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We Are The World

We Are The World

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Jackson at the Height of his Powers�While the vultures, thieves and naysayers pick over the bones of his controversial personal life, it is only the talent and genius of Michael Jackson that matter in the aftermath of his death.

Jackson is one of the most monumental figures in the history of music.

He was the ultimate performer, the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" and the master of modern entertainment.

His spectacular vocal ability and knack for writing songs full of hooks, combined with a massive stage presence only boosted by unmatched fluid dance moves, remain the reasons he dominated the 80's and became one of the greatest cultural phenomena of all time.Think back to the first time you ever saw Michael Jackson doing the "moonwalk." Easily the most imitated dance move of the modern era, no one, the best dancers included, can do it quite like Michael did back in '83.

He first broke it out over 25 years ago and the footage still knocked my jaw to the ground earlier this evening.

Jackson moved like he was made of rubber, varying between his ability to stiffen like a steel robot and ripple like an ocean wave.

While he was a singular dancing machine (pun intended), he also engineered an entire movement of choreography for (so far) the next two waves of popular music.

Michael Jackson's music is his greatest achievement; but now, in the wake of his death, it is difficult to picture him in anything other than his comfort zone: on stage, sweating and wowing his audiences with his fantastic, otherworldly physical abilities.

But the music drove the dancing."Thriller" has been written and spoken about so much since its release in 1982 that it seems cheap to describe its importance and impact on the entire musical realm, but it needs to be stated that it is an incredible achievement.

It is a mere nine tracks and 42 minutes in length, but that provides plenty of room for Michael and producer Quincy Jones to get the job done.

While brief, it is also sprawling and massive in its scope and sound, a description that serves Jackson's entire recorded output.

The album effectively demonstrates Michael's greatest strength in his songwriting and musical creation: his diversity, versatility and daring willingness to explore all genres, styles and musical boundaries.

The album encapsulates disco, r&b, hard rock, soul, funk, dance, blues, jazz and show tunes.

The lyrical topics range from love interests to urban gang violence to horror movie fantasy to media criticism to paranoia to fanaticism on a frightening level.

No matter how dated one might consider this material to be, or how schmaltzy certain tracks simply are, this music is timeless, classic and just moves the listener in a way nothing else ever has.

I challenge all my readers to put on "P.Y.T." and attempt not moving once throughout the song (it is playing in my headphones right now and it is as enjoyable as it has ever been...and, oh yes, I am dancing in my chair as I write this).While "Thriller" is Jackson's signature moment and the ultimate highlight of his 40-year, illustrious career, it is still only one snapshot of his musical universe.

His role as the lead singer of the Jackson Five was his first foray into music and paranoid fear.

The pressure must have been giant on little Michael's shoulders, but he handled it with grace and style, belting his way through classics such as "ABC," "I Want You Back" and "I'll Be There." Solo singles such as "Got to be There" and "Ben" and his role in the film "The Wiz" kept Jackson in the public eye throughout the 70's.

1979's "Off the Wall" proved to be the foundation of its follow-up's success, the origin of Jackson's work with Quincy Jones and the duo's love for variety and groundbreaking soundscapes.

The album also produced four Top Ten singles, including the sexually-fused disco tunes "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough." Jackson followed up "Thriller" in 1987 with "Bad," the album that was destined to be a disappointment, which, oh yeah, only featured seven Top Ten singles and six Number Ones.

The record was a juggernaut despite its slight inferiority to its predecessor, largely due to Michael being the biggest star in the world at that point.

It is important to recall that "Thriller" was such a massive hit that it reigned in the top spot for 37 weeks, and spent 80 total (over a year and a half) in the top ten.

After the album finally began to die down in 1985, Jackson co-wrote "We Are The World" with Lionel Richie, releasing it with the supergroup known as USA for Africa, featuring Jackson, Richie, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Tina Turner and many more.

So when "Bad" arrived in 1987, Michael Jackson fever had barely lost any of its spark and his star only became bigger.

