Monthly Archives: June 2009
This letter is making the rounds around David’s fan sites:
Abuelita loves everyone from the North Hemisphere to the South Hemisphere and everyone on the East and on the West. I love everyone with all my heart, bad or good because nobody is perfect.
These pictures are a small gift from me in appreciation for all the gifts that everyone has sent to me. There have been so many gifts like the beautiful head piece I am wearing from Iraq; beautiful pictures of David; the David Calendar and the Apron for me to wear when I cook David “Fish Soup”. Thank you so much Universe for loving David so much!!!!! I love you all for that.
When David left to audition for American Idol, he and I had a private conversation. I told him….. “David, go and try out to help your family, but please remember that the “Needy Children”, the “Elderly” and the “Sick” in this World are first in line.” I know David has my heart which is also his mother’s heart who feels and thinks just like mine.
I want you all to know that I live an extremely simple life, but I don’t care. Life is more important and God sustains me. I do not desire to be rich. My sweetest and most important desire is for David to help everyone that needs help. Also that through my precious grandson, David, everyone will find some peace and happiness on this earth.
For those who have been wanting to write to me but have not been able to because you didn’t have an address here it is:
7000 North 16th Street
Suite 120, PMB 500
Phoenix, AZ 85020
To everyone that is reading my letter…… Help when you see that someone needs help. Never ask someone “can I help?”. You know what to do and God that lives in infinity will reward you for it. Have faith, always. Write to me so I may know who you are but don’t write to me to send me gifts. I am happy with my grandson David and my daughters which are the “4 Mayorga Sisters”.
I LOVE ALL OF YOU!!!!
Now that the world has come together to honor the life and music of Michael Jackson – from Michael Jackson parties (in clubs or spontaneously on the streets or in parks) to flash mob mass moonwalks (The Harlem mob at the Apollo Theater and the Liverpool Station one in London are by far my favorites since you can just feel the love via You Tube) – I suppose it is inevitable that certain folk, a particular group of Generation Xers (those who are the same age as my older cousins and the teenaged babysitters that I had when I was a wee one) are now making distinctions between the casual fans of Michael Jackson and the “true” bona fide “real” fans of Michael Jackson. The litmus test? Ask the question, “Which is the better Michael Jackson album – Off the Wall or Thriller?” and, so the wisdom goes, the “true fans” reveal their deep knowledge and comprehension of Michael Jackson’s musical artistry if they respond with the preference for Off the Wall. Absolute nonsense, is what I say to that litmus test.
I’m not just saying that for sentimental reasons. I have equally warm memories of Off the Wall – when, in particular, I would dance to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” at family gatherings and be applauded for my various attempts at imitating the Soul Train and Solid Gold dancers. No. My particular problem with that litmus test is it simply reveals a fan’s preference for hardcore R&B/funk versus hardcore pop, not necessarily a distinction between Michael’s genius on one album vs. his commercial stride on another. Both albums are absolutely amazing in showcasing the combined talents of Michael and Quincy Jones. Above all, however, this litmus test reveals a snooty attempt at distinguishing between a “real” and artistic Michael Jackson vs. the superstar, commercial “sellout” Michael Jackson. To which I must ask: what exactly is wrong with commercial success?
Since the news of the death of Michael Jackson last Thursday, June 25, 2009, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson’s music on my ipod and watching his videos on MTV, BET, and VH1. There is no denying that sheer, innocent joy he displays in the low-budget videos for “Rock with You” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”; it certainly disappears by the time we see him in “Billie Jean” or “Beat It.” However, Thriller represents, to me, his maturity and the height of his success as not just a musician but the consummate performer. As the biggest selling album of all time, there is no denying its commercial, mainstream appeal. But such commercialism does not diminish its artistry – it embellishes it.
The funk behind “Off the Wall” ain’t got nothing on the funk behind “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” and by the time Michael gets into the Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-sa chanting, both he and the rest of us are in the zone. Ballads like “Human Nature” are so heartfelt and sincere, and his falsetto creates something divine and beautiful. Perhaps not as vulnerable sounding as “She’s Out of My Life,” but it’s definitely on a much more sophisticated level. All this is to say: pitting one MJ album over another MJ album seems as inane as pitting a David Archuleta AI performance over another to reveal a “true fan” of the artist. Which is the better performance: “Imagine” or “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”? Please don’t make me choose (although, if anyone seriously asked me which is the best David vocal performance so far, I personally would choose his “Angels” performance from Tulsa, Oklahoma – the most incredible vocal gymnastics he’s displayed – hands down).
