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The Genius of Michael Jackson

Updated on March 13, 2015

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's ability as an artist was unparalleled: a master of music, melody, song and dance he moved audiences the world over. How did his genius manifest itself? How did he create his artistic masterpieces?

The Jackson 5.
The Jackson 5. | Source

The child genius

Michael Jackson's talent for music and dance was evidence at a very young age. One of Katherine Jackson's early memories is of watching her two year old son move in scenic rhythm with the squeak of her old washing machine. As well as absorbing dance steps from a young age, Michael was also a fine melodist: his teachers recall him singing popular tunes of the time in perfect pitch.

As well as being born with a number of exceptional talents, as a child, Michael Jackson also performed with a gravity and a depth that belied his young years. Smokey Robinson remembered being astounded by the young boy's talent and many established artists, after seeing Michael perform, referred to him as a man in a boy's body.

An 11 year old Michael singing "Who's Loving You?"

The composer

As well as being a fine singer and dancer, Michael Jackson was also a talented composer. Engineers that worked with him on his numerous studio albums have spoken about how he wrote his songs almost entirely in his head, devising the bass-line, the melody, the sound of each individual drum-beat and the lyrics over a series of sessions. One engineer remembers Michael dictating the chords he wanted a guitar player to play one note at a time! Michael's composition skills weren't limited to the pop world, either: they easily transferred into the classical sphere, as his song, "Childhood" demonstrates. In fact, Michael's approach to composition was very similar to Mozart's: both men were able to formulate complex musical ideas in their heads before either writing the music down or dictating it to other musicians.

Michael talking to engineers in the studio

Michael talking about the songwriting process

A true perfectionist

Many people who knew Michael intimately for ten years or more have described him as a perfectionist. No doubt, his drive to achieve the best results he could every time fueled his genius. Not content with using the talents he already had, Michael worked hard to improve the range of his voice, as well as focusing on proper intonation. He also spent hours at home in his dance studio perfecting his dance moves. Whilst his audiences assumed that all of his moves were made up on the spot, they were, in fact, the result of hours of practice in front of a mirror.

Michael Jackson performing "The Way You Make Me Feel" live.
Michael Jackson performing "The Way You Make Me Feel" live. | Source

Michael Jackson's music videos

The filmmaker

As well as possessing exceptional musical talents, Michael Jackson was also a very clever filmmaker, using his music videos, (or short films, as he preferred to call them,) to communicate deep, heartfelt and powerful messages. To illustrate: the end of Michael's short film for Black and White, (the panther scene,) is a comment on prejudice in all its forms, whilst the film for his song You are Not Alone was modeled, aesthetically, on Maxfield Parrish's painting Daybreak.

As well as using his films to communicate specific messages and drawing aesthetic inspiration from classical paintings, Michael also paid great attention to detail when directing a film. Rather than standing on the sidelines letting someone else take the reins, he was very involved in the filming process, specifying what should be seen in each take. Michael also strove to ensure that his films were expertly edited so that they merged, seamlessly, with his music.

"Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish

"Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish.
"Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish. | Source

Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone"

Michael Jackson's autobiography "Moonwalk"

The scholar

Michael Jackson was a voracious reader: his personal library consisted of more than 10,000 books. Before undertaking any venture, (in film or music,) he would diligently study every relevant resource. He was intensely curious and a great lover of classical art and subjects, a trait which may well have fueled his unique imagination and ignited his genius.One attorney recalled a conversation with Michael during which Socrates, (and his contributions to the study of philosophy) were discussed. Exceptionally talented though he was, Michael was always striving to achieve, learn and understand more so that he could continue to make unique contributions to the world of art.


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