Jun 15 2011

“We can fly you know…” – (UPDATED)

Category: Children,Ecstasy,MJ Quotes,PhotosSeven @ 10:16 am


"We can fly you know. We just don't know the how to think the right thoughts and levitate ourselves off the ground." -Michael at age 24 in Newsweek

We can fly you know. We just don’t know the how to think the right thoughts and levitate ourselves off the ground. -Michael at age 24

A (s)hero of mine who has also passed on had a photo of a flying pig on her wall at work at one time. She kept it there to remind herself that pigs can fly – to remind herself to accept no limitations. This woman accomplished phenomenal things in her lifetime, too. This idea, this attitude of “no limitations“, that “pigs can fly“, and “We can fly” is the level of tenacity that it takes to cultivate fruit from the hard earth that is life.

What is also required is a belief in magic and an ability to see and feel magic in the everyday; to have an ethereal radar which picks up on life’s very tendrils as they sway and dance in the cosmic winds.

If one is an artist like Michael, then translating that experience such that others can also see and feel that magic is the ultimate Union – the bringing together of the physical with the divine.

The artist is the conduit through which that magic happens and Michael’s ability to do this is what electrified all of us and what causes him to remain bright and alive in our memories and our hearts for generations. He still is very much alive within his millions of fans old and new, all over the world. That energy does not cease to exist just because the artist is physically gone. The magic lives forever.

Onstage in one of his sequined jumpsuits, he’s a flamboyant picture of grace, a sleek jaguar ready to pounce. In photographs he’s a creature of sweet sensuality, beguiling, angelic, androgynous. In person though, he’s quiet and reserved, a gangling young man of cagey reticence with a childlike aura of wonder.

I don’t appreciate the use of the word like ‘cagey‘, because it implies a dastardly sneakiness. And Michael, while a prankster, was not an evil one but rather a playful one. He was painfully shy off stage. Not sure I’d call that “cagey“, but that’s just a nit.

As for the word “androgynous“, I find that OK in 1984. At that time, it didn’t seem to be used in a suggestive manner as it later sometimes was, along with other epithets about his sexuality. That word is often used to describe other artists like David Bowie, but without the negative connotations which dogged Michael later in life due to his physical changes, his refusal to abuse women, and the allegations against him.

Below is one page (I haven’t located the other one yet) of an interview young Michael did with Newsweek at age 24. The quotes above are from the article. I hope you can read it, as it’s small and a larger version doesn’t seem to exist.

Peter Pan of Pop - Newsweek, January, 1983

Peter Pan of Pop - Newsweek, January, 1983

Michael said of his various pets:

I like to pry into their world and watch them move about. I just stare at them.

He was equally fascinated by the world of children:

When I’m upset about a recording session, I’ll dash off on my bike and ride to the schoolyard just to be around them. When I come back to the studio, I’m ready to move mountains. Kids do that to me. It’s like magic.

Little did Michael know – or maybe he did know – that he had that same affect on his fans. They loved to stare at him, pry into his world, fascinated by him. And, he certainly made them feel inspired and energized, like they could move mountains. To his fans, Michael represented the same type of magic that he himself saw in children, animals and other creatures.

He grabbed that magic and wonder (and sometimes frustration and pain) he experienced in life and put it into music, film and dance. He sent that astounding, brilliant energy straight from his own soul into his fans’ hearts and memories where it remains alive today.

This is what it means to put one’s soul into one’s work as Michael said, so that the art lives forever even after the creator is gone. That is the very essence of creativity and Michael being the creative genius he was, understood very well. . . this is is what it means to fly.

Michael's Peter Pan jacket

Michael's Peter Pan jacket

• • • UPDATE • • •

As often happens, a reader has located more information. ‘Zenriver‘ has located the article online and has provided the links. So, here is the entire article followed by the online links – thank you ‘Zenriver‘! :

The Peter Pan of Pop

It’s a giddy and glamourous sound, Hands clap, horns blare. A carnival of percussion erupts. Electric guitars chatter like a corps of African talking drums. A voice gasps and then chants a chorus. So go the first few seconds of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” six minutes of musical frenzy from a new Epic album called “Thriller.” The show-stopping style could come from only one star—Michael Jackson.

