A tribute to Michael Jackson

July 26, 2009



The passing of Michael Jackson is a heavy loss to the entertainment industry and has brought me a bit of sorrow.  Although I cannot say that I’m a die-hard fan, I truly admire his musical and performing talents.  It is unfortunate that his life was overshadowed by controversy; however, I prefer to remember his contributions to music and nothing else.

Supposedly, Jackson is very selective on the interviews he accepts.  In a rare 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, a famous American media personality and host, Jackson reveals many aspects of his private life to her, including his childhood, and touches upon some of the circulating media gossip at the time.  (Please find the video on youtube.com or other sites and look for parts 4, 5, and 6 or the middle of the interview.) This portion consists of a tour of Neverland Ranch, the amusement park that he once called home, and a music video clip.  In it, Elizabeth Taylor shares her opinion of Jackson.  Oprah also confronts Jackson with the rumor that his famed Moonwalk dance is fake, which Jackson then dispels by performing it live in front of her!  A transcript is not provided.  Try to listen to it a few times if you find it difficult to understand the first time.  (If you’re interested in watching the entire interview, search for it on www.youtube.com.)


Elizabeth Taylor: If he has any eccentricities, it’s that he is larger than life, and some people just can’t accept that or face it or understand it.  

Oprah asks Elizabeth Taylor her opinion about Jackson, and she tells her that his actions may not be understood by others because he is “larger than life”, a positive phrase used to describe someone who is not simply ordinary.  Eccentricity is a noun and similar in meaning to the word weirdness but has a more positive connotation. 


Oprah: …he could crack some jokes

To “crack some jokes” means to tell some jokes.


Jackson: It brings out the child that lives inside everybody.

Here, Jackson says that the amusement rides that he built is enjoyed by both adults and children as adults also love to have fun like children do. 


Oprah: And so now, you are fulfilling all those [childhood] fantasies?

Jackson:  To compensate [for my childhood], yes, it’s very true. 

Oprah: But, do you think you could ever really recapture it [your childhood] though?

Jackson: I would not change the past. 

Look at the way that the two speakers use three different verbs (e.g. fulfill, compensate, and recapture) to talk about Jackson’s childhood and to answer each other, rather than with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  In a way, Jackson’s response to Oprah’s first comment and Oprah’s subsequent comment are rejections to the prior statement, which are a very smart play of words.  


Jackson: I love to do things for children.  I try to imitate Jesus. I’m not saying I am Jesus. I try to imitate Jesus in the fact that he said to be like children, to love children, to be as pure as children, to make yourself as innocent and see the world with eyes of wonderment, the whole magical quality of it all, and I love that.

Some question and wonder about Jackson’s friendliness towards children.  Jackson explains that he likes to be around children because children and simple and honest and he wants to help them, in the spirit of Jesus.  Look at the various ways that Jackson uses to describe this quality in children.


Jackson: We have children that come who are intravenously very sick, they are bedridden, and they can’t sit up.  These beds are hospital beds and they push a button and they move up and they move down.

Many of the children who visit Jackson’s Neverland Ranch are sick, confined to the bed (bed-ridden) and require an IV line (intravenous therapy) to survive. 


Oprah: I believe everything happens in people’s lives for a reason.  Do you think that had you not missed a lot of the life and fun and fantasy of childhood that you would be so in touch with children today?  Would you relate to them if you didn’t?

Jackson: I probably would but not as much that is why I wouldn’t change a thing.

The two questions in italics are grammatically complex and both contain the same meaning but in the opposite order.  ‘To be in touch with + something’ is the same as ‘relate to + something’ while ‘had not missed + something’ is the same as ‘did not miss + something’. 

Both are past conditional questions with an ‘if + would’ and presents an imaginative situation as it did not happen in the past.  Actually, the ‘if’ in the first question is deleted, in which case the subject you must inverted with the auxiliary verb had.   If the ‘if’ is not deleted, the question would be “do you think that if you had not miss a lot…” where the subject and auxiliary verb are not inverted. 

As a childhood star since five years old, Jackson never lived a normal childhood as he had to work everyday either recording songs, rehearsing, or performing. This is the topic of this part of the conversation.


Oprah: Where did the Moonwalk come from actually?

Jackson: Well, the Moonwalk came from these beautiful children, these black kids who live in the ghettos and the inner cities who are brilliant. They just have that natural talent for dancing, any of them- The Running Man – any of these dances.  They come up with the dances.  All I did was enhance the dance. 

Oprah asks Jackson about the origin of his famous Moonwalk dance.  Jackson credits children for giving him this inspiration saying that he only “enhanced” it.  The ghettos or inner cities are the part of a city where minority groups reside.  These residents are usually poor, and the areas may be overpopulated.  Ghetto is slang with a somewhat negative connotation, while inner city does not have such a negative connotation.


Jackson: I could show you a step or two, but I’m a little rusty right now. 

When Oprah asks Jackson to show her some dance moves, Jackson replies that he could show her only a few dance steps because he is “a little rusty right now”. Here, rusty is not used as a verb to describe the chemical change of nail turning brown but used as an adjective to describe being without practice.  Yet, as we can see, Jackson is still quite agile!  What an entertainer! 


Michael Jackson will be missed.