Skip to comments.Michael, McMahon, Farrah and You
Posted on 06/30/2009 4:59:54 AM PDT by Kaslin
The entertainment world lost a few giants last week, and like the rest of the world, my wife, Gena, and I offer their families, friends and fans our most heartfelt condolences.
America's most infamous late-night sidekick, Ed McMahon, favorite "angel," Farrah Fawcett, and the "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, made their final exits, and even in death, they were as big as they were in life. The magnitude of their presence, power in their presentation and the caliber of their giftedness placed them among the most elite of stars.
You might not agree with all that Michael, Farrah and Ed did. You might not like all the ways they managed who they were and what they had. But you can't deny the monumental impacts they had upon entertainment and this world and how most people enjoyed what they offered. They will be greatly missed.
Like you, I have vivid memories of each of them. I was honored to meet two.
Who could ever forget Ed McMahon's curtain call for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," "He-e-e-e-re's Johnny!"? I was a guest on Carson's "Tonight Show" several times through the years, and I had the privilege to talk with Ed during my visits. Every time I spoke with him, I easily could tell that he really enjoyed what he was doing on the show. He always knew his was a supportive role and never lost that perspective. He truly was a man's man, and I thought that before ever knowing he was a former Marine. Being an honorary Marine myself, I say to Ed even now, "Semper fidelis!"
I never had the honor of meeting Farrah, but I always admired her for her activism in organizations that benefit victims of domestic violence. After creating a name for herself in the hit '70s television show "Charlie's Angels," she didn't merely stick with roles that were based upon beauty. I know her award-winning performance in "The Burning Bed" as a battered and abused wife helped to open people's eyes and liberate many homes from enabling domestic violence.
When The Jackson 5 were young, I was a six-time undefeated world middleweight karate champion. I was at an event in Los Angeles, and the five Jackson kids were following me around. I would catch them at a distance staring at me, but they were too shy to approach. So I thought I would go up to them and introduce myself, but just as I would try, someone else would come up to me and begin talking. Finally, the Jackson kids came up to me, and I never will forget the few words they said: "We study kung fu." I met each of them, and they all were very polite and nice young men. There's no doubt, however, that Michael had a special charisma -- something that set him apart to be the superstar he was.
The deaths of Michael, Farrah and Ed are repeated reminders that we're not on this planet forever. But they are also reminders that we are called to use our time, talents and treasures to be blessings to others. We all are called to use our greatest potential to serve the greater good. We are called to invest in not only commodities but also people. It's the legacy you leave behind that really matters. That is why I started my nonprofit foundation, KICKSTART
As I quoted in the section about how to rediscover the American dream in my book "Black Belt Patriotism," sociologist Anthony Campolo once did a study in which 50 people older than 95 were asked, "If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?" An array of responses came from these eldest of senior citizens. However, three answers surfaced far more often than others. 1) If I had it to do over again, I would reflect more. 2) If I had it to do over again, I would risk more. 3) If I had it to do over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.
Celebrity has its costs. Fame ultimately is fleeting. Fortunes come and go. But who you are and what you leave behind in the wake of your life is everything. So let us live by priorities and principles. Let us work so that whenever the final curtain falls, we won't have any regrets.
I love the way Mark Twain put it: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Well said, Chuck. Anyone who thinks Jackson did not have a long lasting positive influence on music has never heard “Thriller.” His personal sin and demons are obvious, no less than those of Alexander the Great, who brutally murdered his best friends while conquering half the known world. It doesn’t lessen their impact.
It wasn't Michael's music, but he sang his lungs out on that stuff.
My favourite angel was Cheryl Ladd. She is the only one still doing much in the entertainment game it seems.
But wait! There’s more! If you call now Billy Mays will throw one in for free!
What, buy one Zombie get one free!
Jackson 5 stuff was good, but I don’t think anyone will challenge the reality of “Thriller” and “Off the Wall” as milestones in rock. Several of the Thriller songs were on the top 100 of all time-—I’m not sure any of the Jackson 5 are.
As a writer and former musician, it's almost like creating extracts a toll from your soul. Think of how many musicians or comedians we say "used to be great," or "used to be funny." Look at Boz Scaggs, who had one album containing 3-4 truly timeless knockout songs, and never put together another solid album or Brett Easton Ellis who never could get another "Less Than Zero."
I'll challenge the notion.
Quincy Jones is the overriding force on both albums, which have waned in influence and impact over the twenty-five to thirty years since their release. "Human Nature" is quite a song, but "Got To Be Starting Something," "Thriller," "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground," "PYT" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" are overblown, childish pablum. I think "Rock With You" holds up very well due primarily, again, to QJ's sparse and tasteful production.
In comparison, "Dancing Machine," "Mama's Pearl," "I'll Be There," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Stop, The Love You Save May Be Your Own," "I Want You Back" and "ABC" are towers of exciting, raw and funky grooviness.
Synths, sequencers and drum machines killed soul and they deadened Michael's long term impact. They sterilized his performances and they robotized his artistry. He expressed nothing but hooplah. He became a phony and he didn't even know it.
You don't believe it now, but you'll watch this perspective emerge in the eyes of the world very quickly. Think Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and Ron Howard.
I doubt it. The top 100 of all time are pretty set. And you can scream “producer” all you want-—see Felix Pappalardi with “Disraeli Gears,” or George Martin with the Beatles-—but it’s the artist, not the knob turner.
Or, to cite another, Gene Krupa nearly ruined his life with weed.
If you're talking album sales, of course. Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall sold more copies than any Jackson 5 album, whose output occurred during an era when 45s were the lynchpin of sales.
And you can scream producer all you want-see Felix Pappalardi with Disraeli Gears, or George Martin with the Beatles-but its the artist, not the knob turner.
Producers weren't knob turners in the sixties, seventies and eighties. They were creative art directors.
In addition, Pappalardi played viola, trumpet and tonette on Wheels Of Fire and Martin played piano on several Beatles recordings (he also provided orchestration).
In those days, engineers turned knobs. Producers chose which songs to record, they cut the songs down to radio playlength, they selected which instrumental and vocal takes made the album, and they had ultimate sayso over all the artistic decisions made in the recording and mixing of each record. The stereo left-to-right-and-back-again panning on Clapton's solo on "Politician" and the inclusion of "Mother's Lament" on Disraeli Gears? Pappalardi's call. Eight hands on the piano at the end of "A Day In The Life," the sax solo on "Lady Madonna" and the random tape splicing of the organ track on "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite"? Martin's call. Solo trumpet (it might be solo flugelhorn) in the choruses of "Rock With You? Jones' call. It was so through each stage of each album's production.
All of Michael's albums with Quincy are halfway...and I mean halfway...decent. His other solo efforts are musical bologna. I know why.
Soon, the rest of the world will too.
By the way, who’s screaming?
Chuck can be a class act...but don’t tell him I called him “Chuck”.
"Billy Jean" and "Thriller" make the lists. I don't think a single J5 do. And yes producers were creative, but still relatively insignificant. It's the songs and the singers, not the arrangers, who are the draw.
And Krupa’s idol, Bix Beiderbecke, drank himself to death at age 28.
My 1970s band, "Rampage," opened for "Steppenwolf" and the "James Gang" (can you say, Tommy Bolin, dead of drug OD?). Our bass player died at my age of a heart attack, but it was 100% related to his abusive lifestyle.
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