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This month we celebrate the life and legacy of Prince Tags: legacy prince celebrate life death word life production new quality entertainment

Prince ( June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

Prince arrived on the scene in the late Seventies, and it didn’t take long for him to upend the music world with his startling music and arresting demeanor. He rewrote the rulebook, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties. Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone. From the beginning, Prince and his music were androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative. His colorful image and revolutionary music made Prince a figure comparable in paradigm-shifting impact to Little RichardJames BrownJimi Hendrix and George Clinton. While 1999Purple Rain and Sign ‘O’ the Times remain Prince’s best-known albums, the artist’s deep discography is full of funky treasure.

To understand Prince, one must appreciate the extent of his musical obsession. He has always been a willing servant of his tireless muse. “There’s not a person around who can stay awake as long as I can,” he claimed in a 1985 interview. “Music is what keeps me awake.” Because he is a workaholic, it’s difficult to keep track of all he’s recorded for himself and others in his orbit. There are reputedly hundreds of unreleased songs in Prince’s vault. In 1998, he unveiled some of these leftovers on the five-CD set, Crystal Ball. That leviathan followed Emancipation (1996), a three-disc set of new material. The single discs Chaos and Disorder (1996) and New Power Soul (1998) also came out during the same time frame. That’s 10 CDs’ worth of music in a three-year period – much more material than most artists manage in a lifetime – and it doesn’t even include albums by Chaka Khan (Come 2 My House) and Graham Central Station (GCS 2000) on which Prince played a major role. Given such prolific output, it doesn’t take long to realize that Prince isn’t just a musician but a force of nature.

One must also accept the fact that Prince is a genuine American eccentric who defiantly marches to the beat of his own funky drummer. Consider that in 1993 he changed his name from Prince to an unpronounceable cipher: a hybrid of the symbols for male and female. He was thereafter referred to (at his own suggestion) as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” or simply “The Artist.”

“I follow what God tells me to do,” Prince explained. “It said, ‘Change your name,’ and I changed my name to a symbol ready for Internet use before I knew anything about the Internet.” In May 2000, he went back to being Prince. Although his motivations may sometimes seem mysterious, Prince is never uninteresting and always capable one more hit record or a return to stardom.

Purple RainAround the World in a DayBatman, and Diamonds and Pearls have sold more than 2 million copies apiece. Purple Rain alone sold 13 million copies and topped the album charts for nearly half a year at the height of Prince’s reign in the mid-Eighties. As Rolling Stone contended in 1989, “Perhaps more than any other artist, Prince called the tune for pop music in the Eighties, imprinting his Minneapolis sound on an entire generation of musicians both black and white.”

Prince Rogers Nelson was born and raised in Minneapolis. He was named after his jazz musician father. The product of a broken home, Prince found refuge in music. By his early teens he’d mastered multiple instruments and was fronting his first band, Grand Central. A demo tape by the young prodigy resulted in major-label interest, and an 18-year-old Prince signed to Warner Bros., insisting on the right to self-produce. His first two albums, For You (1978) and Prince (1979), unveiled a budding genius and one-man band. For You included “Soft and Wet,” an early glimpse at Prince’s uncensored sexuality, while the latter produced Prince’s first hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (Number 11). Interest in the youthful rising star was further kindled by Dirty Mind (1980), a provocative and sinuously funky album that appeared like a directional marker at the start of the Eighties. The jittery, New Wavish “When You Were Mine” became a club hit, yet Dirty Mind largely proved too hot to handle for radio. Still, the rising buzz about Prince continued when he opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1980-81 tour. Prince’s fourth album, Controversy (1981), was highlighted by the pulsing title track.

Prince’s breakthrough was 1999 (1982), a self-produced double album made at his home studio. He’d toned down, if not entirely tamed, the hardcore sexuality, and the longish, danceable tracks appealed to disco and New Wave fans alike. Whereas many saw divisions in the culture – in terms of everything from musical preferences to skin color – Prince forged a party-minded unity around the various audiences’ shared interests in “dance, music, sex, romance.” Those were the priorities outlined in “D.M.S.R.,” one of 1999’s key tracks. The album launched three major singles: “Little Red Corvette” (Number Six), “1999” (Number 12) and “Delirious” (Number Eight). As Kurt Loder wrote, “[1999] marked the point at which Prince’s seamless fusion of white rock and roll and black dance-funk became commercially undeniable.” The way had been paved the way for Prince’s stratospheric ascent with the album and movie Purple Rain.

One of the defining releases of the Eighties – along with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. – Purple Rain (1984) elevated Prince from cult hero to superstar. The movie, loosely based on Prince’s life story, was set in Minneapolis and his real-life hangout, the First Avenue & 7th Street Entry Club. Prince wrote the treatment and played the lead role of “The Kid.” The film included electrifying performances by Prince and the Revolution – his racially and sexually integrated band, which included guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardists Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman, bassist Brown Mark and drummer Bobby Z.  Purple Rain also showcased other acts under his umbrella, most notably The Time, who were fronted by Prince’s extroverted foil, Morris Day. The film grossed $80 million and the album, which won Prince an Oscar for Best Soundtrack, rained hits for a year: “When Doves Cry” (Number One), “Let’s Go Crazy” (Number One), “Purple Rain” (Number Two), “I Would Die 4 U” (Number Eight) and “Take Me With You” (Number 25). Even Prince’s non-LP B sides from the period, such as “17 Days” and “Erotic City,” achieved a certain popularity.

For any other artist Purple Rain would have been a hard act to follow, but Prince already had another album, Around the World in a Day, in the can. A tour de force of psychedelic soul released in 1985, it became his second consecutive Number One album and the first to appear on his own Paisley Park label (a Warner Bros. subsidiary). With Prince-mania in full effect, the album generated two more Top 10 hits: “Raspberry Beret” (Number Two) and “Pop Life” (Number Seven). Even a bad film, Under the Cherry Moon – Prince’s first real miscue – couldn’t halt his momentum, as the accompanying soundtrack, Parade (1986), included the classic “Kiss,” his third Number One single.

Prince hit an artistic peak with Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987), his first album since 1999 not to be co-credited to the Revolution. A double album that was trimmed down from an intended triple, Sign ‘O’ the Times was Prince’s most musically expansive and lyrically incisive album. On the sobering “Sign ‘O’ the Times” (Number Six), Prince enumerated a catalog of social ills (AIDS, crack, gang violence) over a skeletal funk track. Other hits from the album included “U Got the Look” (Number Two), a duet with Sheena Easton, and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” (Number 10). Paisley Park – a 65,000-square-foot multimedia production facility, with three studios and a soundstage – opened for business that same year.

Around this time Prince talked of dueling identities within himself, conjuring characters that represented his good side (“Camille”) and dark side (“Spooky Electric”). The latter had its say on The Black Album, a controversial, hardcore set that was aborted shortly before its intended release. In its place came Lovesexy (1988), which contained the terrific “Alphabet St.” (Number Eight). Commercially, Prince found himself back on top in 1989 with his soundtrack to the first Batman movie. Prince’s dense, tangled funk meshed with film producer Tim Burton’s dark, gothic vision, and his Batman album and “Batdance” single both shot to the top of the charts. A year later, Prince made another of his own movies, Graffiti Bridge. Although it was panned, the double-album soundtrack – with performances by Prince, a reunited Time, Mavis Staple and Tevin Campbell – was compelling, particularly the impassioned “Thieves in the Temple” (Number Six).

