November 23, 2012

I watched Spike Lee's "Michael Jackson: Bad 25" on ABC last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lee focused in on the making of the Jackson's album Bad which followed on the heels of the 100 million record seller Thriller. And man, it brought back a lot of memories. Here's what the LA Times wrote about the documentary:

In a welcome break from the traditionally saccharine holiday programming, ABC is airing "a version" of Spike Lee's documentary "Michael Jackson: Bad 25," which had its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival before having a short theatrical release. Lee trimmed almost an hour for the television version, but "Bad 25" is still something to be thankful for, a hypnotic homage to the performer's gift and, more important, his dedication.

Wielding an impressive collection of behind-the-scenes clips as well as interviews with a disparate array of colleagues (including Martin Scorsese and Sheryl Crow), Lee uses the creation of the album and the "short films" (Jackson eschewed the term music video) the songs inspired to keep his focus firmly on Jackson's work. Although there is brief mention of things like Jackson's shyness, his increasingly pale skin and his choice to speak and sing in the higher registers of his impressive three-octave range, that's as personal it gets. Lee's window is definitively, and almost defiantly, framed by the ambition, talent and rigor that went into creating "Bad."

I was strictly a musician in the '80s and although I was a rocker to the core (I also studied classical and jazz passionately) I recognized and enjoyed Jackson's talents. He was an incredible singer who happened to dance like a modern Fred Astaire. The film didn't touch on his controversial side, but rather was a celebration of an era gone by and an immensely talented performer.

Filled with oh-wow moments — like a 1988 clip of Sheryl Crow, with mountainous hair, partnering Jackson in the ballad “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” — “Bad 25” confirms the genius of an authentic pop original. Dancing us back to a time when a music video could be directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Richard Price and star a menacing Wesley Snipes, the film insists you don’t need to be a fan: you just need eyes and ears.

During those years I played almost a thousand parties every year and our band did Jackson songs too. It was amazing how many different people really loved him. His popularity was so humongous that if I had to vote I'd say he crossed over more age, ethnic and economic demographics than had ever been done before. There wasn't a person with whom I interacted during those many gigs (and I love to talk) who simply didn't love Michael. As a composer trying to get songs recorded, I and many others couldn't help but be influenced by his thunderous dance grooves--so I'm making him the LNMC tonight and I'd like to thank Spike for bringing back the memories. Remember, not everything was about the hair bands back then.

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