many ways. But he was always rooted in love and compassion. He has finally found his peace. God Bless you, Michael.
Michael Lewis – Soulmusic.com
"The news of the passing of Michael Jackson comes as a heartbreaking shock for me. Michael was a friend and undoubtedly one of the worlds greatest entertainers that I fortunately had the pleasure of working with. We have lost an icon in our industry and my heartfelt condolences go out to his family and children in this hour of sorrow that they are now going through. He will live on in my memory and most definitely through the music he shared with so many" - Dionne Warwick
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.