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Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos

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Azizi 27 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM
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Stilly River Sage 27 Jun 09 - 11:12 AM
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Lizzie Cornish 1 27 Jun 09 - 12:07 PM
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Subject: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM

The purpose of this thread is to provide information about and discuss the specific impact Michael Jackson has has on the production and promotion of music videos. The purpose of this thread is also to provide information and engage in a general discussion about the impact of music videos on the music industry.

While it's true that the online reading I've done about Michael Jackson after his death caused me to realize how much he had influenced the production of music videos, I'm hoping that this discussion isn't only about Michael Jackson. This thread isn't meant to be provide additional opportunities to discuss Michael Jackson's personal issues/problems. Nor is this thread meant to provide more opportunities to discuss [what I agree is] the inordinate amount of media coverage of Michael Jackson since he died suddenly on June 25, 2009.

In my opinion, questions about the efficacy of producing music videos to promote one's music as well as questions about the types of music videos that are produced are subjects that should be relevant to all music genres-including the folk music/blues genre that are the focus of this discussion forum.

Because I consider it pertinent to this discussion, I'll start this thread by reposting a comment I made in another recent Mudcat thread.

Thanks in advance for your participation in this discussion.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 10:44 AM

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.


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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:03 AM

Here is a transcription of a Fox Business television show that features a discussion about Michael Jackson's impact on the production of music videos.

The transcription is described as being automatically generated. There were some obvious errors in that transcription and some words that were not captured for one reason or another. I have put my correction of those errors and my recollection of what was said in brackets within the transcription. Of course, my corrections may be also be faulty.

Title: Jackson's Impact on Music Videos

Published: Thu, 23 Oct 2008

Description: Former VH1 President Ed Bennett on how Michael Jackson shaped the business of music videos.

Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

[TV Commentator] So [Michael Jackson was not] the first person to make a music video but Jackson really did revolutionize the way music videos were made. He was a genius at marketing and promoting his records through his videos. He knew how to build the excitement for them. He turned them into a kind of a mini movie that launched an entire sales campaign for his music is towards. And a multitude of other Michael Jackson products. Of course like most of what Jackson did, [these videos] were more elaborate and more expensive than anything that had been done before. And fans just – ate it up] -- So did the folks at the music video channels including our next guest Ed Bennett He is former president of VH 1. Great to see you. Thank you for coming in. So what is it that [Michael Jackson] did different? Was he turning music videos from home movie [which is what they were to] short films?

[Benett] [Michael Jackson created the concept of music videos as a short film. And he attracted the best film directors in the industry. Martin Scorsese. John Landis. …He [attracted "A" [level] talent for the production of video talents]. And he had a big dream had a big vision of what a music video should be.

[TV Commentator] When you were you were [there at VH1] you were the president CEO from 89 until 94. How much of what this one artist did affected your business?

[Bennet] Well every time [we aired] Michael Jackson videos my ratings [would] go way up.You could see that right away.You could track that. .If we would tie two or three [Michael Jackson videos] together, we would see an immediate bump… It got to the point where we could actually run Michael Jackson videos all weekend. Michael Jackson weekend.All Michael Jackson all weekend. Nothing but Michael Jackson…[He had] so many videos and they were all diverse and so interesting or so compelling. And for a cable network it was great for us because we've had that repetition we could cycle through them would it create a lot of diversity because he had a lot of inventory…"
[[TV Commentator] "The one that that sticks in my mind of the dance scene segment that sticks in my [mind]… [more than anything else] was actually not a music video. It was the 25 anniversary of Motown I guess was 1983. Where he did Billie Jean it's the first time I ever saw the moon walk I don't know if we can put that went up they're 25 anniversary of Motown. Yeah I remember exactly where I was when I first saw do you think many people do yes that was revolutionary at the time. What made it revolutionary? " Just think about [what he invented]d. You know hip hop dancing. He invented a genre of dance that it never been seen before. And by the way many people are trying to beat what he did what he developed this advance. I know today on clothes. Very very rare I I have not seen anybody be able it was it was a combination of the new moves in the -- he had both of those you know when you see. Current dancers today you look at say I've seen that before I've seen that ... because Michael invented [it and he did it all himself. He didn't even use any choreographers.[TV Host- "Is that right? I did not realize he was a choreographer of all those [videos]

[Bennett continues speaking] [He (Jackson) was a tireless tireless worker he took great pride in [what he created].

