#21 – Earth Song by Michael Jackson

Talking And Listening - Xmas Banner

Where do you separate the man from the music? It’s a question that has haunted millions of fans of entertainment over the years. Can you enjoy the work of somebody if you don’t enjoy the person?

Back in 2007 WWE wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife, his son, and then himself over the course of a weekend. In the immediate years following the tragedy he was completely banished from WWE history, edited out of all future television and no mention of him was ever made again.

Over the last year or so things have changed somewhat. People contracted to the company are talking about him in public, and ever so slowly matches involving him are being released again, albeit heavily edited.

It’s not just wrestling of course. Mike Tyson was sent to prison for rape in 1992, and served three years in prison. When he was released he went on to make tens of millions in the boxing ring, and it now regarded as a lovable rogue after his appearance in The Hangover films.

Film director Roman Polanski was involved with a 13 year old back in 1977 in Los Angeles, yet fled to France in 1978 before he was due to be sentenced. Despite this, he has since gone on to direct many highly regarded films, winning an Oscar in 2002 for The Pianist.

So all over the entertainment avenues there have been men and woman who have been rather terrible people but have managed to maintain critical and commercial success.

Michael Jackson is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of this. His death in June 2009 was this generations JFK moment. It felt like the entire world had stopped with social networks buzzing with rumours and conspiracies.

Jackson was arguably one of the top five most famous people on the planet at that point along with people like David Beckham, Paul McCartney and Freddy Eastwood, so his death prompted a number of tributes, both from people who respected him….

And those that didn’t…

I’m not Martin Bashir, I’m not Louis Theroux, I don’t have the answers to the many questions people have about Michael Jackson. The rumours will always be there, and that begs the question – how do I write this entry while his own entries are still very much in question?

Earth Song might very well be the perfect song to bring this all together. The song was Christmas number one in 1995, beating this little beauty to the top spot..

The track is actually Michael Jackson’s biggest selling single in the UK, with over a million copies sold during its six weeks at number one. Such was the popularity of the song that it remained number one ahead of the first release by The Beatles for 25 years, keeping Free As A Bird at number two.

Such is the power of the song, or perhaps in spite of its power, Earth Song was the last song Michael Jackson ever performed. It was the last song he rehearsed on June 24th, before dying the next day.

The video is one of Jackson’s most iconic, as he portrayed himself as a messianic like figure desperately trying to make sense of a tortured world. Nothing says Christmas like trees and steam…

j1

But luckily this delightful creature that opens the video made the whole video worth it

yep

Despite the song getting the coveted Christmas number one, and the iconic video, there is also another reason the song is remembered, especially in Britain.

At the 1995 Brit Awards, just a couple of years after Jackson’s infamous court case, he was awarded the ‘Artist of a Generation’ award and celebrated that with a performance that was in incredibly poor taste.

The awarded was introduced by Christmas icon/villain Bob Geldof who mused that:

“When his feet move, you can see God dancing”

One can only assume Geldof wasn’t aware of what was to come in the performance, which included this:

Yep

All of this didn’t sit well with many people, but it made one person more irate than most. Halfway through the performance, one of the biggest music stars at the time suddenly appeared on screen. He wasn’t happy…

Yep

It’s like something out of an American comedy before lapsing into horror, as a hulking brute dressed in beggars robes came out of nowhere to accost Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker for having the audacity to make a stand against a show of hypocrisy that was in so poor taste it made MIA waggling her middle finger at the Superbowl look like Bucks Fizz ripping off their skirts at Eurovision.

Cocker was then chased off the stage but not before displaying his lithe physique at the camera before departing the scene with all the grace of a prime Kriss Akabusi.

cocker

Jarvis was sensationally arrested following this invasion, but was released without charge. He later said he had found the performance offensive due to Jackson portraying himself as “Christ-like”. Jackson later replied condemning Cocker’s actions as “disgusting and cowardly”, though some skeptics are convinced he was actually watching Wacky Races.

640px-Dick-Dastardly-and-Muttley_1191188

Years later Bob Geldof talked about Jarvis Cocker’s own dancing:

“When his feet move, you can see God dancing”

britpop pulp gif

Earth Song isn’t your classic Christmas number one, but in terms of its actual story it belonged on my countdown. After all, where else could I mention Michael Jackson, Jarvis Cocker, Bucks Fizz and Wacky Races in the same article?

Remember to check out the Spotify playlist of the countdown updated daily:

How could I end a piece about Michael Jackson though just like that, with all those different opinions about him in the world? I couldn’t. I won’t. Instead I’ll just leave it to our old friends YouTube.

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To catch up on the rest of the countdown CLICK HERE

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