DJ Digital: My 7 Most Memorable Michael Jackson Moments
Two years ago today we lost the 'King of Pop.' From his young days as the front man of the Jackson 5 to his legal woes toward the end of his career, Michael Jackson led one of the most controversial, yet fascinating lives of any modern day pop star. Born in 1981, I arrived just in time to grow up seeing some of MJ's greatest work, as well as the most troubling woes of his career. With times that were both good and bad, Michael undoubtedly left the world with many sensational moments to remember him by. These are the moments I remember the most.
Macaulay Culkin blaring loud music in his room. His dad telling him to turn it down. He then brings mega speakers into the living room, puts on a single black leather glove, sunglasses and a backwards hat and rips a power chord on his guitar blasting out all the windows in the house and sending his dad soaring through the ceiling and halfway around the world only to land in the midst of an African prairie surrounded by lions and coordinated dance moves. Yes. That ridiculously long run-on sentence is describing the legendary 1991 'Black or White' video from Michael Jackson. Directed by John Landis, the same guy who did 'Thriller', this video premiered after an episode of 'The Simpsons' and was anything short of awesome. Michael danced in different scenes representing all the different cultures around the world. There is even a part where Macaulay Culkin lip syncs a rap. The video also introduced 'morphing technology' in a scene were both women and men of different races seemingly morphed into one another. A young Tyra Banks was one of the morphing faces. From the message to the cinematics, this video was awesome.
The King of Pop and daughter of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley fueled the tabloids like never before when news broke of their secret marriage in the Dominican Republic back in May of 1994. They made their first public appearance to open up the 1994 MTV VMAs as a surprise to the audience and the millions watching at home. Back in the day before the explosion of the web and the social media surge, things were easier to keep secret and people were actually surprised when things like this happened. Imagine that. They were welcomed with cheers from the crowd and Jackson shyly said to the crowd “and just think, noboy thought this would last” followed by an awkward kiss for all to see. Many people thought this was all a ploy for Michael to try to restore an image tarnished by the recent child molestation accusations. Regardless, the marriage didn't last and Presley and Jackson divorced two years later.
It's one of the most embedded MJ memories in my brain. In 1988 Michael Jackson introduced 'The Lean' in the music video for 'Smooth Criminal' which was taken from the movie 'Moonwalker.' It was a dance move where MJ and his back up dancers all stood flat-footed and straight-legged, then leaned forward, seemingly defying gravity. I can remember falling down over and over again as a chubby little kid, trying to do this move and never getting it right. For years people argued that Michael didn't do the move himself and in an interview in 2001 Online Audio Chat asked Michael how he did the famous Smooth Criminal 'lean.' Michael replied: “Oh, Smooth Criminal, well. That one happened … it was in the middle of the shoot and it wasn't .. I choreographed it right at the moment. Took us an hour to execute it. It's a special effect that we kind of lean as far as we can and, uh, we let the conveyor belt do the rest.” But how did he do it live on stage? Well, eventually we found out that Michael actually had a partner who helped him to design and patent shoes that would allow the wearer to lean forwardly beyond their center of gravity. The shoes had specially designed heel slots which were detachably engaged with a hitch or bolt by sliding the shoe wearer's foot forward engaging with the hitch member. Pretty crafty.
I will forever argue the fact that Michael Jackson is the greatest entertainer of all time. His stage presence was always ridiculous and he never sold his fans short when it came to his performances. One of the biggest examples is when Michael opened the 1995 MTV VMAs. Just one year prior he opened the show with some PDA with Lisa Marie but this year, it was back to business. It was the Michael Jackson we all knew and loved banging out a medley of hits “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Don't Stop Till You Get Enough” and “Black or White.” Guns N' Roses legendary guitarist Slash surprised everyone joing MJ on stage to rip it up with the King of Pop. Mike also gave the crowd full versions of “Dangerous” and “You Are Not Alone” to wrap this performance. I look back on it and think to myself that this was over 15 years ago and still surpasses performances that we see today. Seriously, take a stroll down MJ Memory lane and watch this performance. The dance moves. The lights. The arrangement. The vocals. And to think, this video is only “part one” of a two part video. Not too shabby.
This was the beginning of the low points of Michael Jackson's career. It was known that Michael loved children. He constantly had children and families visiting his Neverland ranch and it was clear that Michael was very childlike himself. In 1993 Michael Jackson was accused of molestation. Though criminal charges were never brought against him, you would have never known with the field day the media had with these allegations. Michael was forced to take pictures of intimate parts on his body as part of the investigation which embarrassed and disgusted him to the point of making this video statement for all to see. I remember watching this on TV and for the first time, I saw a Michael Jackson that was simply a human being.
After his success from 'Thriller' Michael's popularity coupled with his eccentric behavior made him an easy target for the media. Especially the tabloids. In 1986 the one of the first false stories published by the tabloids made claims that Michael Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow down his aging process. A picture of Michael lying down in a hyperbaric chamber in a hospital he visited leaked to the media after an unknown person took the picture while Jackson tested out the chamber out of curiousity. Jackson also bought a put chimpanzee named Bubbles. The media used this purchase to describe Jackson as “out of touch with reality.” Because of all the wild stories, the tabloids often referred to him as 'Wacko Jacko', a name that Michael Jackson has openly discussed as one of the most hurtful names he has ever been called. This track is clearly a response to the negative and false stories that appeared in the media and tabloids on a weekly basis. The video is a visual treat with many scenarios taking place in an amusement park that represents Michael's struggles with this issue. The best part for me was always at the end when it is revealed that Michael himself is actually the amusement park and he gets up ripping it to pieces. The song itself did well, even though Michael never performed it on his big tours. This track could be one of my favorite MJ songs to date.
Michael Jackson released 'Thriller' in 1982 and the album became an instant hit worldwide launching Jackson into eternal super-stardom. Until recently Thriller's 45 million album sales were the most of any album in history. In December of 1983 a 14-minute music video was released for the title track of the album and MTV had to air it twice an hour to keep up with popular demand. I remember seeing the video at a very young age for the first time and being glued to the TV. Even today when I see that youthful MJ in all-red with yellow eyes I can't help but think, “this is way cool.”