There are a number of talented, musical geniuses, and only a few have achieved superstardom status. To me, what the Michael Jacksons, Elvis Presleys, and Beatles all have in common is an ability to combine such artistry with popularity, and such a combo is enough to launch a musician through the stratosphere. Some music artists have the genius but not enough charisma to take them to the top; while others definitely have the popularity but not the genius to remain at the top. That is what makes Michael Jackson a standout. This is not a competition between commercialism and artistry. When one combines the two, superstardom is what happens, along with the magic.
I know the Archie fan base has had numerous conversations about David’s potential, and the cautionary tales that the lives of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson represent may even make us wary about David ever rising to the top. But, nobody can predict or market or create superstar status. It either happens or it doesn’t. An artist either sets the world on fire, or he doesn’t. David himself is so humble (but in many ways, so were Elvis and Michael when they were around David’s age), that he may not ever strive for such stardom, but if it happens, will we be prepared? Will he?
Right now, David is starting to get used to grown women (and a few men) and young girls (and more than a few boys) screaming for him, but when he finally figures out why we’re screaming, will he and his management start catering to this appeal? Once David gets more comfortable with his body (the way he is definitely comfortable with his Voice and the stage), he may start working on a few moves (if he wants to add this to his repertoire). For I am of the belief that any guy who walks so lithely has got some dang serious potential in that capacity. If, in addition to his singing, he can come up with a signature move – something along the lines of Michael Jackson’s pelvic thrust and Elvis Presley’s hip-shaking – THUD! When that happens, either the world converts to Mormonism or the Mormons have to relinquish him to the world (the way the Jehovah’s Witnesses had to with Michael). Ain’t no putting that genie back in the bottle when it gets unleashed. All conversations of superstardom, and whether or not David wants it or can achieve it, will be null and void.
Whatever develops, I would hope we don’t create futile contests about true fans vs. casual fans, or commercialism vs. artistry. A musical genius with popular appeal achieves both.
Of all the different tributes pouring in from around the world on the death of Michael Jackson, P. Diddy’s remark moved me deeply. Discussing Michael Jackson’s legacy on the hip-hop generation, and already producing a musical tribute called Better on the Other Side, P. Diddy noted that Michael Jackson’s music, videos, and dance moves helped him to “see the beat” and that Michael Jackson “made me believe in magic.”
I’m struck by that image: of music as something magical. I remember getting that magical feeling the first time I had a chance to watch MTV on the cable TV at my babysitter’s house when I was around 9 or 10 years old. I didn’t have regular cable at my own home, so this was definitely a treat, and as an only child, I was able to watch my very first music video in the company of my babysitter’s six children, two of whom were around my age and who became my regular playmates. We were all just in complete awe when we saw Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean air on MTV. Without realizing the racial breakthrough Michael made on a TV station like MTV, which up until that time focused almost exclusively on rock music, we were just glued to the TV set and imagined that we were watching a magician in his high-water pants and saddle shoes, whose every step and touch shed light and made the world a better place. Every dance move seemed mind-blowingly out of this world. And keep in mind this was even before he unleashed his moonwalk onto the world!
This pop icon was no mere regular guy. He was already legend. And it didn’t matter, after watching that video, whether we understood the lyrics to the song. With “Billie Jean,” we not only heard the song, we saw the song. And, yes, I and my playmates and everyone else of my generation believed in magic.
Little did I know that, 25 years later, I would experience magic again on my TV set. This time, the spectacle was far more subtle but just as deeply moving. A cute and sweet kid by the name of David Archuleta sang a song from my childhood, Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” so that I could “understand” the song and hear it for the first time. And boy, did I ever!
So, what is it about these two artists, who conjure up for me a deep love and appreciation for music? I’m hesitant to simply fall back on easy comparisons between the two – both are child prodigies, both have dominant fathers, both come from religious faiths that tend to take doctrine quite literally, both are sensitive souls who have a habit of displaying the peace sign, and both have maniacal fans. David is already on record expressing how much Michael Jackson has been a huge musical influence on him, and such statements make me love David all the more, as well as deeply respect that we’ve got something in common despite the fact that we represent different generations.
