Статьи: 2002 VIBE Magazine Interview

AFTER MORE THAN 30 YEARS AS ONE OF THE BIGGEST STARS IN THE WORLD, MICHAEL JACKSON REMAINS AN ENIGMA. WHEN THE MYSTERIOUS LEGEND APPEARED ON VIBE’S COVER FOR THE SECOND TIME, HE AGREED TO A RARE INTERVIEW. ASKING THE QUESTIONS WAS REGINA JONES, WHO HAD COVERED MICHAEL AS A CHILD STAR FOR SOUL MAGAZINE, THE BLACK MUSIC JOURNAL SHE FOUNDED WITH HER HUSBAND IN THE 1970S. THE KING OF POP FELT SAFE ENOUGH WITH JONES TO OPEN UP ABOUT HIP HOP, LIFE AS A SINGLE PARENT, AND THE MYSTERIOUS JOYS OF AN ALL-OUT WATER-BALLOON FIGHT.

I FIRST MET MICHAEL JACKSON SOME 33 YEARS AGO WHEN DIANA ROSS INTRODUCED THE JACKSON 5—THEN A BRAND-NEW MOTOWN ACT—TO 350 MUSIC AND MEDIA FOLK AT THE DAISY CLUB IN BEVERLY HILLS. MY HUSBAND, KEN, AND I WERE THEN PUBLISHING SOUL, ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL BLACK ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINES.

TEN-YEAR-OLD MICHAEL ALREADY KNEW HOW TO CHARM A CROWD. ACKNOWLEDGING DIANA’S SUPPORT, HE SAID, “AFTER SINGING FOR FOUR YEARS AND NOT BECOMING A STAR, I THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER BE DISCOVERED—THAT IS, UNTIL MISS ROSS CAME ALONG TO SAVE MY CAREER.

JUST FOUR MONTHS LATER, THE JACKSON 5’S FIRST SINGLE, “I WANT YOU BACK,” SOARED TO THE TOP OF THE BILLBOARD HOT 100 CHARTS, FOLLOWED TWO MONTHS LATER BY “ABC.” THOUSANDS OF LETTERS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY POURED INTO OUR MAILBOX. RESPONDING TO THE JACKSON’S FIRST TOUR, ONE READER WROTE: “THOSE YOUNGSTERS PERFORMED IN A MANNER THAT COULD BE HARMFUL TO ONE’S HEALTH. THE HEART CAN ONLY STAND SO MUCH SOUL, AND THEIR PERFORMANCE WAS DEFINITELY AN OVERDOSE.”

OVER THE NEXT DECADE, SOUL KEPT UP WITH THE JACKSON FAMILY AS A GUEST AT PARTIES, WEDDINGS, AND CONCERTS. WE WERE ALSO REGULAR VISITORS TO THE FAMILY HOME, WHERE MICHAEL—SOFT-SPOKEN, POLITE, CURIOUS, AND QUIET—WAS USUALLY OFF BY HIMSELF, DRAWING OR PLAYING WITH HIS SNAKES AND OTHER PETS, WHILE HIS OLDER BROTHERS, COUSINS, AND VISITORS PLAYED BASKETBALL. BUT WHEN SOUL STOPPED PUBLISHING IN 1980, I LOST TOUCH WITH THE FAMILY.

AND THEN MICHAEL BECAME A POP-CULTURE SUPERSTAR, CHANGING THE FACE OF MUSIC, DANCE, FASHION, AND MUSIC VIDEO WITH HIT AFTER HIT. HE WAS IDOLIZED AND CHASED BY FANS AND MEDIA WHEREVER HE WENT. HE TOOK AN ART FORM, REFINED AND PACKAGED IT, AND BECAME AN INTERNATIONAL ICON. THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS RECENTLY NAMED HIM THE ARTIST OF THE CENTURY. WHEN IT COMES TO THE KING OF POP, THE WORLD IS INSATIABLE.

