No Mere Mortal: Vincent Price and Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Sources: (Published October 25, 2011)| Edited By – All Things Michael


Vincent Price appeared in more than 90 movies, from 1938’s Service de Luxe to Edward Scissorhands in 1990. He starred and guested on dozens of television shows, maintained a regular spot on The Hollywood Squares, and hosted the PBS show Mystery! throughout the 1980s. He was a noted art collector with well-respected taste, and his gourmet skills in the kitchen even led him to host the cookery TV show Cooking Pricewise.

But if you’re under the age of 40 or so, you probably remember Price best for one of his shortest works: the eerie rap on Michael Jackson’s hit single “Thriller.” To commemorate the anniversary of Price’s death Oct. 25, 1993, we bring you 10 facts about his “thrilling” work on one of pop music’s most iconic songs.

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1. “Thriller” was written for Michael Jackson by songwriter Rod Temperton, who originally titled the song “Starlight” (with the hook “Starlight, starlight sun” instead of “Thriller, thriller night”). After settling on a horror-show theme, Temperton envisioned, in his own words, “a talking section at the end,” but he couldn’t figure out where to go with the idea.

2. Temperton finally narrowed down his “talking section” idea to a vocal provided by “somebody, a famous voice, in the horror genre.” Peggy Lipton, who at the time was married to Jackson’s producer Quincy Jones, knew Vincent Price and suggested him for the role.

3. Price told Johnny Carson that when he agreed to do the voice work, he was given a choice between taking a percentage of the album proceeds or being paid a flat $20,000. He chose the $20K; his career was well-established and money wasn’t a huge issue. When Carson suggested that Price could have done a lot better if he had chosen album proceeds, he laughed amiably and said “How well I know!” Considering that more than 110 million copies of the album have been sold to date, Carson was spot-on.

4. Once Price was booked and the song’s recording session scheduled, the rap still needed to be written. Temperton penned the rhyme in the taxi on the way to the studio.

5. A recording engineer noted that while Price was delighted to contribute his vocals to the song, he was startled by the headphones when he arrived at the studio, never having used them before. When he reluctantly put them on, he jumped out of his chair in surprise upon hearing the funky music track he was to speak over. He ultimately needed a little help with his cues to speak over the music, but he ended up nailing it.

6. Price recorded his portion of the song in only two takes. Quincy Jones noted that recording voiceover work is notoriously difficult, and he praised Price’s work and accuracy as “fabulous.”

7. You won’t necessarily hear Price’s voice when you listen to the song. If you purchased the 7-inch single, you were deprived of his rap and spooky laugh as the song had to be shortened.

8. In case all you’ve got is the 7-inch version, we present the text of Price’s masterful rap:

Darkness falls across the land

The midnight hour is close at hand

Creatures crawl in search of blood

To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood

And whosoever shall be found

Without the soul for getting down

Must stand and face the hounds of hell

And rot inside a corpse’s shell

The foulest stench is in the air

The funk of forty thousand years

And grizzly ghouls from every tomb

Are closing in to seal your doom

And though you fight to stay alive

Your body starts to shiver

For no mere mortal can resist

The evil of the thriller!

(cue maniacal laughter)

9. Temperton wrote a much longer version of the rap which Price recorded, but it was cut to the above verses in the original release of the song. However, the full version can be heard on the 2001 remaster of Thriller, along with some brief conversation between Price and Jackson. A portion of the extended version is also included on the 2008 Thriller 25 reissue.

10. As for the famous, groundbreaking, award-winning video? Price had his moment there too. When Jackson and his girlfriend, played by Ola Ray, leave the movie theater, we see that the marquee reads “Vincent Price THRILLER,” a fictional film. On the wall outside the theater, a poster for Price’s real film, House of Wax, is displayed.


And we can’t exactly call this one of our 10 facts, since there’s some disagreement as to whether it’s true … but rumor has it that the zombie in the very last frames, after all the credits have rolled, is an uncredited Vincent Price in full gory makeup. Maybe you should take a look and decide for yourself if it’s him. We highly recommend the previous 13 minutes and 38 seconds, too!

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Note: Vincent Price was not one the zombies in the last frame. See here for cast credits. Thanks to Rhonda Revercomb for sharing!

Joel Vogel’s Essay For The National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress On Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Sources: Joel Vogel | Edited By All Things Michael


Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” changed the trajectory of music-the way it sounded, the way it felt, the way it looked, the way it was consumed. Only a handful of albums come anywhere close to its seismic cultural impact: the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”Yet “Thriller” remains, by far, the best-selling album of al l time. Current estimates put U.S. sales at close to 35 million, and global sales at over 1 10 million.


Its success is all the more remarkable given the context.  In 1982, the United States was still in the midst of a deep recession as unemployment reached a four-decade high ( l 0.8 percent). Record companies were laying people off in droves.  Top 40 radio had all but died, as stale classic rock (AOR) dominated the airwaves.  Disco had faded.  MTV was still in its infancy.  As “The New York Times” puts it:  “There had never been a bleaker year for pop than 1982.”