For me, what really connects these two artists is their profound knowledge of music’s power. So much so that, when they perform, they create something magical. No one will ever match Michael Jackson’s sheer power in articulating a dance move or pantomime, or in creating a visual image in a music video that contributes to his iconic status. But, in David’s own way, he understands that power but communicates it differently and almost exclusively through The Voice. A key difference between the two is that Michael Jackson was very much aware of his superstar status and knew how to market that image. And I really want to acknowledge that about the man because I’m starting to get frustrated by so many reports that reduce him to a “victim.” Come on now. Michael Jackson was the consummate showman, the ultimate magician whose magic was music. Every song, every record, every album, every music video, every concert, yes even every tabloid story, was part of his magic trick. He performed to the nth degree, and such self-awareness of his public image – to me – indicates that he was willing to create enough of a wall of mystery to protect that personal side of the “Just Michael” persona most of us never got a glimpse of.
David’s celebrity is very different in this high-tech world of constant information since he has allowed his fans to witness “Just David,” but who is “Just Michael” behind the facade of masks (including the restructured face surgeries), a Neverland estate, a chimpanzee pet called Bubbles, and a mass collection of various freak objects? Tell me that’s not the ultimate magician working hard at camouflaging “Just Michael” from the rest of the world. If he wanted to protect that personal side of himself, then I can respect that. Which means that we’ve got the public side of Michael to enjoy, and enjoy we did! Does this mean that Michael wasn’t a deeply flawed man who may have overdosed on drugs or pushed himself too far or was plagued with self-esteem issues? No, it doesn’t, but I’d like to accord him some agency in the path he has chosen while trying to survive as a mega star and global icon.
James Baldwin, who died in 1987 before he witnessed the demise of Michael Jackson, once said this of him at the height of his popularity: “The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of carnivorous success.” The ultimate tragedy about Michael Jackson, to me, is not that he was a possible victim of drugs, of enabling friends, of insanity, or of childhood traumas. As the consummate magician, he played a trick on himself and, in Houdini fashion, got so caught up in one of his “great escape” acts, he couldn’t quite disentangle himself. Somewhere, he confused the public Michael for “Just Michael” and lost sight of who he really was. In the end, this private person got sacrificed for the larger-than-life figure, and that is what we’re left with: the magic heard in “I’ll Be There” or “Billie Jean” or “Man in the Mirror” or “Thriller.”
I grieve for the man who got sacrificed on the altar of celebrity, but with great sacrifice comes something greater than oneself: a legend, a King of Pop, a cultural phenomenon, and that is what we can celebrate today. As a fan of another potentially great artist, I may need to ask myself: do I want “Just David” who plays to crowds of devoted fans in intimate venues, or do I want “Just David” to live up to his full potential as David the Next Superstar? Will David the Superstar become the ultimate magician in which “Just David” gets lost in a disappearing act? Or will he master the dangerous trick of living two distinct lives – one in front of the world, the other behind the scenes?
More than trying to answer these questions, I think I want the magic of music to continue. David may not need to put on an elaborate magic show to help us feel how magical music can be. And, perhaps with Michael Jackson’s passing – and with him the passing of an era of 20th-century superstar culture – we may need our stars to be less superhuman and more regular, despite the inclination of David’s fans to place halos over his head. What I have learned about the world’s sorrow and joy in the wake of the news of Michael’s passing is how music is the one language humanity responds to. I saw it on the streets of Harlem and the streets of London.
Michael Jackson, in his 50 years on earth, made us feel the magic of music and for that, I think it’s worth getting a reprieve from news reports of economic recession, wars, bombings, and political protests. For it is music – more than political speeches and more than bombs – that sustains our humanity. A musician may not start a revolution, but he gives it the heart and soul to keep the people moving.
Anyone in the past 24 hours who still feels that the death of a great musician should not top world news reports is someone whose heart has figuratively stopped beating. Our music-magicians may need to perform the ultimate trick of reviving the hearts of many a cynic and realist. I have faith in David’s abilities.