WHEN WE SAT DOWN FOR THIS VIBE COVER STORY, MICHAEL REMINDED ME OF THE LAST TIME I’D INTERVIEWED HIM—LONG BEFORE THE BARRAGE OF NEGATIVE PUBLICITY HE HAS RECEIVED IN RECENT YEARS. HE WAS 13 OR 14 AT THE TIME AND HE HAD HIS YOUNGER SISTER JANET SITTING WITH HIM AND DOING MUCH OF THE TALKING. “I FELT AFRAID,” HE EXPLAINED. “I FELT THAT IF MY SISTER WAS THERE TO GIVE ME THE QUESTIONS THEY WOULD GO EASIER WITH ME.”

Vibe: How does it feel to be re-entering the market and competing in sales with likes of ‘N Sync and Britney, kids who were being born at the height of your fame?

Michael: It’s a rarity I think. I had No. 1 records in 1969 and ‘70 and still entered the charts in 2001 at No. 1. I don’t think any other artist has that range. It’s a great honor. I’m happy, I don’t what else to say. I’m glad people accept what I do.

Vibe: What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?

Michael: I don’t categorize music. Music is music. They change the word R&B to rock ‘n’ roll. It’s always been, from Fats Domino to Little Richard, to Chuck Berry. How can we discriminate? It is what it is—it’s great music, you know.

Vibe: What are your feelings about hip hop?

Michael: I like a lot of it, a lot of it. I like the music. I don’t like the dancing that much. It looks like you’re doing aerobics.

Vibe: What made you put Biggie on your album Invincible?

Michael: It wasn’t my idea, actually it was Rodney Jerkins, one of the writer/producers working on the album. It was my idea to put a rap part on the song. And he said, I know just the perfect one–Biggie Smalls. He put it in and it worked perfectly. It was a rap that was never heard before.

Vibe: Why did you choose Jay-Z on the remix of the first single “You Rock My World”?

Michael: Because he’s the new thing. He’s hip, he’s with kids today. They like his work. He tapped into the nerve of popular culture. It just made good sense.

Vibe: What was it like for you to appear at New York’s hip hop concert Summer Jam as Jay-Z’s guest?

Michael: I just showed up and gave him a hug. It was a tumultuous explosion of applause and stomping. It was a lovely, lovely welcome and I was happy about that. It was a great feeling–the love, the love.

Vibe: Does it bother you to see people who emulate you, such as Usher, Sisqo, Ginuwine, and even Destiny’s Child?

Michael: I don’t mind at all. Because, these are artists who grew up on my music. When you grow up listening to somebody you admire you tend to become them. You emulate them, to look like them, to dress like them. When I was little I was James Brown, I was Sammy Davis Jr., so I understand it, it’s a compliment.

Vibe: Did you know that you were creating classics while recording Thriller and Off The Wall, both classics that hold up today?

Michael: Yes, not to be arrogant, but yes. Because I knew great material when I hear it and it just melodically and sonically and musically is so moving. It keeps the promise.

Vibe: Do you feel that there is a larger acceptance of black artists these days?

Michael: Of course, I think people have always admired black music since the beginning of time, if you want to go back to singing Negro spirituals. Today the market is just accepting the fact that that’s the sound, international, from Britney to ‘N Sync, they are all doing the R&B thing. Even Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, he’d always tell me, [IMITATING A BRITISH ACCENT] “Man, we do R&B.” I said Barry, I don’t categorize it but it’s great music. I understand where he’s coming from. I love great music, it has no color, it has no boundaries; it’s all wonderful music. I love from the Beatles to the Bee Gee’s to the Mamas and the Papas to the Temptations, to Diana Ross and the Supremes, I love all of it. I love Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s a killer, I love it.

Vibe: What’s life like as a single parent?