And then came “Thriller.”  The album hit record stores in the fall of ’82.  It’s difficult to get beyond the layers of accolades and imagine the sense of excitement and discovery for listeners hearing it for the first time–before the music videos, before the stratospheric sales numbers and awards, before it became ingrained i n our cultural DN A. The compact disc (CD) was made commercially available that same year, but the vast majority of listeners purchased the album as an LP or cassette tape (the latter of which outsold records by 1983). The rapid explosion of portable cassette Walkman personal stereos meant people could experience music privately and on the go.

Once listeners popped in their cassette of “Thriller,” they were taken away. Three ricocheting drum beats kick off the frenetic opener, appropriately titled “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.”‘ There simply wasn’t a genre for a song like this in 1982. It wasn’t disco. It wasn’t funk. It wasn’t R&B. It wasn’t new wave. It was something new: a song that contained strains of each of these styles, and more; a song so wild and energetic it nearly bursts at the seams, unpredictably culminating in a triumphant Swahili chant. This was the sound of a new pop renaissance. It had no borders. It was a sonic carnival, perfectly capturing the diversity, fusion and velocity of a new era.

Critics have often characterized “Thriller” as a collection of hits, rather than a coherent album with a unified theme.  This assessment is partially correct.  Seven of its nine songs, after all, became Top Ten hits.  “Thriller” isn’t a concept album, and never settles on a particular motif or emotion.  Instead, it is about shifting tensions:  between traditional instrumentation and electronic sounds, innocence and experience, optimism and dread, anxiety and ecstasy.  The chaotic energy of its opener dissolves into the effortless glide of “Baby Be Mine”; the breezy charm of “The Girl is Mine” transitions without warning into the dark Gothic robofunk of the title track. “Sequencing an album,” explains Quincy Jones, “is one of the joys  in being a producer because it’s like making a movie.  That’s why I had ‘Human Nature’ right after ‘Billie Jean’ on “Thriller.”  Because ‘Billie Jean’ was in three parts, like a mantra.  The other one is like a kaleidoscopic harmonic collage, with all the harmonies running around the place. The ear loves that-it loves to feel that growth and change and movement.”

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Jackson and Jones sifted through over 600 songs before settling on a final tracklist of nine. Jones referred to this process as “Polaroids.” Each potential song was held up to see if it had the right qualities and how it fit with already-existing material. Jackson brought in at least a dozen self­written tracks, including album standouts “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin,”‘ “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It.” Rod Temperton, a talented British musician who was also a key contributor to Jackson’s previous album “Off the Wall,” composed over thirty potential songs for Jackson. Three made it onto the album:  “Baby Be Mine,” “The Lady in My Life,” and the title track (originally titled “Starlight”).  Other tracks were switched in the rotation later in the process, including the gorgeous Steve Porcaro and John Bettis-penned  ballad “Human Nature,” which Jackson described as “music with wings.” “P.Y.T.” was originally written by Jackson, but later re-worked by Quincy Jones and James Ingram into a funky Minimoog synth jam.

The final result was an album that, as Jackson put it, had “no B-sides.” The material was strong from top to bottom. The public responded accordingly and “Thriller” led sales and airplay throughout 1983 and into 1984. Within 15 months, it became the bestselling album in the history of the music industry, shifting more than 22 million copies. It would also go on to win a record seven Grammy awards in 1984. The album seemed to cross every barrier imaginable: it appealed to black and white, young and old, middle-class and poor, American and beyond.

Its unprecedented success perhaps seems inevitable today.  Jackson had already been a star for a long time:  in the early 1970s, he and his brothers achieved enormous crossover success as the Jackson 5, and his 1979 solo album, “Off the Wall,” became the bestselling album ever by an African-American artist.  Yet in the early 1980s, radio was largely segregated, adhering to narrow programming based on racialized genres.  MTV, likewise, was strongly oriented toward rock and rock was often synonymous with white, while R&B was synonymous with black. Jackson challenged and ultimately demolished this logic with “Thriller.” It wasn’t only that his music featured rock icons like Paul McCartney and Eddie Van Halen or even that his music didn’t fit neatly into conventional categories; it was that his songs and videos were too good to be denied.  People wanted to hear them on the radio and see them on TV.  Eventually, the gatekeepers relented and the 1980s became the most integrated decade in music history.


Beyond the innovative music and groundbreaking short films, this is “Thriller’s” legacy. It broke down barriers, creating a new musical landscape in which artists of color were no longer relegated to the margins.  Over 30 years since it first hit record stores, it remains the defining album of a decade and one of the holy grails of pop.


Joseph Vogel is a literary, film, and music critic, cultural historian, and author of the critically­ acclaimed book “Manin the Music:The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson” 2011). He holds a PhD. from the University of Rochester in American Literature and Culture. His work has been featured  in “The Atlantic,”  “Slate,” the “Huffington Post” and PopMatters,and is forthcoming in “The Journal of Popular Culture”and the “Journal of Popular Music Studies.