In the early Nineties, Prince assembled a backing band, the New Power Generation. They debuted on Diamonds and Pearls (1991), Prince’s most accessible and hit-filled album since Purple Rain. Everything about it was elaborately conceived, including the holographic cover. The album returned Prince to radio with a string of funky, upbeat hits: “Gett Off” (Number 21), “Cream” (Number One), “Diamonds and Pearls” (Number Three) and “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” (Number 23). It would turn out to be Prince’s biggest album of the Nineties. It was followed in 1992 by an album that marked the first appearance of the symbol that Prince would formally adopt a year later as his name. Ironically, the disc whose title was a symbol – and therefore referred to as The Love Symbol Album - opened with a song called “My Name Is Prince” (Number 36). The numerology-minded “7” peaked at Number Seven, but Prince’s most infectious funk workout, “Sexy MF,” proved too profane for radio.

Still, Prince seemed to be on a roll. In August 1992, he signed a contract extension with Warner Bros. for six more albums (at $10 million apiece), and he acquired the title of vice-president with the label. By mid-decade, however, relations would sour as he began appearing in public with the word “SLAVE” scrawled on his face while agitating to get off the label.

In 1993, Prince’s greatest hits were released in two volumes – The Hits 1 and The Hits 2 – and as a deluxe package that appended a third disc, The B-Sides. All three configurations went platinum, though the three-pack charted highest (Number 19). The artist’s final album as Prince, Come, appeared in 1994, as did (for a limited time) the long-shelved Black Album. That same year, Prince launched an independent label, NPG Records, with a various-artists compilation, 1-800-NEW-FUNK. His next single – “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (Number Three), which also appeared on NPG – marked a return to hitmaking form.

Meanwhile, relations with Warner Bros., to which he was still contracted, were deteriorating badly. The release of The Gold Experience (1995), which contained “I Hate U” (Number 12), was delayed while he squabbled with the label. Disenchanted with what he saw as an unfairly one-sided relationship between label and artist that rendered the latter a “slave,” Prince was let out of his contract with Warner Bros. in 1996. His last album of new music for the label was Chaos and Disorder (1996). “The problems I had with so-called majors,’ he later said, “were regarding ownership and long-term contracts.” Liberated from such concerns, he quickly resumed his prolific ways. Emancipation (1996), a three-disc set, attested to the artist’s creative explosion after being granted contractual freedom.

Subsequent releases have included New Power Soul (1998), an earthy album credited to New Power Generation; 1999: The New Master, a re-recording of “1999,” plus six remixes; and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999), the most visible of Prince’s later discs. Distributed through a special arrangement with Arista, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic gave Prince the best of both worlds: artistic ownership of his work and major-label distribution. The album was notable for its production credit: Prince, which marked the first time he’d reverted to his old name (and not the unpronounceable symbol) in six years.

It was followed by a series of releases that were largely marketed via Prince’s website, including The Rainbow Children (2001), a mystical and spiritually themed suite, and One Nite Alone Live (2002), a three-disc box set. NEWS (2003), an album of lengthy, jazz-funk instrumentals, garnered a Grammy nomination for the ever-resourceful artist known formerly and forever as Prince.

Prince passed away on April 21, 2016. He was 57.

See more at: https://rockhall.com/inductees/prince/bio/#sthash.4CNEvsFg.dpuf

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Celebrating the legacy of Charles Mingus
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: legacy charles mingus word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

One of the most important figures in twentieth century American music, Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer. Born on a military base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922 and raised in Watts, California, his earliest musical influences came from the church– choir and group singing– and from “hearing Duke Ellington over the radio when [he] was eight years old.” He studied double bass and composition in a formal way (five years with H. Rheinshagen, principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic, and compositional techniques with the legendary Lloyd Reese) while absorbing vernacular music from the great jazz masters, first-hand. His early professional experience, in the 40’s, found him touring with bands like Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton.

Eventually he settled in New York where he played and recorded with the leading musicians of the 1950’s– Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington himself. One of the few bassists to do so, Mingus quickly developed as a leader of musicians. He was also an accomplished pianist who could have made a career playing that instrument. By the mid-50’s he had formed his own publishing and recording companies to protect and document his growing repertoire of original music. He also founded the “Jazz Workshop,” a group which enabled young composers to have their new works performed in concert and on recordings.

Mingus soon found himself at the forefront of the avant-garde. His recordings bear witness to the extraordinarily creative body of work that followed. They include: Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Tijuana Moods, Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Ah Um, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, Let My Children Hear Music. He recorded over a hundred albums and wrote over three hundred scores.
Although he wrote his first concert piece, “Half-Mast Inhibition,” when he was seventeen years old, it was not recorded until twenty years later by a 22-piece orchestra with Gunther Schuller conducting. It was the presentation of “Revelations” which combined jazz and classical idioms, at the 1955 Brandeis Festival of the Creative Arts, that established him as one of the foremost jazz composers of his day.

In 1971 Mingus was awarded the Slee Chair of Music and spent a semester teaching composition at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In the same year his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, was published by Knopf. In 1972 it appeared in a Bantam paperback and was reissued after his death, in 1980, by Viking/Penguin and again by Pantheon Books, in 1991. In 1972 he also re-signed with Columbia Records. His music was performed frequently by ballet companies, and Alvin Ailey choreographed an hour program called “The Mingus Dances” during a 1972 collaboration with the Robert Joffrey Ballet Company.

He toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan, Canada, South America and the United States until the end of 1977 when he was diagnosed as having a rare nerve disease, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis. He was confined to a wheelchair, and although he was no longer able to write music on paper or compose at the piano, his last works were sung into a tape recorder.

From the 1960’s until his death in 1979 at age 56, Mingus remained in the forefront of American music. When asked to comment on his accomplishments, Mingus said that his abilities as a bassist were the result of hard work but that his talent for composition came from God.

Mingus received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Guggenheim Foundation (two grants). He also received an honorary degree from Brandeis and an award from Yale University. At a memorial following Mingus’ death, Steve Schlesinger of the Guggenheim Foundation commented that Mingus was one of the few artists who received two grants and added: “I look forward to the day when we can transcend labels like jazz and acknowledge Charles Mingus as the major American composer that he is.” The New Yorker wrote: “For sheer melodic and rhythmic and structural originality, his compositions may equal anything written in western music in the twentieth century.”

He died in Mexico on January 5, 1979, and his wife, Sue Graham Mingus, scattered his ashes in the Ganges River in India. Both New York City and Washington, D.C. honored him posthumously with a “Charles Mingus Day.”

