” I want the world to remember Michael Jackson”
Many people who knew Michael had shared their memories through the years and these interviews are so many, that a separate blog is needed for them. This comes in contrast with people who feel like talking about Michael Jackson here and there-though they never met him- offering their worthless and baseless “opinions” just to remain in the spot light and justify their existence in the media world.
Those who really knew Michael corroborate each other, and they all come to the same conclusion. He was a musical genius, one of a kind, and an amazing human being with the biggest heart ever. I will present two recent interviews that will take away the negativity that we have to deal with in our research and will remind us of Michael’s greatness both as an artist and a human being.
The first one is from Mengesha “Mystro” Francis who talked to Valmai Owens of Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait magazine (Vol. 4 Beyond the Dream) about Michael and his friendship with him. “Mengesha “Mystro” Francis is a wonderfully gifted and classically trained pianist. After attending UCLA and West LA College, he became a music teacher with The Heavenly Vision Christian Academy. He has worked with seasoned Rap and R&B recording artists, and performed at many important events including Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary. He is very talented, warm and friendly, and a devoted and loving fan of Michael”
The whole interview posted on March 3, 2011 can be found here:
“Mystro” talked about his feelings about Michael’s passing and how sad he was that Michael didn’t have the chance to see his new project for kids:
Valmai: Mengesha, you founded your company School Time Hip-Hop Productions right around 2009. Can you tell us something about that?
Mengesha: Well, that time was hard for me. With that, those are my original compositions. I understand Hip-Hop; I like Hip-Hop, and so I mixed Hip-Hop and education together. Sort of like Schoolhouse Rock. I’m also a big fan of Schoolhouse Rock from the seventies TV show. I grew up on that, so I wanted to incorporate that style with Hip-Hop and have it still be educational for kids.
When Michael passed I had to put it on the back-burner, and only because I just needed time to breathe. I was so excited about putting this out for kids. I was definitely in talks with getting this to Michael Jackson for him to give me the thumbs-up, not necessarily an endorsement, I just wanted him to see this, you know. It’s for kids, it’s educational and when he passed, it was so difficult for me to continue at that point. I had lost people in my personal family too, so I was really not in a good place, but now I’m a lot stronger.
I have been talking to the School Districts to get this out. I’m back trying to make this happen and I’m sure it’s going to take off. I’m really excited about it, and we’ve been getting wonderful revues in just our demo alone. So, I’m still going to push forward with that.
Valmai: I think it’s a wonderful idea.
Mengesha: I really wanted Michael to hear it and see it. As I was recording it, all I could think was that Michael was going to love this. It’s Hip-Hop, it’s kids, it’s clean, it’s Rap and it’s still danceable for the kids, and it’s not too commercial. I wanted it to be Jay Z meets Disney, you know? I knew Michael would have loved it.
He continues talking about his performance at the 30th Anniversary in 2001:
Valmai: Oh, I think it would be something he would definitely approve of. You performed for Michael at his 30th Anniversary, in 2001. What was that experience like for you?
Mengesha: The 30th Anniversary was the last time I saw Michael in person. That really was an incredible night. I had a chance to play and what I did in the video, Michael Jacksonology: Piano Tribute, is the same thing I did in front of Michael at the anniversary; right there with James Ingram standing over me, and quite a few people were impressed with my playing. I was able to play his songs as a medley, and he kept looking at me and giving me the thumbs-up. That was the last time I would see Michael so at least I had a chance to play for him. I can take that and just run with that, you know?
Valmai: At that performance you also got a chance to meet and speak with him on-on-one didn’t you?
Mengesha: Well, yes. I had been friends with some of the family members, and in 2009, after Michael’s passing, I had lunch with Jermaine Jr. and also Berry Gordy’s grandson. We were talking about some things; we were talking about Hip-Hop, we were talking about my piano performance that I was getting ready to do, the Michael Jacksonology: Piano Tribute, so I do have their backing and they know I’m doing this. I just want to keep his music alive, that’s the main thing, and in a different way from most people wanting to impersonate Michael, and that’s still wonderful too, but I really want to showcase something different. Nobody really listens to his songwriting capability, you know, the “Earth Song!”
I had a contest on my website for all those who are fans of Michael Jackson and of my website. I told them to pick a song for me to play. The song that gets the most hits; the song you think is the best I will perform it. It was a toss-up between “Earth Song” and “Speechless.” But “Earth Song” won out. So that’s why I performed “Earth Song” last on the video. It’s a very, very difficult song to play. Out of everything I played in that video, “Earth Song” was the toughest because it’s simple, but it’s a detailed song; everything has got to be right in place.
Valmai: And Michael was a perfectionist too, so he would want it played exactly the way he wrote it.
Then he narrated the story on how he met Michael, which is very interesting because it reveals MJ’s responsible behaviour towards children and how he behaved like a concerned parent:
Mengesha: I want to share a story with you on how I first met Michael Jackson, and this is something so profound to me.