[[TV Commentator] Actually -- Billie Jean I guess was done before that the music video correct?

[Bennett] That's correct.

[TV Commentator] Did you run both of them [and[ the Motown segment?.
[Bennet] ..[I ran] everything. Everything I get my [hands on because]… it was great. [I] … couldn't get enough [from] him because he really raised the bar. What was great about Michael's videos is that every time I played them it [raised our ratings] … it's also a message to other artists that this is what you have to do .This what you have to beat. In order to get play on the network this is the standard production that we [expect].-- Because its artistic its diverse it covers fashion, it covers music. It covers dance it covers film making of course it wasn't cheap. As I've mentioned before this is far more expensive and elaborate….

[TV Commentator] You were saying [that] usually the videos cost about 3 million to make. His cost 30 million -- 10 times what the norm was.
[Bennet] Well when he first did "Beat It" he wanted to produce this music video [with] Martin Scorsese. He wanted eighty people in the video. Eighty people. [He] wanted to based [it] on West Side Story. Only that was his vision what he wanted [it] to be. A big epic…. The budget came in. Three million dollars Sony said. A music video for three million?! You … must be joking. So they had a disagreement needless to say. So he said okay I'll pay for. Because actually he expected [it to pay off]. So Michael get away with paying for [that video] because if they spend that money it would come out of his royalties. Viewers who [like the video and buy the record. They [Sony] didn't want to put [out] that money but [Michael Jackson] believed enough in what he was doing he said " I'll put the money" So you just put up three million bucks three million dollars and [you make a video that sells 300 million dollars worth of [your] music. That a good investment. I think it's a terrific advantage. See that's -- that's the irony of this guy as. as wacky as some of his behavior could be at some times [his] business sense [was]- sharper than anybody in the room. He was a genius at marketing and promotion without focusing on [that] deliberately yeah because his art. Really spoke for itself. And … he did something at everybody's going to remember for the rest of their lives and that's what Michael did. … He created something that no one else had ever done before and maybe will never match again.
[[TV Commentator] "And the other thing we got to mention "Thriller" because he had actually prepared … the anticipation [for the album]. He knew how to build the excitement for something. By the time "Thriller" came out everybody was just screaming and try to get a copy [of] it. That was a fourteen minute film. – [noted horror film actor] Vincent Price was in. [It wasn't until you] got through eight minutes [of the video until] we get to the music. ….It was a whole narration of zombies and also it had that more thing that John Landis [did]. John Landis was the director of film called ["An American Werewolf in London"]. Michael saw that [it ] set [him] off. [He wondered] How you do that. Part of those faces morph and changes. [So he put in a call to] John he said. "Hi Michael here. Have you heard my album? [John] is thinking "What album?] [Michael said to him]…" I want to do this music video. And I want to [add all those morph faces changes] in that you introduced in your film. [That's] the way I see my film. [It will be unbelievable]". [The director said] .So that's going to cost you a lot of money [And Michael Jackson said] "That's no problem. Money was no object well and we saw what happened though. [It was] the best[selling]album of all time.

[TV Commentator] [Unfortunately we have to run. I'm way over time but I got to ask }Has there been anybody who's come close to Michael Jackson in what he did for music videos now?

[Bennett]. Nobody even close.

[TV Commentator] TV Host] You think there ever will be there?


[TV Commentator] Well. [It's been] great to see you.


With regard to the comment in this discussion about the dance movement referred to as "moonwalking", the automatic transcription gave it as "adjustable walking". I corrected it to "It just the walking". But the "adjustable walking" phrase is a kinda witty description of moonwalking. Don't you think?

BTW, I definitely disagree with Bennett's statement that Michael Jackson invented moonwalking.   And I don't believe that it's true that Michael Jackson choreographed all of his videos. It's documented that award winning African American choreographer Michael Peters worked with Jackson on a number of his [Michael Jackson's] videos.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:06 AM

Here's the introduction to an online article about a number of Michael Jackson videos:

"One of Michael Jackson's most obvious legacies is the singer's impact on the craft of music video production; his videos were elaborate, expensive and phenomenally successful, both in saturating MTV and selling records. Here are 10 of the best.

