I haven't blogged about a TV program in a long time, probably because there isn't much worth blogging about lately. But I stayed up late enough to watch Spike Lee's "Michael Jackson: Bad 25" Special last night...fighting sleep by washing my face several times in the hour.
It's hard to believe it's been over three years since he died. Michael Jackson was always one of my favorite performers. From the little boy singing "ABC Easy as 1-2-3," to the dancer, producer, performer he became. The Spike Lee Joint went into the background story of several of the songs on the "Bad" album, and interviewed the producer, director, choreographers, singers, musicians, and supporting cast of the "Bad" video, or "short film" as Michael preferred to call it. The short film was produced in 1987, so this year marks the 25th anniversary. Out of the nine singles on the album, five of them made number one on the charts, more than made number one on his "Thriller" album.
As the production history of each of the nine singles unfolded, Spike Lee showed us more of the genius of Michael Jackson, how the music and lyrics came together in his head, the melody, harmony, the instrumentation. When musicians were brought in to be part of one production, Michael could tell the guitarist what exact sound he wanted to hear in specific points in the track to produce the music that was in his head as he conceived it. When it all came together in the right way, Michael would dance.
Some things I already knew about Michael. That he could sing all the harmony, first the melody, then lay over a track where he sang the tenor, then add the high soprano and the bass. And he did sing the lowest bass. I knew his dance moves were inspired by some greats, Fred Astaire, James Brown, and Jackie Wilson. I didn't know that much of his street moves came from Soul Train dancers, one of whom became the choreographer for the dancers in the "Bad" video. The real surprise for me was the origin of the lyrics for "Smooth Criminal." All these years I thought he was singing, "Annie are you walking," but instead he was saying "Annie are you OK?" Annie is the dummy used for CPR training, and before you start the compressions on somebody's chest or breathing into their mouth, you ask, "Are you OK?"
"BAD" became such a big part of my life, my first vanity license plate that I had from 1989 to 1997 read "HOOSBAD." My late husband said the plate incensed drivers behind us if he happened to be driving my car. I relented and changed to a kinder-gentler vanity plate.
When a great musician dies, we feel the loss so much we buy up every bit of his music we can. But the music lives on.