Michael Jackson Featured In June Issue Of Ebony’s Black Music Month Special Tribute


May is Black Music Month and EBONY is celebrating the accomplishments of pioneers in the entertainment field who have paved the way for the game changers in today’s music industry. The article entitled, “Black Music’s Bosses, Legends, and Game Changers”  was written by Kevin Powell. 

“It was an honor to write the four cover stories for EBONY magazine’s Black Music Month special collector’s edition, and to also pen the additional four mini-features inside,” said Powell. “Rarely do you see today’s unstoppable stars like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West and Jay Z packaged with legends like Tina Turner, Donna Summer or Tupac Shakur, but we did it because when it comes to Black music, it is important to note the deep connection between the musicians of yesterday and today.” 

The 25-page, special collector’s issue, has four different covers with Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye as they fall into four categories: “Diva,” “Mogul,” “Rebel,” and “Poet.”

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Artists are spotlighted in comparison such as: Michael Jackson and James Brown, Beyonce and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye and Usher, Tupac and Kanye, Beyonce and Tina Turner, Prince and Jimi Hendrix, Lauryn Hill and Simone, Mary J. Blige and Billie Holiday and others.


Michael Jackson and James Brown – The Kings (Excerpt)

Take away James Brown and Michael Jackson from American music, and you actually take away generations of artists, musicians, producers, songwriters and a rainbow coalition of fans.

Michael often said  there would have been no him had it not been for James. He didn’t lie. James truly was the first multigenerational Black pop star we ever had. From “Please, Please, Please” in the 1950s to those soulful tracks hip-hop bboys and bgirls went bananas over in the 70s and 80s–hell, to this day –there ain’t a groove or kind of artist JB did not impact. The Godfather of Soul was a singer, songwriter, arranger, bandleader.  In fact, it was his ” I Got That Feelin'” that 10-year-old Michael sang while dancing like his idol for the Jackson 5’s Motown audition, the audition that launched the group.

But if James opened up the mainstream door with his Jim Crow informed Blackness, then Michael blew it off its hinges and didn’t stop until he became the King of Pop. We knew there was something special about the skinny kid.

We got a whiff of how truly special he was when 21-year-old Michael dropped Off The Wall on us in 1979.  But no one could have predicted the impact of Thriller, a singular event in the world’s music history.  The night MJ moonwalked across the stage at Motown’s 25th anniversary celebration in March 1983 as he sang, “Billie Jean,” you just knew something was about to change.

Whereas James was our raw, unapologetic Blackness, Michael  was our unapologetic humanity, Black or White or all the colors in between.

The June issue is on newsstands now.

Source: Ebony Magazine / All Things Michael

Michael Jackson Album Guests Timberlake, Mary J. Blige

Source: MJ-Upbeat & New York Post – By Richard Johnson


Justin Timberlake, Questlove, D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige all guest-star on the new Michael Jackson album, “Xscape,” according to Aaron Reid, who did A&R on the posthumous project.

The album, pieced together with unused music from various recording sessions, will be released May 13. The first single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” drops Thursday.

As for where the songs came from, “Michael Jackson didn’t trust anyone with his music. He stopped finishing songs,” said Aaron, “He had a whole bunch of material stored away. He had hooks. He had verses. Then we put it together.”

Aaron is the 24-year-old son of Epic Records mogul L.A. Reid and R&B singer/music manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid (who, as I reported last week, has filed suit against Viacom over the “defamatory” portrayal of her in a 2013 VH1 movie about girl group TLC, who she once represented). For the Jackson album, he worked closely with his father and executive producer Timbaland, and hired StarGate,

Jerome “Jroc” Harmon and Rodney Jerkins to produce the eight songs. Guitarist Jesse Johnson, best known as a member of the Time, plays on the album.

Critics say Jackson, who died nearly five years ago, didn’t finish the songs because he didn’t think they were good enough. They say the lawyers running Jackson’s estate are just trying to cash in on his enduring fans.

But Aaron said making the album was “an amazing process. Michael Jackson is my favorite artist of all time. With this project, I got to carry on his legacy and even to contribute to it. There’s nothing like it.”

Article: http://pagesix.com/2014/04/30/michael-jackson-album-guests-justin-timberlake-mary-j-blige/


Read more: http://home.mj-upbeat.com/2014/05/01/michael-jackson-album-guests-timberlake-mary-j-blige/

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Relive The 10 Most Iconic Grammys Performances

Source: Huffington Post – April Sperry

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With stars like Taylor Swift, Marc Anthony, Lorde and Dave Grohl on deck to perform at the 56th Grammy Awards, this year’s show is sure to be full of impressive numbers. The Grammys have hosted many different types of performances throughout the years, from tour-worthy, choreographed routines with impressive sets to theatrics-free ballads that stun the audience into silence.