Jackson 13-minute Thriller video was the most expensive of its time; MTV's heavy rotation of Billie Jean was seen as a win for black artists; the intricately-choreographed Beat It in the 1980s seemed poised to eclipse West Side Story, on which it was based, as a cultural touchstone. The singer continued to push the envelope through his albums Bad, Dangerous and HIStory.

In no particular order, here are ten of the singer's best videos."

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:12 AM

They've spoken about this on National Public Radio also. There are several program links that could be ferreted out. Next time I'm over looking at Fresh Air I'll see what I can find.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:13 AM

Here's an excerpt from a blog post on the The Celtx Forum. I've added italics to what I consider to be a particularly interesting comment the blogger made and I'm curious about Mudcatters' opinions about that specific portion of that post.
Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:33 pm   

The last musicians that I bemoned their deaths were Hendrix, Joplin, and then Morrison... since then... 'music what???'... ok I've gotten back into some amount of rock on a local station that 'prides' itself for not being too mainstream... but they still play the latest cuts from selected artists to death... but I digress...

However that does not warrent dismissal of Jackson as an innovator, especially in the area of music videos... and by extension quite a few modern cinematic techniques that have become mainstream originated in the music video scene. (and cinematographers as well as directors...).

At some point a 'new' way of doing things needs the stamp of a super star to propel the methods into significance.

Heck, if Elvis the Pelvis hadn't gyrated his hips into moral turpitude in the 50's... where would Mick Jager have been in the 60's...

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:15 AM

Thanks, Stilly River Sage.

I look forward to any links and/or comments that you and others add to this thread.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:22 AM

Here's an excerpt from
which includes this definition of "music video":

"A music video is a short film or video that accompanies a complete piece of music/song. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Although the origins of music videos go back much further, they came into their own in the 1980s, when MTV based their format around the medium, and later with the launch of VH1. The term "music video" first came into popular usage in the early 1980s. Prior to that time, these works were described by various terms including "filmed insert", "promotional (promo) film", "promotional (promo) clip" or "film clip". In Chinese entertainment, music videos are simply known as MTVs because the network was responsible for bringing music videos to its popularity.

Music videos use a wide range of styles of filmmaking techniques, including animation, live action filming, documentaries, and non-narrative approaches such as abstract film. Some music videos blend different styles, such as animation and live action."


That Wikipedia page also includes information about the history of music videos. According to that article "Musical short films were made by Lee De Forest in 1923–24, followed by thousands of Vitaphone shorts (1926–30), many featuring bands, vocalists and dancers. In the 1920s, the animated films of Oskar Fischinger (aptly labelled "visual music") were supplied with orchestral scores. Fischinger also made short animated films to advertise Electrola Records' new releases. In 1929, the Russian Dziga Vertov made the 40-minute Man with the Movie Camera, an experiment on filming real, actual events."


The Wikipedia article on music videos also includes a breakdown of information by decade and a bulleted time line of music video significant events.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 12:07 PM

Good for you, Azizi.

His impact was profound, and he made damn good videos too.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 02:12 PM

Hello, Lizzie. Thanks for your comment.

Here's another blogger who writes about Michael Jackson's profound influence on the production of music videos:

"Everyone will remember Michael Jackson for something - his great music, his style - whether it be funky or different, and of course his dancing. But as many know, who followed him over the years, he also had a taste for technology. His videos were some of the first to feature special effects like in Black or White, where people's faces morphed into others, or other videos where animals became people… I know I never saw anything like that before the first time I watched it. It was cutting edge back then. And as much as Billie Jean was an awesome song, the tiles that lit up as he walked amazed me even more than the music itself. Michael was using green screens and all sorts of advanced video production before it was ever the norm. Even his concerts had special effects, including pyrotechnics (remember the Pepsi incident). In his prime he was always one step ahead of the curve and trends of the time. Michael will always be remembered as the King of Pop, an inspiration to the talented dancers, singers, and all around artists. But to me he will be remembered for making a little girl say "How did he make the tiles light up!?" And try as I might with my Michael Jackson doll - I could never make my parents floor do the same thing - no matter how loud I played Billie Jean. Rest in peace Michael - I hope you have finally found Peter Pan."

