Spike’s doc­u­men­tary hits all the right notes

Macclesfield Express - - TVWEEK -

In the early 1970s, a soul­ful voice could be heard waft­ing from ra­dios and speak­ers around the world as Michael Jack­son sang a heart­felt tune about ‘Ben’. To the ca­sual lis­tener, it sounded like the best bro­mance in the world; a heart­bro­ken lad singing about his brother or best friend, but that tune was the stand­out track to Wil­lard, a long for­got­ten movie about a rat. Talk about off the wall. Well, plenty of folks in Spike Lee’s new fea­ture doc­u­men­tary, Michael Jack­son’s Jour­ney from Mo­town to Off the­Wall (Satur­day, BBC2, 9pm), will do just that, wax­ing lyri­cal about the al­bum which sold 30 mil­lion copies world­wide, and ce­mented the for­mer child star’s po­si­tion as a for­mi­da­ble solo tal­ent. But not be­fore Lee eases us down the road and as­sesses Jacko’s early days at Mo­town. There’s ar­chive footage of Michael re­call­ing how when the fam­ily’s TV broke down one day, they started singing. Be­fore long they were win­ning com­pe­ti­tions and ap­pear­ing on The Ed Sul­li­van Show. The Jack­son 5’s first four songs went to num­ber one on the Amer­i­can charts, and they found the free­dom to go to a movie or get a burger was sud­denly gone. Singer/song­writer Va­lerie Simp­son was amazed by how ac­com­plished Michael was at an early age, es­pe­cially when it came to singing and danc­ing.“He came here know­ing that stuff,” she re­marks. MJ had met leg­endary pro­ducer Quincy Jones on the set of The Wiz, a flop film ver­sion of The Wizard of Oz based on a stage play, but while it failed to set the box of­fice alight, Jones and Jack­son went to­gether like ba­con and eggs. Michael called him up one day and asked if he knew any­one who could pro­duce Off the Wall. Though he claimed he wasn’t ask­ing him di­rectly in one clip, Jack­son was thrilled when he said yes. Re­mark­ably some mu­sic bosses though Quincy was “too jazzy”, but they ate their words. With his pro­duc­ing skills and Michael’s vo­cals, they may as well have been blessed with the pow­ers of King Mi­das; as a duo, ev­ery­thing they worked on turned to gold (records). If this leaves you hun­gry for more, then there’s a strong chance Lee will make at least one more film about Jack­son. He sees this film as part of a tril­ogy about his great­est al­bums. Lee had al­ready made Bad 25, about the 1987 al­bum, and hopes he’ll get to make one about Thriller.

On song A pro­file of the Michael Jack­son’s early ca­reer

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