25th June 2009 was a surreal day for me personally. At midnight, I was in a nightclub where it had just been announced that Signature (UK MJ tribute act) would be touring with Michael Jackson on his This Is It tour. 21 hours later, I got a call to say Michael had passed away. Naturally, I thought it was some kind of sick joke but the news confirmed it when I checked the internet and rushed downstairs.
Four years later and it still hurts when I really think about it. Because of the timeless nature of his music, an extension of his own personality, it never feels like he’s gone until you really give it deep thought. Sony certainly won’t let that feeling die, but they have an ulterior motive as we briefly touched upon with Bizarre Tribe. Alas, I digress.
Amongst his vast discography and dazzling performances are some thought provoking quotes. Michael Jackson was often criticised for his lifestyle but you could never deny his creativity and the words he lived by within his music. He lived in the now, something we could certainly learn from. Here are ten of our favourite quotes from the King of Pop.
1. “It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation… period.”
Word. It’s our goal as purveyors of good and original music to give you the real deal and not cheap imitations. Sampling doesn’t always a good reputation so we’re here to make sure you know what it’s really about. Michael Jackson drew inspiration from the likes of James Brown and Little Richard and adapted upon them – as you can see in videos like this one, with the Godfather of Soul himself.
2. “Whatever I sing, that’s what I really mean. Like, I’m singing a song, I don’t sing it if I don’t mean it.
This quote was taken from Mike when he was just ten years old. For me, hearing it gives me a lump in my throat when I think of all the songs he sang and the meaning behind the lyrics. MJ was a humanitarian and a lot of his songs were about the problems in the world. He wasn’t lying.
3. “The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.”
Related to the first quote, I couldn’t agree more. Dilla learnt from Pete Rock and others, Prince from James Brown, Flying Lotus from his great aunt Alice Coltrane, Miles Davis from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Masters don’t become masters without learning themselves, from hard work and watching the best and how they tick. But it’s important to watch and not copy.
4. “The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.”
We’ve been told that the meaning of life is 42 but I might just like this answer better. Funnily enough, this is related to the idea of succeeding in imitation – why imitate when music is infinite? We always look out for musicians you respect that kind of expression in their creations. Lord knows Michael Jackson did.
5. “Make that change.”
The last line of Man In The Mirror pretty much sums up the whole song and his life’s work. After his death, the song entered the charts at #2 a week or so later. The message was simple – “if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change”, a similar ethos to one of Gandhi’s many famous quotes. Whatever you want to be different in the world or your life starts with you making that first change.
6. “People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song.”
Another example of the infiniteness of music and it being bigger than the artist. Bravado may sell records but you have to respect the artform as it is – an artform, free flowing and never stopping. It may dry up in areas but it’s up to artists to replenish the stream, not quarrel about why it isn’t flowing anymore. Don’t let the record execs tell you how you’re harming it. Feed the river.
7. “To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?”
Say no more.
8. “You’re a vegetable!”
9. “She is banging!”
Because she really was banging.
10. “Human knowledge consists not only of libraries of parchment and ink – it is also comprised of the volumes of knowledge that are written on the human heart, chiselled on the human soul, and engraved on the human psyche.”
Man, why didn’t I think of that? I don’t think this needs any kind of interpretation. Let it marinate instead. Michael Jackson knew stuff.