MJ - Opener MJ - Opener

Redemption Songs: Michael Jackson's Greatest Hits

Story by Keith Murphy


ON JUNE, 27 1999, Michael Jackson nearly died for his music. But the 70,000 screaming fans packed inside Munich’s sold-out Olympic Stadium that night had no idea he had just cheated death. They were all too caught up in the spectacle that was Michael Jackson & Friends, a televised extravaganza with elaborate staging.

While his fame in America had waned since child abuse allegations cut short his Dangerous tour in 1993, Jackson’s ‘96-’97 HIStory trek played to a record 4.5 million spectators, grossing more than $165 million. But only a few of those 82 concerts were staged in the United States. Taping this all-star concert in Germany was Jackson’s way of showing gratitude to the loyal European subjects who still revered him as the same King of Pop who sold more than 51 million copies of 1982’s Thriller.

After a greatest hits medley, Jackson launched into an 11-minute version of his green anthem “Earth Song,” which would culminate with a tank rolling on stage and Jackson standing in its path like a protester from Tiananmen Square. “Where did we go wrong?” he wailed from atop a metal platform 30 feet above the stage. “What about us?” a mighty choir answered as the audience wept and cheered. And then, somewhere in mid-song, the wires supporting the sturdy platform snapped.

“The local crew evidently put the wrong cable wire on the metal and the bridge came crashing down into the orchestra pit with Michael on it,” recalls the show’s producer Kenny Ortega, who would go on to direct Jackson’s critically-acclaimed concert documentary This Is It. “Michael felt the fall. He knew it was happening and timed his jump as the bridge hit the ground,” Ortega says, incredulous. “And he continued to do the show!”

The scrambling stagehands and tour executives were horrified. “Weren’t you trembling in fear?” Ortega asked him minutes after the gig. Jackson responded like he was reading a script from one of those endearingly cheesy 1930s’ musicals: “Well, Kenny, I always was taught that the show must go on.”

Jackson survived that fall just like he survived all the others—through a combination of talent, luck and fancy footwork. But the worst was yet to come. The first time allegations of child molestation threatened to tarnish his brilliant career, a private settlement of a reported $20 million between the singer and his young accuser was reached. (No charges were ever filed in the case.) But that was just one of many incidents that contributed to his so-called “Wacko Jacko” persona: the battles with addiction; the extreme plastic surgeries; the day he dangled his infant son Prince Michael II over a Berlin hotel balcony. But after his sensational 2005 jury trial in which Jackson was acquitted on a second accusation of child molestation, he appeared to be a broken man.

Michael was reportedly hundreds of millions in debt, resulting from lavish spending and legal problems. Michael Joseph Jackson had hit rock bottom. Ominous reports circulated that he was juggling doctors to sustain his addiction to prescription pain medicine—after a pyrotechnical accident during a Pepsi commercial burned his scalp—and that he would end up like another tragic music icon: Elvis Presley. At one point Jackson even told his then wife Lisa Marie Presley that he was afraid he would die of an overdose like her father.


From the Web

More on Vibe

Rep. Maxine Waters meets with CBS Vice President of News and Executive Director of Staff Development and Diversity, Kim Goodwin, and CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, Christopher Isham, on Capitol Hill. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Waters Office)

Maxine Waters Meets With CBS To Discuss Media Diversity And Inclusion

California Rep. Maxine Waters met with CBS' Vice President of News and Executive Director of Staff Development and Diversity to discuss the lack of media diversity and inclusion within the media empire.

Their meeting steemed from the network's recent release of their predominately clear  team for the coverage of the 2020 presidential election. Comprised of 4 white producers, 5 white-passing reporters and 3 journalists of color, though the 2020 campaigns reporting staff does not have any black anchors.

It's Official: The @CBSNews 2020 Election Team has assembled! https://t.co/0GBCw4mj7s pic.twitter.com/E0rUDAkzf7

— Ben Mitchell (@bfmitchell) January 11, 2019

Waters, like other prominent speakers in the black community, have discussed their reluctance to embrace the staff citing issues with who will tackle the roles that racism will play in elections and the role racism has been playing in the United States. Taking the issues directly to the source, the congresswomen had a discussion with the higher up's to talk redirection.