January 10, 1983

For nearly 14 years Jackson has been making his own breathless brand of show-business history. He first burst into view in 1969, as the 10-year-old dancing dynamo who dipped, spun and sang for the Jackson 5, a quintet of buoyant young brothers. Over the next decade he helped sell more than 90 million records, both with that group and as a solo artist. Heir to a great tradition of black stagecraft, he has become a whirling dervish of the modern recording studio. In 1979 he helped bring black music into the ’80s with “Off the Wall,” a luminous set of high-tech dance hits, including four Top 10 singles—the most from any one album by any solo performer in the history of recorded music.

Supercharged: Now, at 24, Jackson seems poised for another surge. He wrote and produced Diana Ross’s recent Top 10 hit, “Muscles.” He narrated and sang a song for the storybook album of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” And for “Thriller,” his long-awaited sequel to “Off the Wall,” he has fashioned a supercharged pop classic for the ’80s—flashy, futuristic, floridly upbeat.

Despite his showy style, Michael Jackson remains something of an enignia. Onstage in one of his sequined jump suits, he’s a flamboyant picture of grace, a sleek jaguar ready to pounce. In photographs he’s a creature of sweet sensuality, beguiling, angelic, androgynous. In person, though, he’s quiet and reserved, a gangling young man of cagey reticence, with a childlike aura of wonder.

He lives with his mother and two younger sisters in a Tudor-style estate in the San fernando Valley. On the grounds he keeps a small menagerie that includes a llama named Louis, a boa constrictor named Muscles and a sheep named Mr. Tibbs. “I think they’re sweet,” says Michael in his willowy whisper of a voice. “I like to pry into their world and watch the way they move about. I just stare at them.” He is equally fascinated by the world of children: “When I’m upset about a recording session, I’ll dash off on my bike and ride to the schoolyard, just to be around them. When I come back to the studio, I’m ready to move mountains. Kids do that to me. It’s like magic.”

Magic is the key. It’s a word that Jackson uses with disarming frequency, as if to conjure up a never-never land of constant enchantment. Beethoven, Rembrandt, Charlie Chaplin—all these things to him are magic. It was certainly magic when he met E.T.: “He grabbed me, he put his arms around me. He was so real that I was talking to him. I kissed him before I left.” And the magic doesn’t stop there: “I have dreams to this day about flying,” he says, explaining his love for Steven Spielberg’s airborne Extraterrestrial. He pauses and leans forward: “We can fly, you know. We just don’t now how to think the right thoughts and levitate ourselves off the ground.”

Michael Jackson as Peter Pan? The notion sounds ridiculous—until you consider Michael’s point of view. His saga has the flavor of a modern-day fairy tale.

Growing up in the dingy ghetto of Gary, Ind., the fifth child in a family of eight, he virtually stepped from his crib to the stage. He was coached by his father, a crane operator who had once played with the Falcons, an early rock band. “There was a big baseball park behind our house,” recalls Michael. “You could hear the cheers of the crowd. But I never had any desire to play baseball. I would be inside working, rehearsing.” At the age of five he played his first paying gig with the Jackson 5. “When we sang, people would throw all this money on the floor,” says Michael—”tons of dollars, 10s, 20s, lots of change. I remember my pockets being so full of money that I couldn’t keep my pants up. I’d wear a real tight belt. And I’d buy candy like crazy.”

Rewarded: The group began to win talent shows. Back home in Gary they took time to perform at benefits for Muigwighania, a local black-pride organization led by a man named Richard Hatcher. When Hatcher later became the city’s first black mayor, he rewarded the Jacksons by spotlighting them at a 1968 civic “Soul Weekend” starring Diana Ross and the Supremes. “He won me over the first moment I saw him,” Ross told NEWSWEEK in 1970. “I saw so much of myself as a child in Michael. He was performing all the time. That’s the way I was. He could be my son.” She convinced her boss, Berry Gordy, to audition the group for his legendary Motown label.

