Jan 09 2011

Interview with Michael’s personal artist Nate Giorgio

Category: Art,Friends,Quotes About MJSeven @ 1:42 pm

Promo Poster Giorgio did in the 1990s - Exclusive for HMV

Promo Poster Nate Giorgio did in the 1990s

Artist Nate Giorgio signed an exclusive contract with Michael Jackson in 1984 to be his personal artist. His work appears on the cover and the chapter pages of the ‘Michael Jackson Opus‘, as well as inside the Opus. You’ll see his logo work on ‘We Are The World 25 for Haiti‘, and in Michael’s book ‘Dancing the Dream‘. Look at ‘Children of the World‘, and ‘Love‘, to see some of his work in ‘Dancing the Dream‘.

His ‘Heroes, The Last Supper‘ painting hung over Michael’s bed at Neverland, and he has done many other exclusive sketches, paintings and drawings of Michael for various projects over the years. Besides his website, whose music I listened to while putting this piece together, Nate has a YouTube channel where you can actually watch him sketch/paint Michael, and of course he has a Facebook page, as well.

Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions from me via email about working with Michael and about his art in general. His comments were very interesting, and I’d like to share them with you here.

• • •

Seven: Besides the work in the Opus and in Dancing the Dream, and WATW 25, what other works had you done for MJ?

Nate: Many, many paintings, sketches and ideas since 1984 when I signed a contract with MJ. My favorite sketches are the quick little drawings he wanted me to do in the studio when he was recording BAD. He asked for himself walking on a road of gold records surrounded by children. All sorts of quick inspirational drawings, his face with all nationalities…He would prop up these sketches on his podium while he cut his vocals. I have a polaroid of a few of my doodles on his stand while he took a break. At Westlake in LA.

Seven: What is the status of the two large paintings you were working on for MJ before he died – the ones for what was to be his home in Vegas? Will you complete them?

Nate: I would LOVE to finish these paintings. We talked for hours about what he wanted. All I can say is the paintings he wanted large with his children and himself in different settings. Moonlight shining down, heroic type themes is what he asked for, not just himself sitting or standing there. Someday I’ll write about all the themes and ideas I was going to paint for him. He was going to let me photograph him for all types of references… I was really looking forward to that!

Seven: You list Picasso on your site as one of your influences. He is one of my favorite artists. What inspires you most when you work on a piece?

Nate: Inspiration is a funny thing for me. Sometimes it can be a beautiful scene, a certain technique I’m trying to perfect, or simply creating something unique. I have to say most of the time it’s the IDEA of capturing a certain feeling inside. If I walked into a room and saw MJ sitting there in his black sport coat I would immediately try to capture the mood or feeling I get from him, his essence. Not so much his features, although that is important, but his presence. Capturing the moment. The inspiration for me being ‘capture this moment because it will never come again.’ Drawing is a strange thing for an artist, why do artist’s draw? I always say it’s to create a beautiful world that you wished existed. A perfect place.


Seven: What do you think may have inspired Michael most in his work?

Nate: That’s easy, love & perfection. He had this drive to create something perfect. You see it even in his children, he wanted them to be perfect or exceptional, that’s what drove him. It could be his art or his dancing or his family. The drive in a great artist is knowing your work will be seen by thousands of people. This is why you want the work to say something, stand on its own. Without this platform I doubt MJ would have created such great music, he knew he could reach millions of people from all races.

Seven: Another thing you express on your own website is an ability to move the viewer – to give them a sense of ‘another place’. Michael wanted to always give people, via his music, dance, film and performances, a sense of escapism. Is this something the two of you shared and saw eye to eye on? Did you talk about that?

Nate: We touched on it. Escapism sort of, but people must be able to relate to your art or you’ll lose them. Art must have a common touch along with something out of this world to move a viewer. To move the viewer an artist must make his art understood. My paintings and MJ’s music have a very simple message most of the time, but it’s the way the pieces are executed that move people. Again, the art was produced in a unique way, high quality, almost from another world that makes it last and stand out. This is what we talked about.


Seven: How did Michael’s music influence your work for him, if at all?

Nate: It was just an awesome experience to hear his music and the quality behind it all. That was plenty to influence me and my art. MJ’s music put so many visuals into my brain whenever I heard it… you can see how I could place him in the heavens, or his eyes in a powerful burst of light, even a soft straight forward portrait meant something. I would tell him “I could put you in any situation MJ,” he had that quality. He’s really one of the few entertainers that have an ethereal soul.

