Genius Without Borders: Michael Jackson - "He IS a genious"

September 27, 2010

Columbia College Chicago´s Center for Black Music Research
has presented a conference on the art of Michael Jackson´s music. It was held in Chicago on September 23 - 25th.

Genius Without Borders: Michael Jackson
Ěhas presented scholars, critics and Jackson associates discussing the art, life, and times of the King of Pop. It sounds like it was a magnificent event honoring and remembering Michael in the way he truly deserves to be honored and remembered.

First impresions of Genius Without Borders

Analyzing Michael Jackson: The genius behind the music

by Howard Reich
Arts critic
12:51 p.m. CDT, September 27, 2010

Was Michael Jackson a genius? No doubt about it, according to experts who convened over the weekend at the Harold Washington Library Center to explore the topic.

For more than three uninterrupted hours, the Jackson aficionados played audio tracks, showed video, traded anecdotes and otherwise analyzed one of the most prolific careers in American music – albeit one cut short by the singer-songwriter's tragic death last year, at age 50.

With a throng of Jackson admirers queuing up an hour in advance on Friday night, the connoisseurs were preaching to the choir – and they did not shy away from the "g" word.

"He IS a genius," proclaimed reissues producer Harry Weinger, refusing to revert to past tense.

By way of proof, Weinger played tracks from early Jackson recordings – many still unreleased – drawing from Weinger's work on forthcoming Motown and Jackson 5 catalog reissues. In one excerpt after another, listeners heard Jackson as a child, singing with remarkable prodigiousness.

The most shattering cut was an a cappella version of "Never Can Say Goodbye," a pre-teen Jackson phrasing like a master. Without the benefits of instrumental or rhythmic support, Jackson easily keeps time, but he also finds ways to stretch it. He unerringly holds his pitch, until he decides to bend it, for expressive purposes.

The yearning intensity of Jackson's tone, the disarming "oohs" and "aahs" he improvises at key moments in the song, the silvery clarity of his high-pitched voice simply defy rational explanation. No one under 12 can sing with such craft, ardor and musical wisdom without the benefit of extraordinary gifts.

Jackson's talents, of course, eventually made him an object of adoration around the globe, the crushing attention perhaps explaining some idiosyncracies of his personality.

"The guy was painfully shy," said keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, who recorded and toured prolifically with Jackson.

"You may wonder, 'How could he be so shy?'" asked Phillinganes, pointing to a performer who appeared fearless on stage.

"If you were chased (by fans), and you had to run for your life, if that's what you experience from 11, you would be a little different, too."

The real Michael Jackson, explained Phillinganes, was the man who stood before the microphone – particularly in the recording studio – and let all that glorious music flow out of him, without qualm or inhibition.

When Jackson was recording "She's Out of My Life," with Phillinganes on keyboard, they kept reworking and refining the performance, the pianist remembered.

"And at the end of every take, he'd cry," said Phillinganes. "And it was real."

All the panelists in the symposium, which was organized by the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, concurred that Jackson was thoroughly "hands-on" in recording sessions.

Though he didn't play instruments – with the exception of a rare turn on drums – he routinely "would sing percussion parts and bass lines" and other musical details, recalled singer Siedah Garrett, who wrote "Man in the Mirror" with Jackson and duetted with him on the single "I Just Can't Stop Loving You."

Yet for all Jackson's involvement with musical and production aspects of his recordings, he often would playfully wreak havoc in the midst of sessions.

"Michael would make it his business to make other artists mess up," recalled Garrett, with a laugh. "He would sing his part. Then when I would sing my part, he would throw peanuts or something at me.

"And Q (producer Quincy Jones) would say (to Garrett), 'You're wasting studio time!' "

The cumulative effect of all these insider recollections and newly unearthed recordings proved quite moving, especially to those in the audience who already revered Jackson.

"You gave me the soundtrack to my life," one observer told those on the stage, a lineup that included Jackson drummer Ricky Lawson and former record executive Ed Eckstein.

Toward the end of the evening, 79-year-old Oscar Walden Jr., a Chicago TV and radio producer, got up from his seat in the crowd and, leaning on his cane, prepared to read a poem he had written for Jackson.