By 1968 Gordy’s company had become one of the largest black-owned enterprises in the United States—an empire built on black music sweetened for white ears. The Jackson 5 were the perfect Motown act: a band of boys so I cuddly and cute that no one could feel threatened by their sexy antics or their black skin. Best of all, their pint-size lead singer had mastered every nuance of the soul singer’s art—the heartfelt histrionics of Jackie Wilson, the pleading romanticism of Smokey Robinson, the kinetic energy of James Brown. Gordy carefully groomed the group and then handed them “I Want You Back”—one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll tracks ever made. The record explodes like popcorn. Americans of all ages went scrambling in response, snapping up more than 2 million copies of the single and turning the Jackson 5 into instant superstars.

Michael was now 11, a seasoned trouper and a fan-club pinup at a time when most boys still dream only of idling away summer days on a sandlot. He was whisked from the sooty snow of Gary to the smoggy glitter of Hollywood. “When we got there, we went to Disneyland,” he recalls. “It was freezing in Indiana. It’s freezing right now in Indiana. The sun, the swimming pools, a whole other image, a whole other life. It was magic.”

In fact, the “magic” involved a lot of hard work, hammering out hits on Motown’s assembly line of soul. “We’re labeling it ‘soul-bubblegum’,” declared Gordy in 1970. “It’s a style that appeals to the younger teens.” The exact formula was, as usual, strictly controlled by the company. “We provide total guidance,” explained a Motown vice president. “We provide their material, set their basic sound and work out the choreographic routines.” They also set a 9:30 curfew.

Influence: For three yearsthe regimen worked. The Jackson 5 became the fastest-selling act in Motown’s history, eclipsing such solid-gold predecessors as the Supremes and Miracles. For several years Michael could watch his own animated self frolic on a Saturday-morning network-television cartoon show, “The Jackson 5.” Despite such vivid proof of his own astonishing influence, Michael throughout these years remained wrapped in a cocoon, surrounded by bodyguards, tutors and his immediate family circle—a child at sea in a world of adults, expected to sing love songs he could scarcely understand. Growing up in this fantasyland of make-believe romance and real-life adulation left its mark. “I hate to admit it,” says Michael, “but I feel strange around everyday people. See, my whole life has been onstage. And the impression I get ofpeople is applause, standing ovations and running after you. In a crowd I’m afraid. onstage I feel safe. If I could, I would sleep on the stage. I’m serious.”

“Jacksonmania” gradually subsided. As he grew older, Michael’s plangent soprano plunged an octave. Finally, in 1976, the group left Motown for a new label, Epic. In 1978 Michael made his movie debut, playing the Scarecrow in “The Wiz.” That year the Jacksons’ sagging musical career also got a fresh boost from a record called “Destiny”—the first album entirely written and produced by the group itself. The dance hit “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” featured Michael, 19 and newly confident, filling the air with impatient squeals. A few months later, when the veteran jazz arranger and film composer Quincy Jones produced “Off the Wall,” Michael’s first solo album in five years, he added a classy veneer of urbane elegance to the singer’s nervous new style. The album sold more than 5 million copies—and suddenly Michael Jackson was back at the forefront of American popular music.

Try as he might to escape it, he has been in the limelight ever since. Rumors surround his every passing romance. Three years ago the talk concerned Tatum O’Neal. This year it’s about Brooke Shields. Michael himself has hinted that he’d like to marry Diana Ross. He maintains close friendships with a dazzling—and unusual—array of stars: Katharine Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda. Yet he leads a sober and disciplined life, fasting every Saturday and dancing for 30 minutes by himself every Sunday. He doesn’t drink, smoke or swear: since even the word “funky” seems to him a little off-color, he uses the word ‘jelly” instead. He has followed in his mother’s faith and become a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, convinced, as he sings on his 1979 solo hit, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” of “the force” within—a divine, pure, healing instinct for love, expressed through his own musical gifts. “The thing that touches me is very special,” he says. “It’s a message I have to tell. I start crying and the pain is wonderful. It’s amazing. It’s like God.”

