Michael Jackson, Genius

  by Lorette C. Luzajic on Extreme Michael Jackson

By any thinking person’s standpoint, Michael Jackson was a genius. These intelligent persons may not even like his music or showmanship, but the facts are obvious to them nonetheless. For example, I sheepishly confess that I find Tolstoy an absolute bore. There, I’ve said it. But I certainly wouldn’t try to claim that I’m a better writer than one of the two greatest novelists of all time. I prefer Dostoevsky. His emotions resonated more deeply with me. But is Tolstoy a genius? Yes. My opinion is really irrelevant in this matter.

A person doesn’t have to like Michael Jackson’s oeuvre to understand his genius. The man is a powerhouse of creativity. He is an inspiration as no other, who has inspired millions upon millions of beneficent or creative endeavours. People have been moved by his genius to pursue their own dream or to try to create something, from murderers n prison learning teamwork as they choreograph themselves dancing to “Thriller,” to becoming a sushi chef, to starting a charity. The lavish spectacle of entertainment, in every costume and performance and point of intrigue. His disco era in music was genius alone- never mind the impact of what was to come. His sense of theatre was always on full throttle. He did nothing halfway. His work was sublime and ridiculous; gargantuan, yet he held back and you can feel it. You can feel that if he had let out every creative impulse that was inside of him, he would implode. The whole world would explode. It damn near did.

Detractors tend to make two assertions to deny Jackson’s genius heritage. The first is something along the lines of “Genius? He’s a man in a dress.”

The second is “Genius? The guy doesn’t even play a musical instrument.”

Jackson existed outside of norms. He could care less whether we thought an outfit was absurd, futuristic sci-fi, or supremely tailored and smoking hot. He played dress up and we were entertained. It’s showmanship. It’s also simply a fact that he could wear what he pleased. He was a highly imaginative person, a boyish imp who loved having fun and being silly as well as serious. He loved characters in musical, literary, and stage history. He looked different each and every day, yet was instantly recognizable.

Truth be told, I prefer a man in makeup by a long shot to a man who is constantly blathering about his inescapable virility and masculinity. Yech. Who says flamboyant silks are for girls? Kings and aristocrats have donned all kinds of colourful, ridiculous getup throughout time. In fact, high heels were invented for MEN- to show commoners that rich men need not have their feet on the ground! Jackson is an eccentric. If he wanted to wear something bizarre one day and something beautiful the next, that only contributes to the conclusion of genius. After all, historically, every genius has existed separate from the social norms. Some were harmless theatrical diversions.Other quirks were downright offensive. Van Gogh never bathed and took charity to hookers, the forgotten class. Lord Byron wore lacey frills and boasted that he’d made a baby with his sister. Da Vinci, the indisputable genius of art and science was a work of art unto himself. Once these bashers who warble on about “men in dresses” zip up their pants, I encourage them to learn how to read. Any bio will show that Da Vinci was weird in a million ways.

That “never played an instrument” thing always makes me howl. Now, I would love to have the musical ability to play an instrument. I respect it. It’s hard work and it’s beautiful. But there are several million people able to play a musical instrument. Teenage boys in garages play fantastic drums and jazz hopefuls have taken up the horn, and sadly for all their efforts, their talents will never see the light of day. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, didn’t need to play a musical instrument (though I can’t verify for sure that he doesn’t or can’t- someone enlighten me. I seem to recall that he was quite skilled at piano but I can’t find anything now.) Michael Jackson’s whole being WAS THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT. He was a livewire transmitting creative energy from the great beyond, translating it into dance and rhythm. Not only that, but all of his senses converged to channel the musicality and rhythm of his dancers, writers, performers, anyone who works with him. He can hear every layer and merge those layers together. His knowledge of theatre, film, literature, history, classical music, theatre music, soul and gospel, and pop and rock were outstanding.

Emperors and ambassadors and Elvis’s daughter loved him: every single person in the music industry thanked him for creative inspiration, and for keeping money flowing through the business. Call it crass commerce if you want to- but somebody had to. Of course that’s been going on in spades. Regardless, he was infusing the whole marketplace with jobs at every level, from factory manufacturing key chain jobs in China to genius sound technicians whose names we’ll never know but whose sound we hear to dancers to fashion designers to book publishers and so forth. His voracious studying of all art, literature, theatre, and music, from silent film to modern art, never stopped. He made video an art form because he saw the potential of the short horror film. He could make anyone laugh or smile anytime. This quality alone is a rare and radiant light.

