It would take a book of sizable portion to truly document the impact of Michael Jackson’s legacy. To quote a very astute and eloquent colleague, “Michael Jackson was not supposed to happen.”
You see, Michael Jackson was a deity. I do not offer that label without thought…in all honesty, people from all walks of life, all races, all nations, all ages, all religious affiliations and all genders worshiped Michael Jackson. They adored his image. They adored his message. They adored his style and grace. They adored his voice. Despite the worst of accusations and the most merciless scrutiny of the international media, he was able to sell out 50 shows at the UK’s O2 Arena, which would equate to about 1 million people from around the world who had made plans to witness the legend for themselves. I question if Michael really wanted this. I ponder whether or not there was a point in his life where he felt things beginning to grow so beyond his human control – a point where a choice had to be made to hold on or let go. Being an individual that believes in an Almighty God, it frightens me to think of the spiritual ramifications of such a decision.
It’s probable that no one knew Michael’s true thoughts or emotions except the man himself. But, occasionally, he allowed his listeners to peek through the window and see the agony of his life and his desire to “trade it all in” for peace. For quiet. For normalcy.
“Stranger in Moscow”, a single released in 1996 from the album HIStory, is such a window.
It took me a moment to get past the pleasant listening experience of the song – it’s downtempo electronica groove, it’s beautiful call and response harmonies, the catchy hook. But it’s Michael’s words and the intensity of his plea that help us to appreciate his supreme artistry.
The song was written, arranged and produced by Michael Jackson. The first thing we notice is the title. There are few places a Black American would feel lost and out of place more so than in the heart of Russia. Well, maybe Bensonhurst, Brooklyn…but that doesn’t have the same universal ring to it. Note to songwriters: choose a good title that sparks a mental image, which will, in turn, affect the emotions of your audience.
The word pictures Michael paints with the verses are so vivid – narrating a life of pain against mental images and feelings of cold war Russia: “Here abandoned in my fame/ Armageddon of the brain/KGB was doggin’ me/Take my name and just let me be”. That last line harmonizes with biographies that state Michael’s loneliness had reached such a point that he would roam the streets to hold conversations with strangers – only to return home unfulfilled. With all of his fame and greatness, he was alone, cold and misunderstood.
In the next few weeks of media coverage we must understand that beneath the internationally deified superstardom, beyond the allegedly ‘strange’ physical transformations and on past our memories of moonwalks and screams – there was a fragile human being. A human being who, when all was said and done, simply longed to be loved.
Remember above all else, love is the greatest gift we could ever receive. And love is the greatest gift we could ever give.
We wish peace and respect be with the Jackson family at this time.