Michael: I never had so much fun in all my life. That’s the truth. Because I’m this big kid and now I get to see the world from the eyes of the really young ones. I learn more from them then they learn from me. I’m constantly trying things and testing things on them to see what works and what doesn’t work. Children are always the best judges to monitor something, especially in my field or any other field. If you can get the kids, you’ve got it. That’s why Harry Potter is so successful, it’s just a family-oriented movie. You can’t go wrong there, you just can’t. That’s why I write lyrics when I write a song I try not to say things that offend parents because we want a wide demographic. I don’t want to be like that. We weren’t raised to be like that. No way, you know [MY PARENTS] Mother and Joseph wouldn’t say stuff like that.

Vibe: Do the pressures of your celebrity status affect your children?

Michael: Yes, absolutely, from the day that they were born.

Vibe: What music do Prince and Paris listen to?

Michael: They listen to all my music and they love classical that plays all around the ranch. They like any good dance music.

Vibe: How would you feel about your children becoming pop icons at 13 and 14 based upon your experience?

Michael: I don’t know how they would handle that. It would be tough. I really don’t know. It’s hard because most celebrity children end up becoming self-destructive because they can’t live up to the talent of the parent. It’s hard. Fred Astaire Jr., people used to say to him all the time, “Can you dance?” And he couldn’t dance. He didn’t have any rhythm. But his father was this genius dancer. It doesn’t mean that it has to be passed on. The competition is hard, it’s hard. I always tell my children, you don’t have to sing, you don’t have to dance, be who you want to be as long as you are not hurting anybody. That’s the main thing. Don’t you think?

Vibe: How involved were you in selecting the artists to perform in your 30th special?

Michael: I wasn’t involved at all.

Vibe: How were you able to let go of something so big and so special?

Michael: Trust.

Vibe: What was your experience on September 11?

Michael: I was in New York [AFTER PERFORMING AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN ON SEPTEMBER 10] and I got a call from friends in Saudi Arabia that America was being attacked. I said no way. I turned on the news and saw the twin towers coming down and I said, “Oh my God.” I screamed down the hallway to all our people. “Everybody get out, let’s leave now. Marlon Brando was on one end, our security was on the other end, we were all up there but Elizabeth [TAYLOR] was at another hotel. We all got out of there as quickly as we could. We didn’t know if our building was next. We jumped in the car, but there were these girls that had been at the show the night before, and they were banging on the windows, running down the street screaming. Fans are so loyal. We hid in New Jersey. It was unbelievable—I was scared to death.

Vibe: What artists past and present inspire you?

Michael: Stevie Wonder is a musical prophet. All of the early Motown. All the Beatles, I’m crazy about Sammy Davis Jr., Charlie Chaplain, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bill Bojangles Robinson. The real entertainers, the real thing, not just gimmicks. Showstoppers. When James Brown was with the Famous Flames was unbelievable. There are so many wonderful singers. Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, to Johnny Mathis, real stylists, you hear one line and know who it is. Nat King Cole, great stuff. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, they are all ridiculous.

Vibe: What do you do for fun, for recreation?

Michael: I like water-balloon fights. We have a water-balloon fort here, there’s the red team and the blue team. We have slings and cannons and you are drenched by the time the game is over. There is a timer and whoever gets the most points in is the winner. I don’t do anything like basketball or golf. If I’m going to do some kind of sport, if you want to call that a sport, you have to laugh. I want to laugh. Basketball you get very competitive and so is tennis, makes you angry. I’m not into that I like to laugh, have fun, laugh with it. That’s what it should be, fun, therapeutic. I love that. I also like to go to amusement parks, animals, things like that.

Vibe: Is there still a fantasy that you maintain of something that you’d like to do in your career?

Michael: I’d like to see an international children’s holiday when we honor our children, because the family bond has been broken. There’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day but there’s no children’s day. I really would I would mean a lot. It really would. World peace, I hope that our next generation will get to see a peaceful world, not the way it’s going now.

Vibe: At what point in your life did you realize that you were different, a visionary?

