1980 - March 1: "Melody Maker" Music Newspaper Interview PDF Print E-mail


On his love for children and on adulthood supressing the childlike essence:

"One of my favourite pastimes is being with children – talking to them , playing with them, wattlin’ in the grass. They’re one of the main reasons why I do what I do. Children are more than adults. They know everything that people are trying to find out – they know so many secrets – but it’s hard for them to get it out. I can recognize that and learn from it. They (the children) say some things that’ll astound you. They go through brilliant, genius stages, but when they become a certain age, they lose it. So many people think certain things are childlike, but grown-ups are really nothing but children who have lost all that real magic by not noticing and digging and finding out. I believe in that deeply."

On nature and animals:

" […] I enjoy nature too much. […] I know the tree feels it when the wind blows through it. It probably goes, "Ohhhh, this is wonderful." And that’s how I feel when I’m singing some songs. It’s wonderful."

"Plus, I’m crazy for birds and animals and puppies. And I love exotic things. I’ve had llamas, peacocks, a rhea, which is the second largest bird in the world, a macaw, which is the largest parrot from South America, pheasants, racoons, chickens….everything. Now, I’m gonna get a faun. And a flamingo. […] I want a chimpanzee – they’re so sweet. Oh, I have such a good time with the animals. I have a wonderful relationship with animals, they really understand me. […] I’d like to get into the whole veterinarian thing and learn the behaviour of animals. Dogs may see in black and white. Dogs might even see the wind. And what about the king cobra – what makes him come up when they play that pipe?"

"And the whales. From the top of my brother’s beach house, we look out and see them spouting."

On disadvantaged children and his benefit missions towards them:

"I get frighetened and hurt easily and the news frightens me very much, even if I’m not involved in somebody else’s problem. At Big Bear Lake I heard on the news that this little boy had his Christmas a month ahead of time, and Santa Claus was at his house, because he only had a week to live. Sure enough, in that week, he died – and that just got me so bad."

"I meet children like that all the time when we visit the hospitals. The doctors and nurse ask them, "You can go anywhere you want or do or see anything – what do you want?" And these kids request to meet the Jacksons. They say "You’ve got to meet this girl, she’s going to die tomorrow and ever since she’s been out of surgery she’s been calling your name." And, God, I just feel so wonderful to be a part of somebody’s ultimate dream. All my lifetime of work is rewarded."

"I tell the kids "I’ll see you next year", and sometimes the thought that I’ll be back next year makes them hang on. That’s happened several times. People told me this girl was about to die, but I kept running into her three years in a row – and the fourth year she died. The doctors couldn’t do anything, and for me to come in and help give her the gift of life really makes me feel good."

"Some people are chosen to do these things. These children will be drowsy, but Danny Kaye [a late American award-winning actor, singer and comedian] will come in and tell stories and make faces, and these kids will become so cheerful. Bill Cosby [an American comedian, actor and activist] is known for his ways with children, too. Nurses and doctors are totally amazed at the power of these people."

"I get a taste of poverty, too. When I go to a country – like in the Phillippines and in Trinidad and in Africa – I really get out and go to the poor sections and talk to the people. I sit in their little huts, their cardboard houses, and I make myself at home. I think it’s important to know how different people feel, especially in my field of endeavor."

"The head of the section will call all the poor people out and tell them who’s here to see them, and it feels good to know that they know who you are. I don’t think I’m better than other people, I think I’m different from other people, because I do different things. I shake all their hands, and they follow me wherever I go. Then they see my camera around my neck and they’ll start touching it and begging me to take their picture. When we first went to Africa, we took the kind of camera that has instant pictures, and they’d never seen anything like that. They were jumping up and down and screaming."

On the cartoons touching upon the concept of good against evil:

"The Wizard Of Oz" has secrets that are just too much. Or "Peter Pan" – the whole 'lost boys' thing is just incredible. They’re not childlike at all, they’re really, really deep; you can rule your life by them. Or say 'child-like', because children are the most brilliant people of all, that’s why they relate to those stories so well. Fairy-tales are wonderful. […]"

"There’s a whole psychological reason for those cartoons about good against evil. We have "Superman" and all those other hero people, so that we can go out into life and try to be something. I’ve got most of Dinsey’s animated movies on video-tapes, and when we watch them. Oh, I could just eat it, eat it. […] Jimmy Cricket, Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse – these are world-known characters. Some of the greatest political figures have come to the United States to meet them."