Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson Ain't All That

©2009 by LeeZard

LeeZard is already burned out on the Michael Jackson brouhaha. I’m sorry, boys & girls but Michael Jackson isn’t (wasn’t) Elvis. He wasn’t The Beatles or Frank Sinatra.

Let’s put aside, for the moment, Jackson’s penchant for diddling little boys, the apparent denial of his Blackness and whatever other “foibles” soiled his fable. As an icon, he doesn’t measure up to the “A” list above. Why? Is Leezard just being contrary? I don’t think so.

While MJ fans argue that his record sales are the equal to those of the Beatles and Elvis, the “official” count shows otherwise – by at least a quarter-of-a-million (that will certainly change as MJ sales have skyrocketed since his death). But, anyone can diddle with numbers (much better than diddling with little boys!). Let’s take two examples from my generation and look at the bigger picture, starting with The King (MJ was merely “The King of Pop”).

Elvis changed everything. It’s not out of reach to say he jump-started the Rock & Roll Revolution. While he perpetuated the despicable practice of White artists covering (read that stealing) songs originally performed by Blacks, Elvis brought that music to the masses. His recording of “Blue Suede Shoes” shined the spotlight on the immensely talented Carl Perkins. His version of Chicago Blues Man Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama” was one of the first Elvis tracks recorded by Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Presley’s first big mainstream hit was, likewise, a White cover; Big Mama Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” before Elvis.

Elvis Presley’s influence goes way beyond music (and film). His mixture of rockabilly, country, R&B and Blues opened the door for Black artists and, in its own way, helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, before his discovery by Svengali-esque Colonel Tom Parker, many radio listeners thought Elvis was Black. In the 1950’s, teen-aged boys (and pre-teens like LeeZard) copied Elvis’ longer hair, sideburns and pompadour, not to mention the swagger and sneer that drove the girls wild. Elvis Presley’s impact on our world and his legacy are unquestioned.

The Beatles changed everything. Omigawd, where do we start? They:
• Brought a whole new British-style of Rock and Pop music to America;
• Introduced production and recording techniques never before seen in the music business;
• Started the long-hair-is-okay-for men revolution;
• Influenced clothing and other fashion styles on both sides of the Atlantic;
• For better or worse, popularized the recreational use of drugs;
• Introduced the world to the mystical music of Ravi Shankar and other artists from the Indian sub-continent;
• Likewise introduced the world to non-traditional forms of spirituality such as Yoga and meditation;
• And, perhaps most importantly, helped bring the Anti-Vietnam War Movement to the masses.
The Beatles’ impact on our world and their legacy are unquestioned.

In that context, let’s take a look at Michael Jackson’s impact on our world and his legacy. What did MJ leave us?
• Fond memories of an amazingly talented youngster leading the Jackson 5;
• The Moonwalk and other dance steps we could never imitate;

• “Thriller,” the biggest selling album of all time;
• The “Thriller” music video, arguably the most-innovative video ever;
• A sequined glove (only one) and jacket;
• A saddening series of photos showing Jackson’s futile attempts to use plastic surgery to become less Black;
• Oh yeah, and the shattered lives of who-knows-how-many young boys.

While MJ is often credited as “the driving force” behind the famous and star-studded “We are the World” charity (for those starving in Africa) single, the idea for the project actually came from Harry Belafonte. MJ, along with Lionel Richie, penned the lyrics.

Was Michael Jackson a brilliant artist? Certainly. LeeZard has "Billy Jean" and "Thriller" on his iPod. Was he a ground-breaker in the world of Pop Music? Absolutely. Is he in the same class as Elvis and the Beatles? Leezard doesn’t think so.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fill the World with Joy

(NOTE: LeeZard is sad. The seemingly endless wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, the shooting - by an 80+ yr. old flippin' neo-Nazi - at the Holocaust Museum in D.C., hate crimes against gays, North Korean nukes and terrorist kooks. Can't we all play nicely together?? And, so, I offer the following plea in the darkness...or, is it a fart into the wind? You decide)

Fill the World with Joy
©2009 by LeeZard

I’m walking on a mountain trail,
Through valleys ever green.
The warm sun shares blue sky,
With cotton pillow clouds.
My heart is free,
My head is clear,
My life is filled with joy.

From oceans deep to mountains high,
Bring peace upon the land.
Every boy & girl, every mom & dad,
All around the world,
Make them free,
Their future clear,
Let’s fill their days with joy.

It’s just a dream, I know,
But I was born to dream.
I dream of hope and pray for peace,
No babies born to die.
This dream is free,
The vision’s clear,
Let’s fill the world with joy.

So join me now, Let’s join our hands,
Let’s make this dream come true.
Refuse to fight. Let’s make things right,
And help our fellow man.
This dream is free,
Our way is clear,
Let’s fill the world with joy.