Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson-the final word

I've compiled a few of the articles i've written since the passing of Michael Jackson together, basically dealing with his music legacy. I've posted loads of vids aswell, most of which are down at the end of my post!

Download my tribute mix to his soulful years here

Darling Dear
It's Your Thing
Don't Let It Get You Down
The Young Folks
People Make The World Go 'Round
We've Got A Good Thing Going
In Our Small Way
Got To Be There
La La (Means I Love You)
Good Times
Rockin' Robin
That's What Love Is Made Of
Corner Of The Sky
Sugar Daddy
One More Chance
When I Come Of Age
Call On Me
Maria (You Were The Only One)
I'll Bet You
It's Too Late To Change The Time
Who's Loving You
Music And Me
Everybody's Sombody's Fool
Ain't No Sunshine
Break of Dawn
We're Almost There
I'll Be There
Human Nature
I Can't Help It
Don't Know Why I Love You
I Wanna Be Where You Are
Get It Together
It's The Falling In Love
Liberian Girl (Giuliodj Edit)
Girl You're So Together
I Want You Back
Take Me Back
Make Tonight All Mine
Love Song
Mama's Pearl
Who's Looking For A Lover
Girl, Don't Take Your Love From Me
Lonely Teardrops
Maybe Tomorrow
Never Can Say Goodbye
Medley: Sing A Simple Song/Can You Remember
You've got a friend
The Lady In My Life
One Day In Your Life
She's Out Of My Life
All I Do Is Think Of You

Michael Jackson-The hip-hop influence

Written for the Evening Echo last Thursday

There have been millions of articles written about Michael Jackson in the past 7 days but today I'm gonna take a look at his music from a hip-hop perspective. Michael Jackson's role in hip-hop is on the surface not blatantly obvious but Michael himself had been making hits for long before hip-hop was born and in many ways he showed hip-hop music that there were endless possibilities as he became the biggest pop artist in the world.

Like hip-hop or indeed any music, Michael owes a great debt to those who went before and he never hid his admiration of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and James Brown, artists who's moved inspired him to develop his own incredible style as he made the break from the Jackson 5 in the late 70's. All of these artists were quick to acknowledge Michael's talent too and despite all of the questionable facets of his personal life, no-one could ever question his ability as a great performer.

James Brown is the most interesting comparison really, as he had pretty much everything in his locker that Michael had, and in many ways he blazed the trail for Michael and co in far more difficult times. James Brown was pre-MTV though and his sound, even though it created hip-hop and defined funk, was never gonna hold down the same mass appeal as Michael's. James Brown could knock out a soul ballad with the best of them, but he was never gonna release the syrupy middle of the road soul that Michael periodically released throughout his careers, particularly his mainstream stuff. Michael and James though were the two best artists of at creating dance-floor killers, though again, even though his music formed the backbone of 30 years of hip-hop, James did not cross over to white audiences in such a way.

James was staunchly proud to be pro-black and quite unrelenting in his almost militant stand as the boundaries slowly broke down in the 60's and 70's. Michael Jackson's music broke down the race barrier on MTV but he was far more vague on the issue of black pride and in later years many black musicians found it ironic that he attempted to play the race card against Sony only when faced with a difficult period of his career. Michael's appearance had of course changed completely too from the fresh faced kid of his youth but i don't think this made a major difference to his success. He was a global superstar ever since he unveiled the "Moonwalk" and with classic albums such as "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" by the age of 25, he was well deserving of the accolade the King of Pop.

Michael Jackson videos became huge cultural events years before hip-hop acts utilized the format for the same purpose, despite the best efforts of some of the old skool rap artists. His influence on the sonic evolution of hip-hop and more particularly modern r&b was immense, and in an era of big budget production values and producer driven rap and r&b hits, it's fair to say Michael was again a huge influence. Many hip-hop artists of course have sampled him too and while he will never rival James Brown in that regard, his early 70's material with the Jackson 5 has been the source of many a good hook for modern acts.

Ultimately though, his legacy in hip-hop was about attitude. He took James Browns can-do attitude to a level that even the Godfather of Soul could not have imagined, and he became even more well known than Elvis Presley and the Beatles in doing so. In his own words, it suddenly didn't matter if you were "black or white", and even though I preferred his music back when he was blacker, i doff my hat to the music of an artist who has been with me for every inch of my own long personal musical journey. At Jam tomorrow at the Pavilion we will pay tribute to Michael Jackson in a Motown special that will feature classic soul music from Michael and other great artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Temptations and all the others who helped define one of the greatest labels of all time.

and another article I wrote, the day after he died

Michael Jackson-The Global superstar

Amazingly he was only 50 years of age. For me he had secured his legacy by the age of 25 having already released his best album ("Off the Wall") and his most popular one ("Thriller"). The ground-breaking famous "Moonwalk" appearance at the Motown 25th anniversary celebrations took place months before his own 25th birthday in 1983 and ultimately this and the release of "Thriller" made Michael the biggest pop star on the planet.