Michael Jackson Influenced Technology, Not Just Music
By Ali
June 26, 2009 at 3:13 am


Here's one of the reader's comments to that post:

"Walking Tutor - Excercising Aid for Physically Disabled Children - Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with Michael Jackson… if you look closely at the image you will see where I'm going with this. Karthik Kulkarni won the IEEE Distinguished Student Humanitarian Prize for creating a device to stimulate disabled kids, when they walk on the floor it would light up - encouraging them to keep on walking. Designed to be like an interactive game - Not only is Karthik (in my eyes) inspired by Billie Jean, he is also helping children. Now that truly would have made the King of Pop proud."

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 02:49 PM

"His impact was profound, and he made damn good videos too." credit for the 14 minute 'Thriller' video rests with the director, in this case film director John Landis, without whom, the 'Thriller' video would not have been possible.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

This MTV link (click) will take you to a 25-clip collectionof Michael Jackson's videos. I think it's fair to say that Michael Jackson was instrumental in making the music video into something significant. I was going to say "into a significant art form," but maybe that's going a bit too far. Anyhow, I've always enjoyed Michael's videos, and it may be in videos that he best showed his talent.


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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: gnu
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 05:19 PM

I saw a concert performance video years ago... before Thriller.

The stage was flanked with large speakers stacked increasingly to the edges of the stage. The song and dance show that that man put on on that stage and while dancing up and down those speakers and across the stage was spellbinding.

As for Thiller and such, garbage compared to the talent I witnessed in that stage performance. No need for makeup and bullshit horror...

Impact? I suppose. But Thriller was negative impact on me. I thought Thiller was kinda sick in the head.

I'll say it again... amazing talent... not terribly bright.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Janie
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 05:29 PM

I think he was very, very bright. Maybe didn't have much emotional intelligence. His videos, which I have been "wasting time" watching today are quite brilliant productions. I don't much care for music videos in general, and from what I have seen, I prefer the stage productions to the videos. But if film musicals had made a comeback during his career and he had the interest in doing them, they would all have been winners.

I don't really have anything to contribute to this thread, Azzizi, because I have never much cared for music videos and so have seen very few. That being the case I don't have any first hand appreciation of his impact. But from what I am reading and hearing, he definitely kicked the production and expectation up several notches.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 05:36 PM

TOTP2 tribute on BBC2 right now. Great hearing the Off the Wall stuff again...

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 05:45 PM

Thanks to all who have posted to this thread thus far.


Here's another excerpt of an online article that I found on the subject of music videos:

Wednesday, August 1,2007

Official History of Music Video
Making the personal official at 'Scanners'
By Armond White

..."When a music video strikes a nerve, it gives pop listeners a rare chance to interpret a song visually. And these ready-made mental pictures that came across on the TV screen could powerfully influence our own imaginings. Viewers learned how to dance, dress, flirt and dream. Music videos created a large audience responding to the same visual ideas the way moviegoers do, but now as a supplement to the special meanings and rhythms that the different styles of popular music offered to its various tribes. The videos helped people articulate their own tentative feelings...

The popularity of music video derived from the new thrill of putting imagery to music, the surprise of making graphics out of the beat. Because this form of entertainment can be so intense and so personal, its appeal has lasted beyond the dictates of TV-programmers. The form thrives even through periods when the record labels are uninspired or simply following formula...

By looking at personal reactions to music video, it becomes possible to understand how music videos gain significance in spite of the mainstream media's indifference.

The past decades of music video, whether seen on TV, in clubs or on the Internet, have presented numerous art works expressing the street life and fantasy lives of modern sub-cultures. The experiences and enticements vary, whether one responds to urban drama (Suzanne Vega's "Luka," Naughty By Nature's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright"), girl power (Salt-N-Pepa's "Whatta Man," Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"), money (Mase's "Feel So Good," Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin"), patriotism (Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today," John Mellancamp's "Pink Houses"), dancing (Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice"), adolescent nostalgia (Smashing Pumpkins' "1969," Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher"), flamboyant narcissism (Beyonce's "Check On It," Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy") or just plain astonishing graphic ingenuity (The White Stripes' "Fell in Love with a Girl," REM's "Imitation of Life," U2's "Mysterious Ways")...

A Hollywood story also validates music videos as an important pop form. The clips designed to simply provide ecstatic entertainment were the unique product of mini-moviemakers who may not have had talent for the long-form established by the great directors of Hollywood-movie musicals but who ushered that same ecstasy into a new, condensed medium.

