* Thursday, June 25, 2009 ... A legend died this day. A giant in the world of pop music. Like him or not, Michael Jackson was one of the most talented artists, gifted performers and universal trend setters the popular music business has ever seen.
We will not see his like again. He was unique. A troubled original. A son, a brother, a father, a friend. A pedophile too? Not according to a jury. We've all drawn our own conclusions. I know I have.
I will not mock him today. Or canonize him. He was an musician and a man. His huge body of work speaks for itself. He was --and made-- Music History.
Here's a piece of history that represents the best of Michael Jackson. That --and all his outstanding contributions to the world of music entertainment-- is what we should remember. And allow his children to retain.
The amazing, heartstopping, historic video is below.
"Check your egos at the door." Quincy Jones
There has never been anything in the music business quite like the single recording session in 1985 of the song We Are The World by a unified group of music superstars called U.S.A. for Africa ... United Support of Artists for Africa.
We Are The World was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced and directed by the legendary Quincey Jones, performed by 45 diverse members of American popular music royalty.
It's unlikely ever to happen again.
The idea came from Calypso singing star Harry Belafonte, based on the first Live Aid concerts held in July of 1985 in London and Philadelphia for African famine relief. Proceeds from the We Are The World single and the subsequent album would go to relief organizations in Ethiopia, Sudan and other African countries.
And so an unusual gathering of pop music's biggest names came together in a Columbia Records studio to record the We Are The World single in one night.
Just the artists. No managers, no entourages allowed. Were there some bumps and bruises along the way? Sure. But far less than anyone expected. The stars pretty much followed Quincy Jones's repeated message, "Check your egos at the door."
It's reported that most were relaxed, chatting, exchanging memories, some asking each other for autographs, and even phone numbers.
Jones decided where everyone should stand and had a piece of tape with each artist's name placed on the floor.
Michael Jackson skipped the American Music Awards ceremony that night to record the chorus of the song as a guide to the other artists.
My favorite tidbit, recounted by Lional Richie, is of Bob Dylan asking Stevie Wonder for help. “Bob happened to ask a very unusual question. ‘God, how do I sing this part?’ Stevie turned up to him and said, ‘Just sound like Bob Dylan.’ ”
That's what you'll see --and hear-- throughout this video. The lyrics and melody are the same, but every musician puts his or her own very distinctive stamp on the delivery. With your eyes closed you know exactly who's singing each line.
If you've never seen this, Please, don't pass it up. If it's been a long time, here's your chance for a trip down memory lane. Names and more info follow the video. (Especially helpful if you say to yourself, Who is that??)
The single, the video and the album that followed, along with a citizen participation effort called Hands Across America raised almost $100 million for famine relief.
Both the single and the album won 1985 Grammies for Song of the Year and Album of the Year.
A portion of the single had to be re-recorded because Cyndi Lauper's jewelry created a loud clicking noise.
The single was recorded the night of the American Music Awards so most artists came directly to the studio in their limousines. Bruce Springsteen drove up in his own pickup truck.
Solos (in order of appearance)
The Pointer Sisters
Linda Ronstadt (had the flu)
Madonna (turmed them down flat)
Pat Benatar (too pregnant)
Prince (later contributed to the album and a television performance of the song)