Mudcat Café message #2665901 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #121876   Message #2665901
Posted By: Azizi
27-Jun-09 - 10:44 AM
Thread Name: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
Subject: RE: BS: I am boycotting the MJ obit thread
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 05:43 PM

As to why I believe that the discussion thread about Michael Jackson deserves to be in Mudcat's above the line music section-

Some people here may be interested in reading my transcription of several pages from Tom McGrath's essay "Integrating MTV". That essay is included in the online Google Books edition of William McKeen's book Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay Those pages remind folks that in the early 1980s television was not nearly as integrated as it is now [and in many ways it's still not that integrated now]. But these pages provide some clues-for those who are open to considering them-of the phenomenal, revolutionary impact that MTV, largely fueled early on by Michael Jackson videos, has had on the presentation and marketing of contemporary music. By "contemporary music" I don't just mean "Pop" and "R&B". I mean most contemporary music. And this impact occurred in spite of the problematic personal issues that Michael Jackson had in his later years.

Without any further comments from me, here is that partial transcription of "Integrating MTV" by Tom McGrath [pages 458, 459, 461, 462]

"... Nevertheless all involved with Thriller knew that getting MTV to play Michael Jackson videos was anything but a sure thing. The reason was simple: in the channel's first eighteen months, as it became a cult hit among white suburban teens all over America, it had played only a handful of black artists. From Bob Pittman's and everyone else at MTV's point of view, it was simply a matter of format. Ever since the MTV flag was planted in the moon, during the summer of 1981 the channel had positioned itself as the rock and roll station. And because only a handful of black acts-Tina Turner, Prince, Joan Armatrading, the Bus Boys-played what most people called rock and roll anymore, only a few of their clips had been played on that network. For Pittman, programming head Les Garland, and the rest of them, the situation was no different than radio, where few rock stations played black artists.

But that argument didn't fly with everyone. MTV's original head of talent and artist relations, Carolyn Baker, who was black, had questioned why the definition of music had to be so narrow, as had a few others. What's more as MTV received more and more press attention, a growing number of journalists and music critics and black artists really began to slam the network for its segregated view of music. True, the critics said, album rock stations didn't play many black acts, either. But other radio formats did, and black music was widely available on the radio. MTV, on the other hand, was still the only music video channel on television, and therefore, according to critics, it had an obligation to expose black acts and to educate its viewers to what else was out there.

... one week after the song hit no 1 on Billboard's Hot 100. "Billie Jean" video debuted on MTV." "Beat it" arrived a couple of weeks later,and if they were impressed by "Billie Jean", they were absolutely floored by "Beat It". …Costing more than $150,000 and directed by Broadway choreographer Michael Peters, the video looked like an updated, inner city version of West Side Story. They even got members of real Lost Angeles gangs to appear in it. But what made it great was the dancing. Michael dressed, in a red jacket, snapped and stepped, and shrieked to the music, this time with a hundred talented extras moving along with him.

Never before had there been a video like this. Almost single handed, this shy former child star had taken the entire field of music video and lifted it up a notch artistically

After "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" everything changed. Everything. With MTV spreading like never before, and Michael demonstrating how mesmerizing these promo videos could be, music video were suddenly everywhere."

[my italics added for emphasis; the entire available pages make very interesting reading. Prior to this afternoon, I hadn't read about that book. Hat tip to for mentioning that essay in a post that he wrote about the irony of MTV playing Michael Jackson videos in memorial to that artist [when that channel had resisted showing hardly any Black music videos until Michael Jackson's videos showed them how hugely successful that could be for MTV].

Also, if people here really want to get a sense of a number of Black people's feelings about Michael Jackson and his music, here are two discussion threads I recommend:


Repeatedly, commenters to these threads-and others-note that Michael Jackson's music was a large part of the "soundtrack of their childhood" (or "their youth"). True, his music and his dancing wasn't in everyone's taste-which music and dancing are in everyone's taste?

However, for better or worse, it's unlikely that the music industry will return to a time when music was promoted without music videos. To a large measure, you can thank (or berate) Michael Jackson for this.