* The views expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Library of Congress.



When Michael Moonwalked: Motown 25 Said Hi And Goodbye To Two Generations

Sources: AV Club – By Noel Murray | Edited By – All Things Michael


Michael Jackson moonwalked in public for the first time on March 25, 1983, in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, with showbiz bigwigs in the balcony and an audience of dedicated Motown fans filling the orchestra seats. The rest of the country would get the chance to see Jackson scoot backward nearly two months later, on May 16, 1983, when NBC aired the two-hour special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. In the weeks between, director Don Mischer and producer Suzanne De Passe would deal with Jackson and his lawyers looking over their shoulder, making sure they edited his performance of “Billie Jean” to Mr. Jackson’s specifications; they’d also deal with NBC executives suggesting that they record testimonials from famous Motown fans like Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, so the show wouldn’t be “too black.”

Mischer and De Passe stuck to their guns with NBC, but let Jackson more or less have his way, and when the ratings came back, they were rewarded with “the best demographics of any special in NBC history,” according to Mischer on Time-Life and Starvista’s new Motown 25 DVD set. The day after the show aired, Mischer was at The White House to supervise a Barbara Walters special about the Reagans, and he says that even people who had no idea he directed Motown 25 were walking up to him and saying, “Did you see Michael Jackson on TV last night?”

The Michael Jackson moonwalk is the moment everyone remembers best fromMotown 25, but the whole special occupies an odd place in pop culture history, in ways that even the hours of bonus features on the Time-Life/Starvista set don’t really acknowledge. The special gave Jackson a cultural boost that he may or may not have needed—depending on who’s recounting the Legend Of The Moonwalk—but it undeniably revived interest in the Motown back catalog, which would become as much a part of the soundtrack of the 1980s as it was in 1960s. The real question is whether Motown 25 changed the label from an active part of modern music into an archive for Hollywood producers and advertisers to raid for cheap nostalgia.

As for how Motown 25 itself comes across today, it’s a curious mix of frank history and variety-show goofiness, liberally sprinkled with electrifying reunions. In the DVD featurettes, De Passe recalls the layers of agents, managers, lawyers, and bookers Motown Productions had to fight through to get the talent to agree to appear, and actually watching the special now feels similarly sluggish. Make it through a disappointingly lifeless performance by host Richard Pryor (reduced to reading someone else’s dumb jokes off a teleprompter), sidestep the corny Lester Wilson Dancers numbers (which look like outtakes from some old Sonny & Cher or Donny & Marie show), and listen past the over-orchestrated, thumpless musical backing (sorely lacking the presence of Motown’s “Funk Brothers,” who weren’t invited to the party), and the reward is a modest collection of moments like the charming “battle of the bands” between The Four Tops and about half of the original Temptations.

There are a few Motown 25 highlights besides Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Mischer says that Stevie Wonder almost didn’t show up because his assistants didn’t realize the taping was a one-night-only event, yet both Wonder and a pre-taped Lionel Richie—two old-guard Motown hitmakers who were still with the label and still thriving on the pop charts—have two of the special’s most touching moments: Richie singing a tender ballad to a 6-year-old girl with sickle-cell anemia and Wonder’s voice cracking as he thanks Motown and the fans for giving a poor, blind, black kid an unlikely career.

But the badass of all badasses in Motown 25 is Marvin Gaye, then in the middle of a late-career comeback with the hit “Sexual Healing” (recorded for another label), and just a couple of months removed from an emotional appearance at the NBA All-Star Game, where he sang a Gaye-ified version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Gaye would be a dead a year later, murdered by his father. Here, though, he comes across as vital, and even a little dangerous, as he sits at the piano and recites a speech about the decades of struggle black artists experienced before Motown, and then rises to sing “What’s Going On.” Gaye looks like he’s ready at any moment to stalk off the stage, and that tension makes it all the sweeter when he coos his way through his best-known song.

DeBarge and High Inergy, trotted out to represent Motown’s new breed, don’t fare nearly as well, coming across exactly like the here-today/gone-tomorrow pop readymades that they’d turn out to be. And Motown 25’s slate of special guest stars runs the gamut from smart (Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid reprising their DJ characters from WKRP In Cincinnati) to oh-so-1980s (motor-mouthed commercial pitchman John Moschitta). Linda Ronstadt sings beautifully in a duet with Smokey Robinson. And José Feliciano? You got no complaints. But when Adam Ant leaps across the stage like a time-traveling renaissance court jester, gulping his way through a jaw-droppingly awful rendition of “Where Did Our Love Go,” not even an unplanned cameo by a strutting, sexy Diana Ross can salvage the segment.

Yet even the worst of Motown 25 provides the proper context for Michael Jackson, who stuns the crowd about halfway through the show.

