Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"... on the shoulders of giants..."

I have some thoughts today after watching the Michael Jackson memorial on TV this morning. Overall I thought it was well and tastefully done. The tributes were touching, sweet and appropriate. The one low point in my opinion was the speech given by the Reverend Al Sharpton, self-appointed, self-anointed blowhard. He claimed that Michael was "... the Jackie Robinson of entertainment" and that Michael had opened the doors of the entertainment world for African-Americans. Hogwash. He also intimated that because of MJ, Barack Obama was able to be elected president! Outrageous!

As I have said many times, I was, am, and will always be a fan of Michael. He was twice inducted in the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a brilliant writer, arranger, singer, dancer, producer. He was an innovator and his influence on popular music is undeniable. He was a generous philanthropist. Yes, he was strange, eccentric even a little weird. He was acquitted of every child abuse/molestation charge ever brought against him. And the family that he "paid off" rather than go to court already had a history of trying to extort celebrities.

So back to Sharpton's claim... Here are the names of only a few black pioneers who I believe really did open the doors he spoke of: Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, James Brown (whose dance moves Michael nicked in great detail when he was a little boy), Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, even Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. I believe Michael himself would agree and freely admit that he stood on the shoulders of these greats and that perhaps rather they opened the doors for him! I will miss him; all music lovers will.