MJ Loved BK! Michael Jackson’s Connection with Brooklyn
One year ago, Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Michael Jackson passed away at the age of 50. His death, regardless of circumstance, shocked fans around the globe. We here in Brooklyn especially felt a strong connection with the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. His innovative music and performance style is a testament to the unparalleled diversity of Brooklyn’s residences. Jackson’s dancing skills alone incorporated the grace of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, the excitement of James Brown and Jackie Wilson, the precision and class of the Nicholas Brothers and the progressive grit of break-dancing b-boys. His melding of influences reflects how our borough fuses numerous cultures together to make one unified people. Jackson’s connection doesn’t stop there.
As a teenager, he could be seen skipping down the Cyclone Roller Coaster with Diana Ross, shooting during his film debut, 1978′s “The Wiz.” The groundbreaking choreography displayed in his breakthrough 1983 music videos “Beat It” and “Thriller” were co-crafted with Williamsburg born Michael Peters. He recruited Fort Greene native Spike Lee for two incendiary versions of his 1997 video for “They Don’t Care About Us.” For his final magazine cover story in the December 2007 issue of Ebony Magazine, he chose Beaux-Arts Court Ballroom at the Brooklyn Museum for a massive photo shoot.
But most notably, at was in 1986 that Jackson shot the climax of his Martin Scorsese directed video for his number one single “Bad” in the Hoyt-Schemehorn Subway Station. He selected the story-line from a Newsweek article about a ghetto born teen who’d left the dangerous, gangster-riden neighborhood behind to attend an upstate private school. Upon returning for a term break, he was killed by friends who’d grown jealous of his newfound assimilation. This speaks to an underlining theme which occurs in this borough: Envy and dissent towards those who leave poverty behind them; if you leave the Marcy Projects for Fort Hamilton you’re seen as a “sellout” or ”uppity.” Jackson felt connected and compelled to use this medium of entertainment to convey a social message, outling a problem we face to this very day.
Brooklyn embraced Michael Jackson’s integrity and convictions. It was made evident by the massive birthday celebration in his honor at Prospect Park last August, or the weekly musical dedications from artists like the O’Jays, Donna Summer, Robin Thicke and Gladys Knight performing at Wingate Field and Seaside Park every Monday and Thursday of that summer. One year later, Brooklynites have not forgotten the impact Jackson has made on music and continues to make. So, remember today, whether or not you’re a fan of Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson was a fan of Brooklyn, NY.