In the coming years, music historians, psychologists and pundits will dissect the Michael Jackson phenomenon. Arguably, Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainment civilization has ever known. To break down the making of Michael Jackson, many of the fabled stories of the Jackson Family will be rehashed, torn apart, analyzed and finally synthesized into a theory. In the end, a part from his body of work spanning 40 years, his physical transformation over the years and his impact on the music industry, a comprehensive and concise understanding of the factors that created Michael Jackson will emerge. Was he a product of some miraculous alchemy? Was there a metamorphosis from childhood prodigy to adult Superstar? How did he evolve into a musical genius where others either devolved or never quite made the cut?
During the rise of the legendary group, The Jackson Five, two other groups emerged around the same time—The Sylvers and The Osmonds. The Sylvers were lead by Edmund Sylvers, but their youngest brother, Foster Sylvers, was their answer to Michael Jackson with Foster's hit song "Misdemeanor." Before the Sylvers, The Osmonds answer to Michael was little Donny Osmond who exploded on the scene with the song "One Bad Apple." In terms of commercial potential, it seemed that Donny and Foster might be able to give Michael a run for his money. Remember, this was nearly 40 years ago and The Jacksons had created an appetite for the cute, young, precocious child singing songs about experiences he hadn’t had yet. As time would reveal, the only one left standing among the three prodigies was Michael Jackson. Why?
Many commentators would suggest that Michael Jackson was far more talented than Foster Sylvers and Donny Osmond relegating his later success as proof positive of this claim. However, if the three started out having comparable talents, what made the difference between them? They all were cute, could sing and had stage presence. But, there was a mark difference between Michael Jackson and the rest.
One common denominator that permeates many charismatic personalities is some level of depravation early on in childhood development. The fabled stories of the Jackson patriarch, Joe Jackson, ruling the family with an iron fist creating insecurities and self-esteem issues within the family, in some cases creates extreme greatness or severe depravation--or one in the same. With limited information on the family backgrounds of the Sylvers and the Osmonds, a mental leap suggests that these families had pretty normal upbringings without any external compulsion to further their talents once experiencing initial success. Outside of Donny Osmond, a good trivia question would be “Where are they now?” Not the case with Michael Jackson and the Jackson brothers. Joe Jackson reportedly pushed them into greatness using draconian means. A once aspiring musician himself, Joe Jackson, introduced his progeny to music at an early age similar to Earl Woods putting a golf club in the hands of golf great Tiger Woods almost before he could walk. The same is the case with Leopold Mozart instructing a young Wolfgang Mozart. These beginnings instilled within Michael Jackson a certain level of discipline coupled with his interest in this art form would lead him to greatness. This is a great departure from time-honored child showing promise in local talent shows and “growing out” of music, as he gets older. Michael’s early introduction and socialization put him on the path to musical greatness.
To be sure, Michael Jackson was a compilation of passion for music, relentless ambition and deliberate practice. The steps to Michael's rise that lead to his awesome stage charisma were:
---Extreme curiosity for any information geared to professional excellence. Michael Jackson was consumed with being the very best entertainer and reportedly studied other legends to determine how they remained relevant and gained longevity. Motown Records Founder, Berry Gordy, remarked that Michael would ask at great length questions about the music industry and what went on behind the scenes. While his brothers were off doing things leisurely, Michael was querying the executives around him.
---Deliberate practice and an insatiable desire to "one up" himself. Geoff Colvin, in his book, "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else," notes that deliberate practice has essentially 3 components: 1. An enthusiastic coach (someone with passion for the craft who cultivates and nurtures it) who mentors the phenom , 2. Minimum 10,000 hours or ten years of deliberate practice for the would-be phenom, and 3. The phenom would have started at a very early age. Michael was encouraged by his father, a guitarist, practiced hours a day and began singing at 5 years old and persisted for 40 years.
---Isolation and solitude to perfect his craft Michael Jackson spent a great deal of his time rehearsing and contemplating the music and moves he perfected. In fact, he had actual legal patents for some of his dance moves. The thought of Michael Jackson sharing his behind-the-scenes creativity would be naïve. He allowed the public to relish the manifestation of the process, but did not allow many into his creative inner sanctum nor expose his innovations to the world before they were complete. As an artist, Michael's creativity soared in the darkness of solitude.
There have been many entertainers before, during and since Michael Jackson who wanted to astound the world with their talents. Michael showed and proved that superstardom is much more than talent…it's much more, hard work.
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