Inspired by Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie and Bjork, recording artists who connected to movie-musicals and contemporary pop graphics, such directors as Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Michel Gondry, Jean-Paul Goude, Mark Romanek, Marcus Nispel, Spike Jonze and Ben Stokes created music videos that highlighted the beauty of dance and heartfelt singing. It's a gift that today's film directors are inured to. Recent movie-musicals—from the hellish Moulin Rouge and Chicago to the inept Dreamgirls and The Producers—merely borrow the banal frenzy of TV-commercial editing and off-balance compositions; these are insipid attempts at making movie-musicals seem modern.

But the auteurs of music video (whose names deserve to hyphenate the performers credited above) have demonstrated the talent to preserve the Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, George Sidney virtues and connect them to the innovations of Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising, that Richard Lester devised in A Hard Day's Night and that Ken Russell heightened in the great, delirious Tommy. These new music-video directors have sensibilities that connect to pop-star iconography and use it to feature the outward expression of pop stars' personal fantasies, and these fantasies, in turn, connect with the public's individual desires.

Music videos prove that despite the proliferation of polls and lists and award shows (namely, MTV's laughable VMAs), the official history of any art form must be a private one."

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 08:56 PM

Fresh Air with Terry Gross played an archive interview about Michael Jackson yesterday. This is the one I referred to earlier.


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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 09:28 PM

SRS, thanks for posting that link to the "Fresh Air" interview with Michael Jackson.

I'd like to address this point in that article:

"And that same month, March 1983, Jackson appeared on a live NBC entertainment special honoring the 25th anniversary of Motown Records, the label on which the Jackson 5 had recorded. He reunited with his brothers and sang that night, but he also made a solo appearance that remains one of the most electrifying star turns in TV history. While performing "Billie Jean," he introducing a new dance move he had concocted for the occasion — a backwards-gliding step he called the moonwalk."

[Italics added by me for emphasis]


Actually, Michael Jackson popularized but did not create the moonwalk dance step.

See this excerpt from

"The moonwalk or backslide is a dance technique that presents the illusion that the dancer is stepping forward while actually moving backward. It gives the appearance of a person moving along a conveyor belt. The dance move gained widespread popularity after being performed by Michael Jackson during his song "Billie Jean" on the March 25, 1983, television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever,[1][2] and was considered his signature move.[2] The moonwalk has since become one of the best known dance moves in the world.[2]

The move commonly referred to as the moonwalk today was originally known as the backslide or "walking on your toes".[citation needed] The moonwalk was the name of another dance now known as the "circle moonwalk".[citation needed] The step has two distinct types. One is called the turn walk. This is usually performed very quickly giving the impression that the dancer is walking quickly in a circle. The other circular moonwalk type is known as the 360 or Four-Corner Moonwalk and is often done much more slowly in a floating style. This involves sliding a heel back (usually the left heel), pivoting both heels to change direction, and then pivoting the non-sliding heel 45 degrees. Other moonwalk variants include the "sidewalk" or "side glide", in which the dancer appears to glide sideways, and the "spotwalk", in which the dancer appears to moonwalk in place.

The moonwalk was recorded as early as 1955 in a performance by tap dancer Bill Bailey.[3] The French mime, Marcel Marceau, used it throughout his career (from the 1940s through the 1980s), as part of the drama of his mime routines, such as in trying to chase a balloon, etc. James Brown used the move in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. Jeffrey Daniel performed a self-made variation of the moonwalk in a performance of Shalamar's "A Night To Remember" on Top of the Pops in 1982. A member of the Electric Boogaloos performance group, Timothy 'Popin Pete' Solomon, also performed the dance move in the Talking Heads video 'Crosseyed And Painless', which aired around 1981."...

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 09:52 PM

I'm trying to determine whether Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" videos were the the first videos from Black artists to be shown on MTV or not.

See for example this excerpt from Tom McGrath's article "Integrating MTV" that I posted in my 27 Jun 09 - 10:44 AM comment to this thread:

"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."

The article goes on to give an account of the how various people advocated for Black artists to have air time on MTV, and how "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"...