“The CBS representatives accepted full responsibility and understood the troubling optics-- and subsequent public backlash -- that occurred as a result of the rollout of their 2020 presidential election team. CBS admitted that the initial 2020 campaign team did not reflect the diversity that the company had committed to; assured me that it will not happen again; and revealed that in the coming months they will unveil a more diverse and inclusive slate of African American journalists and journalists from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences,"  Waters said in a press statement.

"They also identified key individuals in Washington, D.C. and New York City, NY whom they have brought onto their team to fulfill this mission and ensure their news organization reflects the diversity of the country and the communities who will most certainly be engaged in the 2020 elections."

The 43rd district representative has vowed to hold CBS accountable for their diversity issues and is dedicated to working alongside her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Continue Reading
Mike Pont/Getty Images

Woman Alleges R. Kelly Sexually Abused Her At 16 In 'Dateline' Interview

Tracy Sampson, a woman who interned with Epic Records at 16, revealed she endured sexual relations with R. Kelly that summer of 1999.

Featured on Dateline NBC's "Accused: The R. Kelly Story," the now 36-year-old appears in her first on-camera interview where she details the relationship that began during her formative years.

Sampson said the singer asked her, "'Can I kiss you?' and I was like, 'No,'" to which he responded, "'Well, give me a hug.' And then, like, when I gave him a hug he just started kissing me."

"I was in love with him," she continued. "I just didn't know what to do. Like, I didn't know if this was normal. I didn't know if this is how adults acted."

Following the incident, Sampson filed a lawsuit against Kelly in 2002. Her suit was settled to the tune of $250,000.

Steven Greenberg, Kelly's current attorney, told NBC that he was not part of the artist's legal team when the alleged abuse took place but maintains that his client is innocent.

According to Greenberg, there is no evidence that proves Kelly, 52, engaged in sexual relations with underage girls "because it didn't happen." However, Surviving R. Kelly calls that statement into question with a six-episode program detailing the sexual and mental abuse endured by some women who met Kelly while underage. Lisa Van Allen, for instance, met the "Sex Me" singer at the age of 17.

NBC's take on the groundbreaking series comes just two weeks after the explosive Lifetime production. The special will air Friday (Jan. 18) at 10 pm EST.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Princess Nokia Accuses Ariana Grande Of Ripping Off Her Song For '7 Rings'

While some corners of the Internet are rejoicing in Ariana Grande's new trap-influenced single and video for "7 Rings," other members are crying "plagiarism" after Princess Nokia pointed out that the Thank U, Next single sounds suspiciously familiar to her song, "Mine."

"Oh! Oh! Wow!” Nokia says while playing the two songs back-to-back on her Instagram page. “Does that sound familiar to you, because that sounds really familiar to me!"

She later point out that her song "Mine" off of her 2017 project 1992 Deluxe is written for a different demographic that the majority of Grande's fans.

"Oh my god. Ain’t ["Mine"] the little song I made about brown women and their hair? Hmm… sounds about white," Nokia continues. "7 Rings" features an interpolation of The Sound Of Music's "My Favorite Things," and features a flow reminiscent of Soulja Boy's "Pretty Boy Swag." However, the similarities between Nokia's "Mine" and Grande's new song are indeed striking, specifically the cadence for the repeated lines ("it's mine, I bought it" for Nokia and "I want it, I got it" for Ari), as well as the flow for the pre-chorus.

Grande hasn't commented on the allegations, however, Twitter users are jumping to Nokia's defense.

"@ArianaGrande when you heard Mine by Princess Nokia did you listen to the words telling you not to appropriate or were just plotting on how else you can capitalize on black culture and grabbed the beat with no credit," one user wrote.

What do you think?


View this post on Instagram



A post shared by Princess Nokia (@princessnokia) on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:30am PST


Continue Reading

Top Stories