Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jackson’
In 1984 Bruce Springsteen released his best-selling album, a twelve-track masterpiece in which seven songs were released as singles, including the mega-hits “Dancing in the Dark,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “I’m on Fire,” and “Glory Days.” Rolling Stone called Springsteen the “voice of a decade,” and wrote, “It’s as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can.”
Although the song “Born in the U.S.A.” had a cultural impact, the most lasting legacy of the album might be “Dancing in the Dark,” an upbeat pop song with oddly grim lyrics, and a classic video featuring a young Courteney Cox dancing onstage…
With Tetris, TED, and This is Spinal Tap, one of “30 Things Turning 30 in 2014.”
* variously attributed to Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and The Beatles, all of whom said it; but it’s likely that they all got it from Jack Weinberger, a free speech activist, who was quoted with the phrase in 1964, in the San Francisco Chronicle.
As we age gracefully, we might recall that it was also 30 years ago– on this date in 1984– that Michael Jackson’s Thriller became the best-selling album ever. Released in 1982, Thriller spawned seven singles, all of which charted, and several seminal music videos (e.g., “Billie Jean,” Human Nature,” Thriller”); it won 8 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. As of 2010, Thriller had sold a certified 42.4 million copies (and had an estimated total of 51-65 million). The runner-up, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (released a decade earlier), had sold 27.2 million.
As we remind ourselves that this (“You never know…!”) is why our mothers insisted that we always wear clean underclothes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1813 that Captain James Lawrence sailed his ship, the Chesapeake, from Boston Harbor– and immediately engaged the blockading Royal Navy frigate HMS Shannon in a fierce battle. Though the British ship’s cannons disabled the Chesapeake within the first few minutes, Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by small arms fire, famously commanded his officers: “Don’t give up the ship.” (Shortly afterwards, the Chesapeake was overwhelmed by a British boarding party… and was, after all, given up. James Lawrence died of his wounds three days later… while the Chesapeake was being taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by her captors.)
Original x-rays of Einstein’s brain will go under the gavel on December 3 at Julien’s Auctions in Hollywood (along with other such memorabilia as the first guitar used on stage by Jimi Hendrix and the Michael Jackson “Bad” costume made for and worn by the chimp Bubbles).
Taken by an old friend when the Father of Modern Physics was 66, the x-rays may illustrate the root of the genius’ genius; as the BBC explains:
Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the shape and size Einstein’s brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average intelligence.
They think their findings may well explain his genius for mathematical and spatial thinking.
In general, Einstein’s brain was the same as all the others except in one particular area – the region responsible for mathematical thought and the ability to think in terms of space and movement.
Uniquely, Einstein’s brain also lacked a groove that normally runs through part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.
“This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he did,” said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published in the Lancet.
“Einstein’s own description of his scientific thinking was that words did not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a visual kind,” she said.
The x-rays are expected to fetch $1-2,000.
(TotH to Cakehead Loves Evil)
As we muse that the juxtaposition of items in the auction is… well, relatively odd, we might cast our eyes to the heavens in honor of Johannes Kepler, the mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer (the distinctions among those fields being pretty vague in Kepler’s time); he died on this date in 1630.
Kepler’s “laws of planetary motion”– most famously, that the planets move in elliptical orbits around the Sun– were the foundation on which Isaac Newton (one of the few humans arguably smarter than Einstein) built his theory of universal gravitation.
He was “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “the Godfather of Soul”– James Brown. Immensely popular with audiences from the mid-Fifties (when “Please, Please, Please,” above, was a hit), he was a tremendous influence on popular music, with admirers who included jazz greats like Miles Davis, and emulators like Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T & the MGs and “soul shouters” like King Curtis, Edwin Starr, and David Ruffin (of The Temptations). He was a famously-tough task master as a band leader; but it served his musicians well, as their education at his hands laid the foundation for several successful solo careers (e.g., Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Hank Ballard, Bootsy Collins, and Carlos Alomar). And he was the ur-source of Funk (e.g., admirer George Clinton cast Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins centrally in the seminal Parliament-Funkadelic).
But Brown made what was arguably his most influential contribution with his feet: he was, as anyone who saw him perform can attest, an astonishing dancer. As a child, he’d earned pocket money buck dancing to entertain troops headed to Europe at the outset of WWII. Over the years he made that traditional form uniquely his own– inspiring performers like Michael Jackson and Prince, who modeled their moves on his, and prefiguring the current vogue of dance-centric pop performances.
James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006. But happily, he left behind a guide to the moves that made him famous. The holiday party season, with its fraught occasions to dance, looms; but there’s no reason to fear, Dear Readers– just watch and learn. Michael Jackson did…
As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 (when James Brown was 13 years old) that Walt Disney released Song of the South, a feature film based on the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, in which live actors frame animated enactments of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit– like the story of “The Tar Baby.” The film won the Best Song Oscar for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”; but, while the film was re-released theatrically in 1972, 1981, and 1986, and has been released to home video in Europe and Asia, it has never been released to home video in the U.S.– perhaps because Disney executives feel that it might be construed as racist.
James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, was the first black actor hired by Disney to play a live role. He was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, the event hotels there would not have him. (source)
Michael Jackson’s legacy has yet to settle. There are the songs, of course– from the crystal-shattering Motown days of the Jackson Five to the Quincy Jones era– and there’s the Beatles Song Catalogue (rumored to have been willed to Sir Paul… though Michael’s creditors may have some issue with that); and then, of course, there’s the lunacy… But it may be that Michael will be best remembered as an inventor. To wit, U..S. Patent 5255452, the abstract of which reads:
A system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member.
And lest the reader wonder at the utility of such a creation, consider “Smooth Criminal” and its signature dance routine:
As we cant at 45 degrees, we might celebrate the birthdays of an entertainment pioneer of an earlier era, Melvin “Mel” Kaminsky– better known by his stage name, Mel Brooks. He was born on this date in 1926. Brooks is a member of the select fraternity of entertainers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. And while of his own work he observed, “my movies rise below vulgarity,” three of his films (Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein) rank in the Top 20 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Comedy Films of All Time.
“How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”
– Max Bialystock, The Producers