Michael Jackson with director John Landis on the set of “Black or White”, 1991.
In MJ’s Shadow
ARMOND WHITE remembers Michael Jackson’s pop open-mindedness
Originally published at New York Press
June 30, 2009
Michael Jackson made the best cinema of 1991 with the music video “Black or White,” which was easily superior to any short or feature-length film released to the public that year. To find a comparable example of visual montage, you have to go back to one of Alain Resnais’ time-shifting études, the marriage scherzo in Citizen Kane or the chase-trial fugue in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance. I combine musical and filmic values because “Black or White”’s visionary approach to egalitarianism—ending with a still-miraculous sequence of genetic morphing and counter-balanced by a solo dance of frustration and rage—was a singular feat: Its constant rhythm was accompanied by a stacking-up of thrilling, provocative ideas.
The night “Black or White” premiered on FOX was one of those memorable moments when Michael Jackson brought the world together through his art. That unification is, of course, MJ’s legacy. But not merely in a lovey-dovey sense. MJ’s command of popular attention was always unexpected and challenging. Each cultural/historical marker demonstrated his unique sensibility, mostly superb taste (pardon his penchant for horror-film tropes), his simple yet probing, agitating intellect and his seemingly boundless talents: a great singer, songwriter, dancer and, in movie terms, performer-as-auteur.
Live during the HIStory Tour in Munich, Germany, on July 4, 1997.
Michael performed “Elizabeth, I Love You” at his longtime best friend Elizabeth Taylor’s 65th birthday celebration on February 16, 1997.
Michael wrote “You Were There” for Sammy Davis, Jr., and performed it for him at a tribute concert in early 1990. Sammy passed away just a few months later.
Michael covering the Beatles in his 1988 film, Moonwalker.
At the 30th Annual Grammy Awards on March 2, 1988, Michael gave a truly awe-inspiring performance of “The Man in the Mirror”.
From the Bad tour in Yokohama, Japan, 1987. Incredible.