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We all like the moonwalk, but no one wants to see Michael Jackson practice it for 500 hours.

Moonwalk (dance)

There are many recorded instances of the moonwalk, similar steps are reported as far back as 1932, used by Cab Calloway.[5] In 1985, Calloway said that the move was called “The Buzz” when he and others performed it in the 1930s. […] In the 1950s, Dick Van Dyke performed a similar variation of the moonwalk and camel walk in his comedy routine called “Mailing A Letter On A Windy Corner.” […]

The history of the moonwalk is pretty amazing.

When I heard about the moonwalk in my childhood (disclaimer: born in the late 80s), I didn’t really get it because I wasn’t sure how a dance move would simulate low gravity. Which is to say, it makes total sense that the move existed for decades before it was given the name. Perhaps it’s a lesson for us in naming, marketing and communicating.

Michael Jackson

If you thought that last article was good, why haven’t we read about Michael Jackson before? I know why: bias against popular culture.

26 American Music Awards, more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century” and “Artist of the 1980s”; 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career, more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era

Why did he bother?

Jackson’s deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant, especially with his father, and to remain childlike throughout his adult life, are consistent with the effects of the maltreatment he endured as a young child.[23]

Is this the simple explanation we were looking for?

Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a much bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release.[39]

Keywords: passion

In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty was not a complete success; he complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson’s second rhinoplasty and subsequent operations.[32]

Keywords: creative process

These awards were thanks to the Thriller album, released in late 1982. […] It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles.


In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.[40]

Was he doing it for the money?

Money, Dear Boy

It seems that a sitcom is doomed as soon as its star/s become/s the “highest paid on television.” (Notably, Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends).

Apparently not true in music?

Back to Wikipedia:

Jackson’s attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. […] Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status in the United States.

Not even a very efficient way to get really rich.

Time described Jackson’s influence at that point as “Star of records, radio, rock video. A one-man rescue team for the music business. A songwriter who sets the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on the street. A singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style and color too”.[49] The New York Times wrote that, “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.[54]

Such passion…

On March 25, 1983, Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance […]

Uh oh, Wikipedia, starting to editorialize a bit…

He donated all the funds (around $8 million) raised from the Victory Tour to charity.[62]

So it wasn’t for the money… We knew that anyway.

Jackson at the White House being presented with an award by President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, 1984

Seems awkward.

Jackson had become interested in owning music catalogs after working with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s. Jackson had learned McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people’s songs.[68]


Keywords: capitalism, incentives

According to McCartney, he contacted Yoko Ono about making a joint purchase by splitting the cost equally at £10 million each, but Ono thought they could buy it for £5 million each.[68][70] When they were unable to make the joint purchase, McCartney let the offer fall through, not wanting to be the sole owner of the Beatles’ songs.[69][70]


Keywords: meaning of life

Jackson’s skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid-1980s, it gradually grew paler.

Wikipedia’s iron-fisted neutrality…

Jackson lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for “a dancer’s body”.[76] Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy and speculated that he was suffering from anorexia nervosa; periods of weight loss would become a recurring problem later in life.[77]


Although the claim was untrue, according to tabloid reports that are widely cited, Jackson had disseminated the fabricated story himself.[79] When Jackson bought a chimpanzee called Bubbles from a laboratory, he was reported to be increasingly detached from reality.[80] […] Although initially he saw these stories as opportunities for publicity, he stopped leaking untruths to the press as they became more sensational. Consequently the media began making up their own stories.[79][82][83]


Keywords: backfires

Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars? Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight.

I’m sure it’d be a fantastic dance.

He performed a total of 123 concerts to an audience of 4.4 million people.[105][106]


President George H.W. Bush designated him the White House’s “Artist of the Decade”.[119]

Ah yes…

Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 70 concerts.[128][131]

Wait, I thought the other number was actually a total.

I guess maybe he did 500-1000 concerts total?

That’s… a lot.

The performance began with Jackson catapulting onto the stage as fireworks went off behind him. As he landed on the canvas, he maintained a motionless “clenched fist, standing statue stance”, dressed in a gold and black military outfit and sunglasses; he remained completely motionless for a minute and a half while the crowd cheered. He then slowly removed his sunglasses, threw them away and sang four songs: “Jam”, “Billie Jean”, “Black or White”, and “Heal the World”.


He grimaced when speaking of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father. […] In the summer of 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Dr. Evan Chandler, a dentist.[138][139][140]

Is this an illustration of how stupid popular beliefs can be taken advantage of and hurt people?