After his death, the National Endowment for the Arts provided grants for a Mingus foundation created by Sue Mingus called “Let My Children Hear Music” which catalogued all of Mingus’ works. The microfilms of these works were then given to the Music Division of the New York Public Library where they are currently available for study and scholarship – a first for jazz.  Sue Mingus has founded three working repertory bands called the Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Orchestra, and the Mingus Big Band, which continue to perform his music. Biographies of Charles Mingus include Mingus by Brian Priestley, Mingus/Mingus by Janet Coleman and Al Young, Myself When I Am Real by Gene Santoro, and Tonight at Noon, a memoir by Sue Mingus.

Mingus’ masterwork, “Epitaph,” a composition which is more than 4000 measures long and which requires two hours to perform, was discovered during the cataloguing process. With the help of a grant from the Ford Foundation, the score and instrumental parts were copied, and the piece itself was premiered by a 30-piece orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller, in a concert produced by Sue Mingus at Alice Tully Hall on June 3, 1989, ten years after Mingus’ death.

The New Yorker wrote that “Epitaph” represents the first advance in jazz composition since Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown, and Beige,” which was written in 1943. The New York Times said it ranked with the “most memorable jazz events of the decade.” Convinced that it would never be performed in his lifetime, Mingus called his work “Epitaph,” declaring that he wrote it “for my tombstone.”

The Library of Congress purchased the Charles Mingus Collection, a major acquisition, in 1993; this included autographed manuscripts, photographs, literary manuscripts, correspondence, and tape recordings of interviews, broadcasts, recording sessions, and Mingus composing at the piano.

Sue Mingus has published a number of educational books through Hal Leonard Publishing, including Charles Mingus: More Than a Fake Book, Charles Mingus: More Than a Play-Along, Charles Mingus: Easy Piano Solos, many big band charts– including the Simply Mingus set of big band music charts– and a Mingus guitar book.

Reprinted in part from More than a Fake Book © 1991 Jazz Workshop, Inc.

Links to Additional Biographical and Historical Information on the Web

Library of Congress
An index to the holdings of the Charles Mingus Collection, Music Division of the Library of Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/performingarts/encyclopedia/collections/mingus.html

Source: Wikipedia entry

 

Celebrating the life and legacy of Arthur Ashe Tags: life legacy arthur ash moment silence word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

On July 10, 1943 Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. was born to parents Arthur Sr. and Mattie C. Ashe in Richmond, Virginia. Arthur began learning tennis from an early age, in part because his father took a post at Brook Field in 1947. The position came with a house that was located in the middle of the blacks-only playground at Brook Field, which was an 18-acre park that included tennis courts. At the same time as he was playing tennis, he was an avid reader and straight A student. In 1950, a few months before Arthur's 7th birthday, his mother died of complications from surgery. In 1950 Arthur met Ronald Charity, one of the best black tennis players in the nation and a part-time tennis coach, who took an interest in Arthur. He began working with him regularly, teaching him strokes and proper form. By 1953 it was apparent that Arthur had a talent for tennis but needed a proper coach in order to keep improving. At this point Charity introduced him to Dr. Walter Johnson, who would become his lifelong coach and mentor. Dr. Johnson was also the coach of the only African-American competing in world tennis at that time, Althea Gibson.

Teen Years
Arthur continued with his tennis under Johnson's instruction and in 1958 became the first African-American to play in the Maryland boys' championships. This was also his first integrated tennis competition. During the summer Arthur could travel and participate in competitive tournaments around the country; during the school year his competition was much more limited because he was limited to black opponents from Richmond and there were only outdoor tennis courts for blacks. In order for him to continue his tennis, he was sent away before beginning his senior year in high school to St. Louis, Missouri. He stayed with a friend of Johnson, Richard Hudlin and enjoyed a number of strong tennis opponents. At this time he was also making a name for himself, having won multiple junior tennis tournaments around the nation and being featured in the December 12, 1960 issue of Sports Illustrated as a Face in the Crowd. It was at this time that the University of California, Los Angeles offered him a full scholarship to attend college there.

College Years
Upon graduating from high school first in his class, Arthur went to UCLA, which had one of the best college tennis programs. Playing there brought him more recognition amongst tennis enthusiasts. That year he was also named to the U.S. Davis Cup team as its first African-American player. He continued to play on the team until 1970, and then again in 1975, 1976 and 1978. As a sophomore at UCLA, Arthur was featured again in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd as an up and coming athlete of some note. During his time in college he maintained good grades while pursuing tennis. He was active in other things, joining the Upsilon chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity on campus. In 1966 Arthur graduated with a degree in business administration, the first member on the paternal side of his family to graduate college. In addition to finishing his studies Arthur had in 1965 won the individual NCAA championship and had significantly contributed to UCLA's winning the team NCAA tennis championship.

Military Service
Following school Arthur served his country, joining the U.S. Army from 1966-68. While stationed at West Point in New York, he eventually reached the rank of second lieutenant. During his time in the army he continued to play tennis, participating in the Davis Cup and other tournaments.

Still an amateur, Arthur triumphed over Tom Okker of the Netherlands on September 9, 1968 to win the first U.S. Open. Unfortunately, because of his amateur status he could not accept the prize money, which was given to Okker despite his loss. He is the only African-American man to ever win the title.

Upon returning to West Point, Arthur entered the dining hall that evening where, unexpectedly, everyone gave him a enthusiastic standing ovation. Soon thereafter in 1969 Arthur co-founded the National Junior Tennis League with Charlie Pasarell, a tennis player who later went on to be a tournament director and commentator, and Sheridan Snyder, a tennis enthusiast. 

The program was designed to expose children to tennis who might not otherwise have opportunities to play while fostering a sense of discipline and attention to academics.

This was the first of many programs with which Arthur would become involved, many of them focusing on youths, minorities, education, tennis, or some intersection thereof. For Arthur, however, the tennis programs he was involved with were not oriented toward producing professional athletes but instead used tennis as a vehicle for teaching life skills.

Professional Years
In 1969 Arthur first applied for a visa to travel to South Africa and compete in the South African Open. At the time the country's government enforced a strict policy of racial segregation called Apartheid. Because of this they denied him a South African visa despite his number 1 U.S. ranking.

He continued to keep applying for visas, and the country continued to deny him. In protest he used this example of discrimination to campaign for the expulsion of the nation from the International Lawn Tennis Federation. This was the beginning of his activism against Apartheid, which would become a central issue to him for the next two decades.

In January of 1970 Arthur won the Australian open, the second of his three career grand Slam singles titles. By the early 70s he had become one of the most famous tennis players. Along with Arthur's growing celebrity status, the sport of tennis was becoming more and more popular. However, the earnings of tennis players did not reflect the increased interest and therefore revenue. In response to this he partnered in creating the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 1972 with Jack Kramer and others. The ATP was formed to represent the interests of male tennis pros. Prior to its formation players had less control over their earnings or their tournament schedule. Two years later he was elected as the President of ATP.

South Africa eventually granted Arthur a visa in 1973. He was the first black pro to play in the national championships there where he reached the singles finals and won the doubles title with Tom Okker.

1975 would prove a banner year for Arthur. On July 5, 1975 he defeated the heavily favored Jimmy Connors in four sets to win the Wimbledon singles title. He was the first and only black man to win the most prestigious grass-court tournament. This year he also attained the #1 men's ranking in the world.