Seven: I sometimes see a painting when I listen to music – notes and melodies floating onto the canvas or paper in different colors, some in the foreground, others in the background, others floating in from the side or above or below. The music gives aural movement to the visual piece. What do you think of that correlation?

Nate: Oh yes I agree. Music and painting are so intertwined. Music will even move me more than a painting. I think the two hit a person in different areas, the heart and the mind. Music to me hits my soul, it’s all a feeling and I always see a visual floating by. I can hear a great classical piece like Adagio For Strings and it will tear me up. A painting hits my mind more. Makes me think how on earth did a human do this (David, Sistine Chapel, etc.) and I see it in stages, I break it down more to understand it. I see paintings and more when I listen to a great piece of music, visual and soulful, effects me in many different ways. But yes, when I hear a great song and look at a painting the art becomes alive, this is why I listen to music while I paint.


Seven: My favorite pieces you did for MJ are the ones with children – such as ‘Children of the World‘. What were your favorite ones – which ones did you most enjoy working with/for him on and why?

Nate: I like the children pieces too, because I knew how much MJ loved those paintings. I’ll never forget when he called me to say he was using Children in his greatest hits album. That meant so much to me, the one career highlight that I’ll never forget. All those early paintings like Heroes mean a great deal to me. Heroes is one of my favorites too because it includes the people who really blew MJ away. Like Disney, man he loved that guy. The other person he truly loved and would talk to me about all the time was Norman Rockwell! He was obsessed with him and his art. We would watch DVD’s of him and MJ would say – look at his walk, check it out! He studied everything about him, no one really knows this. Heroes is one of my all time favorites because it hung above his bed, MJ really wanted that piece near him.

'Heroes - The Last Supper' by Nate Giorgio

'Heroes - The Last Supper' by Nate Giorgio

Seven: What funny stories or anecdotes can you tell us about you and Michael? A conversation or situation that you might feel comfortable sharing that would help us understand yourself, Michael, and your relationship together better?

Nate: When we gave Liz Taylor a painting I did at her wedding! He had me do a large portrait of her and we planned to give it to her at the ranch on her wedding day. I was worried all day she would leave before getting the painting, so every 5 min I’d go up to MJ and say- what about the picture? He was sitting with someone new and I’d run up to him, what about the picture? Every 5 min I did this. He was sitting visiting Brooke Shields and I ran up to him again and he just turned to me and said, “Man, just have a good time!” We both looked at each other and started laughing. The other great time we had was when I drew funny cartoon faces for him on tour. We would laugh so hard the next day when he thought about the drawings. Just crazy MAD Magazine type faces, so funny! He loved these so much, he would just burst out laughing.


Seven: What do you remember most about Michael Jackson – both the human being, and the artist/entertainer? How did working for him affect you and your work, if at all?

Nate: How humble he truly was. His nature was so so sweet, a very kind person. Soft spoken, respectable. He would always say to me: God blessed the humble the most. I will always remember this. As an artist, just how incredibly talented and quick minded he was. Working with MJ put me at another level, I know how lucky I was to have worked with him. Through MJ I met so many incredible people, it was because of MJ that I got a private tour of The Vatican and Michelangelo’s work, that I met Quincy Jones, the reason I moved to California and changed my career. In my heart I know we connected as 2 artists who appreciated each others work. I respected him so much and it felt great to know he liked my art and would call to talk about art or something new he was thinking about. I knew he trusted me and felt comfortable.

Seven: How did Michael go about telling you what he wanted? Did he just call you up and say “paint me this…” or did he ask you “can you do…?

Nate: All different ways, early on he would just call. Or his assistant would contact me and have me call a number. Later he would just call me, or have someone call me and say can you meet with MJ on Tuesday at the house? All different ways. Before he passed I was only about 2 miles from his home on Carolwood, so I would cruise up around noon to see him. It was great.

Seven: Others have said he was a bit of a prankster and that he would call people at odd hours. Was that the case with you?

Nate: No, I never saw this side of him. Maybe he didn’t want to seem goofy around me. But I’m sure with kids he did funny pranks. We always talked about art and new projects. New art books he loved and wanted to show me .