Here are some key facts to keep in mind about Jackson’s Motown 25performance:

  • Though Motown 25 is often credited with turning Jackson into a phenomenon, when Jackson recorded the show “Billie Jean” was already the No. 1 song in the country (his second consecutive Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper fromThriller, following the Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine”); “Beat It” was No. 1 by the time the special aired; and Thriller itself had been the BillboardNo. 1 album for several weeks before the taping (supplanting Men At Work’sBusiness As Usual, which topped the charts for the first eight weeks of 1983). The album retained the top spot throughout the weeks of editing, and it was still No. 1 both when Motown 25 aired and for about two months following. It would continue to be the No. 1 album off and on all year, replaced periodically by the Flashdance soundtrack, The Police’s Synchronicity, Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, and Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. (All told, only six albums reached Billboard’s No. 1 spot in 1983.)
  • Jackson’s appearance on Motown 25 doesn’t begin and end with “Billie Jean.” He first comes out onstage alongside his brothers, doing some of their old moves during a medley. The crowd flips the hell out for the whole Jackson 5 segment—especially when Jermaine’s microphone goes dead during “I’ll Be There” and Michael illustrates the meaning of the song by grabbing his brother’s hand and sharing his own mic. The audience then goes from excited to absolutely bonkers when the brothers leave the stage and the familiar opening beats of “Billie Jean” begin.
  • Jackson lip-synchs “Billie Jean,” and not well. The close-ups on his face during the song almost break the spell of his performance, because his mouth movements are so out-of-step with the lyrics.
  • Jackson moonwalks twice during “Billie Jean.” Each time, the move barely lasts one second.

As someone who watched Motown 25 when it originally aired, I can attest that the “Billie Jean” performance—and the two combined seconds of moonwalking—was a true “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” monocultural moment. The kids at school were talking about it the next day. My dad—who favored bluegrass and jazz fusion over pop and R&B—gushed over it. For all of NBC’s fears that Motown 25 wouldn’t connect with a wide enough (or white enough) audience, it became something that nearly everybody was talking about that summer.

The aftereffects of Motown 25 followed very different paths, though. NBC, apparently now convinced that “a black show” could cross over, greenlit The Cosby Show for the fall of 1984. Older Motown acts like The Temptations and The Four Tops started touring again on the nostalgia circuit, while the label released a slew of budget-priced “25th Anniversary” compilations on cassette and the new medium of compact disc, raking in enough money to cover the production costs of Motown 25 several times over. On September 28, 1983, the movie The Big Chillopened, using a Motown-heavy soundtrack to counteract the melancholy in its story of disillusioned ex-hippies. In 1986, the California Raisin Advisory Board and animator Will Vinton put the Motown classic “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” in a wildly popular commercial. In 1988, the TV series Murphy Brownand China Beach both debuted, leaning heavily on Motown songs as soulful signifiers. After Motown 25 won an Emmy and a Peabody, De Passe followed it up with a 1985 NBC special called Motown Returns To The Apollo, and then 1986’sThe Motown Revue miniseries, also for NBC. The 1980s itself became something of a living museum of Motown.

Meanwhile, over time, the Michael Jackson moonwalk moment became more divorced from its original context—just as Jackson himself seemed much bigger and more relevant than anyone he shared the stage with in Pasadena that night in March 1983. There was a different energy to Jackson’s performance than to anything else in Motown 25. Even the great Gaye and Wonder received only spirited applause, mostly from the older fans and fat-cats in the crowd. With Jackson, though, it was like a switch had turned on, both within him and within the younger members of the audience, who’d grown up with Jackson. In the years that followed, Jackson would continue to thrill the youth, and would break down racial barriers on the pop charts and on MTV that resembled what other Motown artists had faced in the 1960s.

People sometimes forget that after Jackson departs in Motown 25, there’s still about an hour of show left—much like people forget that when the United States Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union, they had to play one more game to claim the gold medal. And there’s still one more magical moment remaining inMotown 25, when Diana Ross closes the show with a very brief Supremes reunion (lasting less than a minute), then invites all the performers back to salute Motown founder Berry Gordy. On the DVD set, De Passe chokes up remembering the Motown elite embracing her boss, who’d been through some tough times, and had strained relationships with nearly everyone on that stage. It’s a tear-jerking finish, undeniably.

Motown 25 does a good job of contextualizing the label’s cultural impact via archival clips from TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and To Tell The Truth; and via a pointed Dick Clark reminiscence about the how the white and black music worlds interacted, pre-Motown. But Motown’s behind-the-scenes squabbles go undocumented, so only longtime fans would’ve gotten the significance of Ross sharing a song with the group she abandoned, or Robinson reuniting with The Miracles. Reportedly, all of the estranged old-timers were happy to see each other again, and stuck around to watch each other’s rehearsals—somewhat in the spirit of competition, just like the old days.

When they all surround Gordy at the end of Motown 25, this generation of men and women who changed popular culture and race relations, there’s a mix of genuine gratitude and showbiz schmaltz in play. It’s a necessary moment—a catharsis effected by the demands of television. But it’s also a kind of goodbye. Goodbye to Gaye, with only a year to live. Goodbye to Pryor, whose heyday was already behind him. Goodbye to the ongoing viability of Robinson and Ross, he in his early 40s and she in her late 30s, and both about to record their last big hits over the next few years. These people are legends, all of them. And yet it’s hard not to look past them on the stage, keeping an eye out for a man in a glittery coat, always asking, “So what’s Michael doing?”