Michael had not only restored faith in an industry and in album and singles sales, he had also done so earning an unprecedented royalty rate and had broken through and used the full capabilities of an MTV network that had previously ignored black artists. Even the making of the "Thriller" video was a huge event and money spinner and pop music would never be the same again. For me, this was the moment where it all started to go horribly wrong. The second half to his life would feature many great musical highlights but sadly this soon took a back seat as his appearance changed almost in tandem with how the world perceived him as the 80's deepened. Like many of the great artists of our time, it is impossible for us to truly get to the heart of these personal demons, but we can certainly make an accurate call on his music and it was more than just numbers that made Michael Jackson the King of Pop.

The extent of his superstardom cannot be over-estimated and by when he hit Cork in 1988 the whole City seemed to stop. Even as a pale shadow of himself years later he was box office though I'm glad I'm not one of the promoters of the forthcoming London shows all the same! The circus surrounding Michael Jackson meant that his music increasingly became misunderstood in later years and personally I thought even his last album 'Invincible" contained some amazing tracks. He had always worked with the best producers and recently Rodney Jerkins and Teddy Riley were very much in this vein, but it's the aforementioned Quincy Jones era which will rightly define his legacy.

You only have to turn on the radio today to see how influential Michael still is and pop stars such as Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, The Black Eyed Peas and Timbaland rightly worship at his musical altar every time they hit the studio. The amazing thing is that his brand of pop music retains it's credibility too and up to and including "Thriller" you will find very few people in the fields of hip-hop, r&b and house music questioning his status as one of the greats. Disco went and became house but Michael Jackson created what is my mind the perfect dance album in "Off the Wall". He and his team had achieved the impossible really, the creation of an album which sounded as good on radio as it did dance-floors; just ask the hundreds of top class house producers in 2009 how difficult it is to make top quality music work in an album format. As a DJ for me his music has represented the ultimate get out of jail card in times of difficulty for over 15 years, quite simply, every generation loves his music. Indeed, like most other people under 40 I can't remember any moment where his music was not part of my life!

The period before "Off the Wall" was the critical time for me though. It's worth remembering now that he and his brothers had been written off as a novelty act by that stage but in hindsight their music stands up really well. Michael was the main man though and the last great global pop star has left us with decades of music that will last forever. To my eyes and ears, James Brown was unparalleled as a performer and Michael openly admits that the Godfather of soul was his hero as he sat in front of the TV as a child studying his moves. But James was very pro-black black and uncompromising and far too much of a threat for the mainstream really. Even before the days of MTV it is unlikely he would have crossed over to the extent that Michael Jackson did and for me only Bob Marley, The Beatles and Elvis Presley came close to matching his worldwide status, although it is far to say that possibly only Marley could rival Jackson as an artist who's music touches parts of remote Africa and South America even today. Marley was no pop star though and like the others mentioned his performing career didn't last as long as Michaels. Even the Sinatras of the world, who's careers spanned longer, were not on top for so long and were certainly not as famous throughout the world.

The fame and celebrity and notoriety and controversy will come come and go but the music will live forever and Michael Jackson will continue to rock dance-floors for years after you and I have passed. When you are up to your ears in hearing his music everywhere in the next week or so and when it is all proving too much, i urge you to take some time out to listen to "Off the Wall" in it's entirety. For a man who supposedly wanted to be perfectly good looking and who's subsequent imperfections have been laid bare for everyone to see, it is worth remembering that in just over 40 minutes at the age of just 20, Michael Jackson had achieved a musical perfection that can never be taken away.
Stevie G

Spme of my favourite Michael records-I can safely say that I wouldn't be working in music without him-Thanks for the great music, the happy memories and the ultimate get out of jail records that worked every single time no matter what the crowd, from teen discos to underground soul and hip-hop nights-Respect

My favourite Jackson 5 track and my favourite hip-hop producer sampled it. R.I.P. Michael, and R.I.P. Dilla

I'm not gonna front on you, this song breaks down all my defences and I was quite emotional as I ended my tribute mix with it last Saturday

Free download here

The Jackson 5

J Dilla

The Roots

and a famous sample which was also massive

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    I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays http://www.pavilioncork.com also you can catch me at http://djstevieg.podomatic.com