Get ready for the 2014 lineup by reliving the 10 most iconic performances from Grammys past:

Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror

It’s not surprising that the King of Pop would give a noteworthy performance, but Jackson’s 10-minute 1988 performance of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man in the Mirror” was truly memorable. Breaking out many of his legendary dance moves, Jackson belted hit tunes before a rapt audience.

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven

Two years after the tragic death of his four-year-old son, Clapton performed a moving rendition of “Tears in Heaven” at the 1993 Grammys. He sang the tune, which reflects upon the grief he encountered in the wake of his son’s death, on a simple and unpretentious stage, letting his voice resonate through the hall. He won six awards on the night of his performance, three of them for “Tears in Heaven.” 

Aretha Franklin – Nessun Dorma

Luciano Pavarotti was slated to perform Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammys, but he canceled at the last minute due to an illness. Franklin stepped in to take over for the famed tenor and sing the stunning “Turnadot” aria accompanied by a full orchestra. Her performance stole the show and undoubtedly made Pavarotti proud.

Eminem and Elton John – Stan

Eminem and Elton John joined forces at the 2001 Grammys with powerful execution of the rapper’s hit song “Stan.” At the time, Eminem was under fire because his album, “The Marshall Mathers LP,” contained homophobic and misogynistic language. John agreed to perform with Eminem at the awards show in order to reinforce the idea that the songs on the album were not representative of Eminem’s true beliefs.

Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil’ Kim and Mya – Lady Marmalade

The quartet of lady singers pulled out all the stops for a performance of “Lady Marmalade” at the 2002 Grammys. With seriously intricate costumes and an elevated stage, they sang a perfectly over-the-top rendition of the “Moulin Rouge” hit. Missy Elliott and Patti LaBelle joined the ladies onstage for the number, adding even more star power to the unforgettable performance.

Mary J. Blige – No More Drama

Mary J. Blige sang her heart out at the 2002 Grammys. She belted out the hit song “No More Drama” without any theatrics, clad in a simple, shimmering suit. The passion and intensity she brought to the performance garnered a standing ovation from the crowd.

Beyoncé and Tina Turner – Proud Mary

Musical icon Tina Turner returned to the stage after a long hiatus to perform “Proud Mary” with Beyonce at the 2008 Grammys. Beyonce introduced Turner as “the Queen,” but the performance proved that they might have to share the crown. An upbeat choreographed number brought together two pop and R&B icons for a particularly exciting rendition of Turner’s song.

Pink – Glitter in the Air

In 2010, Pink performed a showstopping rendition of “Glitter in the Air.” She sang while perilously twirling high above the stage in a Cirque du Soleil-inspired acrobatic routine. In lieu of glitter, her body sprayed water droplets through the air as she spun. Even while upside down and turning in circles, she didn’t miss a single note. Now that’s a performance! 

Adele – Rolling in the Deep

She’s back, baby! After undergoing throat surgery in 2011, fans were left wondering whether Adele would ever regain her soulful voice. She put those fears to rest at the 2012 Grammys with a rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” that proved her voice was recovering quite well. Adele won six awards that evening, making this performance the cherry on top of her ultra-successful sundae.

Jennifer Hudson – I Will Always Love You

When Whitney Houston died the day before the Grammys in 2012, producers called upon Jennifer Hudson to perform a tribute with Houston’s signature song “I Will Always Love You.” Even on such short notice, Hudson was able to pull together a moving rendition of the song that brought audience members to their feet for a much-deserved standing ovation.


Mary J Blige: I Wanted To Marry Michael Jackson

Sources: Yahoo/ Cover Media/ The Citizen


 Mary J. Blige was so in love with Michael Jackson growing up she thought they’d marry.

The R&B star had a major crush on the late King of Pop when she was a teenager. Even at 42 the singer can instantly remember the depth of her feelings, admitting she believed they were destined to be together.

“As a kid, I was in love with Michael Jackson, and I just knew I was going to marry him someday,” she told Us Weekly.

Mary has been discussing her festive record A Mary Christmas a lot of late and is proud to have shown she can be a big band singer with the release.

She stopped short of saying whether her family will listen to the album over the holidays, although Mary did open up about their rituals.

“I don’t stuff the turkey!” she laughed to British newspaper The Guardian. “I have a chef, and my mom and sister help. I wrap presents, but I leave the cooking to everyone else. We get a Christmas tree in, and on the night the tree goes up, we all relax and look at the lights. On Christmas Day itself it’s food, friends, presents, lights.”