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Susanne DePasse Talks More About Motown 25 DVD Release

Sources: Detroit Free Press – By Brian McCollum | All Things Michael


It was the show that sent Michael Jackson into the stratosphere, burnished Diana Ross’ diva reputation and gave Marvin Gaye a final high-profile stage.

But it took 31 years for “Motown 25″ to make it onto DVD, which will happen Tuesday when the historic broadcast is issued by TimeLife in both a three-disc set and six-disc deluxe version, with digitally restored video and a 5.1 surround mix.

“Motown 25,” celebrating the Detroit-born label’s quarter-century anniversary, was taped at L.A.’s Pasadena Civic Auditorium in March 1983 and aired two months later for an NBC audience of 47 million.

The two-hour program hit a cultural sweet spot, luring young viewers for Jackson and drawing Baby Boomers whose ’60s nostalgia was kicking into high gear. Both audiences got what they wanted: Jackson, whose “Thriller” was taking over the world that spring, served up his now-iconic moonwalk, and a host of his former Motown colleagues performed vintage stuff: Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops.

Today the notion of a “Motown family” is a staple of the Hitsville story. “Motown 25″ helped cement that concept, says producer Suzanne de Passe.

“I don’t think until ‘Motown 25′ the rest of the world really got to understand that — that regardless of anything else, the coming back together was … the bigger feeling of love and appreciation for what they had experienced together,” says de Passe, then head of Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Productions.

“It was like we all came back together for Thanksgiving dinner,” says the Tops’ Duke Fakir.

The DVD set’s bonus footage has its own charms, including little-seen rehearsals by Wonder and Gaye, who gamely endures a clunky stage lift before practicing his eloquent monologue and piano journey through black music history. Also included are taped roundtables with de Passe, director Don Mischer and artists, along with historical Motown featurettes.

A DVD release was held up for years because of song and image license clearances, says de Passe, with TimeLife’s muscle ultimately breaking the logjam. Also demanding input was Jackson’s estate, because “they have a number of their own projects going and just didn’t want to, I suspect, flood the marketplace,” she says.

With appearances by the likes of Adam Ant, DeBarge and host Richard Pryor, the show is as much a snapshot of 1983 as a celebration of Motown history. It’s also a glimpse of an era when mass, shared cultural moments could still happen on a random Monday night.

Today, “where the competition for eyeballs and interest and pocketbooks is so unbelievably competitive and there are so many choices, it seems as though that unless it’s a specific sporting event or some monumental programming, then it’s very hard to have that water cooler moment,” says de Passe.

“Motown 25″ certainly delivered its share of memorable touchstones: the musical battle between the Tempts and the Tops, Gaye’s powerful speech, Lionel Richie’s call for sickle-cell research, Gordy’s triumphant curtain call. But none loomed larger than Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean,” which introduced his moonwalk and immortalized his sequined, white-gloved image.

It almost didn’t happen: Jackson and his brothers had split Motown for Epic Records seven years earlier, and only a personal entreaty from Gordy coaxed him aboard for the night, de Passe recounts. The star’s attorneys demanded that the performance not be taped for TV, but when de Passe assured Jackson he had an editing-room veto, he was won over.

“If you see him in the finale, he’s as happy as he can be,” says de Passe.

“Motown 25″ produced another enduring talking point, one long shrouded in mystery: the Supremes’ closing reunion performance of “Someday We’ll Be Together,” with Gordy called down to take his moment onstage. You’ll get a different reading of events depending whose fans you talk to. Diana Ross supporters will tell you Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong set out to sabotage the lead singer by singing over her and mimicking her moves; Wilson fans say that Ross literally muscled her way into the spotlight.

For three decades, rumors have swirled about what really went down live at the auditorium, unaired on TV, the worst of them claiming that Ross shoved Wilson to the stage floor. The taped footage, goes the scuttlebutt, was destroyed.

Wrong, and wrong, according to de Passe. No such footage was burned, because it never existed, the producer says: Wilson, caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment, had simply jumped the gun on calling Gordy to the stage, and Ross pushed her microphone down, trying to stick with the sequence scripted by producers.

“People just seemed to blow it out of proportion,” says de Passe. “I don’t even know where it really started.”

The cameras, at that point aimed on Gordy, didn’t capture the onstage mishap, de Passe contends.

“(No footage) burned, nothing averted, no,” she says. “I think in 31 years or whatever it’s been, if we had it, we’d have used it to actually dispel the perception that there was some terrible altercation.”

“Motown 25″ created lingering effects for many participants: Jackson’s fame soared even higher. The Temptations and Four Tops got a middle-age career boost, and hit the road together. That night’s version of the Supremes never again reunited. Gaye set the stage for his summer concert tour — the last before his death the next spring. De Passe won an Emmy and was propelled to a TV career that would include the 1989 miniseries “Lonesome Dove.”

