Music

The Love You Save: A Tribute to Michael Jackson

Edited by Bill Gibron and Produced by Patrick Schabe

It's sad to see this particular circus back in town. These clowns have long since worn out their welcome, no matter the changing faces of the ringmasters or the acrimonious animal tamers involved. From questions of paternity to that clichéd concern over drugs, Michael Jackson managed to leave this Earth in much the same way he lived on it for the last 20 years -- under a billowing big top of rumor, innuendo, and self-made/ exacerbated scandal. Gone was the youthful grin that wanted to dance us into day and 'be' starting something. Missing was any real mention of the amazing music he made. In its place was a 30-mile zone zeitgeist that saw a simmering midway of tabloid attractions lure the fan once again away from the facts and into their horrific house of mirrors.

This is not to say that the late, great King of Pop was perfect. One look at him in the weeks before his death indicates a man still manufacturing his own myth, both artistically and physically. But in the speed to spin any speculation into truth, the biggest part of Jackson's legacy got left in the dust. It's almost a given -- like Elvis' influence, John Lennon's gifts, or Kurt Cobain's pain. It's so ingrained in us we need to be shocked into respecting it. We see hundreds of Philippine inmates mimicking the famed dance from Thriller and the most rote parts of our brain processes the homage in like kind. It may not be our Bible, Billy Jean is still not our lover, but we're all struck by the smoothest of criminals, and no one can truly deny the way Jackson's incredible musical gifts made us feel.

With that complicated perspective in tow, PopMatters is devoting the next four days to paying tribute to the man who made MTV multiculturally viable, who reinvented dance into something suave and soulful, and delivered an amazing amalgamation of musical styles, sources, and genres. But this is not a pure praise-a-thon. Not every piece will be complimentary. For some, Jackson remains an uneasy ruler, even in the last act finality of death. Others can't escape the poisonous political era which saw him rise to prominence. There will be those who make it all too personal, reminiscent in a way that shows affection and fandom. And a few will offer up their choicest mix-tape picks, putting together the kind of aural honor befitting a man whose sole driving force was the crafting of clever, creative poptones.

So join us in remembering the life and troubled times of this mythic musical figure. Clearly, for all his talent, for his ability to communicate across generations and borders, timelines and lifestyles, Michael Jackson will forever be an enigma. That he literally personified the term stands, for many, as the stain on the otherwise spotless sonic record. From the time he was five until the moments before his death, he was a part of our cultural path, an occasional sideshow that really didn't need to be so odd, or so obtuse. During his reign as lead singer of the Jackson 5, he once cautioned about being mindful of "the love you save". It was a sentiment he clearly forgot before entering this particular center ring one more time. Sadly, he's now left all alone.

Bill Gibron

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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