Seven: How did you meet MJ? What were your conversations or meetings/sessions like in general. Any particularly memorable one(s) you’d like to share?

Nate: I read how he loved art so I did a few paintings and sent them off to his office. I was still in NY and one day his assistant called me. She said MJ’s right here dancing around when he saw your art, he wants to meet you. Within a few weeks he flew me out to his home in Encino and we met. We went to see a rough cartoon version of Captain EO! At Disney studios, him and I just sitting there eating popcorn checking out the film. It blew me away and it was still rough, hand drawn segments mixed with live action.

Seven: When was the last time you saw or spoke with him and what was said or discussed – if you care to share that?

Nate: Right before he passed at his home on Carolwood. I was talking with him about everything, but mainly the new large paintings he wanted me to start on. We were trying to set up a photo shoot for references.

Seven: What do you think of the pre-trial hearings involving Conrad Murray – or have you been avoiding that due to the upsetting nature of it, too busy, and/or would rather not comment? (fully understood if that is the case!)

Nate: I watch it of course, like today the news had Alberto on. But everyone knows Murray’s to blame, made many serious mistakes. I just feel so sad that MJ’s gone, I don’t even want to think about the Doctor, what he’s done. It’s just so unbelievable someone so incredible, so special as MJ was treated like this. I still can’t believe this was going on with a friend I talked to and hung out with so many times.

Seven: How and when did you learn of his death?

Nate: My sister called me and was shaken, I was painting and I thought it was another fake story. So I flipped on the news ready to hear an explanation when it just kept getting worse and worse. I finally had to shut it off I was so out of it. Could not believe it, still doesn’t feel like he’s gone.

Seven: Are you working on any MJ-inspired or related work in the future?

Nate: Maybe, talking about some things…

Seven: Is there anything else you’d like to express or say – about your own work or your work with MJ?

Nate: There’s a lot yeah, he meant a great deal to me…

Poster by Nate Giorgio Exclusive for HMV

Poster by Nate Giorgio

• • •

He meant so much to so many. Thank you Nate Giorgio for sharing your time and thoughts with us!

'Children of the World' by Nate Giorgio

'Children of the World' by Nate Giorgio

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Oct 23 2011

Black child with one white glove that glows

Category: Angels,Art,MJ QuotesSeven @ 1:25 am

Rather than writing about the trial right now and that jerry-rigged, hideously imprecise drip setup we learned about on Thursday from Dr. Shafer; rather than ruminate about how Conrad Murray obviously “infused” (maybe even poured) propofol into Michael’s body as he lay dying while Murray chatted and texted with his various mistresses and other patients, I decided instead to write about a more pleasant subject. That’s not to say I won’t write a summary of weeks 3 and 4 of the trial. I will, and I will do so as much for my own reference as anyone else’s. But right now, something more pleasant is needed for my own heart and soul and maybe yours, too.

In the past, I’ve presented quite a bit of material on this site about Michael and art. I’ve written about Michael’s own artwork, and about artwork Michael commissioned from other artists and that he inspired in other artists. One artist I did an interview with a while back was Nate Giorgio. Just today, I came across something that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. It’s a painting Michael commissioned by Nate Giorgio along with a note about just how he wanted the painting done. Michael’s note reads:

Nate Do this picture for me But make the Baby in the Blanket Me. A little Black child with one white glove that glows. Love, Michael Jackson. p.s. put your Heart into this one.

Michael's note to Nate Giorgio

Michael's note to Nate Giorgio

'Black Child'

'Black Child'

Another thing that I came across (and I’m not really sure what to think of it) was a print from a March 2011 issue of Vanity Fair by an unknown artist entitled “A Very Special Delivery“. Or, “Elizabeth Taylor Ascending to Heaven Accompanied by the Angels Michael Jackson and Richard Burton“. It features Michael and Richard Burton as angels welcoming Elizabeth Taylor into heaven.

Vanity Fair is proud to offer the exclusive first image of a lost masterwork recently discovered in a cellar of the building formerly occupied by Chasen’s restaurant in West Hollywood, California: artist unknown, date unknown (circa early 21st century). Oil and PaintShop Pro, 48” by 32″. Collection of Hamish Robertson and Bruce Handy.

A note included with the article states: “Scholars believe the falling pink roses symbolize a new fragrance line Taylor had on the drawing board at the time of her death.