But genius? What is a genius anyways? Shakespeare? Einstein?

Genius means a few things. It means a person gifted with an extraordinary capacity for something, far above the average person’s propensity for said thing and still above the “above average” persons in that category, too. It means an extraordinary intellectual power manifest in creative activity. It means a special, distinctive, identifying character or spirit. And it means a spirit- you know, a genie. This latter is where the word was born- in Arabic legends. A spirit that could be angel or demon- torment and beauty.

Let’s see- does Michael Jackson fit into any of the above categories? Which one fits?

Yep, all of ‘em. He practically defines the word.

There are some who feel the word shouldn’t be “thrown around” lightly, thus diminishing the intensity and impact of its meaning. Jackson still “qualifies” regardless, meeting all of the criteria in spades and more. But it has also been argued that the more one recognizes the quality in another, the closer one can get on their own. Letting go of the ego and learning from the masters can only improve our own work, no matter what it is. Appreciating someone’s talent in a realm where you have none can only expand your other skills and make you smarter, happier, and wiser.

As Arthur Conan Doyle said, “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

People have been discussing Michael Jackson’s genius for some time. I decided it would be interesting to reflect on what they said and take a look at new conversations on the topic. What do people think about Michael Jackson as genius?


Christopher Hart writes in the Daily Mail:

“He made me ‘believe in magic,’ says P. Diddy. ‘His wonderment and mystery make him legend,’ gabbles Steven Spielberg. He was a ‘genius’, claims Justin Timberlake. Really? What, like Shakespeare and Michelangelo? With the best will in the world, I don’t think anything in Michael Jackson’s back catalogue can quite compare with Hamlet or the Sistine Chapel. Enough of this delusional postmortem hype, please. A handful of Jackson’s tunes will last as long as people love pop music – that’s no mean achievement – and at his peak he could dance like Fred Astaire. But he was also a deeply flawed individual who lived a life of consistent and cowardly denial and evasion. For whatever messy psychological reasons, Jackson could never be honest about himself. At least we should be.

Ummm, wow, how embarrassing. What like Shakespeare and Michelangelo?” Yes. Absolutely. They’d both say so. Does dude think Shakespeare or Michelangelo were more exemplary figures? He’d better pick up a book. Cowardly denial? Now that the autopsy confirmed a lot of things Michael had been saying all along…yikes. Also postmortem, FBI had fifteen years of NOTHING after following him around, exonerating him for the crimes from which he’d already been exonerated by the court of law. Not that moral character one way or another obliterates genius. If it did, MJ might be one of the few left standing. explanation.

But I digress. Sorry.

“When he did his iconic moonwalk, I was shocked. It was magic. Michael Jackson went into orbit and never came down. Though it ended way too soon, Michael’s life was beautiful.”
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.

“He was a true gift and there are very few that have come to the magnitude of influence that he had on the world.”
Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

“We have lost a genius and a true ambassador of not only Pop music but of all music. He has been an inspiration to multiple generations and I will always cherish the moments I shared with him on stage and all of the things I learned about music from him.”
Justin Timberlake

I can’t stop crying over the sad news. I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever!

The last legend.
Pete Wentz

I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news…He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever.
The point about Michael Jackson is not that he is odd but that the man is a genius. As a dancer, he ranks well up there with Fred Astaire and Rudolf Nureyev. As a singer, he has been dazzlingly brilliant since he first cleared his throat on stage when he was eight…he is the best, the most electrifying mover in the business. To see him dance, and hear him sing, is one of the most exciting experiences that Western show business has to offer.
Tom Utley
The Telegraph

Like all bereavements my heart goes out to his family and close friends. But — a “genius”? “The greatest entertainer of all time”?… God rest Michael Jackson’s soul but to me it is a sacrilege to rank his limited range alongside the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Gene Kelly. These men could act, dance, and sing.
Carol Gould

“That boy moves in a very exceptional way. That’s the greatest dancer of the century”.
Frank Sinatra

Everything Michael Jackson does on stage is exactly right.
Sammy Davis Jr.
(Michael was an honorary pallbearer at Sammy’s funeral.)

