V Vintage: Michael Jackson 2001 Interview

Posted by Jacqueline

VIBE digs into the archives for a candid 2001 interview with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson

VIBE: How does it feel to be re-entering the market and competing in sales with likes of ‘N Sync and Britney, kids who were being born at the height of your fame?

Michael Jackson: It’s a rarity I think/ I had #1 records in 1967 and 69 and still entered the charts in 2001 in #1. I don’t think any other artist has that range. It’s a great honor, I’m happy. I don’t what else to say. I’m glad people accept what I do.

What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?

I don’t categorize music. Music is Music. They change the word R&B to rock and roll. It’s always been, from Fats Domino to Little Richard, to Chuck Berry. How can we discriminate, it is what it is, it’s great music, you know.

What are your feelings about Hip-Hop?

I like a lot of it, a lot of it. I like the music. I don’t like the dancing that much. It looks like you’re doing aerobics.

What made you put Biggie on your album?

We were looking for a rap part and it wasn’t my idea, actually it was Rodney Jerkins, one of the writer producers working on the album. It was my idea to put a rap part on the song. And he said, I know just the perfect one – Biggie Smalls. He put it in and it worked perfectly. It was a rap that was never heard before.

Why did you choose Jay-Z on the remix of the first single?

Because he’s hip, he’s with kids today. They like his work. He tapped into the nerve of popular culture. He’s the new thing, the kids like him. It just made good sense.

What was it like for you to appear at New York’s hip hop concert Summer Jam as Jay Z’s guest?

I just showed up and gave him a hug. It was tumultuous explosion of applause and stomping, it was a lovely, lovely welcome and I was happy about that. It was a great feeling – the love, the love.

What are your thoughts on artists who emulate you such as Usher, Sisqo, Ginuwine, Destiny’s Child?

I don’t mind at all. Because, these are artists who grew up on my music. When you grow up listening to somebody you admire you tend to become them. You emulate them, to look like them, to dress like them. When I was little I was James Brown, I was Sammy Davis Jr., so I understand it, it’s a compliment.

Did you know that you were creating classics while recording Thriller and Off The Wall, both classics that hold up today?

Yes, not to be arrogant, but yes. Because I knew great material when I hear it and it just melodically and sonically and musically is so moving. It keeps the promise. That’s a special piece.

Do you feel that there is a larger acceptance of black artists?
Of course, I think people have always admired black music since the beginning of time if you want to go back to singing Negro spirituals. Today the market is just accepting the fact that that’s the sound, international, from Britney to ‘N Sync, they are all doing the R&B thing. Even Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, he always tell me, “Man we do R&B.” I said Barry, I don’t categorize it but it’s great music. I understand where he’s coming from. I love great music, it has no color, it has no boundaries, it’s all wonderful music. I love from the Beatles, to the Bee Gee’s, to the Mama’s and the Papa’s, to the Temptations, to Diana Ross and the Supremes, I love all of it. I love Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s a killer, I love it.

What’s life like as a single parent?
I never had so much fun in all my life. That’s the truth. Because I’m this big kid and now I get to see the world from the eyes of the really young ones. I learn more from them then they learn from me. It’s almost like hypothesis, because I’m constantly trying things and testing things on them to see what works and what doesn’t work. Children are always the best judges to monitor something, especially in my field or any other field. If you can get the kids, you’ve got it. That’s why Harry Potter is successful, it’s just a family oriented movie. You can’t go wrong there, you just can’t. That’s why I write lyrics when I write a song I try not to say things that offend parents because we want a wide demographic. I don’t want to be like that. We weren’t raised to be like that. No way, you know Mother and Joseph wouldn’t say stuff like that. You know them well enough.

Are the pressures of your celebrity status on your children?
Yes, absolutely, from the day that they were born.

What music do Prince and Paris listen to?
They listen to all my music and they love classical that plays all around the ranch. They like any good dance music.

How would you feel about your children becoming pop icons at 13 and 14 based upon your experience?
I don’t know how they would handle that it would be tough. I really don’t know. It’s hard because most celebrity children end up becoming self-destructive because they can’t live up to the talent of the parent. It’s hard. Fred Astair Jr., people used to say o him all the time, “Can you dance?” And he couldn’t dance. He didn’t have any rhythm. But his father as this genius dancer. It doesn’t mean that it has to be passed on. The competition is hard, it’s hard. I always tell them, you don’t have to sing, you don’t have to dance, be who you want to be as long as you are not hurting anybody. That’s the main thing. Don’t you think?

What was your experience on September 11?

I was in New York and I got a call from Saudi Arabia that America was being attacked. I said no way. I turned on the news and saw the twin towers coming down and I said, “ Oh my God.” I screamed down the hallway to all our people. “Everybody get out, let’s leave now. Marlon Brando was on one end, our security was on the other end, we were all up there but Elizabeth was at another hotel. We all got out of there as quickly as we could. We didn’t know if our building was next. If it was domino effect. How they had girls that had been at the show the night before, prior to the explosion showed the loyalty of fans, were banging on the windows, running down the street screaming, we couldn’t get out of the garage. They are so loyal. It was unbelievable. I was scared to death.

What artists past and present inspire you?

Stevie Wonder is a musical prophet. All of the early Motown. All the Beatles, I’m crazy about Sammy Davis Jr., Charlie Chaplain, Fred Astair, Gene Kelly, Bill Bojangles Robinson, the real entertainers, the real thing, not just gimmicks, show stoppers. When James Brown was with the Famous Flames was unbelievable. There are so many wonderful singers. Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, to Johnny Mathis, real stylists, you hear one line and know who it is. Nat King Cole, great stuff. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cook, they are all ridiculous.

