“The black tradition is a tradition of soul which is a gift of love and joy. Soul is the most precious thing you can share because you’re sharing yourself and the world needs that gift now more than ever. The child with aids in the ghetto is waiting for you, along with the starving people in Africa…and everyone else who needs healing. Make the world a more beautiful place by sharing with me the wonderful feeling you get when your soul is lifted up to become pure love. I accept this award on behalf of all the children of the world who are my inspiration and my hope.” Michael Jackson Soul Train Humanitarian Award 1993
“When Michael Jackson sings, it is with the voice of angels. And, when his feet move, you can see God dancing. ” Sir Bob Geldof taken from the ARTIST OF A GENERATION AWARDS CEREMONY 1996
We live in a world of great variety, so many choices. Our personal preferences range from a to z and everything in between. The world of music offers us a miriad of sound and textures designed with a range that spans an anatomy of mood, emotion, escape, movement, harmonies and melodies. Taken in its simplest form, we can choose between voice or instrumental interpretations…the human element. Voice being the musical tone created by the vibration of the vocal chords and amplified by oral and other throat cavities, tone produced in singing. That’s what the Random House dictionary says, anyway. That all seems clear, right?
Today’s culture is caught up in comparing and contrasting voices, often choosing who is” the best” by a vote or a panel of judges. But, in truth, we simply listen to what we like from many genres and eras. Okay, what makes a great voice, one that draws millions, or even billions to it…a voice that is loved by different generations and races of people all over the world… A voice that is timeless and will last into forever.
Michael Jackson remains the most successful entertainer in the history of popular music. He has sold more records than anyone else in history. His performances have been attended by more people than anyone else in history. “He is the single most awarded entertainer the world has ever known.” Steven Spielberg. WHY? Let’s begin with Michael’s voice. “Prejudice is ignorance.” MJ Real understanding takes time, committment.
As I enter the sixth year of my Michael Studies, I am profoundly grateful to the vast numbers of justice projects, of authors, of devoted fans who write truth, absent of media distortions and lies. Overwhelmed with countless times I have seen footage of actual events followed up with media words that paint a picture so distorted and untrue it has brought me to tears. Legions of people around the world are speaking out for truth and justice including many courses offered in colleges such as Harvard, University of Rochester, Duke to name a few. Armed with information, I delight in offering it to you.
From legendary songwriter and producer Hal Davis “Is there a bad record Michael made for us? In the years he was with Motown, I produced Michael more than anyone. But, I’m telling you, there’s nothing but sheer brilliance on those vocal tracks. He came singing like an angel and left singing even better. They are moments of incandescent beauty…young, wildly optimistic” Featuring Michael Jackson Joseph Vogel 2012
Voice training with Seth Riggs included training 4 octaves twice a day six days a week and three times a day while on tour, his tours lasting years. Michael fasted on Sundays and spent the day in the studio dancing and singing, building up his endurance for concerts where he would sing full out and dance full out for 3 hours. When recording, Michael’s voice was clean to tape, never tuned. He was a perfect pitch performer.
“Michael sings all the backgrounds himself. Michael is such an expert at doubling his backgrounds and other vocal parts that he even doubles his vibrato rate perfectly! Of course, Michael has absolutely incredible ears. His pitch is flawless!” Bruce Swedien Recording Engineer In the Studio With Michael Jackson 2009
“Hitting a space that is emotionally right on the button, but is almost more than human, transcending all dividers in the way that a great world singer can, moving beyond language into pure music. Words aren’t necessary, the deep emotion is communicated perfectly in his delivery. HIS VOICE IS THE MUSIC.” N. Mccormick
“Michael, from the time of his youth until now, has been the truth. What I mean by that is it was never fake, never phony, never a facade. It didn’t take a million dollars to make people know how magical this man was. It’s the kind of music that my grandmother and I could listen to at the same time and both of us would be mesmerized. It’s the choices he makes when he’s singing a song…HE EMOTES. THAT’S A GIFT.” Jill Scott
Michael’s music conveys emotion often without language. He wanted his audience to feel the music. When recording, he insisted the lights be turned off because he said that our visual sense is the one we use most. It distracts. He never used paper. All lyrics were memorized. His voice conveyed emotional extremes injecting lyrics with depth, pathos, purity. His goal was always to try to create on his recordings the music he heard in his head. Because he was a songwriter, arranger, producer, lead vocalist and background vocalist , Michael was deeply inside the total production. He wanted the recorded performance to deliver every ounce of blood, sweat and God-given talent he had.