The world has lost the greatest entertainer the world has ever known.
Martin Bashir (wtf?) “Michael was the biggest star on Earth. … We felt he was right there. … He made you believe in yourself.”
Queen Latifah

“Michael Jackson was a brilliant troubadour for his generation, a genius whose music reflected the passion and creativity of an era. His artistry and magnetism changed the music landscape forever. We have been profoundly affected by his originality, creativity and amazing body of work. The entire Sony family extends our deepest condolences to his family and to the millions of fans around the world who loved him.”
Sir Howard Stringer – Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation

“Michael was the kind of amazing talent that comes along once in a lifetime. He was an incredible recording artist, an insightful businessman, an unmatched performer, and a true icon. To all of us at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, he was also a trusted and passionate partner, who was very proud of our accomplishments. He will be dearly missed. We wish his children and entire family our deepest condolences.”
Martin Bandier – Chairman & CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing

“Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent and vision as Michael Jackson. He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility and sheer star power carried him from childhood to world wide acclaim. A 13-time Grammy recipient, Michael’s career transcends musical and cultural genres and his contributions will always keep him in our hearts and memories.”
Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy

“There is no one in the world like MJ! Never has been! Never will be! We all know him in one way or another. In some way he has touched us, been the voice of one of our sweetest memories. And what a wonderful, genuine, compassionate, soft spoken giant so full of love. He gave us love, excitement, one of a kind moments in a mundane world. I can’t believe he won’t be with us here on earth anymore. But long from now, when we are all dust, he will still never be forgotten … To the best that ever did it! You are loved, admired and respected forever” –Alicia Keys

“Michael Jackson was the world’s greatest entertainer but more than he was great humanitarian and a great, humble individual. The people of Gary, our hearts are full of tears because of the loss of Michael Jackson.”
Mayor Rudy Clay – Gary, Ind.

“Michael was a dear friend and a consummate professional. This was the most exciting collaboration of my life with a man who has inspired me like no other. He will be deeply missed. I am terribly sad. We had a 25 year friendship. This is all too much to comprehend. This was the world’s greatest performer and the world will miss him. My heart goes out to his family and fans.”
Kenny Ortega – producer, director and choreographer

“Being a huge fan, I was – of course – extremely nervous to meet him. Michael was unquestionably eccentric, but to my surprise, he was warm, curious, amusing, and un-temperamental. I was particularly struck by how this legendary megastar became just another affectionate, playful, protective big brother whenever Janet was around.

I took the opportunity to chat with him between takes and he always skewed the conversation away from himself. He asked about my childhood, my favorite films, if I knew how to swim, my religion, etc. My mother visited the set, and Michael immediately charmed her, asking her to hold his jacket while he filmed, giving her a warm hug and kiss as he left the set each day. My mom felt like she had a new best friend. The chance to experience the phenomenon of his gift from only a few feet away was the treat of a lifetime. Over those ten days of filming, I felt like I had the single greatest job in the world. And I think, perhaps, I actually did. I’m sorry his life became so horrendously complicated. As a person, he didn’t actually seem that complicated to me.”
Mark Romanek – Director of Scream video

“I know that people looked at Michael and thought he was strange, but to me, he was fascinating. He was the most inspirational person in my life. His one dream was to cure all the sick children in the world. And when I’d say, ‘Isn’t that impossible?’ Michael would just start to cry. He was very emotional about things that moved him. I guess you’d have to say he was a pure innocent in a world that wasn’t so innocent anymore.”
Brett Ratner – Director/ Producer -
Best known for his films such as The Family Man, After the Sunset, Red Dragon, the Rush Hour series, and X-Men: The Last Stand and directing numerous music videos.

“Michael Jackson was extraordinary. When we worked together on ‘Bad,’ I was in awe of his absolute mastery of movement on the one hand, and of the music on the other. Every step he took was absolutely precise and fluid at the same time. It was like watching quicksilver in motion. He was wonderful to work with, an absolute professional at all times, and – it really goes without saying – a true artist. It will be a while before I can get used to the idea that he’s no longer with us.”
Martin Scorsese

“He was a very good friend of mine. He was an amazing guy, but beyond all else, he was the greatest entertainer I’ve ever known. He had magic. He was a genius. He was also a really good person, and when you got to know him, you realized how smart he was. He was brilliant. We were at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. There were thousands of people literally crushing us. We had 20 bodyguards, but it was really dangerous. He dropped to his knees and started crawling to the exit. He did it so routinely, I thought he fell. And I said, “Michael, is it always like this?” He goes, “Yeah, this is nothing. Japan is much worse.
Donald Trump “Now, Michael wasn’t the same Michael for the last 10 years. He was not well. He had a lot of problems, a lot of difficulties. But Michael in his prime — there’s never been anybody like him. His life was different than anybody I’ve ever known. But he had a very rough 10 years. He was embarrassed by it. He was embarrassed by what was happening to him. But he’s not going to be remembered for the last 10 years; he’s going to be remembered for the first 35 years.”
Donald Trump