One thing that’s certain is that Mary won’t be indulging in a Christmas tipple this year. She quit drinking following the death of her friend Whitney Houston last year. The singer struggled with addiction during her life and cocaine use played a part in her death, with Mary deeply affected by her funeral.

“Being that close to someone you loved so dearly, in a coffin – it freaked me out. It made me realise the importance of my own life,” she explained. “I didn’t stop [drinking] overnight; it was a process, and then it was a dead stop. I feel great right now. I feel wonderful. I have more clarity, more focus, more patience. And I lost weight – it flies off. It’s all water weight, all the sugar in the alcohol, and when you stop, it flies off.”

The star and her husband Martin Kendu Isaacs will celebrate their tenth anniversary next month and even that won’t tempt the star to raise a glass. She plans to sip ginger ale to mark the occasion, insisting that’s all she needs.

Mary nearly didn’t become a singer as she was so good at doing people’s hair and thought she would end up doing that full time.

She added to Us Weekly magazine: ”Growing up, I was the preferred hairstylist for all of my friends.

The star also talked about her backstage rituals and how she always has a soothing drink to help loosen and warm up her vocal cords before giving a concert.

She said: ”I still get nervous about singing. I drink tea with honey and lemon before every concert. And I need to have scented candles in all of my hotel rooms.”




Mary J Blige: The Music Industry Profits From Stars’ Deaths

Source: The London Evening Standard – Alister Foster


Mary J Blige has claimed that the music industry pushes its stars too hard as she spoke out about the deaths of her friends Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse.

The 42-year-old singer spoke candidly of her battle with drug abuse, claiming that she was close to death when at her lowest ebb 15 years ago.

She described the public demise of Winehouse as “painful to watch” and attending Houston’s funeral as “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do”. In an interview with ES magazine, she said: “She [Whitney] was such a gift from God, such a star — her voice was like no other. Same with Michael Jackson: two such amazing gifts. And no one was there for them.

“You have thousands of people around you because you’re this big star, but no one around you really cares. I saw a tragic situation coming for me and I looked around and saw that nobody cared, not really.

“They were happy for me to suffer, to drink myself to death, as long as they were getting what they needed. The industry makes its money on people’s demise.”

Blige said she turned to drugs and alcohol when she came out of an abusive relationship with K-Ci Hailey of the R & B group Jodeci. She said: “The way I was living, I should have been dead. For a long time I didn’t think I was attractive, even though people would say I was. Because we don’t love ourselves enough, we hang out with the wrong people, we go out with the wrong guys, because we don’t believe that we deserve better.

“All the money and fame in the world couldn’t change what was going on in my heart. That’s how messed up I was, and how depressed I was. I was drinking, I was doing drugs, so I couldn’t even feel or see anything, and that made it alright for the moment, until I had to come down and look for some more.

“One day I was in Tampa, Florida, I’d been partying the night before, and I was just feeling horrible. I could feel myself slipping away. And I thought, ‘I don’t want to slip away because of alcohol and drugs and loneliness’. I was losing my voice, I was dying and I prayed, ‘God, Lord, I need to change, help me change’.”

The change came with the help of her manager Martin Kendu Isaacs, whom she married in 2003. She now campaigns against domestic violence, although she says she cannot teach women, adding: “You’ve just got to be an example. You have to try and walk it, you have to try and live it.”



Photo Gallery: Michael Jackson One Costume Sketches

Source: Live Design

Fashion designer Zaldy Goco* created the hundreds of costumes for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE, based on Jackson’s iconic fashion looks, reimagining the hats and jackets seen on tour or in music video to Jackson’s signature-syle gloves. One of Goco’s challeges was working with the dancers and acrobats, many of whom also wear harnesses that have to be seamlessly integrated into the costumes. Goco dicusses the design process in this short video, and Live Design has an exclusive gallery of his costume sketches.

Zaldy Goco on the costume design for Cirque du Soleil’s IMMORTAL tour also celebrating the music of Michael Jackson.

*Zaldy Coco is one of New York’s most celebrated and innovative designers.  Since 2001 he has created custom looks for entertainment icons such as Michael Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Will I. Am, Rufus Wainwright, Scissor Sisters, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Halle Berry, Parker Posey, Gabourey Sidebe, and Mick Jagger among others. In 2009 Zaldy was named head designer for Michael Jackson’s This Is It concert series as well as Lady Gaga’s first North American Monster Ball Tour. He was the man behind Gwen Stefani’s label L.A.M.B. collaborating with Stefani for nearly four years while maintaining his namesake label. Michael Jackson ONE is his second collaboration with Cirque du Soleil since Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour.