Family Life
In 1976 Arthur met Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer, who he married on February 20, 1977. The ceremony was held at the United Nations chapel in New York and was presided over by Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. In 1979 Arthur suffered a heart attack while holding a tennis clinic in New York. He was hospitalized for ten days afterwards and later that year underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. He continued to suffer chest pains though and in 1980 decided to retire from tennis with a career record of 818 wins, 260 losses and 51 titles.

Arthur's retirement from tennis in no way meant slowing down. He took on many new tasks: writing for Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Tennis Magazine; commentating for ABC Sports; and continuing his activism against the South African Apartheid regime. That same year, in fact, he was appointed captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Under his leadership—including members such as John McEnroe, Peter Fleming and Jimmy Connors over his period as captain—the U.S. won the Davis Cup in 1981 and 1982. In 1981 he also served as national chairman of the American Heart Association.

In 1983 Arthur went through a second bypass surgery. After the operation, in order to accelerate his recovery, he received a blood transfusion. It was this transfusion that resulted in him contracting human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Also in 1983, along with Harry Belafonte, he founded Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, which worked toward raising awareness of Apartheid policies and lobbying for sanctions and embargoes against the South African government. Two years later the immense courage of his convictions were displayed when he was arrested outside the South African embassy in Washington during an anti-apartheid protest on January 11, 1985. That same year his career was officially commemorated by his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.

The next year marked another very important milestone for Arthur Ashe. On December 21, 1986 his daughter, Camera, was born. Around this time he also agreed to teach a course at Florida Memorial College, "The Black Athlete in Contemporary Society." In preparation for this, he searched libraries for a book detailing history of Black Americans in sports up through the present. The most up-to-date and comprehensive text available was from 20 years before. This was the inspiration for him to begin work on his 3-volume book "A Hard Road To Glory," which was published in 1988. During this period he also founded the ABC Cities Tennis Program, the Athlete-Career Connection, and the Safe Passage Foundation.

After feeling numbness in his right hand, Arthur was hospitalized again in 1988. Tests showed that he had a bacterial infection called toxoplasmosis, most often present in people with HIV. After further testing it was revealed that he had HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS. This information was kept private at the time.

Continuing to work he returned to South Africa again in 1991 to witness the change to which his tireless work had contributed. As part of a 31-member delegation, he got to observe the political changes in the country as it began repealing apartheid legislation and moving toward integration. His commitment and efforts toward this cause were such that when Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner of the South African government for 27 years, was first set free and was asked whom in the U.S. he wished to have visit, he said, "How about Arthur Ashe?"

In 1992 the newspaper USA Today contacted him about reports of his illness, which had hitherto been secret. Arthur decided to preempt the paper and go public on his own terms holding a press conference with his wife on April 8, 1992 to announce that he had contracted AIDS. This incited a whirlwind of publicity and attention, which Arthur used to raise awareness about AIDS and its victims. In his memoir "Days of Grace" he wrote, "I do not like being the personification of a problem, much less a problem involving a killer disease, but I know I must seize these opportunities to spread the word." In the last year of his life he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, which raised money for research into treating, curing and preventing AIDS, the end goal being the eradication of the disease. He also spoke before the U.N. General Assembly on World AIDS day imploring the delegates to increase funding for AIDS research and discussing the need to address AIDS as a world issue, anticipating the global spread of the disease in the coming years. He also continued his activism in other sectors. He was arrested during a protest against U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees outside the White House. That year Arthur Ashe was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, an honor bestowed upon "the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement," undoubtedly due to his incessant work and indefatigable spirit.

Two months before his death he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery to urban minority populations. He also dedicated time in his last few months to writing "Days of Grace," his memoir that he finished only days before his death.

On February 6, 1993 Arthur Ashe died of AIDS-related pneumonia in New York at the age of 49. His body was laid in state at the Governor's Mansion in his hometown of Richmond, VA. He was the first person to lie in state at the mansion since the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in 1863. More than 5,000 people lined up to walk past the casket. His funeral was attended by nearly 6,000 people including New York City mayor David Dinkins, Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and Rainbow Coalition chairman Jesse Jackson. Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who had married Arthur, delivered the eulogy.

On what would have been Arthur's 53rd birthday, July 10, 1996, a statue of him was dedicated on Richmond's Monument Avenue. Before this, Monument Avenue had commemorated Confederate war heroes; in fact, as a child Arthur would not even have been able to visit Monument Avenue because of the color of his skin. Arthur is depicted carrying books in one hand and a tennis racket in the other, symbolizing his love of knowledge and tennis. In 1997 the USTA announced that the new center stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center would be named Arthur Ashe Stadium, commemorating the life of the first U.S. Open men's champion in the place where all future U.S. Open champions will be determined.

Source: Arthur Ash Learning Center

Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer of all time and this week we celebrate his legacy Tags: michael jackson legacy greates entertainer word life production honoring lost loved ones feature blog

No single artist – indeed, no movement or force – has eclipsed what Michael Jackson accomplished in the first years of his adult solo career. Jackson changed the balance in the pop world in a way that nobody has since. He forced rock & roll and the mainstream press to acknowledge that the biggest pop star in the world could be young and black, and in doing so he broke down more barriers than anybody. But he is also among the best proofs in living memory of poet William Carlos Williams' famous verse: "The pure products of America/go crazy."

When Jackson died on June 25th, 2009, of apparent cardiac arrest in Los Angeles at age 50, the outpouring of first shock, then grief, was the largest, most instantaneous of its kind the world had ever known, short of the events of September 11th, 2001. What immediately became obvious in all the coverage is that despite the dishonor that had come upon him, the world still respected Michael Jackson for his music – for the singles he made as a Motown prodigy, for the visionary disco he made as a young adult, for Thriller, a stunningly vibrant album that blew up around the world on a scale we'll never see again, for his less impactful but still one-of-kind later work, even for his cheesy ballads. In 2009 Jackson was the biggest-selling artist in the world.

Michael's father, Joe Jackson, was a crane operator during the 1950s, in Gary, Indiana – a place in which, according to Dave Marsh's Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream, quotas were imposed on how many black workers were allowed to advance into skilled trades in the city's mills. Michael's mother, Katherine Scruse, was from Alabama but was living in East Chicago, Indiana, when she met Joe. She had grown up hearing country & western music, and although she entertained her own dreams of singing and playing music, a bout of polio had left her with a permanent limp. Joe and Katherine were a young couple, married in 1949, and began a large family immediately. Their first child, Maureen (Rebbie), was born in 1950, followed by Sigmund (Jackie) in 1951, Toriano (Tito) in 1953, Jermaine in 1954, La Toya in 1956 and Marlon in 1957. Michael was born on August 29th, 1958, and Randy was born in 1961. Janet, the last born, wouldn't arrive until 1966.