He light that he emanated from the stage will live on with all of us who saw him for what he was and always will be – a great teacher, pure musical inspiration.”
Ricky Martin “I just remember him as the ultimate performer. Mike was the guy that made everybody want to be better. He raised the bar for what fame became.”
Samuel L. Jackson

I’m hurt. But I’m celebrating his life and his music. Dancing and crying and dancing in public. Holding heart-to-heart conversations with complete strangers about one of the things, if not the only thing, we share in common, That Is The Legendary MoonWalker Himself. A white guy in a pickup truck pulled alongside me on the expressway and shouted to me, had I heard about Mike?!? It’s surreal and it’s everywhere!!! Every time I feel like getting sad, one of his songs comes on, and I’m just filled with happiness and start singing and smiling. He was the best to ever do it. Salaams, Peace & Blessings. May Allah have mercy on his soul. We Love You MJ!!!
Lupe Fiasco

He could sign like nobody else. You know, he was a genius, like Ray Charles, like Stevie Wonder, like people that… like people that have a gift… they just have this gift.

“You don’t know where it comes, you don’t know how long it stays, you don’t know what the impact is going to be, but he was able to connect with people.”

“He was also one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. I loved him very much and I will miss him every remaining day of my life.”
Liza Minnelli

“I am so saddened by the loss of a great idol and icon, Michael Jackson. He was, to me, the greatest entertainer of all time. He was a huge inspiration for performers across all music genres. He taught us all how to light up the stage. Wow.” –’American Idol’ judge Randy Jackson

“Michael was one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever known. The world will be a sadder place tonight because he is gone.” –Neil Diamond

“Besides the musical, dance and technical genius of the man, and the influence he’s had on four decades of artists, Michael loved Zombies.” –Anthrax’s Scott Ian

“Michael Jackson’s done and accomplished so much that there’s not even words to explain what he’s done to urban music and pop music. Every artist that I personally know has been influenced by him.” –Akon

True genius transcends time, race and generations much like William Shakespeare did in literature and Leonardo Da Vinci did in the arts; it transcends the limitations of accepted logic and creativity much like Einstein did in science and Frank Lloyd Wright in Architecture; true genius is immortalized in human history and enshrined in memories, both owned and inherited much like the genius of Bob Marley or Ritchie Valens, people who died before my time. And that is what Michael Jackson is, the manifestation of musical genius with respect to his talents. Kwapi for Now Public

Absolutely ridiculous – I can’t believe people are seriously saying that Michael Jackson was a genius. The comparisons with Shakespeare and Leonardo Da Vinci are simply laughable. I can only hope this is intended as a spoof.Brian Brown responding

You can’t seriously claim MJ was a genius AND hold onto your dignity
some nobody named Anne Fern
Guess ALL of the artists in the music industry have no dignity

Everything Michael Jackson does on stage is exactly right.
Sammy Davis Jr.

Artist of the century- American Music Awards

Most successful entertainer of all time. Guinness Book of World Records.

I could never decide whether I wanted to be Michael Jackson or marry him. I don’t care what people say about him now because he’s a fucking genius. That’s it – the end!

* Amy Winehouse

When we first met, around 1988, I was struck by the combination of charisma and woundedness that surrounded Michael. He would be swarmed by crowds at an airport, perform an exhausting show for three hours, and then sit backstage afterward, as we did one night in Bucharest, drinking bottled water, glancing over some Sufi poetry as I walked into the room, and wanting to meditate.
That person, whom I considered (at the risk of ridicule) very pure, still survived — he was reading the poems of Rabindranath Tagore when we talked the last time, two weeks ago. Michael exemplified the paradox of many famous performers, being essentially shy, an introvert who would come to my house and spend most of the evening sitting by himself in a corner with his small children.

* Deepak Chopra

From the beginning of my career, he was my idol in show business. He was a genius and an incredible artist!

* Celine Dion

The incomparable Michael Jackson has made a bigger impact on music than any other artist in the history of music. He was magic. He was what we all strive to be.

If it were not for Micheal Jackson I would not be where or who I am today.
Ludacris, via Twitter

“A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us.”
John Mayer via Twitter

“I still have all his stuff on my iPod.”
President Obama

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