The album featured another diverse batch of songs, largely reducing the disco influence and adding harsher, harder dance drums ("Just Good Friends"), increasing the funk ("Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel"), making the hard rock even nastier ("Dirty Diana") and getting even more paranoid and self-involved ("Leave Me Alone").

But the heart of the album rests in the addition of gospel to the mix in the form of the ultimate Michael Jackson ballad, "Man in the Mirror.""Dangerous" dropped in 1991, and while it was a solid record that threw new jack swing and hip hop into Michael's mixed bag of genres and featured at least a handful of vintage Jackson cuts, it lacked the quantity and quality of melodies, hooks and memorable themes that made Jackson's three previous efforts so huge.

"Dangerous" is probably most famous for being the last remnant of the 1980's musical world to top the charts prior to Nirvana's "Nevermind" and the mutiny of the so-called "grunge" movement.

Therefore, the album stands as more of a symbol than one of Jackson's personal achievements; a symbol of an era dying and, more importantly, a symbol of the end of Jackson's reign over the music industry.

While "Scream," "You Are Not Alone," and especially "Earth Song" proved to be excellent singles, MJ's career was largely over by the mid-90's, especially in comparison with his world dominance in the 80's.

But his legacy has lingered, even amongst the controversy and wild stories that have surfaced over the past 15 years.Jackson's mark is everywhere today, and has been since he first stamped his footprint firmly into the music, dancing and video world.

The new jack swing/r&b of the early 90's, the boy band/teen pop movement of the late 90's and even the majority of both melodic rock and funky hip hop of the current decade owe large sections of their sounds and looks to the King of Pop.

Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown and others have automatically drawn comparisons to Michael due to their dance moves, musical performances and overall sound.

When alternative metal band Alien Ant Farm covered "Smooth Criminal" in 2001, millions of kids discovered MJ for the first time and realized why he was so lionized.

MTV named their "Video Vanguard" award after him due to his mastery of the art form.

While Jackson has been the butt of thousands of jokes during the past two decades, his music stands alone and stands tall.

Teenagers today might even mock Jacko and claim his music is corny or "old," but throw on "Billie Jean" and the party starts.

If you have a friend that can "do Michael" and pull out some MJ moves at said party, everyone celebrates and knows exactly where those moves come from.

Nearly everyone has a Michael Jackson memory.

I have several.As a baby of the 80's, my brother and I were drenched in the sounds of Michael Jackson from birth onward.

We used to turn the lights out, set the needle to the vinyl and frighten ourselves to death with the eerie sounds of "Thriller," from the off-putting harmonies to the classic spoken word section by Vincent Price.

The song's epic video, directed by John Landis and running 13 minutes and 43 seconds in length, gave me nightmares as a child.His moonwalking figure stands tall above the hatred, controversy and questionable life choices.

Michael Jackson remains an entity who has earned all of his received praise - and more.

His legacy is pure talent.

When I first learned of his death yesterday afternoon, I immediately thought of his ballads yearning and begging for world peace and love among the human race, i.e.

"Heal the World" and "Man in the Mirror." These songs reveal the one part of Jackson that is discussed the least out of all his characteristics - his heart.

The man was listed in the Guinness book as the record-holder for giving the largest amount of money to the most charity organizations.

He befriended Ryan White and wrote a ballad for him when AIDS swept White's young soul from the planet.

His "We Are the World" raised over $60 million for impoverished nations in Africa.

Michael's sensitive soul and giant heart will outlive his death and his spirit will continue to inspire generations of artists, musicians, dancers, singers, poets, dreamers, lovers and believers.

His songs will play and we will smile, dance, and perhaps, if we are listening closely, we might cry.

The tears will come from a place only understood by the aforementioned believers, those who have faith in people, and like Michael, hope that one day the world will learn how to live in peace and love.�More coverage on the death of Michael Jacksonhttp://www.examiner.com/category-michael_jackson.htmlMore coverage on the death of Farrah Fawcetthttp://www.examiner.com/category-farrah_fawcett.html

http://www.examiner.com/x-3940-Indianapolis-Pop-Culture-Examiner~y2009m6d26-Michael-Jacksons-spirit-music-legacy-outlive-his-death
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