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Michael Jackson: Master entertainer

July 7, 2009

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Michael Jackson in the prison version of They Don’t Care About Us made by Spike Lee
The shocking passing of megastar Michael Jackson has brought his music back to the minds of millions. Although his style of both dance and song may’ve been superseded by a whole new genre, there were few singers or dancers who didn’t borrow something from the artist known as the king of pop.

Among many of today’s prominent artists are bits and pieces of Michael, just as he borrowed from the irrepressible James Brown. In Usher, Omarion, NeYo, Ciara, Genuwine, just to name a few, are glimpses of Michael Jackson’s frenetic, almost robotic dancing style.

As a commercial artist, he had no peer. His 1983 “Thriller” not only earned a Grammy award, but spawned a dozen hits. The album would go on to sell more than any single artist’s: 27 million copies.

Years ago, I told my wife I didn’t care for the artist; she told me to ignore all the criticism, the press – all of it, and look at him as an entertainer, say, like Sinatra.

I did. She was right.

He was a master entertainer, who moved millions not only with his distinctive vocals, but his dancing changed the art like Muhammad Ali changed the sport of boxing.

I never failed to marvel at his sheer brilliance and artistry.

Recently, the prison station showed a video of Jackson’s concert in Bucharest, Romania. An outdoor concert, with more people than any of us would care to count, Jackson was in rare form, transfixing the immense throng with a show that was unlike anything they’d ever seen.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal

For those who feel his music was mere bubblegum pop, and thus devoid of serious social commentary, check out one of his post “Thriller” songs, “They Don’t Care About Us.” Filmed in what appears to be a Brazilian favela, surrounded by thousands of dark skinned boys and girls, many drumming to the beat, the song is an anthem of how the rich world treats the poor of the world.

Michael Jackson was a master of his art.

He may be gone; he certainly won’t be forgotten.

© Copyright 2009 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s brand new book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.,” available from City Lights Publishing, www.citylights.com or (415) 362-8193. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

Michael Jackson: ‘They Don’t Care About Us,’ official Brazil version

Michael Jackson: ‘They Don’t Care About Us,’ banned prison version

“They Don’t Care About Us” is the fourth single from Michael Jackson’s 1996 album “HIStory.” The song remains one of the most controversial pieces Jackson ever composed. In the U.S., media scrutiny surrounding alleged antisemitic lyrics were the catalyst for Jackson altering a couple of words in the lyrics.

Responding to criticism by the New York Times, Jackson said: “The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the Black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.”

The song was accompanied by two music videos directed by Spike Lee. The first was shot in the Dona Marta favela, or shantytown, of Rio de Janeiro, where state authorities tried to ban all production over fears the video would damage their image, the area and prospects of staging the 2004 Olympics. Still, the residents of the area were happy to see the singer, hoping their problems would be made visible to a wider audience.

Jackson collaborated with 200 members of the cultural group Olodum, “who swayed to the heavy beat of Salvador’s ‘samba-reggae’ music.” The media interest surrounding the music video exposed Olodum to 140 countries around the world. It brought them worldwide fame and increased their credibility in Brazil.

The second video was shot in a prison and contains real video footage of police attacking Blacks and of the Ku Klux Klan, war, genocide, starving children, assassination, execution and other infamous human rights abuses by the state. This is the first time that Jackson made a second music video for a single.

Commercially, the song became a Top 10 hit in all European countries. In the U.S., radio stations were reluctant to play the controversial composition; however, it managed to peak at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This information was gleaned from Wikipedia.org.

Lyrics to ‘They Don’t Care About Us’

by Michael Jackson

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, aggravation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Bang bang, shot dead
Everybody’s gone mad

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Beat me, hate me
You can never break me
Will me, thrill me
You can never kill me
Jew me, sue me
Everybody do me
Kick me, kike me
Don’t you black or white me

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Tell me what has become of my life
I have a wife and two children who love me
I am the victim of police brutality, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of hate
You’re rapin’ me of my pride
Oh, for God’s sake
I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy …
Set me free

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
trepidation, speculation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Black man, Black male
Throw your brother in jail

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame
They’re throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
You know I do really hate to say it
The government don’t wanna see
But if Roosevelt was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be, no, no

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, speculation
Everybody litigation
Beat me, bash me
You can never trash me
Hit me, kick me
You can never get me

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Some things in life they just don’t wanna see
But if Martin Luther was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, segregation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Kick me, strike me
Don’t you wrong or right me

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Lyrics from www.azlyrics.com

3 thoughts on “Michael Jackson: Master entertainer

  1. Mara

    On Tuesday, 7/7, a huge beautiful memorial for Michael Jackson was held in L.A., while tens of millions of people all over the world honored him, according to Amy Goodman.
    At the memorial, Rev. Al Sharpton said that it was Michael who brought Black people into the media, and got young people of all ethnicities comfortable with each other, and comfortable enough to elect a Black president.
    He told Michael’s children, “Your daddy was not strange, what was strange was what he had to go through”.

    Berry Gordy of Motown highlighted his amazing gifts and dedication to his craft, and his family, and called him the world’s best entertainer ever.

    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said that every member of Congress knows that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty – referring to the sex charges Michael was acquitted of, while people persisted in assuming his guilt, as if they were his judge, jury, and executioner.
    She said the Democrats in Congress are introducing a resolution honoring Jackson for his charitable work. He gave 40% of his income to 29 charities.

    His small daughter said, weeping, “He was the best father you can imagine”.

    All over the world over and over the message was “Michael, we love you. We will never forget you for your gifts to us.”

    Michael Jackson, rest in peace, after your hard but joyful work, and the shameful persecution your loving soul had to face.

    Reply
  2. Thornton

    I am ashamed to say the thought of how Michael Jackson’s death might affect Mumia never crossed my mind. Always interesting to read this man’s thoughts on cultural stuff.

    MJ spanned the spectrum, some of his stuff WAS bubblegum, but a lot of it was good and a lot of it was great. His intensity as a performer leaves many current “entertainers” looking so very weak and wanna-be in comparison.

    Reply

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