I told you the last time I saw Michael, but the very first time I saw him I was about thirteen. And I hate to tell the truth, but…well I’ll say it like this, I left school early; I ditched. I left school early and went to Hollywood. They have these guys on street corners who sell these maps to the Star’s homes. So I bought one because I was determined to find out where Michael lived. I was such a fan, and I had to know. I looked on the map and I saw 4641 Hayvenhurst Drive, so I asked the bus driver how to get to Hayvenhurst. He said, “Hayvenhurst is way out in Encino, that’s a two hour ride.” So I said okay, I guess I ought to do it.
So I get on the bus; it’s a two hour ride all the way to Encino. I go down the street and see this large gate. Finally I found 4641, and I thought this is it? I was expecting Neverland stuff. But it’s a nice big house and I’m sitting there doing my homework thinking, I don’t see Michael Jackson and it’s been thirty minutes…finally the gate opens. A black Mercedes Benz drives out the gate and the window rolls down, and it’s Michael. I’m by myself; this is a regular day and he looks at me and says, “Hey, why aren’t you in school?” And I thought oh no, that’s the worst thing he could say to me. I mean this is like ten o’clock in the morning on a school day, and I’m a 13 year-old.
Anyway, I said, “Well, I wanted to meet you. That’s why I’m here.” And he said, “Well don’t ditch. Don’t ditch school; that’s not a good thing, but I got something for you. If you stay in school and do your work, and do all good things; if you meet me this Saturday at Balboa Park, I’m going to give you an autograph. I’m not going to give it you now. I’m going to give it to you Saturday, so meet me there. My brothers will be there because we play baseball every Saturday.” So I said, “Where is Balboa Park?” And he said, “Its right around the corner.”
So Saturday came along. I got up early, and went all the way back down and found Balboa Park. Sure enough, the Jackson’s were warming up. I saw Jackie, Tito; all of them were there, and the 3T’s were little babies and Marlon Jr was a little baby. I saw this guy on the other side; on the opposite team’s side with a hat and sunglasses waving at me. It was Michael. He was in disguise with a moustache and a hat on. So I walked up to him and he said, “Don’t tell anybody I’m here. My brothers are going to give you the jacket from the Victory Tour, and we’re going to give you the program.” So I asked for an extra one for my mother, and he said, “Okay, we’ll give you two.”
Finally, after the game was over, Jackie and Marlon came up to me and gave me the Victory Tour book. They signed it and Michael signed it too, and then I got the Victory jacket.
That was the first time I met Michael Jackson, and when I went back to school nobody believed me! I’m saying I met Michael Jackson and mind you, this is 1984-’85; this is the height of his career. I told my teacher and he said no way! I told him I was serious, that Michael lived in Hayvenhurst, I went to a baseball game, and they were like, “Yeah right!” So eventually I started taking pictures at some of the baseball games.
The night of the 30th Anniversary, I wondered in my mind if Michael knew I was the same little kid that was in front of his house doing his homework, who is now a professional musician. And I didn’t have a chance to tell him that. There was so much going on that night; he was very busy and his table was full, so I didn’t get a chance to have a one-on-one with him.
Valmai: That story is amazing.
Mengesha: Yes, it’s part of me forever.
Valmai: What was your impression of Michael?
Mengesha: He was very out-spoken; he was very stern because I was a 13 year-old sitting outside his house instead of being in school, so he wasn’t soft-spoken to me. He was very direct, and more concerned about me being outside of his house instead of in school. He was like a concerned parent.
I’ve seen him on other occasions too, but one-on-one, I don’t think Michael was as shy; I think he was more business savvy than people see. His public persona is; of course he’s a nice guy and he’s very soft-spoken and wonderful, but I believe when it comes to something serious, Michael Jackson had no problem telling you exactly what he meant. Now, he was nice enough to invite me to his baseball game, but he didn’t have to do that. He could have called the police and said this kid is in front of my house; he needs to go to school. But he told me I could come to his house and he would give me an autograph, just not on school days, and I will never forget that. He could have done a whole bunch of things, I mean that’s trespassing, well not necessarily trespassing, but loitering.
He gave me an opportunity to go to those baseball games, and I used to go every weekend after that. I became very comfortable and I remember seeing Paula Abdul there; Janet Jackson was there all the time. She was no big deal then; I mean she used to just walk out the house. This was in the ‘80’s before she became a star. It was so much fun during the ‘80’s, to be that kind of a fan where we could literally go to Michael’s house and just interact with his world.
I remember one Saturday; normally when Michael comes in, he calls on his car phone from down the street and tells the guards to open the gate. This is like 5 minutes before he actually pulls in. This particular day, the gate was moving but it wouldn’t open. And all the fans that were standing there, we knew that Michael was on his way.
So Michael pulled in and the gate wouldn’t open, so all the fans are screaming and wanting autographs. Michael gets out of the car and says, “Don’t do this at home,” and walks around the side of the gate and hopped the fence. Everybody cracked up. It was so hilarious because we expected him to wait in the car. Finally, the security guard pulled the gate open and drove the car in. That was just a moment that I would see from just hanging around the house.