Michael and his siblings heard music all the time. Joe had a strong inclination toward the rowdy electric urban blues that had developed in nearby Chicago, and also for early rock & roll. Along with his brothers, Joe formed a band, the Falcons, and made some modest extra income from playing bars and college dances around Gary. When the Falcons folded, Joe retired his guitar to a bedroom closet, and he guarded it jealously, just as he did everything in his domain. Katherine, though, sometimes led her children in country-music singalongs, during which she taught them to harmonize.

Soon he was working all his sons into an ensemble. Though Joe was at heart a blues man, he appreciated that contemporary R&B – Motown and soul – was the music that attracted his sons. Joe groomed Jermaine to be lead singer, but one day, Katherine saw Michael, just four at the time, singing along to a James Brown song, and Michael – in both his voice and moves – was already eclipsing his older brother. She told Joe, "I think we have another lead singer." Katherine would later say that sometimes Michael's precocious abilities frightened her – she probably saw that his childhood might give way to stardom – but she also recognized that there was something undeniable about his young voice, that it could communicate longings and experiences that no child could yet know.

Michael was also a natural center of attention. He loved singing and dancing, and because he was so young – such an unexpected vehicle for a rousing, dead-on soulful expression – he became an obvious point of attention when he and his brothers performed. Little Michael Jackson was cute, but little Michael Jackson was also dynamite.

By Joe's own admission he was unrelenting. "When I found out that my kids were interested in becoming entertainers, I really went to work with them," he told Time in 1984. "I rehearsed them about three years before I turned them loose. I saw that after they became better, they enjoyed it more." That isn't always how Michael remembered it. "We'd perform for him, and he'd critique us," he wrote in Moonwalk. "If you messed up, you got hit, sometimes with a belt, sometimes with a switch…I'd get beaten for things that happened mostly outside rehearsal. Those moments – and probably many more – created a loss that Jackson never got over. Again, from Moonwalk: "One of the few things I regret most is never being able to have a real closeness with him. He built a shell around himself over the years, and once he stopped talking about our family business, he found it hard to relate to us. We'd all be together, and he'd just leave the room."

Around 1964, Joe began entering the Jackson brothers in talent contests, many of which they handily won. A single they cut for the local Steeltown recording label, "Big Boy," achieved local success. "At first I told myself they were just kids," Joe said in 1971. "I soon realized they were very professional. There was nothing to wait for. The boys were ready for stage training, and I ran out of reasons to keep them from the school of hard knocks." In 1966, he booked his sons into Gary's black nightclubs, as well as some in Chicago. Many of the clubs served alcohol, and several featured strippers. "This is quite a life for a nine-year-old," Katherine would remind her husband, but Joe was undaunted.

"I used to stand in the wings of this one place in Chicago and watch a lady whose name was Mary Rose," Michael recalled. "This girl would take off her clothes and her panties and throw them to the audience. The men would pick them up and sniff them and yell. My brothers and I would be watching all this, taking it in, and my father wouldn't mind." Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, recalled Joe locking Michael – who was maybe 10 years old – in a dressing room while Joe went off on his own adventures. Michael sat alone for hours. He also later recalled having to go onstage even if he'd been sick in bed that day.

Michael and his brothers began to tour on what was still referred to as the "chitlin circuit" – a network of black venues throughout the U.S. (Joe made sure his sons kept their school studies up to date and maintained their grades at an acceptable level.) In these theaters and clubs, the Jacksons opened for numerous R&B artists, including the Temptations, Sam and Dave, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Butler, the O'Jays and Etta James, though no one was as important to Michael as James Brown. "I knew every step, every grunt, every spin and turn," he recalled. "He would give a performance that would exhaust you, just wear you out emotionally. His whole physical presence, the fire coming out of his pores, would be phenomenal. You'd feel every bead of sweat on his face, and you'd know what he was going through…You couldn't teach a person what I've learned just standing and watching."

The most famous site on these tours was the Apollo in New York, where the Jackson 5 won an Amateur Night show in 1967. Joe had invested everything he had in his sons' success, though of course any real recognition or profit would be his success as well. While on the circuit, Joe had come to know Gladys Knight, who was enjoying a string of small successes with Motown, America's pre-eminent black pop label. With the encouragement of both Knight and Motown R&B star Bobby Taylor, Joe took his sons to Detroit to audition for the label. In 1969, Motown moved the Jackson family to Los Angeles, set them up at the homes of Diana Ross and the label's owner, Berry Gordy, and began grooming them. Michael remembered Gordy telling them, "I'm gonna make you the biggest thing in the world…Your first record will be a number one, your second record will be a number one, and so will your third record. Three number-one records in a row."

In 1959, Gordy founded Tamla Records – which soon became known as Motown – in Detroit. By the time he signed the Jackson 5, Motown had long enjoyed its status as the most important black-owned and -operated record label in America, spawning the successes of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, Mary Wells, the Four Tops, and Diana Ross and the Supremes, among others. In contrast to Stax and Atlantic, Motown's soul wasn't especially bluesy or gritty, nor was it a music that spoke explicitly to social matters or to the black struggle in the U.S. By its nature the label exemplified black achievement, but its music was calibrated for assimilation by the pop mainstream – which of course meant a white audience as much as a black one (the label's early records bore the legend "The Sound of Young America"). At the time, rock music was increasingly becoming a medium for album-length works. By contrast, Motown maintained its identity as a factory that manufactured hit singles, despite groundbreaking albums by Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Gordy was looking for a singles-oriented group that would not only deliver hits for young people, but would also give them somebody to seize as their own, to identify with and to adore. The Jackson 5, Gordy said, would exemplify "bubblegum soul."

The Jackson 5's first three singles – "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save" – became Number One hits as Gordy had promised, and so did a fourth, "I'll Be There." The group was established as the breakout sensation of 1970. Fred Rice, who would create Jackson 5 merchandise for Motown, said, "I call 'em the black Beatles…It's unbelievable." And he was right. The Jackson 5 defined the transition from 1960s soul to 1970s pop as much as Sly and the Family Stone did, and at a time when many Americans were uneasy about minority aspirations to power, the Jackson 5 conveyed an agreeable ideal of black pride, one that reflected kinship and aspiration rather than opposition. They represented a realization that the civil rights movement made possible, and that couldn't have happened even five or six years earlier. Moreover, the Jackson 5 earned critical respectability.

And though they functioned as a group, there was no question who the Jackson 5's true star was, and who they depended on. Michael's voice also worked beyond conventional notions of male-soul vocals – even worked beyond gender. Cultural critic and musician Jason King, in an outstanding essay, recently wrote, "It is not an exaggeration to say that he was the most advanced popular singer of his age in the history of recorded music. His untrained tenor was uncanny. By all rights, he shouldn't have had as much vocal authority as he did at such a young age."

For at least the first few years, Michael and his brothers seemed omnipresent and enjoyed universal praise. But soon they experienced some hard limitations. The music they were making wasn't really of invention – they didn't write or produce it – and after Michael was relegated to recording throwback fare like "Rockin' Robin," in 1972, he worried that the Jackson 5 would become an "oldies act" before he left adolescence. The Jackson 5 began pushing to produce themselves and to create their own sound. Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye had demonstrated an ability to grow and change – and sell records – when given creative leeway, and with 1974's "Dancing Machine," the Jacksons proved they could thrive when they seized a funk groove.