"I love Michael," he told the crowd, which fell to a hush.

"He was a genius."

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On Sunday 26th September 2010, Jeremy_Horn said:

My review of 'Genius Without Borders: The Genius Of Michael Jackson' in Chicago. I hope you guys enjoy it. Hey you guys! I wanted to write my review of this amazing event that I attended at the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. I definitely enjoyed this fantastic event! I want to send a big congratulations to Dr. Monica Hairston O'Connell for making this event spectacular.

The event started where Ed Eckstein, who became the 1st African-American to be president of a major non-black owned record company to address his audience about when he was a 11 year old boy, he heard the 1st time the Jackson 5 song 'I Want You Back' was played on the radio. Eckstein also stated that he attended The Forum in 1970 and saw the Jackson 5 performed to a sold out crowd, and girls were rushing the stage. He called the 'boys from Gary, Indiana' the 'Black Beatles!'

Harry Weinger, who is Vice President Of A&R for Universal Music Enterprises, was telling the audience of the catalogs of Motown Records and unreleased material of the Jackson 5. Weinger played an unreleased song from Michael titled 'Love Trip', which was recorded by Diana Ross And The Supremes, and towards the end of the song, Michael's vocals was pure perfection at the age of 11. Weinger also told when J5 were at The Forum in Ingelwood, CA, they were paid $20,000 for that one night, which was top dollars at that time. He also stated when the J5 ended the song 'I Want You Back,' Michael said to the sound engineers to fix the amps. At the age of 11, he handled it like a professional and made the audience realized he was a stage veteran. Finally, Weinger played the acapella version of 'Never Can Say Goodbye' and Michael's vocals was just amazing.

Then, Eckstein introduced the three panels guests. Ricky Lawson, who was the drummer for Michael's 'Bad' and 'Dangerous' World Tour; Greg Phillinganes, who helped produced The Jacksons' 'Destiny,' 'Triumph,' and 'Victory' albums. He was the musical director for The Jacksons' 'Victory Tour' in 1984, Michael's 'Bad' and 'Dangerous' World Tour. And, @SiedahGarrett who wrote Michael's 'Man In The Mirror' and did a duet with Michael for 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' in 1987, had a standing ovation. They even played the classic music video with Dennis Edwards, 'Don't Look Any Further.'

Eckstein asked Lawson, Phillinganes, and Garrett about working with Michael, and their answers were straight and represented integrity of Michael's legacy in music. Lawson said that during the 'Bad' and 'Dangerous' World Tour, his band were trying to be 2/3 steps ahead of Michael; and to always work with instincts and always trying. Phillinganes was discussing the demos that Rod Temperton of Heatwave was making for Michael's 'Off The Wall' and 'Thriller' and were legends. He also said that when talking to Michael, he was painfully shy, because Michael was chased by girls since the age of 11. He stated that during the recording of 'She's Out Of My Life,' Michael cried. Phillinganes also stated that Michael never played an instrument, but he did see Michael play drums during The Jacksons' 'Destiny' album. He also said to the audience that when they hear an acapella version of 'Rock With You,' during the 'and when the groove is dead and gone,' Michael was snapping his fingers. And, when Michael was recording 'Leave Me Alone' for the 'Bad' album, Michael liked static during the beginning of the songs. Garrett started discussing how she met Michael in 1987 for the duet 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' and how she came up with the classic song, 'Man In The Mirror.' She was too hilarious and a diva, but she was amazing!

I asked @SiedahGarrett a question on advice for up and coming songwriters. She stated, 'Be persistent and always keep auditioning.' She even asked me how old I was, I told her 'I'm 25 years old,' and she said 'I feel old!' LOL Then, a 79 year old Black man who's birthday was on June 25th, read a short poem titled 'Oh Michael Boy' and received a standing ovation, because it was emotional. Then, Garrett along with Phillinganes and Lawson performed 'Man In The Mirror' and it was fantastic!

I enjoyed this event! When I came home, I saw a full moon and a shining star, and said to that star, 'Thank you Michael for being an inspiration and an influence in my life.'