Enthusiasm: “Michael’s a truth machine,” says Quincy Jones. “He’s got a balance between the wisdom of a 60-year-old and the enthusiasm of a child.” At a recent recording session, Michael spent five hours fine-tuning an upcoming single, patiently jotting down technical notes for his engineer, carefully calibrating the sound. Finished at last, he leaped up, yelled, “It’s jelly time!”—and started a food fight.

He remains painfully shy. During a reporter’s visit to his home, the doorbell rang. Michael froze in his seat, remembering that his bodyguard and assistant were both away. Cautiously, he approached the door and peered through the peephole. He went to the window and peeked through the blinds. His voice trembled. “I never do this,” he said, opening the door. On the step a messenger had left a package of new sheet music.

Put this timorous man-child onto a stage, though, and he will bring 50,000 people out of their seats. Give him a soyto voce note at the end of a ballad and he will steal their breath. “That note will touch the whole audience,” says Michael. “What they’re throwing out at you, you’re grabbing. You hold it, you touch it and you whip it back—it’s like a Frisbee.”

The same impish delight—and musical command—shines through on “Thriller,” Michael’s new album. The title track sets the tone. With a “rap” by Vincent Price, Hollywood’s master of the macabre, and the use of elaborate sound effects—a creaking door, a whistling wind—the song evokes a child’s laughing dash through a haunted house. And this isn’t the only roller-coaster cut. The entire album is a farrago of startling tricks: phased synthesizers, swirling voices, a bevy of what sounds like sing-along chipmunks.

These grabby stunts soon pale—and we’re left to marvel at Michael’s four new compositions. Each one is quirky, strange, deeply personal, with oflbeat lyrics that hint at Michael’s own secret world of dreams and demons.

Wicked Vixen: His most seductive new song, “Billie Jean,” is about a paternity suit pressed by a cunning temptress. “Billie Jean is not my lover,” wails Michael, singing as if his life depended on it; “the kid is not my son.” The same wicked vixen—”talkin’, squealin’, spyin”—appears in “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” a roiling lyric full of screwball lines. For example: “You’re a vegetable/Still they hate you . . . You’re just a buffet . . . They eat off of you.” “Beat It,” a blustery foray into macho hard rock, counsels the listener to run away from bullies—advice sung to the accompaniment of a bullying guitar solo. And then there is the current Top 10 hit, “The Girl Is Mine,” a duet with Paul McCartney. It sounds very pretty and perfectly innocuous—until you begin to think about the lyrics. Have American radio stations ever before played a song about two men, one black and the other white, quarreling over the same woman?

Every one of these lyrics could be faulted for elliptical lines, awkward phrases, even the occasional malapropism. But as Paul McCartney pointed out last spring, shortly after recording “The Girl Is Mine,” such complaints miss the point. “The song I’ve just done with Michael Jackson, you could say that it’s shallow,” McCartney explained. “There was even a word—’doggone’—that I wouldn’t have put in it. When I checked it out with Michael, he explained that he wasn’t going for depth—he was going for rhythm, he was going for feel. And he was right. It’s not the lyrics that are important on this particular song—it’s much more the noise, the performance, my voice, his voice.”

And what a voice Michael Jackson has. On ballads he is hushed, reverent, trembling, his tenor arching into a supple, pure falsetto. On up-tempo dance tunes he’s hoarse, ecstatic, possessed—his singing an awesome repertoire of pops, clicks, squeaks, gurgles, moans, almost any sound that can be juggled rhythmically. Michael’s voice haunts these songs, gives them heart. It transcends all the electronic gimmickry. It is what will make this music endure.