Jimmy Jam to Present Keynote Address At The Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention

Source: Radio World/AES


The 135th Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York City will feature a keynote address by five-time Grammy Award winner and songwriter, record producer, musician, entrepreneur Jimmy Jam on Oct. 18.

He will give an 11 a.m. presentation entitled “The Current and Future Direction of the Recording Process From an Artist, Engineer and Producer’s Perspective.”

A release explained that the address will focus on the current and future direction of the recording process. As a songwriter, artist, producer and engineer, he will give a bird’s-eye view of how various industry “personalities” interact and contribute to the overall final product, and how technology has evolved and what it has meant to Jam’s craft.

“Of course it all starts with a great song, but then, it’s important to consider how and what technology should be used to capture that creativity,” said Jam. “It’s that intersection between the technology and creativity that I have always looked at every day throughout my career. Ultimately, it’s my job as an artist/producer to have those two elements meet and not crash — and that’s when you’re using the available technology to capture the artist in their purest form.”

Since forming their company Flyte Tyme Productions in 1982, Jam and partner Terry Lewis have collaborated with artists as Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Rod Stewart, Yolanda Adams, Sting, Heather Headley, Usher, Celine Dion, Kanye West, Chaka Khan and Trey Songz, among others. Jam and Lewis have written and/or produced over 100 albums and singles that have reached gold, platinum, multi-platinum, or diamond status, including 26 No. 1 R&B and 16 No. 1 pop hits, giving the pair more Billboard No. 1s than any other duo in chart history.

Friday, October 18, 11:00 am — 12:00 pm (Room 1E15/16), Jacob Javits Center, NY.



Exclusive MJFC Interview With Tommy “O”

Source: The Michael Jackson Fan Club

Several weeks ago we asked you to send us your questions for an exclusive MJFC interview with guitarist and recording artist Tommy “O” Organ. Since Tommy was touring with The Jacksons on their worldwide Unity Tour 2012-2013 as lead guitarist all over the planet he was very busy but finally we were able to carry out the interview. 

As you surely remember Tommy “O” was hired as a guitarist for the ‘This Is It’ tour and he appeared in the “This Is It” movie where he was featured in the rehearsal footage. And during his career Tommy has worked with many other top performers, including Janet Jackson, Usher, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Toni Braxton, TLC, and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.


MJFC: Tommy, thank you very much for this interview and for agreeing to answer questions from Michael’s fans. Before we get to their questions, can you please tell us a little bit about your background first? You started playing guitar at the age of 5, right?

Tommy: Yes, I started actually playing songs at age 5 but I picked up my deceased father’s guitar at age 3. My mom encouraged me to continue to play telling me “You sound good, Tommy”!

MJFC: How did you become a professional lead and rhythm guitarist?

Tommy: My grandfather told me to learn to play all kinds of music and said if it sounds good play it. My uncles listened to Santana and Gino Vanelli. My Grandfather listened to country. They are and actually my family is musically inclined. My professionalism comes through God in the name of Jesus Christ. Longevity and playing different genres make your lifespan in music last longer.

MJFC: Who were your early musical influences and idols?

Tommy: My early influences and idols were Gino Vanelli, Stanley Clarke, Al Demiola, Raymond Gomez, B. B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Neil Shine (Journey), Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), KISS, Styx, Jimi Hendrix, Listen to all musicians and you can glean something from each one. (Even if it really isn’t your forte). Listen to the legends, each has a special sound and know who they are. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t play like someone you admire. You have to know who you are and what you want to be.

MJFC: How would you describe your personal style in music?

Tommy: From learning different genres of music I learned to find who I am and I came to find me through different artists and fusing a few notes from each one. You have to learn from legendary guitar players. I like to describe my personal style as a funky mix of rock and roll and blues. When I play, people have said to me “You’re bad” and I say “I’m okay“ and they say “you’re better than okay” and I say “I know!”. The audiences tell me “I felt like you were trying to tell me something”.

What they (and you) hear is my soul singing out and what you feel is the beat of my heart. It’s all me, even if I’m playing someone else’s music, you’re getting true Tommy O.

MJFC: You are on a worldwide tour with The Jacksons. What are your plans for the future?

Tommy: I am working on my own solo project which is a rock and roll compilation. I’ve finally realized being with a legend like MJ I finally believe in myself that I’m on my way to doing Tommy O. Look forward to it, I hope I can satisfy everyone’s heart and soul.

Yes, it’s an honor to play with the legendary Jackson 5, I still call them the Jackson 5! My future plans include continuing the tour with them in Europe through April and then other parts of the globe the rest of the year.