I remember when he did Captain EO. I was there that day he went to Disney. He was in the car with Bill Bray. Bill Bray was driving, and Michael waved and said stop the car. So, I was there with a friend and we got up and walked to the car. Michael said, “I’m doing a movie. You got to check it out. It’s called Captain EO. It’s for Disney. Just remember I told you its Captain EO.” And sure enough, I finally saw Captain EO, which is one of my favorites. The day that it opened up, I think was 16 or 17, my school’s Drill Team was opening the Premiere day. So we got to see it ahead of everybody. I got to see it before the public got to see it. I mean out of all the high schools in Los Angeles, my school was picked to perform at the opening, and I was there.
So many symbolic things are wrapped in my entire life from 5 years-old, all the way to being a 40 year-old man, which is centered around Michael. He has been a part of life since childhood; since before I knew music and when he passed, I had people who I hadn’t spoke to since Elementary School call my mother to pay their condolences to me. I had a teacher who remembered me trying to learn “Billie Jean” on the piano, and who found my mother’s number and called to say how sorry they felt for Mengesha because they remembered that when I was 14, all I talked about was Michael Jackson.
So, he has been like a family member more than a Pop superstar. I even got into fights at school over him. I have been expelled from school from having a fight over Michael Jackson because people were saying mean things about him. I used wear Michael’s clothes, like the “Beat It” jacket and glitter socks, and I would get in fights because people would say he was weird. They would take me in the office, and tell me I could no longer wear Michael Jackson paraphernalia anymore because it was causing too much trouble. So Michael was like a family member, like an Uncle, and I was more than just a fan.
That’s how someone –out of the many- that met Michael Jackson when they were minors- talk about him. With love and respect. Next, “Mystro” talks about Michael’s legacy:
Valmai: What do you see as Michael’s greatest legacy and how does that inspire you as a musician and a person every day?
Mengesha: Just being innovated I think. He was not afraid to step out of the box as an entertainer and a musician, and he was a perfectionist. When it’s 100% right, it’s still not right for him. Michael was a Virgo and they are very cerebral; very mental.
The worst thing about perfection, and I understand it because of him, is that you are looking for perfection when there is none; when you don’t need it. Sometimes you overly try to perfect something when you should just leave it the way it is. For example, I don’t believe Michael would have wanted us to see This Is It, but there was perfection even in that. We got to see him make mistakes, we got to see him correct people; all of these things Michael would never have wanted us to see. Why? Because he is a perfectionist!
So perfection is the thing I see with Michael Jackson. Every little thing has to be where it needs to be. I mean, Michael reminds me of a Broadway musical. Everybody moves as one, everything is in line. All the musicians play a certain way, all of the dancer’s dance a certain way, the lighting has to be correct, the staging, the effects; everything has to be on cue. And that’s what Michael is to me; the epitome of a perfectionist. We don’t get to see that often; once in a lifetime.
Michael was a gift; he was not a mistake but a gift, for everybody. There are people that don’t really like him; it took for his death for them to understand how great he was as a musician and entertainer. Michael stood above all other music. I mean, you get 8 Grammy’s for one album, that’s unheard of. He’s in the Guinness Book of Records as being the greatest entertainer that ever lived! He raised the bar so high that we’ll never see that again in our lifetime. We’ll see great entertainers mind you, but not like Michael Jackson.
Valmai: I think quite a few people agree with you on that one.
Mengesha: Right, right. It’s a sad thing, but a good thing. It’s a good thing that he left a legacy so high; he’s like the eighth wonder of the world.
What I try to do in my piano performance is push the limit of a piano player doing Michael Jackson’s music. I’ve seen a lot of people play online that play wonderfully, and they’ve done wonderful tributes to Michael, but I just kept hearing him in my mind saying, play harder, give me more, play the arpeggio all the way up there, sit straighter…all these things were going through my mind as I was playing my piano tribute to him.
This is going to sound weird, but I remember playing “Earth Song” and I could have sworn I felt cold wind across my fingers. I don’t know where it came from, but I could feel a wind across my hands. I didn’t stop playing; I acted like I didn’t know, and I asked the engineer after the first cut if he had the air-conditioner on, and he said no.
Valmai: Do you believe that was Michael?
Mengesha: Yes, yes! I know what I felt. As soon as I started playing the first chord, it was as if someone was blowing down on my fingers because it tickled a little bit. It startled me, but I kept playing. I think it’s a good thing I felt Michael’s presence while I was playing because in my mind I was playing to him.
Valmai: A lot of people have had that experience; a spiritual connection with Michael.
Mengesha: Yes, I think his spirit is around all of us; those who are really his fans, in his corner and have been influenced by him. If he could come back he would be overwhelmed with all the tributes that have happened since his passing. He would be ecstatic about this, I really believe that.
Let me tell you another story. The night of the This Is It premiere, it was one of the windiest days that California has had in a long time. It was whirling back and forth, and as my friends and I are getting to the red carpet we see a whirlwind, like a tiny tornado that went all the way to the end of the red carpet. We looked at each other like we had literally seen a ghost. I mean this tiny tornado, maybe five feet tall, was just spinning and spinning all the way down the red carpet, and when it got to the end it just vanished.