However, this comment is included in the "Fresh Air" interview:

"The year was 1983. MTV had launched two years earlier, and it's difficult to remember, or imagine, how different a network it was back then. Not only did it play nothing but music videos, 24 hours a day, but it played music videos only by white artists. The performer who broke MTV's unofficial blacklist — or whitelist — was Jackson, whose song and video for "Billie Jean" was simply too catchy too ignore.


[Italics added by me for emphasis]

Which comment is correct? Were there a few other music videos by Black artists on MTV before Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"? Is the distinction that "Billie Jean" was the first Black video to receive considerable air play on MTV thus opening the door for other Black music videos?

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Melissa
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:35 PM

"That's what Friends are For" was playing around the same time as "Beat It"
Prince, Tina Turner, Lionel Richey...

So, IF he was first/only, it sure didn't last long. In the fall of 83, there was a horrifying amount of fluffy blonde guys with vapid expressions and a variety of videos that all looked alike. Michael Jackson's videos stood out by looking different and he was more interesting to watch, but I'm not convinced that it was a color thing.   

I never saw MTV until college (where it played in the tv room a lot) and 83-84 are squished together in my mind as my introduction to mainstream/pop. At the time, I did watch fairly closely (albeit not often) because I was trying to figure out the attraction. I just didn't get (or have) it.
Watching closely, I am certain I would have noticed All-White..same as I noticed the unbalance between m/f and the way the girl who got pulled onstage always looked the same..and so did the ones rolling around on top of cars and such.

All these threads got me thinking about how I might like to see a couple of those videos again and today was the first time I saw the full length "Thriller".
It was kind of fun to see that red jacket again..

So, although I don't have any real information on whether "Billie Jean" was the absolute first, I do have a pretty strong opinion that IF it was, it wasn't alone for long.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 12:22 AM

Thanks, Melissa. Your comments are interesting.

I definitely recall MTV in the 1980s as a channel that aired mostly White music videos and BET (Black Entertainment Television) as a channel that aired mostly Black videos. I don't have the documentation but it's my sense that since the inception of both of these channels, MTV has had a much larger viewing audience than BET-hence the push to get MTV to integrate its selection of music videos that it aired.

For what it's worth, I rarely watched either of these channels. However BET was usually favored by my children over MTV.


Here's an excerpt from :

"BET: Black Entertainment Television was founded in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson, it offered movies, specials, news, music and inclusive programming targeted toward the African-American audience. Originally it only aired gospel, funk, jazz and soul music and added the hip-hop format in the mid-1980s in order to gain audience away from its competitor MTV which was responsible for selling hip hop to suburban audience, in 1989 it added its first hip-hip show Rap City which was created to compete with MTV's Yo! MTV Raps which premiered a year earlier. Rap City succeeded as it outlived Yo! MTV Raps and ran on BET for straight 19 years" ...

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Melissa
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 02:30 AM

In the early 80's, was BET part of standard cable packaging, or was it primarily a Big City option?

(sorry for sliding off topic..I'll read and probably not post anymore since I don't have anything to add, but now I'm wondering why it was always MTV and never BET at school. I don't think we had it)

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 09:30 AM

Melissa, I don't believe that either BET or MTV were ever part of the basic package in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-the city where I live. You had to pay extra for whichever "package" included those cable channels. But I believe that they might have been (and probably still are) sold together, along with HBO, which was/is a popular movie channel.


Here's some information about the MTV and BET shows that feature/d hip-hop music videos:

"Yo! MTV Raps is a two-hour American television music video program, which ran from August 1988 to August 1995 through its identity of Yo! MTV Raps (and until 1999 by the name Yo!). The program (created by Ted Demme and Peter Dougherty) was the first hip hop music show on the network, based on the original MTV Europe show, aired one year earlier. The U.S. version was hosted by Doctor Dré (not to be confused with N.W.A. alumnus Dr. Dre), Ed Lover and Fab 5 Freddy, premiering on MTV on August 6, 1988...

The advent of Yo! MTV Raps in the late 1980s was crucial to the spread of hip-hop around the world.[1] Through MTV Europe, MTV Asia, and MTV Latino, African-American and Latino style and sound was instantly available to millions of people across the globe. This helped to create a worldwide appreciation and interest in the hip-hop scene, which is something that was celebrated on the Yo! MTV Raps 20th anniversary.[2]"!_MTV_Raps


"Rap City is a long-running music video television program block (debuting on August 11, 1989) aired on the Black Entertainment Television network. The program was an exclusive showcase for hip hop music videos, and features interviews with and freestyles from popular rappers, and often has guest DJs serve as co-hosts.