People hear one of these claims and think, “oh yeah, there might be something to that…”

In December 1993, Jackson was strip searched.[143] Jordan Chandler had reportedly given police a description of Jackson’s intimate parts, and the strip search revealed that Jordan had correctly claimed Jackson had patchy-colored buttocks, short pubic hair, and pink and brown marked testicles.[143] Reportedly, Jordan had also previously drawn accurate pictures of a dark spot on Jackson’s penis only visible when his penis was lifted.[144]


Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s. Once he had the licenses, he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and keep all the profits. However, due to various clauses in the contract, the revert date turned out to be many years away. Jackson discovered that the attorney who represented him in the deal was also representing Sony.[176] Jackson was also concerned about the fact that for a number of years, Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in their music catalog venture. Jackson feared that Sony might have a conflict of interest, since if Jackson’s career failed, he would have to sell his share of the catalog at a low price.[181] Jackson sought an early exit from his contract.[176] Just before the release of Invincible, Jackson informed the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, that he was leaving Sony.[176] As a result, all singles releases, video shootings and promotions concerning the Invincible album were suspended.

Sure, you can make money by owning things, but you also make yourself a target. Incentives are dangerous.

Also, it seems like if your own lawyer sticks you with a crappy contract due to a conflict of interest, the lawyer should be on the hook for it. But of course, getting out of legal situations is what a lawyer is good at…

The baby was briefly extended over a railing, four stories above ground level, causing widespread criticism in the media. Jackson later apologized for the incident, calling it “a terrible mistake”.[188]

Dammit guys.

Keywords: blind spots, self-awareness, bias

Jackson’s estate received 90% of the profits.[230]

The other day I was watching that presentation by Lawrence Lessig and he had a video clip of a dead cockroach being moved by ants.


I feel like performers like Michael Jackson are sort of like fleas in a flea circus. It’s like a flea barely managing to stay on top of forces it can’t possibly control or understand, and then it turns out the flea is actually dead and glued in place.

Yeah, it’s pretty disgusting.

Maybe the relationship between corporations and individuals is symbiotic after all, because no human could possibly be happy doing what corporations are expected to. In that case, maybe working at a day job may not be so bad.

MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET) aired marathons of Jackson’s music videos.[247]

That was it. It turns out we’re not building toward anything bigger or better. The journey was the destination.

Video game developer Ubisoft announced it would release a new dancing-and-singing game featuring Michael Jackson for the 2010 holiday season.

I feel like this really underscores the flea circus analogy.

In April 2011, Jackson’s longtime friend and billionaire businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, chairman of Fulham Football Club, unveiled a statue of Jackson outside the club’s stadium, Craven Cottage.[292] Fulham fans were bemused by the statue and failed to understand the relevance of Jackson to the club.[293] Al Fayed defended the statue and told the fans to “go to hell” if they did not appreciate it.[294] The statue was removed in September 2013.[295]


He comments the album is more diverse than his previous Bad, as it appeals to an urban audience while also attracting the middle class with anthems like “Heal the World”.[325]


I never really realized that TED Talks and Whole Foods was a demographic.

I feel like the middle class side of it grew out of the hippies, but how did that happen?

Or maybe it moved down from the upper classes and their charity banquets.

“That Jackson lip-synced ‘Billie Jean’ is, in itself, not extraordinary, but the fact that it did not change the impact of the performance is extraordinary; whether the performance was live or lip-synced made no difference to the audience” thus creating an era in which artists re-create the spectacle of music video imagery on stage.[344]

Oh, great.

For the “Smooth Criminal” video, Jackson experimented with an anti-gravity lean where the performer leans forward at a 45 degree angle, beyond the performer’s center of gravity. To accomplish this move live, Jackson and designers developed a special shoe that locks the performer’s feet to the stage, allowing them to lean forward.

Yeah, this is cool.

Jackson’s sound, style, movement and legacy continues to inspire artists of all genres.

Certainly, even I am looking to him for inspiration.

In 2010, two university librarians found that Jackson’s influence extended into academia, and has been mentioned in scholarly literature pertaining to a range of subject matter.[367][368]

It’s like an infinite crossover between everything and everything else.

Cab Calloway

In 1941 Calloway fired Dizzy Gillespie from his orchestra after an onstage fracas erupted when Calloway was hit with spitballs. He wrongly accused Gillespie, who stabbed Calloway in the leg with a small knife.[10]

No trust whatsoever, huh?

Signature move

Certain moves such as the Kamehameha are quite powerful.