Monthly Archives: February 2011
Recent conversations in the previous thread about pop stars’ sins from the past (thanks for this link, GG!) reminded me that Elton John would make a fine candidate for my “Being 20” series. While David has not specifically indicated Elton John as a direct influence on his music (or did he?), who will ever forget his cover of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” from his Final 2 showdown on American Idol?
So, what was Elton John up to when he was David’s age, before he laid down tracks in 1974 that David would slay 34 years later? Why, he was signing to management, which hooked him up with songwriter Bernie Taupin, with whom he collaborated on over 30 albums. Before that, Elton was breaking into music, having left school at 17 (um … sounds familiar?) to play piano at a local pub – with the encouragement of his dear old mum (again … sounds familiar?) – and formed a band with friends called Bluesology. His band was doing back-up work to familiar R&B artists (the Isley Brothers and Patti LaBelle’s The LaBelles) and engaging in music sessions until Elton moved on to be his own front man. Enter A&R management of Liberty Records and Bernie Taupin at age 20.
Together, they wrote their first song, “Scarecrow,” before they moved on, a year later, to DJM Records as staff songwriters, writing songs for other artists. However, Elton produced his debut album Empty Sky in 1969, at the tender age of 22, and, in 1973, came out with his masterpiece album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which gave us songs like “Bennie and the Jets” and of course “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” (Hmmm, something about a young man peaking at age 25 or 26 – both sexually and creatively. That’s all I will say about that! haha!)
Not that it’s all downhill from there. Look how long Elton John has lasted!
I must say that Elton’s style as a “piano man” would work for David (consider him a more subdued Elton John), so here’s to patience and David’s potential to reach new levels with his talent. His musical journey, like those before him, is really just beginning at age 20.
Earlier this week, I wanted to remind you, dear readers, of the promise and potential that has yet to unfold for David, who is all of 20 years old. And his vlog this week was so upbeat and reassuring, it’s hard not to keep the optimism for where he will eventually take us with his musical genius and journey.
Re-reading my “Being 20” post, I realized I name-dropped a number of musical legends just to remind folks that, sometimes, greatness unfolds a bit later in life (if I’m judging by history, I’m giving David till age 25 to peak: haha!).
In light of this, I thought I would start a new Soul David series (not based on my going on a blog break but based on expanding the ideas I discussed in my “Being 20” post). I’m calling this the “Being 20” series, in which I will highlight some of David’s influential music figures (and some of my own) to see what they were up to when they were David’s age.
So, I begin the series with one of David’s musical heroes: Michael Jackson. And what was Michael Jackson doing at David’s age?
First, he was unquestionably “black” and wore an Afro (see accompanying pic above of the legend when he was 20 yrs old). And he didn’t have his first plastic surgery yet, which would come a year later when he broke his nose (and was never satisfied with the job, which is why he obsessed over getting this “perfect”). Sometimes, there is innocence at 20, but there is also promise for greater things, right?
Another thing about Michael at David’s age is that he was three years into a record label, Epic Records, which he and his brothers of the Jackson 5 signed to when MJ was all of 17 (um… sounds familiar?) and itching to break free from dear old dad (again … sounds familiar?) since the move from Motown Records and its owner, Berry Gordy, wasn’t enough to challenge his artistic vision. In short, Michael was looking to redefine himself as a serious music artist. He was all too aware that his Jackson 5 experience branded him a “child star” and “teen idol,” that many in the industry viewed their music as “bubblegum soul.” On Epic’s label, he and his brothers matured as The Jacksons and fit into the dominant sound of the time period – disco – giving us such danceable hits like “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Blame It on the Boogie.” But Michael wanted to do something more, so part of his eagerness to branch out included making some bad decisions: like co-starring with Diana Ross in the box-office flop that was The Wiz. Of course, had it not been for his work on this movie musical, he would never have had that fateful meeting with Quincy Jones, who worked on the movie’s score and was a major jazz producer. Michael’s creative mind was already working as he approached Quincy to help him work on his first solo album, Off the Wall, which came out a year later.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
If I had any major wish for David, which I didn’t indicate as a choice on my latest poll, it would be for him to have his own Quincy Jonesque fateful meeting and to collaborate with some major players on his next musical project. He has the raw talent and the ambition. Granted, Michael Jackson also had ambitions to be the greatest pop entertainer, which he eventually became. I don’t know for sure if he had that particular ambition at age 20, but he definitely felt it after Off the Wall. Which just goes to show that genius needs the right nurturers and the right environment in which to grow.
Will David find that? Time will tell.
In the mean time, I will at least celebrate that David was able to break free from management and label that did not support his artistry in any profound way.
So, in tribute to the late MJ, and to David, here’s “I Can’t Help It,” a song produced by Quincy on Off the Wall, written by Stevie Wonder, and sung by MJ himself. (What I would give to hear the Voice lay down some smooth tracks on this baby!)
So, who was it who said David needs to do a Janet Jacksonesque Control album as his next project?
He’s so ready for that, and all I have to say to you guys, after watching David’s latest vlog today is: Trust the Archulator!😀