'Elizabeth Ascends to Heaven'

'A Very Special Delivery' - Michael and Richard Burton welcome Elizabeth to heaven.

This last story is another one about Michael inspiring, while also commissioning art from an artist. Czech Artist Helena Kadlcikova spent 3 months with Michael at Neverland. He apparently commissioned three paintings from her. My friends at UK Loves MJ on Facebook collected many photos of her work on their page and interpreted an interview with her using various links and snippets. Below, I share with you a roughly translated version of Helena’s fascinating story:

Helena Kadlicova’s Visit to Neverland

As the only Czech to visit Neverand in some time Artist Helena Kadlcikova spent 3 months at Neverland. She talked about art with Michael, dined together and played with his children. This is the first time that she has talked about this to the media (Cosmopolitan magazine). Helena lived with Michael for 3 months and felt it was a bit like a sci-fi fairytale. How did this actually happen?

“It’s definitely not easy,” says Helena Kadlčíková. Her journey to the seat of the famous singer began in 2001. The first stage was to get Michael to see the paintings that Helena had painted whilst he was in his hotel in London. After arguing with the bodyguards Michael agreed to see Helena as they had met before. Michael ordered some paintings. Helena however had one condition, she did not want money she wanted to go to Neverland. Michael agreed and on a piece of paper with a Peter Pan Logo he wrote a contact number and Michael asked that she contact his assistant Evvy Tavaszi.

Two years passed “It was very difficult to agree everything, All I had to constantly dash. The problem was with the Visa. Michael sent me a signed fax invitation letter, but I needed something to get me to the Embassy. So I followed him to Berlin in 2002 where he was just visiting so I could take a picture with him.” [In another article Helena says when she met Michael in the hotel he had just gotten up and was still half asleep and in his pyjamas and this was the photo she used to get her visa!] Helena presented the Berlin photos to Prague officials and though at first suspicious they stamped her passport with no problems. She looked forward to going to Neverland and only believed it herself when she had her ticket o California. She was to stay for 2 weeks but stayed for 3 months.

Newspaper article about Helena's stay at Neverland (in Czech)

News article about Helena's stay at Neverland (in Czech). Helena met Michael in his hotel room and this picture was taken so Helena could get a Visa to visit Michael in the US.

The Golden Gate

In September Helena flew from Prague Ruzyne airport with a gift for Michael –a book on Czech Castles and Chateaux. She was met at LA by Michaels limousine and driver who took her to Neverland. “You do not know where you are going, what will happen. Suddenly he opens the gate and sign a covenant not to take photos or reveal information. Then you drive through another gate, the most gold, with music playing and then your andrenaline rises”. On arrival Helena settled in the living room of the main building which was full of antiques and sculptures but says it was homely. After a moment she was led to one of 4 guest suites.

Although the ranch is more than a 1000 hectares the building for guests is located only twenty meters from the house where Michael lived with their children. The entrance was protected by a code, which later was revealed to Helena. Jackson lived in private right-wing. “There I was also able to walk. says Helen, who enjoyed their luxury guest house. “It was in a rustic style. It could be likened to any presidential suite,” She says. Although Michael was not there on her arrival he was there in the evening and sought her out As he was going to Canada the next day for 3 days. “I’m almost asleep when I hear that someone is trying to get into my room. It was Michael. So I tell him it’s me. He did not know that beating. They started to solve it, then went into the next apartment. An hour later the phone rings, and Michael again, is there a Peter? So I say no, they did it in the next house, She says with a smile . [ Here I believe Michael is being a prankster].

After Michaels’s return from Canada, Helen finally could begin to paint. “He sent me pictures of the children Prince I, Paris and Prince II. [which Michael photographed himself, according to them}” and she painted their portraits. “He gave me a free hand just told me ‘here’ to draw a firefly”. “They had to solve a legal matter – at that time the public did not know yet how the kids look, “says the artist”. During her stay Helena completed three paintings before she left. Helena did not always paint. Michael provided a car and driver for trips to Santa Barbara and other places. She also enjoyed the Zoo, Fair and Michaels recording studio. Sometimes with Michaels, other times with the children of Michaels cousins. “We rode together on the quad. Also, Michael drove us by car, but we ended up with one around in bed. [I assume a flower bed]. There was a cinema in which we went to a screening of films. The film showing that night was always on the bulletin board in the kitchen” Helen recalls.