Motown, however, wouldn't consider it. "They not only refused to grant our requests," Michael said in Moonwalk, "they told us it was taboo to even mention that we wanted to do our own music." Michael understood what this meant: Not only would Motown not let the Jackson 5 grow, they also wouldn't let him grow. Michael bided his time, studying the producers he and his brothers worked with. "I was like a hawk preying in the night," he said. "I'd watch everything. They didn't get away with nothing without me seeing. I really wanted to get into it."

In 1975, Joe Jackson negotiated a new deal for his sons – this time with Epic Records, for a 500 percent royalty-rate increase. The contract also stipulated solo albums from the Jacksons (though the arrangement did not include Jermaine, who married Gordy's daughter Hazel and stayed with Motown, creating a rift with the family that lasted for several years). Motown tried to block the deal, and in the end stopped the brothers from using the Jackson 5 name; the group would now be known as the Jacksons.

Epic initially placed them with Philadelphia producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but it wouldn't be until 1978's Destiny that the Jacksons finally seized control over their own music and recast their sound – sexy and smooth in the dance-floor hits "Blame It on the Boogie" and the momentous "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," and reflecting a new depth and emotional complexity in songs like "Push Me Away" and "Bless His Soul."

Destiny, though, was merely a prelude: By the time the album was finished, Michael was ready to make crucial changes that would establish his ascendancy as a solo artist. He fired his father as his manager and in effect found himself a new father, producer Quincy Jones, whom Michael connected with while filming The Wiz (a reworking of The Wizard of Oz). Jones was a respected jazz musician, bandleader, composer and arranger who had worked with Clifford Brown, Frank Sinatra, Lesley Gore, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon, and he had written the film scores for The Pawnbroker, In Cold Blood and In the Heat of the Night. Jackson liked the arranger's ear for mixing complex hard beats with soft overlayers. "It was the first time that I fully wrote and produced my songs," Jackson said later, "and I was looking for somebody who would give me that freedom, plus somebody who's unlimited musically." Specifically, Jackson said his solo album had to sound different than the Jacksons; he wanted a cleaner and funkier sound.

The pairing proved as fortuitous as any collaboration in history. Jones brought an ethereal buoyancy to Jackson's soft erotic fever on songs like "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," and in a stunning moment like "She's Out of My Life," Jones had the good sense to let nothing obscure the magnificent heartbreak in the singer's voice. The resulting album, Off the Wall – which established Jackson as a mature artistic force in his own right – has the most unified feel of any of his works. It was also a massive hit, selling more than 5 million copies in the U.S. alone by 1985.

Michael Jackson had in effect become one of the biggest black artists America had ever produced, and he expected Off the Wall to win top honors during the 1980 Grammy Awards ceremony. Instead, it received only one honor, for Best Male R&B vocal. The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" won for Record of the Year, and Billy Joel's 52nd Street won Album of the Year. Jackson was stunned and bitter. "My family thought I was going crazy because I was weeping so much about it," he recalled. "I felt ignored and it hurt. I said to myself, 'Wait until next time' – they won't be able to ignore the next album…That experience lit a fire in my soul."

Jackson told Jones – and apparently others as well – that his next album wouldn't simply be bigger than Off the Wall, it would be the biggest album ever. When Thriller was released in November 1982, it didn't seem to have any overarching theme or even a cohesive style. Instead, it sounded like an assembly of singles – like a greatest-hits album, before the fact. But it became evident fast that this was exactly what Jackson intended Thriller to be: a brilliant collection of songs intended as hits, each one designed with mass crossover audiences in mind. Jackson put out "Billie Jean" for the dance crowd, "Beat It" for the white rockers, and then followed each crossover with crafty videos designed to enhance both his allure and his inaccessibility.

Yet after hearing these songs find their natural life on radio, it was obvious that they were something more than exceptional highlights. They were a well-conceived body of passion, rhythm and structure that defined the sensibility – if not the inner life – of the artist behind them. These were instantly compelling songs about emotional and sexual claustrophobia, about hard-earned adulthood and about a newfound brand of resolution that worked as an arbiter between the artist's fears and the inescapable fact of his fame. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'?" had the sense of a vitalizing nightmare in its best lines ("You're stuck in the middle/And the pain is thunder/Still they hate you, you're a vegetable/They eat off you, you're a vegetable"). "Billie Jean," in the meantime, exposed the ways in which the interaction between the artist's fame and the outside world might invoke soul-killing dishonor ("People always told me, be careful of what you do/'Cause the lie becomes the truth," Jackson sings, possibly thinking of a paternity charge from a while back). And "Beat It" was pure anger – a rousing depiction of violence as a male stance, as a social inheritance that might be overcome. In sum, Thriller's parts added up to the most improbable kind of art – a work of personal revelation that was also a mass-market masterpiece. It's an achievement that will likely never be topped.

Except, in a sense, Jackson did top it, and he did it within months after Thriller's release. It came during a May 16th, 1983, TV special celebrating Motown's 25th anniversary. Jackson had just performed a medley of greatest hits with his brothers. It was exciting stuff, but for Michael it wasn't enough. As his brothers said their goodbyes and left the stage, Michael remained. He seemed shy for a moment, trying to find words to say. "Yeah," he almost whispered, "those were good old days…I like those songs a lot. But especially—" and then he placed the microphone into the stand with a commanding look and said, "I like the new songs." He swooped down, picked up a fedora, put it on his head with confidence, and vaulted into "Billie Jean."

This was one of Michael Jackson's first public acts as a star outside and beyond the Jacksons, and it was startlingly clear that he was not only one of the most thrilling live performers in pop music, but that he was perhaps more capable of inspiring an audience's imagination than any single pop artist since Elvis Presley. There are times when you know you are hearing or seeing something extraordinary, something that captures the hopes and dreams popular music might aspire to, and that might unite and inflame a new audience. That time came that night, on TV screens across the nation – the sight of a young man staking out his territory, and just starting to lay claim to his rightful pop legend. "Almost 50 million people saw that show," Jackson wrote in Moonwalk. "After that, many things changed."

He was right. That was the last truly blessed moment in Michael Jackson's life. After that, everything became argument and recrimination. And in time, decay.

At the time, we knew that Michael Jackson was an immensely talented young man – he seemed shy but ambitious, and he certainly seemed enigmatic. Nobody knew much about his beliefs or his sex life; he rarely gave interviews, but he also didn't land himself in scandals. He did, however, describe himself as a lonely person – particularly around the time he made Off the Wall. Former Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn recently wrote of meeting Jackson in 1981, when the singer was 23, that Jackson struck him as "one of the most fragile and lonely people I've ever met…almost abandoned. When I asked why he didn't live on his own like his brothers, instead remaining at his parents' house, he said, 'Oh, no, I think I'd die on my own. I'd be so lonely. Even at home, I'm lonely. I sit in my room and sometimes cry. It is so hard to make friends, and there are some things you can't talk to your parents or family about. I sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home.'?"