Valmai: So, what are the odds, even though you can say it was so windy that it caused this tiny tornado, that it would form right there on the red carpet, travelling its length and then just disappear?
Mengesha: I know, I mean we stopped; we saw it. As a matter of fact, there was somebody else who was a Star right in front of us, and we all just stopped at looked at it. Everybody just looked at each other; we didn’t say anything, but it was like, what was that?
So his spirit is around us, and that’s a good thing. I believe Michael was sent here to Earth to entertain us, to bring us all together and bring awareness to healing the world, and to dazzle us with his dance moves; just to inspire everybody to be a better person. Like I said, I believe every fifty years God sends down an angel and I believe Michael was that. People all over the world loved Michael, and then of course the world tried so hard; the negative people tried so hard to tear him down.
I believe Michael was a loan from God; he didn’t give him to us, he loaned him to us, and when the loan was up it was time to take him back. I believe God said to Michael you don’t have to do This Is It, you’ve done enough already; your legacy is done. With This Is It, they just need to see the rehearsal. I mean God could have allowed him to live another day or week or two, to release one of the performances, and then that would have been the movie. But we have the making of it, and what is more better? That to me it is very powerful because we are seeing him natural.
All the years we have seen Michael, we didn’t know what it was like to be in the studio with him, now we know what it was like. When I watched that movie, I saw a whole different side to Michael I’ve never seen before.
Valmai: How do feel about becoming a VIP dot in Michael’s portrait on the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait?
Mengesha: Oh, very honored. When I first heard about the portrait, I immediately signed in to become a dot; the first day, so to be a VIP means a lot to me. To be amongst the ranks of all the people who were part of Michael’s life; the musician’s, the singers, the artists, being a part of that is just the greatest honor. I appreciate the fact that you guys selected me.
He describes how hard it was for him to compose the piano tribute to Michael, which is an amazing tribute by the way, and can be found here:
Originally in 2009, when Michael passed away, somewhere in my mind I thought I could do it two weeks or two months later, and that didn’t work. When I tried to do the performance I couldn’t play two notes of a song, and I thought, ‘Okay, well, you’re gonna have to wait.’ That’s when I created those Roller Coasters because I thought I gotta do something creative. I didn’t just want to mourn his death and not do something creative. I don’t think Michael would have wanted that. At the same I’m thinking it’s very sad, but Michael also wouldn’t want everyone to not move forward in their lives and so I thought, no, I gotta do something.
Valmai: Yes, I think everyone felt the same way. It was like everybody’s world came to a standstill for a long time.
Mengesha: Oh yeah. I very seldom talk about that day. I’m still in shock. Its two years later and it feels like yesterday to me. I mourned the whole year, really, to be honest with you. Then I lost my Aunt too, a month before Michael, and my Uncle died in the earlier part of that year, which was devastating to me in itself.
Valmai: Yes, that’s a lot to handle at one time.
Mengesha: And I felt so sorry for Michael’s family and everything; I can only imagine. It was very tough.
The world Premiere of This Is It was tough to watch too, to be honest with you. I could barely sit in the seat and watch the whole thing for the first time. That’s why I did the video because I wanted to; I teach kids the piano all the time, I’m a music teacher as well, and I wanted them to understand his music. They know he can sing and dance, but I wanted them to understand some of the technique he uses, the melody lines, the bass lines in “Billie Jean.” Just his creative side. And that’s one of the main reasons I really wanted to do the video, to kind of educate the newer generation about Michael Jackson because our generation, well, we watched him as a kid, but there are ten and nine year-olds who really got more into Michael after his passing. One of my students told me, “Wow, now I see where Usher gets it.” I said, yeah, and Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown and even some of the Hip Hop artists have been influenced by Michael Jackson.
The next interview comes from Jonathan Moffett for Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait magazine by Valmai Owens for Vol. 4 of Behind the Dream:
“I want the world to remember him”.
Jonathan Moffett “has toured, performed and recorded with some of the best artists of our age. He is an accomplished musician, songwriter and producer with a career spanning 32 years. His unique and powerful drum technique has earned him respect and acclaim worldwide, but at heart he is humble, caring and spiritual, with a warm and funny sense of humor. I had the pleasure in talking to him recently in an exclusive in-depth interview about his career, and his professional and personal relationship with Michael Jackson”.
You can read the whole interview that was posted on March 2, 2011 here:
Valmai: Jonathan, you did your first major tour with the Jackson Family in 1979, and again in 1981, but the largest one was the Victory Tour in 1984. What was this experience like for you personally?
Jonathan: It was absolutely magnificent because at that time there had been no tours of that magnitude. They were attempting to do something unprecedented in music and concerts. It was the biggest tour ever been done. It was absolutely incredible; the size of the staging, the size of the production. They had theatrical creatures, it was like Broadway. The opening of the show meets rock in roll, pop music, and R&B music. They had a video in the front of the show; they had all kinds of things.
They really pulled together different elements on a massive scale because it was one of the few times artists played all stadiums, so every show was at a big stadium somewhere. The show was huge, even actually too big. We couldn’t bring it over to Europe for the same cost. It was too expensive to bring to Europe or anywhere overseas because it was the magnitude of the show, it was too big. It was too expensive. We wouldn’t make any money.
