Michael Jackson was a solo artist, dubbed the “King of Pop”, who was active from the years of 1964, when he debuted as a member of the pop group “The Jackson 5” with his brothers, to 2002, when he passed away. Throughout those years Jackson had an extremely successful career, both in the group and as a soloist. According to the Guinness World Records, Jackson’s solo career was so successful that his album, Thriller, which was released in 1982, sold over 66 million copies worldwide making it the best-selling album of all time. Jackson was an inspiration to many people around the world, and still continues to be an inspiration today.
While Jackson was an inspiration to others, he had many people who influenced and inspire him as well. Jackson was influenced by R&B artists, musicals such as West Side Story. His biggest influence was the musician James Brown. Jackson spoke at James Brown’s funeral, saying “James Brown was my greatest inspiration. Ever since I was a small child, no more than like six years old, my mother would wake me no matter what time it was, if I was sleeping, no matter what I was doing, to watch the television to see the master at work.” Jackson was inspired not only by the music of James Brown but also by his dancing, Jackson’s music and lyrics were also influenced by his past experiences.
Many speculate that Jacksons song Beat It (1982), was inspired by West Side Story. They are indeed similar as both involve gangs, violence, and a knife fight which seems completely choreographed. However according to the director Bob Giraldi, this isn’t true. Instead the music video itself is inspired by actual gang fights, and gang violence. During the times when Beat It was released, there was an issue with gang violence in America, which led to the creation of this video. Jackson pulled a lot from society and what was happening around him in the world as inspiration, and Beat It is just one example of this.
Michael Jackson’s music itself is very simplistic and is very similar to rock that is heard in modern rock. Having music this simplistic is extremely helpful to audiences who listen to it however, as it is easier to enjoy the music if there is not a lot going on. The instruments typically consist of a guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. The instruments throughout most of the songs are playing the same notes and following the same beat pattern. However, one important thing to note is that in some of Jacksons songs there’s a guitar solo, which is very similar to a lot of the rock music at the time. An example of this would be the song Beat It, in which after the bridge of the song there’s a guitar soloist before the vocalist, in this case Michael Jackson, returns and continues to sing the chorus of the song.
Jackson’s music also follows the same structure which was: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. This was very similar to many rock and pop songs that were released around the same time. A good example of this structure would be Jacksons song “Thriller” (1982). The switches between the verses and the choruses are very similar to one another, as well as the jump from the chorus to the bridge, in which Vincent Price narrates. While Jacksons music was very simplistic in the style and structure, the sound was much different to other rock music being released, for example punk rock or folk rock. The music itself was not as harsh and had a much softer sound to it. H
While Jacksons music itself was very simplistic, it had a lot of meaning behind it. Whether it be based on violence like Beat it or on his other personal experiences, there was meaning behind the songs he wrote. Jackson was without a doubt one of the most successful artists of all time, both solo and in a group, and the meanings and the music helped contribute to that.
- “Best-Selling Album.” Guinness World Records, Guinness World Records, www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/70133-best-selling-album.
- “Bob Giraldi on Directing ‘Beat It.’” Childhood :: True Michael Jackson, www.truemichaeljackson.com/true-stories/bob-giraldi-on-directing-beat-it/.
- “Who Inspired Michael Jackson?” Michael Jackson, 16 Feb. 2013, darrencostello1.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/who-inspired-michael-jackson/.