And Gordy, whose new Broadway musical portrays “Motown 25″ as a redemptive moment amid a career slump, enjoyed “a validation and a celebration of the joint accomplishments,” as de Passe puts it.

“Until the whole thing was put together,” she says, “I don’t think any of us really understood what we had all accomplished.”

Contact Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or

‘Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever’

DVD release: three-disc set ($39.98) and six-disc deluxe set ($79.95)

TimeLife/StarVista Entertainment

In stores Tuesday


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‘Motown 25′ Comes To DVD: See Exclusive Clips From The Box Set

Sources: Billboard – By Gary Graff | Edited By- All Things Michael

The mantra for bringing 1983’s iconic Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever NBC special to DVD is: better (a little bit) late than never.

Yes, 30 years would have been the optimal target for the StarVista Entertainment/Time Life set, which comes out Sept. 30 in a single-disc package, a 3-DVD set and a deluxe 6-DVD set, the latter two featuring several hours of bonus, unreleased performances and documentary features from the making of the special.

“We finally conquered… the most challenging part of releasing this, which is the clearances and the ability to do a new 5.1 Surround Sound mix,” Motown 25 producer Suzanne DePasse explained during a conference call about the release. “We’ve tried over the years, and we were always stymied by the question of who was going to take on the responsibility of the clearances. Time Life, I think, recognized that this is kind of an evergreen piece, and even though it’s 31 years later, that there would be a sufficient interest in reliving what Motown 25 was all about.”

Motown 25 was indeed a revelation, vaulting the label back into the spotlight at a time when the company — built in Detroit by Berry Gordy, Jr. to become the world’s most successful black-owned enterprise — was suffering a commercial ebb (Gordy eventually sold Motown in 1988). Filmed on March 25, 1983 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and aired May 16, the show won an Emmy Award and a George Foster Peabody Award, and had a huge viewership buzzing about its all-star performances — including Michael Jackson’s debut of his moonwalk steps during “Billie Jean” after a Jackson 5 reunion, a vocal “battle” between the Temptations and the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye’s passionate remembrance about Motown before singing “What’s Going On” and the public debut of Smokey Robinson’s Motown Company Song. Tongues also wagged about a few controversial moments, most notably the clear rancor between Diana Ross and Mary Wilson during a Supremes reunion at the end of the show.

“It was a great coming back together of what I would call the family,” the Four Tops’ Abdul “Duke” Fakir told Billboard during the same call. “It was like we all came back together for Thanksgiving dinner. We appreciated and loved every moment that we were taping, and we really felt that this was going to be extremely special.” DePasse added, “I don’t think until Motown 25 the rest of the world really got to understand that, regardless of anything else, the coming back together was the greater good and the bigger feeling of love and appreciation of what (the artists) had experienced together.”

The Motown 25 DVDs offer plenty of peeks behind the scenes of the concert. For instance, while Gaye’s performance of “What’s Going On?” and his passionate preamble were silky smooth on TV, it was anything but during the taping. “When we were looking at the rehearsal footage of Marvin Gaye, I had actually forgotten how really funny he was,” DePasse said. “He was supposed to come up on this elevator stage thing, but when you see it, it bumps and grinds and he’s sitting there on the piano. He was supposed to rise up on this piano, and the thing just wouldn’t work. His reaction to that, I had forgotten how hilarious it was… his sense of humor about ‘not going down there again’ and sort of the twinkle in his eye about that. I had clearly forgotten how sweet he was and how ridiculous the mechanics were.”

The Tempts ‘n’ Tops “duel,” meanwhile, was coordinated by Diana Ross’ musical director Gil Askey, and was another aspect of the show that took on a life of its own. “I don’t think any of us had an inkling that it was going to be what it became,” DePasse said, “because what the guys brought to it was the personality and the fun and the one-upsmanship and competition for not just the audience but for themselves. It just took on a life of its own and it really reflected the spirit of what was going on during our rehearsals.”

The two groups have been “battling” ever since, touring and performing together regularly. “After… we looked at a replay, we said, ‘This is something we need to take on the road,’ ” Fakir says. “Originally we talked about maybe Smokey (Robinson) would do it. At first he said me might, but Smokey had some other obligations and said he really couldn’t do it. So we said, ‘Well, we’ll do it alone like we did on TV,’ and we just started selling it. It’s been going just like that ever since, and it’s just absolutely amazing. It has extended both of our careers well into overtime, which I appreciate.”

The Motown 25 DVDs offer even more insights into the show via interviews with other production principals, including director/producer Don Mischer and head writer Buz Kohan, as well as Motown artists and executives. “There’s like… 700 minutes (of extras) for a two-hour show,” DePasse noted, “but that just proves to me how much people really were touched and influenced by and enjoyed the show. I’m just as pleased as punch that these years have gone by but the interest in the program has really not diminished.”