Come check us out, you won’t be disappointed. The complete tour schedule can be found at www.facebook.com/TommyOrganFanPage.

Sandra: Did Michael direct you on your playing?

Tommy: Never. He always liked the way I played and I was honored for that.

Claudia: Did MJ want the classic sound or wanted some innovations from the band members in terms of interpretation of the songs?

Tommy: No, never interpretations of the songs, the best was to listen to it over and over again. When you do that, you could find that you thought you knew it and the more you hear it, you would find something different.

Michael was looking for the feeling. Once a hit, always a hit. Learn it for what it is, simple is awesome as long as you put your heart into it. Simple guitar parts must have heart and soul and that’s what Michael liked in an artist. That’s what he saw in me and again, I’m honored for that.

Jannelle (USA):  Did [Michael] have a big sense of humor in rehearsal?

Tommy: Sure he did! I remember seeing him with a prototype of a spider and he got in it like it was a ride and was told “Michael, it’s not a ride” and he laughed at himself. Michael was the most funloving, beautiful and adventurous human I’ve ever met.

Gamelle (Liverpool, UK) & Denzel: What was your best memory of you and Michael Jackson in rehearsals and why?

Tommy: On “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”. I went to the front of the stage and played the lead line and looked him in his eyes and he looked me back we both smiled.

Abigail: What were the most surprising things Michael Jackson did during rehearsal? What was it like performing with guitarist Orianthi?

Tommy: The most surprising things Michael Jackson did during rehearsal was when he wanted me to jump off the very top of the riser which was really high. I told MJ I had a change of heart and he laughed because he was like, I don’t blame you Tommy.

It was great, I was honored to stand next to Orianthi, she’s an awesome guitar player.

Lauren (USA):  Tommy, I’ve always wanted to know what you saw and felt when you looked in Michael’s eyes?  You referenced that experience in This Is It.

Tommy: I saw a godly powerful spirit and I saw that he wanted love and I gave him that love back.

On “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, he asked me could I move and I told him there’s a lot of notes and I don’t want to play any bad notes. We stared at one another and I said to myself : ‘This is MICHAEL JACKSON’ and he smiled and I smiled back. My career is confirmed and he walked past me with thumbs up like ‘That’s it Tommy’. Lol!

Valerie: You have worked with Michael on many tours. Which one was your favorite and why?

Tommy: TII was my first tour with Michael, I have worked with the Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation Tour, Randy Jackson on his Band of the Gypsies album, and Marlon Jackson on The Top of the Pops. But this was my first time working with Michael.

Linda: What was your favorite thing about Michael that made you go, damn, he is so good?

Tommy: His whole demeanor, sensitivity, meaning about healing the world. He really meant it, that was really him, he was not just saying that.

Martha: In several interviews with Michael’s family it has been suggested Michael was being forced or manipulated by forces against his will to do the “This Is It” concerts. Having rehearsed with him, could you compare his presence and comment on his level of enthusiasm, energy and attitude during the rehearsal process for “This Is It?

Tommy: Yes, he had all the enthusiasm he always had. He wanted to do this last concert for his fans.

Martine (Antwerp, Belgium): I still wonder if the tour ‘This Is It’ wasn’t putting too much stress on Michael. [Do] you think he could have done the 5o concerts with his condition?

Tommy: Yes, I believe he absolutely could have done those shows.

MJFC: You were on your way to rehearse with Michael when you heard about his death?

Tommy: Yes.

MJFC: You also took part in the MJ tribute concert in Cardiff (UK) in 2011. Was it tough to perform?

Tommy: It brought back many memories so it was bittersweet. I was honored to be a part of a tribute to my hero and an icon.

Lauren (USA):  What did you learn from working with Michael that you carry forward in your current work?

Tommy: I learned humility. Each day I go to church because the church is in me. Michael displayed this type of spirituality every time that I saw him and I want to continue to do the same. It may be a smile, handshake, hug or saying hello to someone, but each gesture can make a difference – love and kindness, that’s what I want to exhibit.

MJFC: If you had to describe Michael with 3 words what would these be?

Tommy: Humble, ingenious, loving.

MJFC: What do you think made Michael such an exceptional and outstanding artist? What will be his impact in history?

Tommy: Michael was intelligent and learned by teaching others, as well as taught through learning. I hope you understand what I’m saying. His impact on history will be the legacy of talent (music, dance) and charity. You should see his kids, they are amazing, well-rounded and smart.

Valerie: If there is one thing that you would like the world to know about Michael Jackson, what would that be?

Tommy: I have a great relationship with the Lord and I want the world to know that Michael did too. I believe that God welcomed him into heaven with “Job, well done, Michael.”