Compositions & Coffee Presents: "Creative Soul Digest"
It's a Vibe Friday!
Hello everyone and welcome to It’s A Vibe Fri-YAY (you gotta add that little extra spice onto Friday). This week, again, has been all about the influence of youth on society and culture. Today I want to talk about the King of Pop and how he was that youth protégé and became the most influential black young man in the world. No matter how you feel about Mike you can’t deny his talent and the way he danced and sung his way into the hearts of all who listened and watched him through 45 years. Let’s start by looking at his influence at the tender age of 6 years old.
The Jackson 5
Michael, along with his brother Marlon, joined his brothers on stage in 1964 and shared lead vocals with his brother Jermaine. The brothers became known as the Jackson 5 when all members (Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, and Michael) began performing in talent shows together. Michael was just 6-7 years old when the family set out to tour the Midwest, play their music in clubs, and perform as an opening act for artist like Etta James and Glady’s Knight. The boys were also exposed to an adult lifestyle at an early age when they performed in night clubs, lounges, and strip clubs. During this time the boys were also recording music with Steeltown Records where they released their first single Big Boy. However, the group didn’t see much success with the record label and made the big move to Motown Records in 1968. In the same year the family made the move to Los Angeles which would be another big transition in the life of 10 year old Mike.
In 1969 the Jackson 5 made their first television appearance in the Miss Black America Pageant and was catapulted to fame. Michael Jackson was being described as a young prodigy and emerging as the lead singer of the group. By 1971, now 12 years old, the Jackson 5 had 4 singles that hit the Billboard Hot 100 list. Michael’s sweet child persona combined with his young soprano sound made him appealing to all audiences. White, black, kids, and adults all enjoyed the sound of the Jackson 5 and more specifically Michael. However, as he entered his teens he went from being a child star to a teen idol. He remained the lead singer of the Jackson 5 but struggled with vocal changes. Michael didn’t like his voice changing and preferred his sweet melodic child voice. He also became self-conscious about how he looked along with his struggle with adapting to a new sound.
During his teenage years Michael endured a lot of changes as well as looking back on a missed childhood. As a now teenager he stuggled with typical teenage physical changes. Hormones, acne, and voice changes could all be easily scrutinized in the public eye. Michael himself felt he was ugly and that he was disappointing his fans in how his physical appearance didn’t meet the standard of a teen idol. This plagued him all throughout his teenage years and into early adulthood where his fans began to notice some changes regarding his physical appearance.
The Young Superstar
In 1978 Michael moved to New York City and entered into the film industry with one of his idols at the time Diana Ross in the movie Wiz. While in New York, he began to frequent the Studio 54 nightclub scene. Here Michael was introduced to hip-hop and beatboxing which later became influential to his music. Sadly, during a dance routine Michael broke his nose and had his first rhinoplastic surgery because of the breathing difficulty that could later affect his career. As we know with Mike this was the first of many.
The families move to Epic records helped launch his solo career and in 1979 he released Off the Wall. This album would separate him from the sound of his youth to a more complex sound that would later be known as pop. This album also produced chart topping singles, number 3 on the Billboard 100 and sold over 20 million copies worldwide. He won 3 American Music Awards and a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, at this time he was 19 year of age. Off the Wall was just the beginning and in 1982 Thriller became the best-selling album worldwide, he was just 22 years old. It topped the Billboard charts for 37 weeks and was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top singles. These 2 albums became the blueprint for all artist and has been credited to this day by many generations for how music shaped them and became influential in their lives. During this time teens and young adults idolized and imitated the way he dressed, danced, his style (hair, trendy glove), and his quiet humble demeanor. Michael was now leading the generation in all aspects of youth culture making him a marketing icon. Pepsi Co benefitted from the endorsement of the Jacksons, including Michael. During the mid 80s the Pepsi campaign and endorsement was the biggest he had, but, an accident during the rehearsal led to second degree burns on his scalp and a third rhinoplasty surgery of his nose. The matter was settled out of court and the proceeds were donated to a burn center named in Michael Jackson’s honor. After the moonwalk in the 1980s Michael Jackson transcended from idol to superhero where he could do no wrong.
Trials & Tribulations
However, with great power comes great responsibility and heavy consequences. In 1986 Michael was diagnosed with Vitiligo and discoid lupus erythematosus. This condition affected his skin reverting from medium-brown during his youth to a gradually pale appearance by the late 80s. Michael tried covering it up with gloves, make up, and long sleeve clothes but eventually switched over to bleaching creams to cover up the uneven blotching of his skin. The color skin change, along with his multiple nose surgeries, and cleft chin surgery soon brought him under scrutiny in the tabloids. People made up many stories about him stating he was anorexic, he slept in an oxygen chamber, he took hormone shots, and so on and so forth. The tabloids gave him the name “Wacko Jacko” and Michael even stated that it hurt him the things that were being said about him. Being in the public eye, missing out on your childhood, figuring out your body and understanding yourself, and then becoming a fly in a glass jar for the world to look and poke at WHO WOULDN’T BE TRAUMATIZED. His young audience idolized him, looked up to him, imitated him. Artist and celebrities wanted to be just like him and be around him. That’s a lot of pressure on anybody not to mention throughout your whole young life. Then, to be mocked, humiliated, despised, and used to sell tabloids by the evil in the world, it can take a toll on even the greatest person.
The Human Nature of Michael Jackson
Despite all of the accusations, inaccurate claims, and constant turmoil Michael Jackson remained a good person. Since building his fortune in the early 80s Michael spent the majority of his time and wealth giving back to the world. Not only did he save souls with his music and uplifting lyrics to inspire change in people and social justice, Michael gave to charities, organizations, and traveled the world feeding the hungry. It was the Rolling Stones in 1987 that summed up Michael Jackson the best,
“the flighty-genius child, a celebrity virtually all his life, who dwells in a fairy-tale kingdom of fellow celebrities, animal, mannequins and cartoons, who provides endless fodder for the tablods…But it’s the same child in Michael who inspires the artistry that fuels all the subsidiary industries, who turns primal fears and fantasies into wondrous, hyperkinetic and emotional music.”
All this to say, as we explored the influence of young people this week, it’s important to note that they are YOUNG and they are PEOPLE. They hold within them beauty and promise of the future while also demanding respect, reverence, and guidance. Young people of the past and today have led revolutions, inspired change, influenced cultures, challenged barriers and reshape the impact we will have on this world. Don’t count them out! Support youth movements and lend guidance to those in need. You never know when the next Michael Jackson will pop up.
Well Friends that’s all for this week. As usual please leave some comments below I’d love to engage with you and hear some feedback. Also check out the usual recommendations below. Enjoy your weekend and as always
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