In any event, Michael Jackson seemed clearly reputable – eminent though not heroic, not yet messianic, and certainly not contemptible. Thriller placed seven singles in Billboard's Top 10 and also became the biggest-selling album in history (presently around 50 million copies or more), and at the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson finally claimed his due, capturing eight awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Then, months later, it was announced that Michael would be setting out on a nationwide tour with the Jacksons. He hadn't wanted to undertake the venture but felt obliged ("Those were slim shoulders on which to place such burdens," he wrote of his lifelong family pressures).

It was during this period that a backlash first set in against Jackson, though from the press more than from the public. The mid-1980s was a time when many in the music press had misgivings about mass popularity – especially if it seemed to represent a homogenized or acquiescent culture. Michael Jackson, after all, wasn't an artist with a message of sociopolitical revolution, nor did his lyrics reflect literary aspirations. To some then – and to some now – he represented little more than an ambition for personal fame.

But there was a trickier concern at play. The racial dimensions of Jackson's image proved complex beyond any easy answers at that time, or even since. Some of that was attributable to charges that Jackson seemed willing to trade his former black constituency for an overwhelmingly white audience – otherwise how could he have achieved such staggering sales figures in the U.S.? But what probably inspired these race-related arguments most – the terrain where they all seemed to play out – was the topography of Jackson's face. With the exception of later accusations about his sexual behavior, nothing inspired more argument or ridicule about Michael Jackson than that face.

In his childhood, Jackson had a sweet, dark-skinned countenance; many early Jackson 5 fans regarded him as the cutest of the brothers. J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness, has written, "[Michael] believed his skin…'messed up my whole personality.' He no longer looked at people as he talked to them. His playful personality changed and he became quieter and more serious. He thought he was ugly – his skin was too dark, he decided, and his nose too wide. It was no help that his insensitive father and brothers called him 'Big Nose.'?" Also, as Jackson became an adolescent, he was horribly self- conscious about acne. Hilburn recalled going through a stack of photos with Jackson one night and coming across a picture of him as a teenager: "'Ohh, that's horrible,' [Jackson] said, recoiling from the picture."

The face Jackson displayed on the cover of Thriller had changed; the skin tone seemed lighter and his nose thinner and straighter. In Moonwalk, Jackson claimed that much of the apparent renovation was due to a change in his diet; he admitted to altering his nose and his chin, but he denied he'd done anything to his skin. Still, the changes didn't end there.

Over the years, Jackson's skin grew lighter and lighter, his nose tapered more and more and his cheekbones seemed to gain prominence. To some, this all became fair game for derision; to others, it seemed a grotesque mutilation – not just because it might have been an act of conceit, aimed to keep his face forever childlike, but more troublingly because some believed Jackson wanted to transform himself into a white person. Or an androgyne – somebody with both male and female traits.

Michael Jackson wanted his next album to be bigger than Thriller, which was of course too much to ask. Jackson was also seeking vindication. He felt misjudged and maligned by much of the criticism heaped on him after the 1984 Victory Tour. Some of the scrutiny he received about his "freakishness" – his devotion to his animals as if they were his friends, his ongoing facial reconstruction, scornful charges that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to maintain his youthfulness – was judgmental, even moralistic. Worse, too much of it came from reporters and gossip columnists, even political commentators, who displayed little if any real appreciation for Jackson's music and little respect for the sheer genius of his work.

At that time, Jackson's art was still his best way of making a case for himself. In 1987, he released Bad, his much-anticipated successor to Thriller. If not as eventful and ingenious as Off the Wall and Thriller, Bad was as good as any album he ever made. It was taut and funky, it had snap and fever, it radiated rage and self-pity but also yearning for grace and transcendence – particularly in "Man in the Mirror," a song about accepting social and political responsibility, and about the artist negotiating his way back into the world. Bad sold millions and launched five Number One singles, three more than Thriller, but because it couldn't match the accomplishments of Thriller, it was viewed as a flop.

Jackson then staged his first solo tour later that year. On several nights, I saw him turn in inspiring performances that also served as timely reminders of a sometimes overlooked truth about him: Namely that whatever his eccentricities, Michael Jackson acquired his fame primarily because of his remarkably intuitive talents as a singer and dancer – talents that were genuine and matchless and not the constructions of mere ambition or hype.

Though he had the lithe frame of Fred Astaire, the mad inventiveness of Gene Kelly, the sexy agony of Jackie Wilson, the rhythmic mastery of James Brown – or of Sammy Davis Jr., for that matter – nobody else moved like Michael Jackson. Certainly nobody else broke open their moment in one daring physical display like Jackson. He didn't invent the moonwalk – that famous and impossible backward gliding movement from his Motown 25 performance of "Billie Jean" – but it didn't matter. He had defined himself in that moment and dared anybody else to match it, and nobody ever did. During the Bad tour his moves were breathtaking, sometimes unexpected.

In 1988, he was again nominated for key Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, but he was up against hard competition. Artists like U2 and Prince had fashioned the most ambitious and visionary music of their careers – music that reflected the state of pop and the world in enlivening ways. More to the point, in 1988 there was suspicion among many observers that Jackson's season as pop's favorite son had passed. He would win no Grammys that year. In the Rolling Stone Readers' poll, Jackson placed first in six of the readers' "worst of the year" categories (including "worst male singer"); in addition, The Village Voice Critics' Poll failed to mention Jackson's Bad in its selection of 1987's 40 best albums. This was a startling turnaround from four years before, when Jackson and his work topped the same polls in both publications.

Michael Jackson never really regained momentum or ambition after the negative reaction to Bad. He had finally left the family home in Encino and built his own fortress estate known as Neverland, about 100 miles north of L.A., with an amusement park and train rides redolent of Disneyland. It became a place where he brought the world to him, or at least that part of the world he seemed to care about, which mainly included children – the people, he said, he felt most at home with, since part of him wanted to experience and share the childhood he felt his father and entertainment career had deprived him of. But it was also Michael's appetite for the company of children that would create the most lamentable troubles in his life. In 1993, a story broke that Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy with whom he had kept frequent company.

It was a terribly serious accusation, and given his fondness for the company of children, the charges seemed all too credible to some observers. The story played big in not just tabloid newspapers but in some mainstream media as well. No criminal charges were filed, but in 1994 Jackson settled the matter out of court (reportedly for something in the vicinity of $20 million), which struck many as a tacit admission to the allegations. Jackson, though, categorically denied the claim. He later told British journalist Martin Bashir that he simply wanted to put the issue behind him.

The episode did enormous damage to Jackson's image, and perhaps to his psychology as well. It was during that time that, according to some, he developed a dependency on medications that stayed with him through the rest of his life. (Jackson's need for drugs may also have stemmed from pains attributable to various surgeries.) That same year he unexpectedly married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of rock & roll's most eminent pioneer, Elvis Presley. Some saw it as an effort to both rehabilitate and bolster his image by asserting a heterosexual authenticity, and by linking his name to even greater fame. The marriage lasted 18 months.