So, it was very exciting to do something on a scale that hadn’t been done before; to make history doing that tour. It was very exciting, and there were a lot of elements to it. The show was really great. New albums were promoting it; the Thriller album, Off the Wall album, and the big three album from The Jackson’s, so in that one tour we promoted three albums of all great music. It was really wonderful.
Moffett has worked with many artists and he recalled something about each artist that stood out to him. This is what he had to say about MJ:
Every time I saw Michael dance he would dazzle me with something I’d never seen him do before, and I always thought I’d seen everything he did. I’d watch him; I’d keep my eye on him and he’d do a spin longer than I thought was possible. He’d moonwalk faster and smoother sometimes than anytime I’d ever seen him or he was just like a machine, like Terminator, like some kind of unrealistic human being or robot, you know? I’ve seen him do some amazing, dazzling things.
He also talked about working with him:
Valmai: Jonathan, I’d like to ask you a few questions about Michael now. You worked with him for many years after he became a solo artist. What was it like to tour with him? Are there any experiences you are able to share perhaps, that were funny or poignant or that stand out above all the rest?
Jonathan: I have to say that working with Michael was amazing, absolutely amazing! That’s no overuse of the term and the word because he was such a genius; beyond the word genius a lot of times. Michael was a true genius. His gifts and his talents, his dancing and singing just denoted that he was a genius, you know? Everybody all over the world was in love with him. His sound and his moves, his image, his nature, I mean, he was just truly, truly gifted and blessed.
Working with him, and watching and learning from him, from a genius, lifts your abilities up, your vision, your view, your capabilities and possibilities. It was brilliant for me having the opportunity to work with Michael. I learned a tremendous amount from him; working with him on how to do things the right way, on perfection, on the meticulous, on dynamic’s and on being bigger than life. That was one term he always loved to use, “It’s gotta be bigger than life, and to make such an impression on people they will never forget it for the rest of their lives.” So working with Michael was just phenomenal.
To watch him dance at each concert was like me looking for a new planet; a new galaxy and discovering it because every time you think you know all of his moves, as I mentioned earlier, he does something that just dazzles you. And I’m back there; I’m supposed to be working, but I’m back there screaming and shouting, “Go Michael!” I’m like the fan on the other side of stage, but it was so amazing when he did something so totally, totally stunning. Every night I looked forward to that.
And his voice was just so remarkable and emotional and passionate, way beyond most people. There are very few singers who have such great passion and emotion, Stevie being one of them, but there’s a very, very limited amount of artists that can evoke such emotion. That, coupled with the dance, coupled with the imagery and his vision that he brings into concert, it’s just unparalleled. And the greatest of technology in his shows, his vision and creativity as you see in This Is It, how to put together a show and how to make things beyond belief so to speak, Michael had that. I learned a great deal from him and working with him was one of the greatest treasures. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and career to work with the absolute best in the world. It was just amazing. I learned a lot in putting together a show and performances and theatrics and stuff.
But, one of the special moments can be found on one DVD. I think it’s on You Tube. We were in Germany filming for a live broadcast, and during the middle of the show he’s talking a little bit in the middle of the stage between songs. This little bug comes on stage, a love bug or some kind beetle bug. It’s on the floor and he sees it. He gets so concerned about this little bug and says, “Wait, wait, wait, there’s a bug on stage.” And people started laughing. He said, “Security, Security…Come get the bug.”
So people started cracking up and laughing, but he wouldn’t let the show go on because he was afraid he was going to step on the bug. And people started clapping because he had that kind of concern. Something as simple as that, as caring and emotional as that was a great moment, and a glimpse into his life as to whom he was. He stops a big production, a big machine of a production to protect this little bug so it didn’t get hurt with the dancers all over the stage. So that was a very special moment I think; something as simple as that, but very dynamic that he would have that much concern for the smallest life was very special. That’s one thing that stood out in mind as part of the show. His performance speaks for itself, but outside the performance, it shows the human being that he was.
Valmai: Yes, and I’ve seen that video; I’ve seen it on You Tube.
Jonathan: Yeah, it was a magic moment.
On how Michael helped him and inspired him:
Valmai: Oh, yes, very. Jonathan do you feel that Michael helped you to become a better musician?
Jonathan: Of course, yes, absolutely! Working with and observing from behind, I had the best seat in the house. Observing from behind the greatness and magnitude of the performance, and watching how he delivers dynamics and excitement in his performance, you learn a lot in the process of putting a show together. Like on This Is It, everybody could see how he puts it together, and I’ve been in behind the scenes watching that for thirty years and learning from him. So now I have great confidence when I do my shows.
I’m doing tribute shows for Michael now and people really enjoy it. They feel like it’s a “Michael” show. It’s a one man show; just me, slides and his voice and music from his tour and songs. A lot of comments were that they felt like it was a “Michael show.” I didn’t have all the big production. It’s just my giant, giant drum set, and I perform just like we were on tour, as if it was a concert with Michael. That and learning how to put together the right slide at the right time, right moments, and from working with Michael, made that show work. If I had the budget that Michael had, I feel that I could carry on the legacy and the tradition and the class that Michael foresaw because I learned a lot from him; watching how he does it and being around him.