“Sitting at the piano and having him sing…it’s just a religious experience. The guy is amazing. He’s expressive, has great pitch, does incredible backgrounds. His backgrounds are as good as anybody I’ve ever heard. They’re textures unto themselves.” G. Ballard
“I use the unpainted plywood surface of the drum platform to reflect Michael’s voice, or whatever sound source I am recording, back to the microphone. In Michael’s case, this also preserves the rhythmic effect of him dancing happily away while he sings, as part of his sonic image. I love to have Michael’s dancing sounds as part of the vocal sound. When Michael does his vocals he dances all through his vocal performance. Michael is a master at beat-box percussion. He can be an entire rhythm section all by himself. A really good Michael song has a life of its own…sonic personality.” Bruce Swedien IN THE STUDIO WITH MICHAEL JACKSON
Discovery of greatness, unparalleled talent is truly exciting. Being able to, for a moment, step into a life and actually feel the energy and magic gives unending joy. Joseph Vogel has written three books about Michael. I have read and reread each of them dozens of times. Passages are underlined and I have transcribed thousands of words for Michael Artists’ Dates with my husband. I am speaking of MAN IN THE MUSIC, EARTH SONG INSIDE MICHAEL JACKSON’S MAGNUM OPUS, AND, FEATURING MICHAEL JACKSON. My fervent wish is that Mr. Vogel will write another book. What follows are some favorite lines that you will enjoy reading. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxjOQYywaXc
“Jackson never fit neatly into categories and defied many of the expectations of rock/alternative enthusiasts. He was rooted deeply in the African-American tradition, which is crucial to understanding his work. But, the hallmark of his art is fusion, the ability to stitch together disparate styles, genres and mediums to create something entirely unique.”Joseph Vogel Featuring Michael Jackson 2012
“Music is like tapestry. It’s different layers, it’s weaving in and out and if you look at it in layers you understand it better.” Michael Jackson
For me, the many layers of Michael’s music…layers of vocals, layers of rhythms, layers of melodies and harmonies…give me the thrill of a new experience each and every time I listen. Added to that is Michael’s storytelling…he takes the listener on a journey. That journey, too, is in layers. Love, social justice, change, saving the planet, injustice, children, media and more…themes that drive the story, the journey. I find myself going to certain songs, certain albums depending on my mood at the time. Listening with headphones gives me an “in the studio” experience that brings with it new discoveries every time I listen.
“I knew Michael as a child and watched him grow over the years. Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was THE most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched.” Dick Clark
In an interview, Michael was asked if the emotion he shows during a performance was real…his response was, “IT’S ALWAYS REAL.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy-3aPvYkkA
“All of Michael’s recordings were done with a sense of JOY that I have never experienced with another artist. Not just fun and laughng and stuff, I mean real musical JOY…His passion for what we were doing was boundless. ” Bruce Swedien
For me, no one moves me the way Michael does. He is magic. Because he never panders to his audience, Michael’s VOICE gives me depth of sound, of rhythm, of story with a message. My mind is challenged and nourished and…and… it is soooooooo much fun. My heart is filled. It is pure soul. Michael shares every part of himself with the listener. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE BETTER THAN THAT!
And so, I bid you a good evening. I hope you have learned something wonderful as I have. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LOVE.
“From a technical standpoint, Jackson’s broad range allowed him to move fluidly through nearly four octaves (this was something he worked very hard to achieve as an adult, though he rarely pushed his range to the limits.) A natural tenor, his singing in the upper register was smooth and sublime, yet he could also be effective in his lower register, occasionally dropping down to a baritone. Everyone who worked with him commented on his perfect pitch. His longtime voice coach, Seth Riggs, marveled at both his ability and dedication. Jackson, after all, was one of the most gifted child singers of all time. People often take for granted his transition into an adult singer, but it took an enormous amount of effort and development. He had to find new ways of approaching songs and new ways of employing his skill set.” Joseph Vogel Man in the Music 2011
” For me, the many layers of Michael’s music…layers of vocals, layers of rhythms, layers of melodies and harmonies…give me the thrill of a new experience each and every time I listen.”
My exact feelings, Jude. One of the first specific things I noticed about Michael’s music is that the intro into each song has cues, to let the studio musicians be in the space they need to be in, to allow the listener to put all the layers of the song in their proper, important perspective. And though I’ve listened to so many of Michael’s songs hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times since June 25th, each time I listen, I discover something new, musically, and that little wonder and delight is pure bliss.
Ah, thanks, Jude … for providing the quote I was looking for just after I thought of it. It’s little miracles like this that continue to fuel this journey for me and they always give me a moment of pause and reassure me that Michael’s voice has not been silenced. It continues to lead us … making me think that we … yes, even those of us who come to the loom a little later than others … are woven into the tapestry as intricately and securely as the most basic of the elements.
Thank you so much for this. You know, we’ve known Michael Jackson so long that we take his talent for granted, in a very positive way. He’s ALWAYS been that sweet, gorgeous voice that makes us gasp in awe, literally hold our breath in order that we won’t interfere with that purely heaven-sent sound. We just always KNEW that our Michael would give us his best, and that his best was more than we could ever ask for. But, to hear professionals who actually know the intricacies of his work and talent speak with such admiration and true love for him, that gives us a gift of another dimension. He deserves these accolades and so much more.
How Happy I am to find THIS one today! Thank you dearest Jude! We’ve been speaking of “layers” recently. Layers. Yes. Beautiful layers. The timbre of his voice holds magic that cannot be duplicated. It is how I can tell if it is him or not. People can come close, but cannot duplicate the timbre. He is not the only person who is gifted with healing in his voice, yet he is the only one who can heal in just this way. It is also up to the listener – to FEEL the layers and layers of love and healing. xoxoxox 7 Love you! Beautiful writing, as always.
Great, I love this! Thank you Jude. The main thing – what separates Michael from many other great singers- is, that he has so much soul, or “duende” – that he has not only fantastic technical abilities to sing and use his voice, but that he always has that ‘heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity’ – that is what gives you chills and creates that deep emotional connection to him and his songs and what makes you really feel his message.
I am very impressed with the writings of everyone who offered their opinions and feelings about Michael’s singing and performing. His huge range initself always astounded me. And I know he always vocalized daily…..he was very disciplined. But it was the depth of emotion he displayed which was the most amazing! As Jill Scott said…what he had was a real GIFT. And he never shrank from giving his all….however tired or fatigued he might be. It was such a treat to be next to him when he sang…..as happened when I accompanied him. He just LOVED music….it energized him and made him happy! And he communicated that to all who heard him. It is no wonder that the world adored him. I certainly did!