The kitchen was the major centre of Neverland Here everyone ate together, discussed, watched television and spun plans for the day.. “ “In the morning, getting up around ten, then went into the kitchen for breakfast. Michael mostly had the room to fetch food. Sometimes I am giving a glass of green drink such, something very healthy, once I tried it too. Well, much good it just was not. Otherwise, eat what everybody else. ” Helena usually ate breakfast with his children – he could afford virtually anything, what came to her taste. From hot English breakfast across many types of bread, cornflakes to a wealth of fruit. “Then I went to teach children in the afternoon [believe to paint] and play with them. The dinner was a choice of four dishes. Although Michael often claimed to be vegetarian, meat such as turkey burgerům, certainly did not shy away from. If someone was hungry they would just ask the chefs to cook”


Helena saw Michael Jackson practically every day. Most times he was in Pajamas. “He used very strong perfume, so I always knew he was coming or where he is. When he was fighting clothes, I knew I had just my underwear was fighting with him, because it was still feel his scent,” says Helen. [I took this to mean maybe when they play fought together, Helena could still smell Michael on her clothes!] The chance to remain with the king of pop for a moment alone was minimal – he always has someone with him. Yet Helen has several such meetings. “Sometimes we had met in his library. We talked about art. The paintings that I painted. Michael liked the classics, abstraction is not for him too. Also often talked about his first wife Lisa M. Presley. It was obvious that he still has some relationship” she feels adding that Jackson was educated, a sensitive man with a great sense of humour, someone who could not say no. “We constantly had a Gnome. Helena addressed me. [Maybe a knickname] He did not say it, but rather sang it. That led to embarrassment and he did it on purpose. While Helena was at Neverland it was her birthday, Michael had a cake made. We ate the cake in the morning Michael was gone the next day slyly smiling.” For her, was not a famous singer just Michael.

Police Cutting up Books and Toys

In Neverland, where ever you went music was played or was played from hidden loudspeakers , also in the trees you can hear birdsong, and Helena met Michaels mother and an American singer and actress Lisa Minelli. “I was having coffee in the kitchen, sat next to Michael, when Lisa arrived. Immediately I began to imagine it, of which I was totally confused. Finally I was all day with her assistant and a dog, which at the time Lisa had. Michael is afraid of him, “says Helena”.

In the last month of her stay with the children, Michael went to Las Vegas. Then she saw him last in Neverland. “When he went, it was quite boring, I enjoy it when he arrives. Helen’s stay was interrupted by police raids at Michael’s headquarters, followed by a protracted trial. In it the singer was accused of sexually abusing children. Police raided the ranch a week before her departure. “Often there flew over helicopters, from which people took pictures of the ranch. Once Upon a Time in the morning I also heard a helicopter, and from it a man shouted something through the loudspeaker. At Neverland no one knew what was happening. They were all in shock. Soon there came a lot of police officers who cut the children toys, Michael’s old books, breaking things. It seemed that they were doing it on purpose. He [police] stepped into my room and asked me various questions,” says Helen dramatic moment whose echoes filled the headlines for many weeks. The process eventually came out the singer in 2005 as innocent. In the evening we then sat in the kitchen to the TV and finding out what is actually happening. A few days later, in early December, I left.”

If it wasn’t for Michael, I would probably never get so far with my painting. He always used to tell me, whatever you’d like to achieve, YOU can do it, nothing is off limits. -Helena Kadlicova

They said in there [Neverland] I still have some things [painting equipment] in January that will definitely come back, “says Helena. It did not happen. Singer after the trial moved from the ranch. Michael saw Helena again only after three years in London. He chose the other images created for him in the meantime and they agreed to meet again.

Translated link:

Below are just a few examples of Helena’s artwork. You can see more at her website.

One of Helena's portraits of Michael

One of Helena's portraits of Michael

Helena with her painting "Africa In Me"

Helena with her painting "Africa In Me"

This painting was done for Michael while Helena was staying at Neverland.

This painting of Prince and Paris was done for Michael while Helena was staying at Neverland.

"Holiday" - Helena showed this painting to Michael before it was finished and he told her to carry on with it.

"Holiday" - Helena showed this painting to Michael before it was finished and he told her to carry on with it.

I was born to never die, to live in bliss, to never cry. To speak the truth and never lie, to share my love without a sigh.