On their last tour together, in 1981, the Jacksons opened each concert by showing a videotape made under Michael’s supervision. Set to the music of “Can You Feel It,” a hymn to human unity composed, in part, by Michael himself, the tape consists of images inspired by “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and Busby Berkeley’s gilded Depression-era musicals. At one point we see the Jacksons drift to earth, each encased in his own bubble. In another sequence, the Jacksons, portrayed as superhuman giants, lift a rainbow, light the heavens and sprinkle stardust on the cities of the earth, causing small children of all colors to glow with gratitude, bathed in rainbow hues, reaching out to touch and hold one another. These images, which betray a naive megalomania, have an undeniable poignancy. Here is a black giant who sacrificed his childhood to become a pop idol, a demigod detached from his fellow men, now sealed in a transparent bubble—a lonely prophet of salvation through the miracle of his own childlike, playful, life-giving music.

_ _ _

A print version of the article can be viewed here: http://www.newsweek.com/1983/01/09/the-peter-pan-of-pop.print.html

The regular html version is here: http://www.newsweek.com/1983/01/09/the-peter-pan-of-pop.html

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14 Responses to ““We can fly you know…” – (UPDATED)”

  1. Anne Mette Jepsen says:

    Thank you Seven 🙂 It’s readable and wonderful 😉

  2. lina says:

    Hai. A great one there! But I noticed The article has 2 wrong infos. One, it says Michael lives with 2 of his younger sisters. He only has one younger sister. And the other, it wrote, Michael is the 5th child of eight. Michael is the 7th child of 9 siblings.
    Yes. Michael brought so many MAGIC in my life. I love you Michael!

  3. jenny dillon says:

    He was Magic<3

  4. Joyce says:

    Thanks Seven, I was easily able to read the Newsweek article as provided. I also noted the errors that @Lina mentioned. Amazing the lack of fact checking or proof reading even then!
    I do love reading or hearing Michael’s early interviews. He was always so filled with creativity, imagination, and amazing talent that knew no boundaries. In any interview no matter what era, Michael always mentions the inspiration and magic he finds in children and the higher power that is at work through him!

    I just had a conversation this morning with a friend who had been listening to a couple of the Michael music CD’s I had made for her. She described almost exactly the feelings that you so perfectly wrote about regarding the energy and magic that comes through all of Michael’s music. There just is no other artist who can create such feeling and emotion as Michael does with his incredible voice and words. It truly is a form of energy that will live on forever. It is pure MAGIC that I can not go a single day without experiencing!

  5. zenriver says:

    beautiful essay as always seven~ thank you!

    i found newsweek’s archive of the article, full text and one picture:



  6. Seven says:

    Thank you Zenriver! I have updated the post accordingly.

  7. Joyce says:

    Thank You so much for providing the entire article! What an extraordinary peice. Definitely one that I have to save.
    That last sentence that refers back to the “Can You Feel It” video ending in “…a lonely prophet of salvation through the miracle of his own childlike, playful, life giving music.” says so much!
    I will have to reread this entire article a few times to soak it all in.
    The quotes from Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and of course Michael are just wonderful. The description of Michael’s amazing one of a kind voice in the second from last paragraph is perfect. It is how I feel every time I listen…”Michael’s voice haunts these songs, gives them heart…It is what will make this music endure!” AMEN!!
    Thanks again Seven and Zenriver for sharing this with all of us.

  8. Cynthia Kent says:

    Really enjoyed this article Seven! All your hard work is very much appreciated by all who follow here. Michael was truly like no other…thats why we loved him so much! Two other items of note: Didn’t I hear or read that Michael fasted on Sunday and also rehearsed/danced up to 4 hours in a room that was built for him above his parents garage? Maybe this was after the ’83 article, can’t remember. But this truly brought a smile to my face reading this. Wasn’t it Michael who once said…”Sign Me Up! I Would Love To Be One Of The First To Go To The Moon”. Michaels imagination knew no boundaries…I’m sure if God gave him wings he would have flown in the blink of an eye! What and amazing beautiful man…how blessed we were to have lived, breathed, and walked on this earth the same time as him…For that I will always be greatfull.

