Friday, June 26, 2009


Here at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, we have a wall of video screens where many, many artists who did record at Stax are represented with video footage and information. They include Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Labelle, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Parliament, Billy Preston, The Spinners, and lots of others.

There's also a great video of a very young man in flowered pants and a fringe vest singing lead with his brothers behind him, all in front of a massive crowd of screaming fans. The young man is, of course, Michael Jackson.

With the soul music world losing such icons in recent years as Ray Charles, the aforementioned Billy Preston, and our own beloved Isaac Hayes, it's a particularly piognant day for us as we look consider the life, career, accomplishments, and the extraordinary philanthropic contributions of Michael Jackson, one of the world's greatest entertainers for many decades.

Just like Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson always did things his own way. He always broke new ground. He never fit into any particular category because he was unique. He respected those who had come before him and he helped pave the way for many others. He is one of the few artists living today whose music will stand the test of time, and in fact, already has become a part of the international psyche.

Tomorrow night, the Stax Music Academy is performing a special tribute concert to Motown as its Summer Grand Finale in conjunction with that label's 50th anniversary. Three Michael Jackson/Jackson Five songs were already in the show. Now when our students perform them, they will be a special tribute and will have new meaning for all of us.