Valmai: Michael was a master at synchronizing his dancers and musicians so that they flowed together in a seamless and perfect harmony. Can you give us a glimpse into his creative genius? Is there a story that you could tell us that we don’t already know?
Jonathan: Well, that question is a testimony and demonstration to how much he knows his music. To direct everybody, to know when something is missing, one single note in a chord, he knows it. He points it out, “Something’s wrong with that chord. What’s wrong with that chord? There’s a note missing.” Then he will actually hum the note; sing it out aloud, “daaaaaaaaa”…“Where’s that note? That note’s supposed to be there.” I’ve seen him time and time and time again do that. The same thing with the guitar parts. He’ll describe it; he knows that, he knows everything.
When we didn’t have percussions, we’d have the percussion parts in the computer that we would play to, and if a certain rhythm or pattern, (we had so many rhythms and patterns overlapping each other) if a certain element wasn’t there, he felt it. He feels everything, and his emotions tell him there’s something missing. He’ll think about this and he knows exactly what part is not there, what rhythm is not happening that doesn’t make the machine run smoothly. It’s like an engine. If one of the valves is out it stutters, it splutters you know, and he can feel that it’s not running smoothly. Michael knows all his music like that, and when all the valves are timed and running right and firing properly, Michael knows when it’s right because he feels it emotionally. He has the knowledge of how the music was put together. So I think that’s remarkable and it really answers that question. His band is so tight because he knows when something is missing.
We do all the homework and learn it; we’re supposed to learn it and come to rehearsal. That’s what we are getting paid for, and I make sure, that’s why Michael likes me there because he knows I do that with no excuses. He just trusts me totally because I have the same mentality. It’s got to be perfect, it’s got to be right, it’s got to be what the artist wants because that’s what I am getting paid to do. He never checked me once to make it right for him so he can get his best show. I gotta get my best show just so he can get his best show. He’s counting on me, and the whole show is counting on me. How can I let them down? I can’t. That’s my mentality, there’s no way.
So he trusts that everybody will be that way, and that’s why he hires you; the people that are capable of delivering that. If you’re with him on stage or in rehearsals, it’s because he trusts that you’re on the same level for focus and concentration and desire to be your best. Now sometimes some people fall short, you know, get a little lazy or don’t learn anything right or don’t perform it right, that’s when, like in the movie, he got on the keyboard player. He was the Music Director and Michael had to kind of teach him again. So sometimes that happens unfortunately, but for the most part we all get there and we do what we’re supposed to do. Michael refines it. He’s the chef so he’s putting more seasoning in here and there, “Change this and change that. Play that with maybe a little more attitude right here.” He refines it and mixes all the ingredients together. It’s a recipe, and he makes sure it’s a good dish to serve to the public so that they enjoy the meal of music.
Valmai: But I think that was part of his genius. With Michael, he just seemed to know everything about every element of the music. And like you said, he felt it inside. I think that’s what set him apart from a lot of other artists.
Jonathan: Everything is emotion; everything is emotion and feelings. You know, to see things with emotions is just like having a different vision; an emotional vision. I’m that way so that’s why I understand him. I’m exactly that way. I can work with him with ease and it’s easy for me. He and I are cut from the same cloth. He knew it and I know it, so you know, I just thought there was a magic between us. It was something that he felt that’s why he wanted me there. I feel fortunate and blessed to have been able to function on that level and to please somebody like him. I’m all about wanting to please the person and make them want me back, and that second gig and the call backs are more important than the first one. The first one you’re trying to prove to yourself. The second one is proving that you did prove yourself and they want you. So they mean more than the first time you work with somebody.
Valmai: And you were very, very blessed. You really were.
Jonathan: I know, I know. I don’t take it for granted. I will always cherish it and I’m very grateful.
Valmai: Jonathan, people speak of an energy around Michael; a light. Did you ever feel that?
Jonathan: All the time, every time I am around him. That’s why you know you are in the presence of greatness. That’s why you know you’re in the presence of somebody special. Just count the number of fans and people and the multitude that love him around the world. He’s one man loved by… CNN said that over one billion people mourned Michael from all the remote areas of the world, as well as all the known areas. What other human being can draw that much sympathy and that much hurt from their loss. Michael had something special, a radiance, and when you were in his presence the whole room changed.
People would say, “Michael’s coming,” and everybody got nervous. As soon as you had the vision of him, even just knowing he was coming, you felt something, like a tingle happening. Just to watch him walk through the door, it’s like all the molecules in the air stop and you can pinch them with your finger; pick them up. It’s like you could see the smallest speck; you could see the molecules in the air when Michael walked in the room. He changed them; the molecular structure of the air. And that’s the equation of what happens when Michael enters, and everybody in the room felt it and knew it. Then their attitudes and personalities would change. They would perk up their attention, but they would always say, “There’s something with him. When he came in I got nervous. I felt something!” And I would hear that over and over again and I would say, “I know, I know. I’ve been feeling it for thirty years.”