A piece entitled: "Victory" - I was born to never die, to live in bliss, to never cry. To speak the truth and never lie, to share my love without a sigh.

Helena’s Book can be purchased from her Website. The book includes photos and articles and measures 8″ x 8″. Purchase the book here: http://www.helenakadlcikova.com/?p=1792&lang=en.  Prints of Helena’s paintings can also be purchased here: http://www.helenakadlcikova.com/?page_id=77&lang=en

Helena's Art Book

Helena's Art Book

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May 16 2011

“Never lose your boyish spirit, it’s immortal”

Category: Art,Friends,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 10:17 am

With Grey Hildebrandt at Helmsely Palace

With Greg Hildebrandt at Helmsely Palace

(Upper left photo: 1988- Michael Jackson, Bubbles and Greg Hildebrandt at Helmsley Palace in NY)

Michael being the consummate artist, often drew while he was on tour. Artist Greg Hildebrandt, who stayed with Michael at the Helmsely Palace during his Bad tour, shares his memories of the time he spent with Michael then. The letter at lower left in the photo was written by Michael to Greg and says:

Greg thanks for a magic moment in my life, I hope it was the same for you, please come to visit Neverland. Lets hope this is the beginning of a long friendship and never lose your boyish spirit, its immortal. Love Always, MJackson.

Greg Hildebrandt on these photos:

I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with Michael in 1988, during his Bad Tour, and in 1989 at his ranch, Neverland Valley. In 1988, Michael invited me to spend ten days with him during his Tour. He was performing in NJ at the time. As I lived in NJ, I told him I would be happy to drive back and forth to the city but he insisted on getting me a suite at the Helmsley Palace. We spent many hours together and I went to every concert with him. It was truly a wonderful experience.

What struck me from the first moment I met Michael was how intelligent he was. I of course knew his music and knew what an incredible performer he was, but I had no idea that he had deep passions for art and art history. He was especially passionate about American Illustrators.

We spent many hours talking about Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Jesse Wilcox Smith and of course his favorite Norman Rockwell. Michael sent an armored truck to my studio and they picked up over 150 of my paintings. They were leaning all around the suite and we spent quite a bit of time discussing my art and classic literature.

Michael was also an avid book collector and I was surprised to find out that he had every book I had illustrated. But my greatest surprise was when he asked me to give him drawing lessons. I quickly learned that he had a natural talent for art. We would sit and sketch, chat and eat popcorn. It was casual and enjoyable.

Michael was also a great fan of animation and loved the Disney films. He very much wanted to get into making movies. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.

In 1989 Michael asked me to come to Neverland.  I spent 9 days with him at the ranch. It was very clear that Michael was trying to create a childhood he never had. Again it was a great experience. A very special moment in my life.

Michael Jackson was the King of POP. This is I hope how the world will remember him. This is his legacy. But for those who had the opportunity to spend time with him, he was so much more. Michael was intelligent, funny, passionate, and caring. He had more energy than anyone I had ever known. He was a brilliant performer. He loved life.

We will miss him. We wish him Gods speed.

-Greg Hildebrandt

Larger version of the note to Greg

Larger version of the note to Greg written on a single sheet of paper from the Pan Am in-flight duty free shop.

SOURCE: http://www.spiderwebart.com/memorial/2009-06-25_michael_jackson/michael_jackson_memorial.html

In August 2009 Michael’s drawing (lower right) was auctioned for $21,000.00.

With Greg and Jean Hildebrandt

With Greg and Jean Hildebrandt

There is also a contemporary artist whose work Michael admired and which appeared in the Michael Jackson Opus as well as in Michael’s book ‘Dancing the Dream‘. That artist is Nate Giorgio. In an interview here on MJ-777, Nate also said that Michael loved Norman Rockwell.

Billboard Magazine Cover Illustration by Mark Stutzman. June 26, 2010 Issue

Billboard Magazine Cover Illustration by Mark Stutzman. June 26, 2010 Issue

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Jan 16 2011

We had him. And we are the world.

Category: Art,Humanitarian,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 12:26 am

"MJ in Gold": ink, watercolor and pastel on brown paper, painted by Nate Giorgio

"MJ in Gold": ink, watercolor and pastel on brown paper, painted by Nate Giorgio

I’ve written about ‘We Are the World‘ a couple times previously on this site:


So why am I doing it again? Because during this time in 1985, that song was just being written. From January 15-23, 1985, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie worked together to compose a song for African famine relief. Paired by Quincy Jones, Michael came up with basic music for “We Are The World“.

