Saturday, June 27, 2009

What was behind the music?

So the First Lady and I were watching "Beat It" the other night, laughing at the jazz hands and the leather and rhinestones and the Puerto Rican cat who went on to play Detective Eddie Torres on "New York Undercover."

Then it occurred to us both - at damn near the same time, once again - that Michael Jackson was almost certainly influenced by the rumble scene between the Sharks and the Jets in "The West Side Story."

You could see it, over and over again, in his music videos. "Beat It," of course. "Bad." "Smooth Criminal." It's apparent that Michael really, really liked his gang fights to have pocketknives, bandannas, a step, step ball change, kick and a spin.

But I'd never heard him say anything like that before. In fact, I could not ever really remember him talking much about his musical influences.

Which was sad to me.

Of all the things we lost when Jackson died Thursday afternoon, I think we'll come to regret never hearing much talk from him about his art and the forces behind it - and I'm not talking about Joe Jackson or Quincy Jones.

Now, maybe I need to read Moon Walk. Maybe I missed some Motown TV special that came on when I was too young to care. And it's plainly obvious that James Brown was someone that Jackson clearly modeled his career after at a young age.

But in a time where we can hear Zane Cook talk about his motivation on a special feature of the "Employee of the Month" DVD, it seems odd that there's not an exhaustive archive of Jackson really digging into his catalogue for the cameras.

Why the loafers and the army outfits? Where did "shamone" and "hooooooooo!" and the original pop-and-lock come from? Who got his feet tapping and head bobbing when he was rocking a 'fro?

Does anyone know the answers to these questions? And if you do, could you please send them my way?


avery said...

well, courtesy of that shalamar Unsung, we know that the moonwalk was originally called the 'backslide' and the bol from shalamar, jeffrey daniel, did it first in england. but, and this is a sofa, i actually think his was smoother than mike's.

way jeff explains it, the dance was not exactly uncommon, but it wasn't something everybody was doing, or could do. mikes was more famous, but i swear jeff's was better.

Bougie Applebum said...

"Shamone" and "hooooooo!"

Dang....I'm missing the sound already.

Jack T. said...

I remember reading that Michael Jackson counted Stevie Wonder, James Brown and (believe it or not) Led Zepplin amongst his influences. Explains a lot if you ask me.

blackink said...

@Ave: Dude, if you can hold on for another day, I've got something about the "backslide" that shows it dates back to the '50s. And like most things, it was more evidence that bruhs from that era never fully got their props.

@Bougie: I mean, really ... how did he decide to come up with those sounds? It's damn near a mark of genius.

@Jack T: True dat. Does explain a lot. But you wonder if there weren't some lesser lights included in that mix. Little Richard perhaps?