And he was just so pleasant; just something with his imagery. Everybody radiates from a different frequency, and Michael had the highest level of energy I think without being from another world. His gift and his humanity of spirit were just so powerful and great and deep. He was a different human being from most of us; from all of us. He did affect everybody that came around him, from leaders of the world to normal folk, from children to people, grandmothers. Every single person that’s been around him said they felt something, that I remember seeing or talking to.
And that’s why people cry. People absolutely cry. I would sit on stage and watch them pass bodies, like back in the medieval days when people died of the plague. You would see them lift bodies, arms dangling and legs, heads swinging, and there was like an ocean of people with their arms up passing bodies to the front, to the gate. There would be a line-up there of emergency vehicles… five, ten of them lined up. There were stretchers and triages back there. One by one, people were passing them forward; sometimes a multitude of bodies moving across the crowd being passed to the rescue people. They would give them smelling salts and try to revive them. Some people were just totally gone, unconscious, you know, like totally no life in them, and that’s just from being in that stadium with Michael. I just got to just sit back there and marvel at it. It was just the most powerful thing to see, and that’s just from that one man in the center of the stage. He made even men pass out; women and men. That’s a power and Michael knew it. He knew he was gifted with something special, a purpose; uniting the world and uniting people.
Valmai: In the movie This Is It, you talk of Michael being a gift of God, sent to teach us to love; how to love and how to be. What did you learn from him that you remember every day now?
Jonathan: That every body’s a human being. Beyond the classification and categories, we are a human race. Michael treated everyone the same no matter what race, religion, and creed. You would see him all over the world on television; with all nations, all people, friends, foe’s, enemies alike, he was always the same. He didn’t stop his love of people or children especially. He would go to one of our worst enemies, the Nation, and he would love the children there and visit them at the hospitals.
And these are some of the kids that might grow up and decide to attack America, or whoever. Michael didn’t see that. He saw the child, the human being, the blessing of life from God. He would give them the gift of money and might even buy a kidney for the same people out of his hard earned money, and he wouldn’t think anything at all about it.
Whatever it cost; buying machinery for the hospitals all over the world, people have benefited from Michael’s gift of life, from the machines that keep these people alive at the hospitals. The kidney for a child, the transplants that Michael paid for out of his own pocket and asking for nothing, most people didn’t know about it until after he passed away or how much he really did. He asked for no publicity. He wasn’t in the newspaper. A foreign newspaper the next day didn’t credit him. That was one of his criteria; nobody knew. He didn’t want it to get publicity because he did it out of his heart.
People (detractors actually) say Michael was broke (far from truth) and he was in debt for 300-400 million, but now it’s come out that Michael was one of the greatest, if not the greatest philanthropist that ever lived, and he had given away over 300 something million dollars of his own money he worked for. If he had that 300 something million dollars, I guess he wouldn’t be broke would he? No, I doubt it.
Valmai: No, he wouldn’t.
Jonathan: It’s the same amount as what they say he was in debt for. Out of his kindness and generosity and love for people that he didn’t even know and that didn’t really know him, he gave away to help, and then of course he had money problems?
I’m that way; I was raised that way too. I see the transparency; people might as well have skin I can see through because I see the heart, the spirit. That’s another way Michael and I were related also. We recognize the same things in each other. We both love children. They’re the closest we will ever get to God, especially in a newborn infant. That’s the closest we will get to seeing God and being with God. So Michael was the same way; we related to each other in that way. We knew without even speaking of it. We knew we had like minds that recognized one another without even saying the words.
One of the things I learned is that I’m doing the right thing. I’m living the right way by being open-spirited. Michael proved that it does work, that it can work and it can make a difference. It can bring a multitude of people together because he did it. He proved it unselfishly. So I learned it’s possible because Michael proved it.
Valmai: Do you think Michael used his music as a way to get his message out there?
Jonathan: Of course. It’s evident in his music and songs; a lot of his songs. I mean, he made some shake your booty music too, but a lot of his important music is his message music, and people appreciated it in such a way they didn’t feel like they were being preached too. They wanted to hear it; the music about concern, about love and togetherness. A lot of times people shun away from that music because we feel like we’re being preached too, like we’re at church. We don’t want to hear that. Michael had such a way and such a nature that people wanted to hear it and loved hearing it. It didn’t sound like a sermon or preaching. They were curious and they wanted to become that; they wanted to see that vision he put forth.
He was a prophet in a way you know, in his music; a modern day prophet. Like I said, he was sent by God to enlighten, much like the prophets of old times. A lot of people don’t recognize it because he’s different in that he’s an entertainer, and he was sent in that form of being an entertainer, so a lot of people overlooked the prophecy he was teaching. His teachings of love and concern; you can hear about his concern with “Earth Song,” and other songs he preached concern for the planet and people, for humanity, for one another. I think he’s a wonderful human being. I think he’s a lesson for everybody to learn and model after in that light; the light of concern and caring for one another. Sure would be a better world if everybody did.
