Sep 01 2012

Through more intelligent focus, many will actually see Michael Jackson again for the first time

Category: Academia,Books,Friends,Justice,VideosSeven @ 12:20 am

Tonight is a full, blue moon. It’s also the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael’s ‘Bad‘ album, and Mr. Spike Lee’s “Bad 25” film is out at a Venice film festival to fabulous and well-deserved reviews. Of course no one else could have properly created this documentary than Mr. Lee himself and of course he has done a fantastic job.

Prestigious universities are teaching classes about the human being and the genius Michael Jackson was. Great authors are researching, examining and publishing positive books about  his craft and creative processes. Finally, more people will see Michael Jackson – many for the first time, though they certainly knew his music and his name from media and tabloid stories. They did not however know who or what he really was. Now, they’ll have the opportunity to properly learn.

Thank You Mr. Spike Lee for creating a window through which the world will take a second look at Michael Jackson in ‘Bad 25‘. In the video above, Spike Lee describes his documentary film as “a love letter to Michael Jackson” and says “it’s time to concentrate on Michael’s music and let the other stuff go“. I certainly agree with that.

Thank you Joe Vogel for writing serious, well-researched books about Michael’s creative processes and his music.  Thank you Dr. Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University and Joe Vogel at University of Rochester for bringing Michael Jackson’s human nature, his genius and work ethic, the important nuances in his poor working-class African American upbringing, his struggles with race as an artist, and his cultural influence as the worlds greatest entertainer into the classroom for what absolutely merits serious study.  Thank you also to Sylvia J. Martin, Ph.D whose “The Roots and Routes of Michael Jackson’s Global Identity” is required reading for Dr. Neal’s course along with Joe Vogel’s ‘Man in the Music‘.

If you haven’t see this yet, here is an hour-long interview with Dr. Neal (done in 2009) about The Legacy of Michael Jackson (thank you David Edwards for locating this):

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All of these people are bringing a more intelligent, accurate and appropriate focus on Michael Jackson, who he truthfully was and what he meant in our society and our world. The phenomenon that was Michael Jackson is an important part of our cultural history. It should not be ignored or buried under media and tabloid bullshit. Now, because of these more realistically focused efforts, many people can (if they choose) see Michael Jackson for the first time, even if they thought they already knew who he was.

These are very positive changes. I just wish this had all happened over three years ago. Michael worked his skinny butt off at his craft all his life so he could give the world the very best of himself. He was honest and hardworking. He was overly-generous and idealistic. He was a driven genius. He was the best entertainer the world has ever seen. He really cared about this world, and I dare say he cared more than it cares about itself. The way things are going, it may be a good thing he’s not here anymore because the human race is destroying itself though he tried to enlighten us to save ourselves and each other through messages in his music.

I miss Michael and just wish he could have seen some of this when he was alive. I hope beyond hope that somehow his sweet soul can see it now.

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Aug 29 2012

Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition. Class Starts Tonight!

Category: Academia,Books,VideosSeven @ 12:04 pm

What more fitting time to start a class about Michael Jackson at Duke University than on his birthday? Today is the first day of a course taught by Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African American Studies at Duke University. The class is called “Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition”. Required reading includes Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk“, “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown“, and Joseph Vogel’s “Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson“.

Dr. Neal has posted a lot of good material about MJ on his blog and he fairly recently spoke at a conference about how Michael’s upbringing undoubtedly influenced his attitudes towards quite innocently sharing his bed with others – a subject that caused much consternation during his life. Listening to Dr. Neal and others speak about this subject suggests that there has probably been a great cultural misunderstanding about Michael Jackson in this regard – one that cost the man his life and his livelihood. That same YouTube channel also features other videos of Dr. Neal speaking about MJ.

Here’s Dr. Neal explaining a likely reason why for Michael, sharing his bed was an innocent, normal thing:

Motown’s Bobby Taylor also spoke about sharing his bed with Michael when he was a child:

The class syllabus is as follows:

Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition
Department of African & African American Studies
Duke University
AAAS 334-01
Fall 2012
Wednesday 6:15 pm – 8:45 pm
White Lecture Hall, 107

Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D.

Course Description

The central premise of ‘Michael Jackson and Black Performance Tradition’ is the question, “Where did Michael Jackson come from?” While there are facts—he was born on August 29, 1958 in a Rust Belt city named Gary, Indiana—what the course aims to answer are the broader questions of Jackson’s cultural, social, political and even philosophical origins. The course will specifically examine the Black Performance context(s) that produced Jackson’s singular creative genius within the realms of music, movement and politics, including the influence of Black vernacular practices like signifying and sampling, the network of Black social spaces known as the Chitlin’ Circuit, the impact of Black migration patterns to urban spaces in the Midwest (like Gary, Chicago and Detroit—all critical to Jackson’s artistic development) and Black performance traditions including Blackface minstrelsy. In addition the course will examine the social constructions of Blackness and gender (Black masculinity) through the prism of Michael Jackson’s performance, highlighting his role as a trickster figure with the context of African-American vernacular practices.

Books

The Last ‘Darky’: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy & the African Diaspora | Louis Chude-Sokei

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown | RJ Smith

Moonwalk | Michael Jackson

Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson | Joseph Vogel

On Michael Jackson | Margo Jefferson

Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop | Guthrie P. Ramsey

*Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, 1958-2009 | J. Randy Taraborrelli

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More details on this class can be found here: http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-syllabus-michael-jackson-black.html

I haven’t checked but I suspect the class is very full with a long waiting list, and may be part of a larger curriculum of study. Who wouldn’t love to just sit in on this class even with no credit given? It’s bound to be fascinating and enlightening and it’s so very exciting to see universities of Duke’s stature taking up the study of Michael Jackson’s life, art, and cultural influence.

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