FACTS DON'T LIE
Remembering Michael Jackson: The Story Behind His Magnum Opus Joe Vogel Assistant Professor at Merrimack College; Author; Cultural Critic
Before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, before Avatar and Wall-E, before “going green” became a catchphrase, came Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” one of the most unusual, audacious protest songs in popular music history. A massive hit globally (reaching #1 in over fifteen countries), it wasn’t even released as a single in the United States.
Yet nearly sixteen years later, its admirers continue to grow. The song’s desperate plea on behalf of the planet and its inhabitants (particularly the most vulnerable) remains as relevant and important as ever.
“Earth Song” mattered deeply to Jackson, who rightfully considered it one of his greatest artistic achievements. He planned for it to be the climax of his ill-fated This Is It concert series in London. It was the last song he rehearsed before he died.
The following excerpt is from a 50-page piece entitled “Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus,” which details the song’s evolution from its inception in Vienna to Jackson’s final live performance in Munich:
“Michael Jackson was alone in his hotel room, pacing.
He was in the midst of the second leg of his Bad World Tour, an exhausting, 123-concert spectacular that stretched over nearly two years. The tour would become the largest-grossing and most-attended concert series in history.
Just days earlier, Jackson had performed in Rome at Flaminio Stadium to an ecstatic sold-out crowd of over 30,000. In his downtime, he visited the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican with Quincy Jones and legendary composer, Leonard Bernstein. Later, they drove to Florence where Jackson stood beneath Michelangelo’s masterful sculpture, David, gazing up in awe.
Now he was in Vienna, Austria, music capital of the Western world. It was here where Mozart’s brilliant Symphony No. 25 and haunting Requiem were composed; where Beethoven studied under Haydn and played his first symphony. And it was here, at the Vienna Marriott, on June 1, 1988, that