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Tavis Smiley Talks To With Berry Gordy and Suzanne de Passe About Motown 25

Source: Huffington Post – By Tavis Smiley | All Things Michael

This broadcast aired last night on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS.


I talked with Berry Gordy, the legendary founder of Motown, and Suzanne de Passe, the executive who moved the label into television and movie production, resulting in a slew of awards, including Emmys, Oscar nominations and a Peabody. One of their award-winning productions was the great television specialMotown 25, which celebrated the brilliant array of talent nurtured by Motown, and is now available in a new DVD set. The chairman had been reluctant to do this special — at the time so many of his top artists, including Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, had moved onto other labels and he resisted Suzanne’s commitment to the special, thinking his former artists wouldn’t show up.

In the clip below, the chairman and Suzanne remember the lead-up to the special and how so many of the artists Berry Gordy nurtured decided to let love rule the day and perform.

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Where Is The Motown Music Festival?

Sources: SooDetriot | All Things Michael


I rarely (if ever) leave the state of Michigan but when I do, I make sure that I’m “puttin’ on for the D” by wearing my old English “D” fitted (baseball cap). So of course last week when I took a trip to Atlanta, GA, I wore that cap proudly while garnering a bit of attention from the fellow photographers behind the scenes. I was invited by a friend to be one of the photographers for the One Music Fest and this fest featured music artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Jhene Aiko, Daley, Amel Larreaux, and many more. While speaking with one of the fellow photographers, he noticed my hat and said “Hey did you really come down here from Detroit for this?” I replied to “Well yeah I mean because in Detroit we have concerts from time to time but nothing really of this stature.” The gentleman took a step back, and with a shocked face said, “How doesn’t Motown have a music festival?” I said, “Well we do have a techno fest. I don’t know how I forgot that.” He then said with great emphasis: “I don’t think that you are getting me. Why doesn’t MOTOWN have music festival?” I looked at him, and replied with a hint of sadness in my voice, “ I don’t know but that is a VERY great question. When I find that out, I’ll get back to you.” We exchanged contact information just off the strength of networking and I headed back to the stage to capture the next artist to perform. From that walk to the stage to me creating this story, that question stuck with me. Why doesn’t MOTOWN have its’ own music festival?

While pondering this question, I started to search the origins of techno music and learn a little bit more of the history. After all, that was the first thing that came to mind when that question from the fellow photographer inquired. I already knew that Detroit was the birthplace of techno music, but what I did not know was how short the history. Techno music was created in the mid 1980s, and while there are many different genres of techno music, the style of techno music that was introduced in Detroit is widely recognized as the foundation of it. This is proven by the tremendous turnout each year to the “Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival” which is held in Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit. The festival is held every Memorial Day weekend, and has been for the past 14 years. Since 2009 the attendance has been 80,000+, with this years’ festival having attendance reaching over 107,000. It is widely recognized as one of the world’s largest electronic music festivals.

After I did my research on techno, I sat in my chair perplexed. Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and The Jackson 5 are all artists that paved a way for a great deal of the music that we listen to today. When you listen to a Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Tank, or Kanye West (on a rap level), you hear traces of these artists in their music. The photography studio turned Motown headquarters has produced a sound in the heart of Detroit for nearly 13 years before Berry Gordy relocated Motown headquarters to Los Angeles. Since 1985 “Hitsville U.S.A.” as it is dubbed, has operated as a museum that still rests at its’ original spot on 2648 West Grand Boulevard. Is a museum enough to honor the Motown legacy though? I think not.

Many cities across the country are known for different types of roles in the history and evolution of music. New Orleans & Cincinnati are known for their jazz festivals. Atlanta is being known for the many hip-hop and R&B festivals that take place during the year. Austin, Texas is known for “South by Southwest” (SXSW), and “Austin City Limits “(ACL). Now in fairness to Detroit, “Summer Jamz” and more recently, “The Big Show at The Joe” are staples in the Detroit music scene that are anticipated each year, but they are just concerts. With a city so rich in soul music due to the Motown origins, it is nearly criminal that there is not a Motown Music Festival. Take a look at the current Motown roster. Stevie Wonder is still with the label after all of these years but then you have Kem, Ne-Yo, Babyface, Mila J, Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michelle, India. Arie, and Kem. If you just took that current roster of Motown artists, and had them perform over a two-day span during a festival that celebrated the history and contributions of Motown to music, I believe that would definitely be a great starting point. Why stop there though?

There could be networking seminars with a panel of well-respected individuals in the music industry guiding indie artists on how to make it in the business. You could follow that by having a banquet at the newly renovated Cobo Hall, where it would serve as a special and intimate time to honor the legacy of Motown. To end the festival, you could have a Motown theme parade or Firework show to send everyone off as a grand finale. These may not be the greatest of ideas, but they are a few that came to mind.