Valmai: I know, it would, wouldn’t it? That’s why I think it’s so important to continue the legacy that he left for us.
Jonathan: Exactly! I agree.
Valmai: What do you want a generation 100 years from now to know about Michael?
Jonathan: That he was a man of power; of positive power that brought people together in the time that he lived. He brought people from all walks of life, all Nationalities and like I said, friends and foes alike. He was healing in the spirit because he healed a lot of people with his music and with his spirit. Being in his presence when he visited the hospitals, the children would be miraculously healed, I was told. Michael should be remembered for being one of the most positive human and unselfish human beings that ever lived. He just happened to be a singer and dancer too.
And here is a recent article about Michael Jackson evidently different from the usual trash:
How Did Michael Jackson Effect the Pop Industry?
The Late Star and the Legacy Left Behind
By Shaun Jarmen, Yahoo! Contributor Network
March 9, 2011
Motown founder Berry Gordy mentioned that Michael Jackson was not a performer who came around every few years. He was a performer who came only once in a lifetime. That sums up the effect
Michael Jackson has had on the musical industry throughout his career.
To truly understand the effects of Michael Jackson, remember the last ten years of his life.
There has been a lot written about the Jackson over the years. Some of them were complimentary. Most of them were pure attempts at character assassination. Many have labeled derogatory remarks about Jackson while several others in the media no longer hold him as a “hot” property in the musical industry.
Sony Music Studios was reportedly ready to drop Jackson from the label. His personal life was in a mess. The performer’s finances was in shambles. His core assets, Neverland Ranch and ATV Music Publishing were leveraged to a hilt. Jackson was several hundred million dollars in debt. Many in the musical industry had labeled him “the forgotten man” . Jackson was considered by many on the decline. It seemed for many years that the pop star was just another celebrity who was washed up and finished. He may have been the greatest pop star in history to have blown away his fortune and fame with his eccentric behavior.
The media may have been harsh on Jackson but the public still adored him. The first and clearest example was the sale of tickets for his comeback tour, This Is It. It was sold all within hours. Nearly a million fans had bought tickets to the show. This was despite the fact that Jackson had not performed live for more than a decade. Music does not have racial boundaries and is timeless. Despite the obvious flaws, Jackson was missed by his fans. This was demonstrated by the sold out concerts of his O2 London leg.
To understand the legacy of Michael Jackson is to understand his work.
Much has been written about his albums. In particular the most popular album that is regarded as the biggest selling album of all time was Jackson’s Thriller. The sales of that album depends on who gives you the statistics but what few knew was that Jackson very nearly did not want to release it. The pop star was on the verge of cancelling the whole album because the initial recording was horrible. However Jackson, guided by Quincy Jones persevered and worked on the album again. The final work is a masterful album that appeals across several genres. Much acclaim has been given to the songs on this album. However few knew the effort and inspiration that drove Michael Jackson. One of the album’s best known songs, “Billie Jean” was written in an hour and was mixed 91 times by Bruce Swedien. The final work remains a classic on the dance floor to this day.
The rest of the albums have been written and reviewed countless times over the years. Many have tried to simplify what his music meant. Some have tried to copy his dance steps. However the effect of Michael Jackson on the industry is seen everywhere. His accomplishments had made him the unofficial King Of Pop.
To explain what Michael Jackson meant to many is to understand that he was the last global megastar. He had saved the musical industry in the early eighties from its sales slump .By 1980, he had secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry. This was unheard of for someone who was only 22. By 1991, Michael Jackson signed one of the biggest music contracts with Sony records. It remains to this day one of the biggest contracts signed by any musical artiste. Probably the only time anyone came close to breaking those numbers was Jackson himself when in death, his estate sealed one of the biggest deals with Sony record for $ 250 million dollars in 2010.
Jackson was a visionary when it came to his music videos. It was his highest art form that inspired many to copy his moves and style .The pop star was known for legendary work ethic and attention to detail when it came to his career. Several producers admired and jumped at the chance to work with him. This was highly evident during his History and Invincible albums.
It has been said that Jackson was someone who had an aura about him. If that was true, then the pop star was definitely magical because the tours he performed were all the highest grossing tours of all time. Jackson’s legacy is seen in the movements and styles of the artiste of the generation today. All of them speak highly of him. Some like Beyonce Knowles have copied his work ethic and his philanthropic efforts.
The pop star was also a warning to others about the pitfalls of celebrity. His death was mourned by millions. But it will the trial of his doctor Dr Conrad Murray that will help his fans better understand the last few years of this icon’s life.
Jackson was the last musical icon. He left them behind a legacy of good music and groundbreaking music videos. Jackson had once mentioned that he wanted his life to be the greatest show on Earth. For the longest time in his career, he was truly the only show worth watching for any music fan.
In life as well as in death, Michael Jackson’s music and career was the Greatest Show On Earth.
Michael Jackson’s name was always linked to genius, legendary achievements, guiness records, mass hysteria, innovative projects, tours that were always part of the evening news, love, philanthropy. Michael Jackson’s name was always linked to greatness. He is known as the man who changed the history of music.