Michael: I never thought about it, I just always accepted it from the heavens and said on my knees, “Thank you.” Whenever I write a song and I know that it is musically correct, there are no laws to music, but when it feels right, I get on my knees and I say, “Thank you.” I really do, I mean it. Because it drops into your lap just easy and magical with no effort.

Vibe: Did singing ever stop being fun and become work?

Michael: It’s always been fun, unless I get physically sick, it’s always fun. I still love it.

Vibe: What is your financial status?

Michael: I’m taken care of fine.

Vibe: Michael, don’t be embarrassed, but you are an innovator who has set a standard that still stands in music. Where does Michael Jackson go from here?

Michael: Thank you, thank you. I have deep love for film, and I want to pioneer and innovate in the medium of film—to write and direct and produce movies, to bring incredible entertainment.

Vibe: What kind of movies? Are you looking at scripts?

Michael: Yes, but nothing has been finalized yet.

Vibe: Are you ever lonely?

Michael: Of course. If I’m on stage, I’m fine there. You can have a house full of people and still be lonely from within. I’m not complaining because I think it’s a good thing for my work.

Vibe: Tell me about the inspiration for your new song “Speechless.” It’s very loving.

Michael: You’ll be surprised. I had a big water-balloon fight, I’m serious, in Germany. And what inspires me is fun. I was with these kids and we had big water-balloon fight, and I was so happy after the fight that I ran upstairs in their house and wrote “Speechless.” That’s what inspired the song. I hate to say that because it’s such a romantic song. But, it was the fight that did it. I’d had fun, I was happy, and I wrote it in its entirety right there. I felt it would be good enough for the album. Out of this bliss comes magic, comes wonderment, comes creativity. It’s about having fun, it really is.

Vibe: Tell me about how you channel your creativity.

Michael: You don’t force it. Let nature take its course. I don’t sit at the piano and think, “I’m going to write the greatest song of all time.” It doesn’t happen. It has to be given to you. I believe it’s already up there before you are born and then it drops right into your lap. It really does. It’s the most spiritual thing in the world. If people could witness what it feels like… When it comes it comes with all of the accompaniments, the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics and you’re just the source through which it comes, the channel—really, honestly. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my name on the songs written by Michael Jackson because it’s as if the heavens have done it already, I mean it. Like Michelangelo would have this huge piece of marble from the quarries of Italy and he’d say, “Inside is a sleeping form.” And he takes hammer and chisel and he’s just freeing it. It’s already in there. It’s already there.

Vibe: What do you collect?

Michael: I like anything Shirley Temple, babies, children, Shirley Temple, Shirley Temple, lots of Shirley Temple. Little Rascals, Three Stooges, a lot of Three Stooges. I love Curly, he kills me. My brothers we love Curly, we just love him. I love Curly so much that I did a book on Curly. I got his daughter and she and I wrote a book on him. Women have a hard time with all the slapping and poking and stuff, guys love that stuff. My mother loved Abbott and Costello, but we would say, “We want the Three Stooges.”

Vibe: Tell me about your fashion selections.

Michael: It isn’t conscious, it happens that way.

Vibe: Is there anything that you would like to say to VIBE readers?

Michael: I love Quincy. I mean, I really do. I think he is wonderful soul and a beautiful person. And I think you should tell the readers, don’t judge a person by what they hear or even what they read unless they heard from the person. There is so much tabloid, sensationalism going on that’s totally false. Don’t fall prey to it, it’s ugly. I hate the tabloids. I’d like to take them all and burn them. I want you to print it, don’t believe tabloid press, tell them that. Don’t believe tabloid press. Some of them try to disguise themselves but they are still tabloid press.

Vibe: They want to know about the plastic surgery that you’ve done.

Michael: Who is they?

Vibe: VIBE’s editors.

Michael: Tell VIBE, you know, that’s a stupid question. Put it just like that. You should be embarrassed to ask that. That’s why I don’t do interviews for this very reason. That’s why for years I didn’t do them for that very reason.