Presley has never spoken negatively of Jackson, only affectionately, saying in the days after her ex-husband's death that she left him only because she felt she couldn't save him from himself. Jackson married again in 1996, this time to a nurse from his dermatologist's office, Debbie Rowe. The couple had two children, son Prince Michael Jackson and daughter Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Apparently, the children were the true objective of the marriage for Jackson; the couple divorced in 1999 and Rowe gave up custody of the children. (Rowe has admitted in the past that Jackson wasn't the children's biological father, but rather that they were conceived by artificial insemination.)

Through the course of all this, sadly, Jackson's musical drive fell off, and the music that did emerge was only sporadically successful. His new music was often a testament of self-justification. In "Childhood," a song from 1995's HIStory: Past, Present and Future, he put forth his case for his otherness: "No one understands me/They view it as such strange eccentricities/It's been my fate to compensate/For the childhood I've never known/Before you judge me, try hard to love me/Look within your heart, then ask/Have you seen my childhood?"

His hurt and anger also began to come out more in his body over the years. Sometimes his expression looked terrified, his eyes peering over surgical masks or from behind the cover of a burqa. Other times he moved with an explosive fury, as in those moments at the end of his infamous but incredibly successful 1991 video for the song "Black or White." Those movements seemed so different from the joyful ones of years before.

But despite good moments – and too many treacly and self-aggrandizing ones – Michael Jackson's 1990s music had no real presence in the ongoing current of popular culture. His final album, Invincible, from 2001, yielded a few adventurous tracks – Jackson was finally accommodating the stylistic and cultural innovations made by hip-hop and other urban music forms – but overall it wasn't enough to live up to its title. This isn't to say that Michael Jackson was no longer a huge star but rather that his legend had transmuted: He was now known for his excesses and bad choices. He lived in a castle; he contracted another baby, Prince Michael II (whose mother has never been identified); and he then recklessly dangled the baby over a balcony in Berlin. Sometimes you had to wonder whether Jackson had any real idea how his actions struck the world – which is perhaps OK, unless you expect the world to love you unconditionally.

Jackson's most egregious lapse of judgment became evident in a notorious 2003 interview with Martin Bashir, in which the singer professed that he still shared his bed at Neverland with children who were not his own. During one point in the broadcast, Jackson sat holding the hand of a 13-year-old boy, a cancer survivor, and explained what he saw as the innocent and loving nature of that behavior. The public response was swift and hypercritical; many thought that despite the accusations he had faced in 1993, Jackson could still act as he wanted with impunity. The reaction was so devastating to Jackson that, according to some rumors, later that year he attempted a morphine overdose; at the very least, some observers declared Jackson had committed career suicide.

The controversy became as serious as possible when the boy in the video accused Jackson of fondling him. This time, the matter went to trial. The horrible drama that Jackson had landed in was in keeping with the dominant themes of his life and art: his obsessions with stardom, mystery, hubris, fear and despoiled childhood. If the charges were true, one had to wonder what Jackson truly saw when he looked at the childhoods of others. Was he capable of disrespecting their innocence, just as his own was once ruined? But if the charges weren't true, then one had to ask what measure of satisfaction could be won in his ruin?

The 2005 trial was the spectacle everybody expected it to be – a drama about justice and celebrity, sex and outrage, morality and race. Even though it dragged on, it was clear the prosecution didn't have a case so much as it had umbrage. The trial was a farce – it's dismaying the case ever made it to trial – and Jackson was acquitted on all charges. But the damage done seemed, in many ways, final. Jackson walked out of the courtroom that day a shaken, listless man. His finances were also coming undone; he had been spending ludicrous sums and he'd mismanaged his money – which took some doing, since he had made such a vast fortune.

The biggest star in the world had fallen from the tallest height. He left the country and moved to Bahrain; he was only occasionally seen or heard from. Nobody knew whether he could recover his name, or even preserve his considerable music legacy, until early 2009, when he announced an incredibly ambitious series of 50 concerts – which he described as the "final curtain call" – to take place at London's O2 arena, beginning July 13th.

On June 24, 2009, as Rolling Stone reported, "Jackson ran through a six-hour dress rehearsal of his concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. More than a dozen people who witnessed the final rehearsal -- from his promoter to his choreographer to his musicians -- all agree on one thing: Jackson was better than he'd ever been. He popped, just like he had in his glory days, singing and out-dancing the young pros that surrounded him. 'He was so brilliant onstage,' recalls his tour director, Kenny Ortega. 'I had goose bumps.'"

The next day he was dead. Reports in the aftermath of Jackson's death revealed a disturbing dependence on Ambien and other prescription drugs. Jackson's autopsy report ruled his death a homicide, stating that Dr. Conrad Murray – Jackson's live-in physician -- wrongfully administered the sedative propofol to his patient. On February 8, 2010, Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Jackson's 2002 will stated that his estate would give 40 percent to both his mother Katherine and Michael's children; the remaining 20 percent would go to charity. As of February, 2010, Jackson's estate had earned 100 million since his death, though claims on the estate exceeded $22 million. Joe Jackson was not named as a benefactor in the will. This Is It, the documentary that covers the rehearsals for the O2 shows, grossed more than $250 million worldwide, and with vaults of unreleased music due out in the future, the Jackson estate will likely surpass Elvis Presley's in terms of earnings.

In the days that followed his death, Jackson was everywhere. Makeshift memorials sprung up around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and outside Harlem's Apollo Theater. His music blared from radios all across the world and his CDs flew off the shelves. 1.6 million people registered for a chance to win tickets to Jackson's public memorial at the Staples Center. At the memorial, Magic Johnson, Brooke Shields, and other celebrities paid tribute, and Stevie Wonder sang "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer." The most moving moment came from Jackson's eleven-year-old daughter Paris, who made her first ever public statement: "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," she said. "And I just wanted to say I love him — so much."

In the wake of his death, everyone in the world seemed to talk of his or her favorite Jackson song, or favorite Jackson dance move or favorite Jackson video. I'll never forget that night back in early 1983, when onstage in Pasadena, California, at the Motown 25th anniversary show, Michael Jackson gave his first public performance as a mature artist staking his own claim, vaulting into that astonishingly graceful, electrifying version of "Billie Jean." Dancing, spinning, sending out impassioned, fierce glares at the overcome audience, Jackson did a powerful job of animating and mythologizing his own blend of mystery and sexuality. I'd never seen anything quite like it before. Maybe I never will again. Michael Jackson didn't just grab the gold ring: He hooked it to a new bar and set it even higher, and nobody has yet snatched it with quite the same flair or results.

Adapted from Triumph & Tragedy: The life of Michael Jackson (2009)

DILLA LEGACY LIVES ON~ Tags: j dilla toy figurine legacy lives on word life production feature

Dilla’s legacy lives on again with the creation of this vinyl toy/figurine of the late producer. Donning his trademark Detroit fitted, a t-shirt in ode to himself, a pair of Nike Dunks, and carrying an MPC, this little Jay Dee is set to hit stores sometime later this year.

The J Dilla vinyl toy will be released by the J Dilla foundation, designed by Phil Young Song. http://abovegroundmagazine.com/news/culture-news/07/06/j-dilla-vinyl-figurine/

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