What do you do for fun, for recreation?

I like water balloon fights. We have a water balloon forte here, there’s the red team and the blue team. We have slings and canons and you are drenched by the time the game is over. There is a timer and whoever gets the most points in is the winner. I don’t do anything like basketball or golf. If I’m going to do some kind of sport, if you want to call that a sport, you have to laugh. I want to laugh. Basketball you get very competitive and so is tennis, makes you angry. I’m not into that I like to laugh, have fun, laugh with it. That’s what it should be, fun, therapeutic. I love that. I also like to go to amusement parks, animals, things like that.

How involved were you in selecting the artists to perform in your 30th special?

I wasn’t involved at all.

How were you able to let go of something so big and so special?


Is there still a fantasy that you maintain of something that you’d like to do in your career?

I’d like to see an international children’s holiday when we honor our children, because the family bond has been broken. There’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day but there’s no children’s day. I really would I would mean a lot. It really would. World peace, I hope that our next generation will get to see a peaceful world, not the way it’s going now.

At what point in your life did you realize that you were different, a visionary?

I never thought about, I just always accepted it from the heavens and said on my knees, “Thank you.” Whenever I write a song and I know that it is musically correct, there are no laws to music, but when it feels right, I get on my knees and I say, “ Thank you.” I really do, I mean it. Because it drops into your lap just easy and magical with no effort.

Did singing ever stop being fun and become work?

It’s always been fun, unless I get physically sick, it’s always fun. I still love it.

What is your financial status?

I’m taking care of fine.

Michael, don’t be embarrassed, when I think about Van Goug, Bach, Beethoven, Elvis, you are an innovator, your work as changed the face of music, changes the face of videos setting a standard that still stands, no one has come close to what you have accomplished, where does Michael Jackson go from here?

Thank you, thank you. I have deep love for film and to pioneer and innovate in the medium of film. To write and direct and produce movies. To bring incredible entertainment.

What kind of movies? Are you looking at scripts?

Yes, but nothing has been finalized yet.

Are you writing?

Uh huh.

Are you ever lonely?

Of course. If I’m on stage, I’m fine there. You can have a house full of people and still be lonely from within. I’m not complaining because I thin it’s a good thing, for my work.

Why do you think very young children today are as excited about you as if were here to witness your historical landmarks that took place before they were born?

They learn from there parents, they hear it. TV shows everything that I’ve done. They hear all the songs on TV, VH1 around the world, they are rediscovering it all over again. It’s not like they missed it, it’s always been there.

Tell me about the new CD Invincible. “ Speechless.”

You’ll be surprised. I had a big water balloon fight, I’m serious, in Germanym and what inspires me is fun. I was with these kids and we had big water balloon fight and I was so happy after the fight that I ran upstairs in their house and write “Speechless.” That’s what inspired the song. I hate to say that because it’s such a romantic song. But, it was the fight that did it. I’d had fun, I was happy, and I wrote it in it’s entirety right there. I felt it would be good enough for the album. Out of this bliss comes magic, comes wonderment, comes creativity. It’s about having fun, it really is.

“Break of Dawn.”

Freeze and myself wrote “Break of Dawn.” It’s just a beautiful, strolling in the park kind of song. There’s a good summer feel about it. It’s one of my favorites. It’s Denzel Washington’s favorite song. He blasts it all the time.

“You Are My Life.”

Thank you. We all wrote that one.

Tell me about how your creativity normally comes to you?

You don’t force it. Let nature take its course. I don’t at the piano and think, “I’m going to write the greatest song of all time.” It doesn’t happen. It has to be given to you. I believe it’s already up there before you are born and then it drops right into your lap, I it really does. It’s the most spiritual thing in the world. If people could witness what it feel like. When it comes it comes with all of the accompaniments, the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics and you’re just the source through which it comes, the channel, really, honestly. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my name on the songs written by Michael Jackson because it’s as if the heavens have done it already, I mean it. Like Michaelangelo would have this huge piece of marble from the quarries of Italy and he’d say, “Inside is a sleeping form. And he takes hammer and chisel and he’s just freeing it. It’s already in there. It’s already there.

What do you collect?

I like anything Shirley Temple, babies, children, Shirley Temple, Shirley Temple, lots of Shirley Temple. Little Rascals, Three Stooges, a lot of Three Stooges. I love Curly, he kills me. I my brothers we love Curly, we just love him. I love Curly so much that I did a book on Curly. I got his daughter and she and I wrote a book on him. Women have a hard time with all the slapping and poking and stuff, guys love that stuff. My mother loved Abbott and Costello, but we would say, “We want the Three Stooges.”

Tell me about your fashion selections.

It wasn’t conscious, it happens that way.

Is there anything that you would like to say to VIBE readers?

I love Quincy. I mean, I really do. I think he is wonderful soul and a beautiful person. And I think you should tell the readers, don’t judge a person by what they hear or even what they read unless they heard from the person. There is so much tabloid, sensationalism going on that’s totally false. Don’t fall prey to it, it’s ugly. I hate the tabloids. I’d like to take them all and burn them. I want you to print it, don’t believe tabloid press, tell them that. Don’t believe tabloid press. Some of them try to disguise themselves but they are still tabloid press.


  1. I loved this article! Then again, I’ve always adored Michael Jackson. When I was little, I used to do the moonwalk in my room. This article is great, and is a beautiful representation of who MJ was as a person, not an alien, as the media said he was.

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