The rich roots of Detroit music origins can’t be debated, but it also must not be half celebrated. With the city currently on the rise, recognizing the rich past that is has must be a part of this transition. Citizens of Detroit should not have to travel to others states to partake in music festivals featuring many of the top musical acts in our country. That should be right in our own backyard. In my personal opinion, I feel a great deal of artists should want to come and perform in Detroit. Where is music today without the contributions of Motown? Think about the fact that if there was no Motown, we may have never heard of Michael Jackson, who is recognized as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) music icon we have ever seen. Where would a Beyoncé have been if there weren’t a Diana Ross paving the way? While I don’t know if my outcry for a music festival of this magnitude will come to fruition, I do know that if you’re reading this, you’re wondering the same thing the photographer in Atlanta did.


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Pop’s Greatest Year: 100 Best Singles of 1984

Sources: Rolling Stone | Edited By – All Things Michael

Let’s go crazy! The standout songs from radio’s ‘Thriller’ season!


From Prince to Madonna to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper, 1984 was the year that pop stood tallest. New Wave, R&B, hip-hop, mascara’d hard rock and “Weird Al” Yankovic all crossed paths on the charts while a post-“Billie Jean” MTV brought them into your living room. In the spirit of this landmark year, here are the 100 best singles from the year pop popped. To be considered, the song had to be released in 1984 or have significant chart impact in 1984, and charted somewhere on the Billboard Hot 100.

93. The Jacksons feat. Mick Jagger, “State of Shock”

Hot 100 Peak: Number Three

Michael Jackson began 1984 at Number One: Thriller broke the all-time sales record, topping the month-end charts for January, February and March, and the Paul McCartney collab “Say Say Say” was the most popular single in the country for the first two weeks of the year. Sixth months later, he and his brothers scored their final group Top Five by recruiting none other than Mick Jagger to plead for a little “mouth-to-mouth re-susc-it-ation” on the arena funk “State of Shock.” Appropriately, the tune was a live favorite, performed both by Jagger (with Tina Turner) at Live Aid and during the closing medley at the Jacksons’ Victory Tour, one the highest-grossing shows of the decade.

58. Rebbie Jackson, “Centipede”

Hot 100 Peak: Number 24
As sinuous and vocally self-assured as any Jackson family record not made or fronted by Michael, his squeal-prone eldest sibling’s first and highest hit was nonetheless written and produced by him. And his repressed, tormented sexuality runs all through its slithering electro-funk: “You crawled into the bathroom window, to bite him with your love,” like a smooth criminal — only here the metaphor is a creepy-crawly arthropod with way too many legs, a “hot” one for some reason, that turns into a snake in the final verse. On Rebbie’s album, she also covered Prince’s “I Feel for You,” only a week after Chaka Khan did. The Pointer Sisters had done it two years before, actually, but Chaka won.

54. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, “Say, Say, Say”

Hot 100 Peak: Number One

In what would become one of pop’s most famous and turbulent intergenerational friendships, Paul McCartney became something of a big brother to the only pop star of the Eighties whose popularity rivaled that of the Beatles. Although their first collaboration, “The Girl Is Mine,” is mainly remembered as the weakest link in Thriller‘s chain of hits, their second duet, for Macca’s 1983 Pipes of Peace, found common ground with an uptempo rock song. It was Number One for six weeks between 1983 and 1984, and, as Billboard reported last year, the 40th biggest hit of all time.

53. “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Eat It”

Hot 100 Peak: Number 12
Even the man’s own Twitter bio acknowledges that this will forever be “Weird Al” Yankovic’s tastiest calling card. The Michael Jackson parody won him his first Grammy (for Best Comedy Recording, beating out Rodney Dangerfield and Richard Pryor) and rhymes “Raisin Bran” with “kids starving in Japan.” The video, with its non-stop barrage of visual gags, helped establish MTV (and music video as an iconic medium) almost as much as the videos it was spoofing. MJ loved it, or at least tolerated it.

25. Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me”

Hot 100 Peak: Number Two
Kennedy William Gordy was rock royalty — he was the son of Motown mastermind Berry Gordy, his middle name was gifted from Smokey Robinson’s government name and he was even brother-in-law to Jermaine Jackson at the time (not to mention he was the future half-brother of LMFAO’s Redfoo) — but he couldn’t get a record deal. Finally, his dad was all ears when Rockwell got his childhood pal Michael Jackson to sing the hook on his first (and biggest) single “Somebody’s Watching Me.” It’s hard to guess how far it would have gone without MJ’s help, but the single was a great midpoint between Eighties R&B and Eighties New Wave regardless: It had the vibes of Men at Work’s paranoia anthem “Who Can It Be Now?,” a touch of electro and verses that Rockwell delivered like a cockney David Byrne.

5. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”

Hot 100 Peak: Number Four
In the worst of all possible alternative universes, songwriter Rod Temperton stuck with his original title: “Starlight.” Fortunately, in our happier, weirder world he went with “Thriller.” The final hit single from the blockbuster album that popped out seven of them (starting way back in October of 1982) is a perfect mix of campy winks and genuine chills, aided spooktacularly by a synth bass that’s even creepier than Vincent Price luxuriating in the word “evil.” The music video for “Thriller” was also quite popular.

Read and listen to the full listing here