Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Michael Jackson Tribute

I received Michael Jackson's Thriller album for Christmas in 1982... I was 11 at the time and even though I was young and I didn't recognize it at the time, listening to this album was really a life-changing experience. I played Thriller from side to side and with the help of the included lyrics on the inner sleeve, memorized all the songs... uh...except for "The Lady In My Life" which in my 11 year old opinion was the only weak spot on the whole thing...but I digress. At the time my family lived in a rural area that had yet to witness the miracle of cable television and no matter how hard I longed to plaster myself in front of MTV, my only taste of the then emerging music video was on a weekly late-night program that aired on NBC called Friday Night Videos. Now there were two sure-fire ways of making my weekend when I was a kid; one was earning enough allowance to buy some top 40 pop 45s at the local K-Mart and two was getting to see a "world premier" Michael Jackson video on Friday Night Videos. I remember how much I was amazed by "Billie Jean" and the light-up sidewalks, Michael's pairings with Paul McCartney on "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say, Say, Say," and of course the super cool dancing zombies in "Thriller" and the fact that watching it was like watching a mini movie... I still think that "Thriller" is the greatest music video ever created and I put it right up there with A-Ha's "Take On Me" as my two all-time favorites... okay I know I'm probably saying too much and a lot of you may be appalled by my frankness in admitting that I was into Top 40 music but in all seriousness, we all had to start somewhere.

Michael Jackson was a huge part of my musical education and for that I'm forever grateful for his musical genius and talent... I want to remember Michael for what he meant to me as a kid and not let those unsavory episodes of his more recent past that filled tabloids and in turn left him the butt of many jokes cloud my memory. Regardless of his personal life and problems, Michael Jackson was an amazing entertainer and I think we all can recognize that...

Now what's this gotta do with reggae music you ask? Read on...

What you're gonna hear... we start it off with Derrick Lara and Trinity with the tune "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" from a 12" on the Joe Gibbs label from 1980... like the original, a real bad-ass tune.

We follow that up with the man Little Kirk and his rather soulful interpretation of "Man In The Mirror" and it comes from his 1990 album Can It Be Me on the RAS Records label.

Peter Metro is up next with his glowing tribute to Michael from "back in the day," this one is called "Visit Of Michael Jackson" and recounts a dream in which Metro envisions a visit to Jamaica from the then-reigning king of popular music. This one comes from his 1986 LP on the Black Solidarity label called The DJ Don.

Junior Reid gives us his version of Michael's "Human Nature" and it's called "Junior Nature" and is taken from his 1985 LP Original Foreign Mind on the Black Roots label.

Next up is Wayne Wade and his cover of Michael's 1991 hit "Heal The World" - Wayne's version is riding the wicked Donovan Germain/Penthouse records produced General riddim from 1992. A smooth cover!

Yellowman and Peter Metro take jabs at each other, in place of Michael and Paul McCartney, when they fight for bragging rights with their version of "The Girl Is Mine," from a 1984 single on the Dynamite label. An interesting note about this tune... it was banned from the Jamaican airwaves because Yellow and Metro altered the original "doggone girl is mine" to "goddamn girl is mine."

Lord Sassafras or Sassa Fras, if you prefer, is up next with his tribute to Michael Jackson with a record called "ABC." Sassa basically covers all aspects of MJ's career and all the aspects that endeared him to so many back in the early 80's. This tune comes from a 1985 7" produced by Maurice Johnson on his Black Scorpio label and riding the wicked Answer riddim. In my opinion, one of the best Michael Jackson tunes but... I am biased toward anything on this riddim.

The man named Shinehead follow it up with his tune "Billy Jean" which is obviously his interpretation of MJ's original... with a little change in the spelling of Billie, in order to avoid any confusion. This is a pretty smooth digital tune and sticks pretty close to Michael's original, besides the nod to Ennio Morricone at the beginning of the track. "Billy Jean" originally appeared on Shinehead's 1986 LP Rough And Rugged originally released on the African Love Music label.

Yellowman is up with his solo tribute to Jackson with his tune called "Beat It" lifted off his George Phang produced 1985 CD Galong Galong Galongon Greensleeves.

Finally, we'll top it all off with a tune from last year, which I heard for the first time the other day and added at the last minute, by the man Tarrus Riley and it's his cover of "Human Nature."