The show was created by former BET VJ/producer Alvin Jones, a.k.a "The Unseen VJ". This was a spin-off of the "Rap Week" segment of Video Vibrations, also hosted by "The Unseen VJ".

While its competitor Yo! MTV Raps, which is now discontinued, mainly focused on all of the popular rappers, Rap City also included videos from up and coming underground rappers.

The program also had a Weekly Top 10 Countdown that aires on Saturdays. From 1991-1994, it was known as the "Top 10 Rapdown", when Prince Dajour (who also hosted Teen Summit) was host"...


I'm almost positive that my children-who are now in their early and mid thirties-preferred MYV's hip-hop video show "Yo! MTV Raps! to BET's hip hop video show "Rap City". I remember being called to watch certain videos with them and distinctly recall the hosts of the MTV show much more than the hosts of the Rap City show. I'm patting myself on the back because I even remembered the names of two of those hosts-Dr. Dre and Ed Lover- prior to looking up that information. Those hosts had strongly defined personas on that show. I remember that Ed Lover even had this funny dance he would do to an Ed Lover dance instrumental music that would periodically be played while the hosts were chatting.

Oh for those days of my youth!


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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 10:31 AM

Somewhat off-topic:

The "Yo!" in "Yo! MTV Raps" is an African American Vernacular English word which is introductory exclamation with has a similar meaning as the word "Hey!". "Yo" has largely been discontinued from everyday use since at least the 1990s, although there's a somewhat current Hip-Hop/R&B refrain to some song or the other that goes "Yo baby Yo baby. Yo".

The word "yo" may have been used by Black Americans earlier than the 1980s, but my memory of that word dates from that decade. "Yo" was a call for attention that is similar to the English word "Hey!". I've collected several foot stomping cheers from the mid/late 1980s in which the introductory word "Yo!" was later changed to the word "Hey!" Here's one (transitional?) example from my website that includes both "Yo" and "Hey"

Introduce Yourself {Version #1}
Group: Hey, Shaquala!
Soloist #1: Yo!
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
Soloist #1: No way.
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
Soloist #1: Okay.
Soloist #1: My name is Shaquala.
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: They call me Quala.
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: My sign is Aries
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: I like to dance
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: I wanna be a dancer for the rest of my life.
-TMP; Pittsburgh, PA mid 1980s; collected by Azizi Powell, 1997


It should be noted that "Yo" definitely doesn't mean "I" like the Spanish word which is spelled & pronounced the same. What I find very interesting is that the same word "yo" appears to have been (is?) used in the same exclamatory way in the Akan language [Asante/Twi] in Ghana, West Africa. Here's an example from the now classic 1923 book by R.S. Rattray, Ashanti (Oxford Press Edition; 1969; p.96 with notes):

"'Me nananom nsamanfo, nne ye Awukudae, mo me gye eto nni, na mo ma kuro yi nye yiye, na mo ma mma nwo mma, na nnipa a ye wo kuro yi mu nhina nya sika'.

'My spirit grandfathers, to-day is the Wednesday Adae, come and receive this mashed plantain and eat; let this town prosper; and permit the bearers of children to bear children; and may all the people who are in this town get riches.'

This speech was punctuated throughout by the exclamation of yo! [1 from the okyeame ('linguist' or spokesman) and shrill cries of Tie! Tie! T1e! Tie-e-e-e! [2] from the osene (the herald)..."

1. Yo really should be spelled vo, this v having a peculiar wy sound and being really a labial semi-vowel.

2. Tie (listen)

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 10:47 AM

I just re-read this sentence from that Wikipedia page for "Yo! MTV Raps!" whose link I provided above:

"Yo! MTV Raps is a two-hour American television music video program, which ran from August 1988 to August 1995 through its identity of Yo! MTV Raps (and until 1999 by the name Yo!)."

Is that "1999" in that sentence a typo for "1989"? If not, I'm not sure how the show could have been known as "Yo!" in 1999 when it went off the air in 1995.

Yo! Someone else makes typos besides me. :o)


I should have been clearer that one of the ways that the English word "Yo" is used is the same as the English word "Hey!".

