Summer-Song Rhapsody for Michael Jackson
(Aug 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)
Summertime opened like a myth spun from gold,
delivering your talent through ages of classic genius
to plant the seeds and nourish the beauty
of all the bright wonders that would color your dance.
Is any path so demanding as that of living a miracle?
Like a cosmic gymnast on a beam of uncommon grace,
or a swimmer slicing through waves of childhood tears–
you transformed fortitude into Olympian triumph.
Hid your hard-won treasures inside the hearts of all who loved you.
The more sincere the soul, the heavier the cross endured.
Your voice strung notes like pearls of sky-blue hope
around the trembling throat of humanity’s crimson agony.
Upon the heads of those abused and disinherited
your song placed crowns of inspired revelation.
There is no faith so perilous as faith in love.
Summertime blossomed fields of rose-scented dreams––
and death amplified your sudden absence with new life…
to plant the seeds and nourish the beauty
of all the bright wonders that colored your dance.
Besides Aberjhani’s consistently brilliant and loving work on Michael’s behalf, there are some other jewels I also want to share here.
One of those is Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls, a two-disc set of early Jackson 5 recordings due out August 28 — the day before what would have been Michael’s 54th birthday. NPR featured one song from this collection called ‘If the Shoe Don’t Fit‘, and in that song, Michael’s voice hits an incredible note on the word “shoooooe“! Listen here.
Another little gem is a short video of The Jacksons recording the song ‘Jump for Joy‘ in the studio. This song was on their ‘Goin Places‘ album which, with its Norman Rockwell-like cover, was originally released in October 1977 when the band re-teamed with Gamble & Huff after their move to Epic records.
Thanks to David Edwards who commented and left a link to the interview with the Jacksons and Gamble & Huff at Sigma Sound Studios. According to the description, this is “11 minutes footage of The Jacksons giving a small interview and recording the song Jump For Joy from their 1977 album “Goin’ Places” in Sigma Sound Studios. Producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff along with owner of Sigma Sound Studios Joseph Tarsia are present as well.”
Another jewel is this fantastic artwork of Michael’s three children done by Mimi Garren. An even bigger jewel is Michael Jackson’s Legacy, the organization that is – with the help of friends and fans around the world – building Everland Children’s Home in Liberia which will be a refuge for countless vulnerable children. Mimi, an accomplished artist, is one of its founders. Mimi designed the logo for the organization’s website and does other artistic work on their behalf. The artwork is to go with a book to be presented to Mrs. Katherine Jackson detailing the progress of the Everland project in Michael’s name. Dr. Patrick Treacy, featured and mentioned here many times since the site started, is Honorary Ambassador to MJL. Dr. Treacy – Michael’s doctor while he lived in Ireland for many months – is a tireless humanitarian like Michael was, and this is where their hearts joined in friendship.
In regards to the photo, the organization states:
Around 29th August, amidst the celebrations and vigil in Gary, Indiana, we are hoping to get a beautiful book into the hands of Michael’s beloved mother, Katherine. Diligently compiled by MJL’s Karen, it charts Everland’s progress with photos, reports and commentary. Together with the book, there will be a small card from MJL which depicts a picture of Michael’s three dear children (see below), courtesy of our artist, Mimi. We would like to thank US supporter Raven, for kindly offering to help us get the book about this journey to Katherine and the children at such a significant and poignant time as this. Gratitude and love to all those who have joined us and each other on this journey! The pages of this book reflect nothing but L.O.V.E and the hearts of those who have given in order to make this dream possible ♥ www.michaeljacksonslegacy.org
Willa: I’m glad you mentioned the bonus chapter, Joe, because I was hoping to talk with you about that. It’s just a heartbreaker. It really captures the poignancy of Michael Jackson’s childhood. On the one hand, he loved what he was doing – the music and dancing and performing. Yet as you quote in that chapter, “Those were sad, sad years for me.” We see that same paradox in the songs themselves that he recorded at that time. They’re so polished and perfect, you know it must have taken painstaking work to create them. Yet when you listen to them, they sound so fresh and spontaneous – just brimming with sheer joy. You include a Nelson George quotation that describes this so well:
Forty years later … [Michael’s] exuberance still leaps out of your speakers. Despite all the work that obviously went into crafting these vocals, Michael still sounds like he just walked into the studio from the playground.
That’s such a bittersweet way of describing his music because, of course, he was rarely able to play on a playground, and he felt that loss deeply. It’s as if the things he wanted most in his life – the things that were absent from his real life – he magically conjured up with his voice, and they became present in his imaginative life – an imaginative life we all enter into and participate in when we listen to his songs. And I wonder if somehow, the fact that he wanted those things so badly – love, sympathy, the simple freedom to play and be a child – is what made them so vibrantly present in his voice.
Joe: I agree, Willa. I’ve always thought one of Michael’s great gifts is his ability to express the full gamut of human emotion. There are some artists who are brilliant at conveying one end of the spectrum (for example, Kurt Cobain), but Michael can take you from the brink of despair to a transcendent, soul-vitalizing joy. I think his solo work takes on more weight and nuance and shades, but even in the Motown songs, I think you’re right, that he is imagining himself into those words and emotions (using what experiences he had to draw from), and his vocal performances reflect that. He’s not just mimicking his heroes, as some critics have said. He’s interpreting and expressing. In so many of his early songs, there is this sense of melancholy and yearning (“Music and Me,” “With a Child’s Heart,” “Maybe Tomorrow,” “Ben”). Yet there is also an exuberance and vitality and charm.
Joe: He’s a lot like Chaplin in that way, though for me Michael communicates on an even deeper level.
Michael’s birthday is next Wednesday. Besides or in addition to perhaps participating in various celebrations and gatherings around the world, my suggestion remains the same as every year: do something for or with children. That is the thing that seemed to make him happiest – making others happy and especially little ones. I think he enjoyed the childhood he never had through other children, and I think he felt soothed by giving children the happiness and emotional support he felt he sometimes didn’t have as a child.
Two of my personal favorite MJ-related charities to donate to are Heal the World for Children and Michael Jackson Birthday Charity. Don’t forget Michael Jackson’s Legacy, above too. There are of course many more. Or, volunteer some time at a local children’s center or hospital – either to be with the kids or help do repairs, serve meals, clean-up, fix broken toys, whatever you can do.
Aberjhani wrote that Michael “hid his hard-won treasures inside the hearts of all who loved him“. Just do something that comes from your heart and it will shine. He led by example. You know what to do.