When composing the song, a line which originally read: “we’re taking our lives, in our own hands” was changed to “we’re saving our own lives“, to avoid it being taken as a suicide line.

Sir Bob Geldof, in his autobiography, spoke of Michael practicing the song in various keys, “Each one was perfect“, he wrote, “and for anyone else would have been a take, rather than a practice.”

I wrote the song with Lionel Richie after seeing the appalling news footage of starving people in Ethiopia and the Sudan. . . .I hate to see suffering, I hate to see people in need, and I feel God gave me a gift, and I have to use it responsibly by giving back, and I’ll do it until I have pennies left or the good Lord calls me home.

-Michael Jackson

We are The World” was recorded by USA for Africa (“United Support of Artists For Africa“) to aid famine relief in Ethiopia. Lyrics to the song were completed on 21st January 1985, and largely recorded at Lion’s Share Studio in Los Angeles immediately after the American Music Awards ceremony in Hollywood, on 28th January.

Two hours after the 12th Annual American Music Award ceremony, Michael and 44 other artists gathered secretly for 10 hours at A&M Recording Studios in Los Angeles to record ‘We Are The World‘.

Upon entering the recording studio, the musicians were greeted by a sign pinned to the door by Quincey Jones which read, “Please check your egos at the door“. The 45 artists who comprised United Support of Artists for Africa, and who left their egos at the door, were also greeted by Stevie Wonder, who proclaimed that if the recording was not completed in one take, he and Ray Charles, two blind men, would drive everybody home.

After the other singers arrived, Michael finally addressed the group. He shyly described the song he and Lionel Richie had written as “a love song to inspire concern about a faraway place close to home.” On the back cover of ‘We Are The World’ are comments made by some of the members of USA For Africa project, including Michael’s thoughts and feelings on the song:

When I was asked to write the song, I put my soul into it. That’s really my statement. -Michael Jackson

The recording session began at 9:00 p.m., and lasted the entire night. Michael didn’t leave until 8:00 a.m. the next morning, when the final version of ‘We Are the World’ was completed.

The song was produced by Quincy Jones and the associate producer was Tom Bahler, who wrote ‘She’s Out of My Life’ from Michael’s ‘Off The Wall’ album. Keyboards on ‘We Are The World’ are handled by another Jackson associate, Greg Phillinganes.

The recording session resulted in a single, a video and a video cassette documenting the making of the single, ‘We Are the World: The Video Event’. A double album made up of the ‘We Are The World’ single, and previously unreleased material from some of the participating artists was also released, Michael did not have a song included on the album. The proceeds from the sale of these items along with proceeds from sales of books, shirts, buttons, posters, and other merchandise all went directly to the famine relief fund. The promotion and merchandise aided the success of ‘We Are the World’ and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US. ‘We Are The World – The Video Event’ was the 9th best selling video cassette of 1985.

The song was released on March 7, 1985 in both a 7″ and 12″ format, and made music history. It reached the top of the sales charts within a month, half the average time it usually takes for a single to do so. The song created recording history by becoming the industry’s first ever Multi-Platinum single and being certified in all categories (Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum) within the space of one month.

Several demo versions were recorded by Michael, including a duet with Lionel Richie. The demo version as included on the 2004 box-set, “The Ultimate Collection“, was used as a guideline for other participating artists.

WATW USA For Africa Group Photo

WATW USA For Africa Group Photo

WATW original music and lyrics

WATW original music and lyrics

We Are The World” was No. 1 on American charts, and in Australia, Belgium, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the UK.

It was the No. 1 best selling single of 1985, and No. 5 best selling single of all time in the US.

Estimated global sales for the song were 7 million (about the same as Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas“).

The song won several Grammy Awards including Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance by Duo or Group, Best Music Video – Short Form.

It was ‘Song of the Year’ for the American Music Awards, and it was a ‘Favorite New Song‘ for People’s Choice Awards.

We Had Him, by Maya Angelou

We Had Him, by Maya Angelou

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Some of the information in this piece came from the awesome and very informative website MJJTime which chronicles the history of Michael Jackson’s career and life. Check it out!

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