See these definitions from

1) A contraction of the possessive prenominal adjective "your."
2) An informal address or title to one whose name is not known to another; can be used as an interrogative address.
3)A declaritive or imperative exclaimation, whether alone or within a sentence.
1) How's yo momma?
2) Hey, yo! What's up, yo?
3) Yo! What the hell do you think you are doing?! Yo, just do your job! YO!
by Dr. Thompson May 12, 2003

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Melissa
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 08:02 PM

I hadn't thought about the differences in how cable was packaged in different places, and it seems to be a subject for another time. I guess I never thought about how the provider decided which channels to make available in different packages. I'm still not sure I'm overly interested in putting much thought into it, but at the moment, I'm a little bit interested.

Do I understand correctly that BET was around before MTV and started leaning toward more music/video programming around the same time MTV started drawing an audience?

Who/when was the first White video aired by BET?

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 09:05 PM

Melissa, I know very little about the history/current programming of either BET or MTV, and IMO those subjects are beyond the purpose of this discussion. However, here is some information that I found from a cursory Google search:

"BET was launched in 1980 by media entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson. Having gained experience as a lobbyist for the cable television industry in the late 1970s, Johnson saw an opportunity to reach African American audiences through a cable TV channel. BET originated with two hours of weekly programming in 1980 and slowly gained viewership throughout North America and the Caribbean. Music videos were an early staple of BET programming, as were shows that targeted a youthful audience, but the network broadened its focus to include political and issue-oriented programs, comedy showcases, talk shows, and sports, among a wide variety of offerings. Having established BET as a successful niche media company, Johnson launched it as a public corporation in 1991. BET was listed on the New York Stock Exchange until 1998, when Johnson and other investors gained private control of the firm. In 2000 Johnson and his partners sold BET to Viacom Inc. for $3 billion. The network reaches about 70 million households. BET's affiliated businesses include book publishing and event production."


Rewinding 25 Years Of Mtv History
Publication: Billboard
Date: Saturday, September 2 2006

The following is a timeline of notable milestones in MTV's history compiled from information provided by MTV.

MTV debuts Aug. 1 with a clip of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." The channel confirms the concept of cable niche programming, reshapes music marketing and becomes a symbol of youth culture... The channel ends the year with 2.1 million subscribing households...

Also, visit

..."MTV's pre-history began in 1977, when Warner Cable (a division of Warner Communications, and an ancestor of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (WASEC)) launched the first two-way interactive cable TV system, QUBE, in Columbus, Ohio. The QUBE system offered many specialized channels, including a children's channel called Pinwheel which would later become Nickelodeon. One of these specialized channels was Sight On Sound, a music channel that featured concert footage and music oriented TV programs; with the interactive Qube service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists.

The original programming format of MTV was created by the visionary media executive, Robert W. Pittman, who later became president and chief executive officer of MTV Networks.[2] Pittman had test-driven the music format by producing and hosting a 15-minute show, Album Tracks, on WNBC in the late 1970s.

Pittman's boss, WASEC Executive Vice President John Lack, had shepherded a TV series called PopClips, created by former Monkee-turned solo artist Michael Nesmith, the latter of whom by the late 1970s was turning his attention to the music video format.[3] The inspiration for PopClips came from a similar program on New Zealand's TVNZ network, Radio with Pictures, which premiered in 1976. The concept itself had been in the works since 1966, when major record companies began supplying the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation with promotional music clips to play on the air at no charge.

Additionally, in the book The Mason Williams FCC Rapport, author Mason Williams states that he pitched an idea to CBS for a television program that featured "video-radio," where disc jockeys would play avant-garde art pieces set to music on the air. CBS cancelled the idea, but Williams premiered his own musical composition, "Classical Gas," on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he was head writer. The book in which this claim is made was first published in 1971, ten years before MTV first came on the air."


FWIW, I have yet to find any information online about when the first music video by a White artist/group was first aired on BET.

If you find that information, I'd appreciate you posting it to this thread though in my opinion that information is tangential to the thread's topic.

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Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
From: Melissa
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 09:33 PM

I think that without tangents, conversation is a predictable script.

However, you're right. If do I happen to run across anything that's truly On Topic, I'll come back and post it.

Take care,

    Thread closed because it's become a target for Spam. -Joe Offer-

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