Tribute to a King

Michael Jackson

As I cycled home from work tonight my neighbours were just finishing up a barbeque that was made possible by the excellent Irish weather. I politely accepted their generous offer of a glass of wine and took a seat beside them. “Did you hear that Michael Jackson died?” was not the first question that I expected to be asked. I had seen a comment on Facebook earlier that alluded to his death, but I didn’t pay it any mind. Another neighbour came out of her house holding a bottle of Bud in one hand and an Off The Wall CD (without its case) in the other. She had been listening to it on her own and came out to join us

I must admit that I’ve never been a big fan of Michael Jackson as a performer or as a singer. I have Thriller on CD (and vinyl) and I like some of his solo work along with a few songs he did with The Jacksons. My favourite is I Want You Back, a song I’ve often danced to in Costello’s. I remember seeing his videos for the first time in the early 80s and was really impressed by the ones for Thriller and Billie Jean, another one of my favourites from him. I like its lyrics, but mostly I like the production on it, especially the drum sound. He made millions from the sales of Thriller, but his features and his personal life began to change after that. In particular, questions were raised and allegations were made about his close relationships with young boys. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that he abused his position with these boys. He had been a pop star from an extremely young age. His father really put Michael and his siblings through their paces. In effect, he had no childhood and he seemed to be suspended in a permanent state of adolescence. Certainly, his choice of friends was unusual, but they were probably the only people to whom he could really relate

Michael Jackson’s huge commercial success rarely translated into critical success for his songs and albums. He is rarely mentioned as an influence by those that have succeeded him and few performers have released versions of his songs. Nevertheless, a few interesting names have recorded some of his more popular songs. You’ll find three of these over at I Guess I’m Floating. And you’ll find the Thriller album covered in its entirety at Cover Me. I’ll begin with a few tracks from Thriller, one of the biggest selling albums of all time. Billie Jean has been done by Neil Finn, Belle & Sebastian, Shinehead and Caetano Velosa. The title track has been performed by Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie/The Postal Service) and by Petra Haden, who creates all her vocals and instrumental sections using her only voice and other body parts. Former Stone Roses frontman, Ian Brown, has put out versions of both Thriller and Billie Jean. That album’s Beat It has seen a rocking version by Supergrass as well as a swinging one by Senor Coconut. I’ve always been a big fan of Graham Parker’s take on I Want You Back. Musically, it’s pretty similar to the original, but his snarling vocals are a lot angrier. Another hit from The Jackson Five, Blame It On The Boogie, was actually co-written and originally performed by a guy called Mick Jackson (no relation). Man in the Mirror from the album Bad has been transformed into both a reggae tune, by Little Kirk, and a country song by Texas Lightning. Also from that album, Smooth Criminal was a big hit for Alien Ant Farm in 2001. I have no idea who Kesang Marstrand is, but her simple, mellow version of Jackson’s duet with Paul McCartney makes a nice change to the original. Michael Jackson even had the accolade of being parodied by Weird Al Yankovic, who released songs called Eat It and Fat that were pastiches of Beat It and Bad respectively. Michael Jackson’s death on the eve of Glastonbury 2009 is bound to bring a whole weekend of musical tributes from an eclectic bunch of performers. And I’m sure that these tributes will continue in the months and years to come. The King of Pop is dead. Long live the King


Don’t Blame It On Sunshine Mix

01 Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover) – Shinehead

02 Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover) – Caetano Veloso

03 Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover) – Ian Brown

04 Thriller (Michael Jackson cover) – Ian Brown

05 Thriller (Michael Jackson cover) – Petra Haden

06 Beat It (Michael Jackson cover) – Supergrass

07 Beat it (Michael Jackson cover) – Senor Coconut

08 I Want You Back (Jacksons cover) – Graham Parker

09 Blame It On The Boogie (original) – Mick Jackson

10 Man In The Mirror (Michael Jackson cover) – Little Kirk

11 Man In The Mirror (Michael Jackson cover) – Texas Lightning

12 Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson cover) – Alien Ant Farm

13 Say Say Say (Michael Jackson cover) – Kesang Marstrand

14 Eat It – Weird Al Jankovic

15 Fat – Weird Al Yankovic

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3 thoughts on “Tribute to a King

  1. Pingback: Going Back To Glasters « Town Full of Losers

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