2009-09-05 - "Vanity Fair" Interview Highlights, by Lisa Robinson PDF Print E-mail


1975 – February 5: Interview at Warwick Hotel, NY City backstage at Radio City Hall:

On his favorites reads:

„All kinds of things … the dictionary, adventure books. I had four weeks off and I just stayed home. I don’t really like going to parties … Well, I like parties where you can talk—a fireplace and a piano. […]”

Circa 1977 Interview:

On his plans for acting in movies:

„I was supposed to do „Roots”, but it was done during our own TV show [„The Jacksons TV Show”], and I couldn’t do it - I had an offer for that. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to be my first film [which was the 1978 „The Wiz”, a black-artist adapted film after the „Wonderful Wizzard of Oz”, by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 movie] - a big TV event, because then the most people can see it.”

* Note: „Roots” is a 1977 American television miniseries based on Alex Haley’s work „Roots: The saga of an American Family”, a movie crossing racial barriers and piqueing the interest of families of all ethnic groups. The miniseries involved a West-African story on slavery and its tortures provoked by the American souldiers, the African victims that were sold, on the survival of generations of Blacks and the freedom of some as part of the ending. „Roots” and the novel from which the first miniseries was adapted revived interest in oral and genealogical history among all segments of the population, the music for the 1st episode being produced by Gerald Fried and Quincy Jones, who also contributed, among other consummate composers, to the music of „The Wiz”, including working with Jackson for 3 albums. „The Wiz” wasn’t as acclaimed as „Roots”, however Michael Jackson has received praises for his Scarecrow role that „best fits my style” and „that other kids feel sorry for”, critics viewing the entertainer as a "genuine acting talent" that "provided the only genuinely memorable moments.".

On ballads:

„To me, ballads are special, because you can have a pop song that’ll be known for three weeks and then you’ll hear nothing else about it. Nobody else will record it and it’ll just be gone. But if you do a good ballad, it’ll be [in] the world forever. Like [Stevie Wonder’s] “Living for the City” that’s a great song [a social awareness song on poverty, pollution, changing the world], and it opens up the minds of a lot of people, but it won’t be around as long as [Wonder’s] “My Cherie Amour” [sad love song] or “For Once in My Life” [uplifting love song] or “You Are the Sunshine of My Life [on love bringing harmony to people]

1977: Generic Questionnaire:


Question on the kind of girl he would marry:

Answer: „Kind”


Question on his likes and dislikes about work:

Answer: Likes: „learning”; dislikes „arguing”.

Question on his most prized possession:

„A child; words of wisdom.”

Question on whether he has a pet fear or a superstition:

„Not that God made.”

1977 - February: Interview by phone from his home at the time, Encino, California

On the obligation an artist should have for their admirers:

„[…] You have an obligation to your fans – they made you what you are. They’re the ones who bought the records, so performers who don’t sign autographs and stuff are wrong. Someone who does that can’t say he’s right, because he’s wrong…because if he did a concert and nobody showed up, he wouldn’t do the concert. So he owes it to them”.

1977 – June 9: Interview by phone from Encino, California:

On sightseeing and its risks produced by fame:

„ […] The show in London was much wilder—I didn’t think we’d get out of that place. All through the show (in London) there were girls running up, one after another, onto the stage - poor children were being crushed and smashed. Two policemen got stabbed. The last time was even rougher…[…]”

1978 – August 3: Interview by phone from California:

On his new car, [a then recently purchased blue Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce]:

„Yes, it’s my favorite car. I know how to drive it, but I hate to take pictures in it. You know, you see so many people with their new cars, and it’s a little show-offy. I’m really not like that.”

1979 – September 4: Interview by phone from Encino, California:

On his music/ album „Off The Wall”:

„I wanted an album that wouldn’t just consist of one kind of music, because I love all kinds of music. I see it all as music; I don’t like to label it. It’s like saying this child is white, this child is black, this child is Japanese – but they’re all children. It reminds me of prejudice. I hate labels. I went to a record store the other day and I saw the Bee Gees „Black” category. I mean, what is that? It’s so crazy. If somebody has a wonderful song that’s right for me, I’d love to do it. I wouldn’t pass up a good song just because I didn’t write it.”

8. 1985 – February 15: Phone Interview from Los Angeles, California:

On artists often not being treated as humans:

„You know [Barbra] Streisand once said…I taped it, on 20/20, she said she first came out, she’s new and fresh, everybody loved her, and they built her up and then…they knocked her down. And she felt, you know, ‘Oh, is that it?’ You know, she’s human, she can’t take it, she can’t just forget about it. Steven Spielberg’s [also] going through that …But I’m a strong person. I don’t let anything bother me; I love doing what I do and I’m gonna keep moving mountains and doing bigger and better things, because it makes people happy.”

On the high ticket prices from the 1984 Victory Tour:

„[…] That wasn’t my idea. None of that was my idea. I was outvoted. I mean, mail order…I didn’t want that - I didn’t want the ticket price the way it was…our production was so big, it had to pay for itself, but still, even then, I didn’t want the ticket price so high. But…I was outvoted… Don King … all of it, I was outvoted. And it’s tough, especially when it’s your family. […] But I’m going to do bigger and better things in the future. I’m compelled to do what I’m doing and I can’t help it. […] I just love it. I get excited about ideas, not about money; ideas is what excites me.”

* Additional reminder: On July 5, 1984, on occasion of a Jacksons’ press conference from "Tavern on the Green", Michael Jackson announces that his Victory – tour share of proceeds will entirely cover three charitable organizations: "The United Negro College Fund", "Camp Good Times" and "T.J. Martel Foundation". Furthermore, at each gig, 500 places were reserved for invalids and hospital patients, taken on stretchers into the stadiums.

On being insulated, on children and other activities:

„Well, a lot of that (isolation subject) is true, but I get a chance to have fun, you know. I show films, and I play games and have friends over sometimes, and I love children and stuff. I get to play with them; that’s one of my favorite things to do. Performing is fun. I miss that, but I’ve been writing a lot of good stuff lately and I’m real excited about the songs I’m coming up with.”

On the passion and effort he devotes for his work:

„I put my soul, my blood, sweat, and tears, into „Thriller” (the album). I really did. And not only was it Thriller, but I was doing E.T. [a children’s story/film for which he narrated and won a Grammy award] at the same time, the E.T. [soundtrack] album. And that was a lot of stress. […]”