Spike’s documentary hits all the right notes
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