  9. Sina says:

    Seven thanks so much for this great article. I enjoyed reading it.
    Its like a time capsule.
    Where are the days that the talk was about Michaels music and his magic. When he could freely say that he loves children, period.
    The best part of the article for me is this:

    “On uptempo dance tunes he’s hoarse exstatic, possessed. His singing is an awesome repertoire of pops, clicks, squeaks,gurgles, moans. Almost any sound can be juggled rythmically. Michaels voice haunts these songs, gives them heart. It transcendents all the electronic gimmickry. It is what will make the music endure”

    This article was written in 1983, Michael then had been an artist for almost 20 years and so much more was to come.
    I am grateful to have had the whole experience.

    About inaccuracies in the article. Another one which at that time was not common knowledge is that it was not Diana Ross who ‘discovered’ the Jacksons 5, but Gladys knight. The author probably didnt know because the story was issued by Motown.
    Later on, when asked, Michael went out of his way to correct it and give credits where it is due. But even today in some versions of wikipedia it says that Diana Ross was at the start of their career and no mention of Gladys.
    In writing Michaels history its a necessity to be as accurate as possible. Because of all the fabricated stories. And for future generations who will only get to know him ‘second hand’.
    (And how sweet is he, hinting that he’d like to marry Diana Ross ).

  10. Ellen says:

    This was truly beautiful to read. Yes, Michael had a voice that was haunting and magical and just touched you deep inside. His interpretations are like no other artist I can think of. He was truly one-of-a-kind and so intoxicating to listen to and watch. What a gift from God Michael was. He will be with us forever. Oh, Michael, how I miss you and love you!! Rest in heavenly peace with our Lord.

  11. billiejean says:

    Thanks Seven. Really wonderful and outstanding as always!! God bless you,

  12. zenriver says:

    you’re welcome Seven ~ it’s an honor to contribute to your beautiful archive ~ thank you so much for your leadership in the Army of L.O.V.E.! ~

  13. Susan Trout says:

    Michael, you’re SIMPLY THE BEST!


    Just had to share the link to this video. I hope you don’t mind, Seven. It’s one of my favorite songs, too! Such a beautiful Arabian horse she’s riding bareback and though the video isn’t glitzy by today’s standards, to me it is incredibly inspiring. I love horses and anyone who has ever ridden a horse at a gallop knows the thrilling sense of freedom and power you get from being “one” with this magnificent animal. The words of this song speak so eloquently about Michael. “Speak the language of love like you know what it means!” He sure does, doesn’t he?

    I think it’s beyond explanation that instead of feeling a sense of distance, we’re all feeling a connection to Michael that grows stronger with every passing day. I feel his energy, his love and I see him every day in the smiles of sweet, innocent children and in their irrepressible infectious laughter. I can hear his amazing voice even when his songs aren’t playing.

    I wish I could attend the activities planned at Forest Lawn and then possibly at Neverland, but I won’t be able to this year. However,
    I am donating to a couple charities (children and animals) in his name and will remember and celebrate him with millions of other fanmily members.

    Thanks Seven and Zenriver! Great find!

  14. cjg says:

    I wasn’t going to say anything, but decided I couldn’t help myself.
    “Androgynous?” Michael was anything but androgynous. He was so totally masculine and extremely secure in his masculinity that I always wondered where this label came from. Was it the long hair? I wonder if Fabio was ever labelled androgynous because of his long hair? The performance make-up? Then they’d better label every male who performs in dance, theater, opera, movies, t.v., etc. as androgynous. How about those heavy metal bands where all of the men had the long, curly (permed)hair, heavy make-up and even painted nails to boot? Were they called androgynous? Michael, as we all know, was an inherently sexy man, it came as natural as breathing, he just was – He was also appealling to women around the world (of all ethnicities) which I think a lot of the powers that be found disturbing and threatening, therefore, decided to try to detract/distract from his mass appeal by placing a so obviously ridiculous label on him. It didn’t work! Michael was anything but androgynous! Michael, oh my!

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