Lessons from Michael Jackson, the late Master of performance

Not guilty
photo credit: SegFault

Some may find the media to be in overload by Michael Jackson’s recent passing, but the craze is indicative of the power of the singer’s icon that is fueling a renewed and well-deserved interest in the man’s stratospheric talent as a singer, dancer, songwriter, musician, and philanthropist.

In this article, we remember Michael by looking at what we as singers and performers can learn from the “man in the mirror”. All quotes are from Michael Jackson himself.

“The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.” – Michael Jackson

Michael was a part of our lineage of Speech Level Singing, so we can learn a lot directly from him. As students of singing, we must stand on the shoulders of giants so that we can learn from and build upon their successes. Michael often cited James Brown as his biggest musical influence, and that is clearly evident nearly everywhere in his artistic expression. Who is your single biggest influence? In what ways can you tap into, borrow or channel the energy that your heroes did?

“My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.” – Michael Jackson

Let’s face it – his gifts didn’t come from nowhere, they came from both within and from somewhere beyond himself that he learned he could access. What gifts do you feel you received at birth, and throughout your lifetime, that can help you connect with your own greatness? What special key have you been lucky to have found? Don’t cut yourself short here – everything counts when you capitalize on it. How can you capitalize on your own gifts?

Michael Jackson's Star
photo credit: Fabio Ikezaki

“I’m never pleased with anything, I’m a perfectionist, it’s part of who I am.” – Michael Jackson

If you aren’t convinced of Micheal’s vocal brilliance, check out his famous Oprah interview after they walk to his neverland theater. After some coercing, he talks about his perfectionism, and works himself up to show off some outrageous on-the-spot vocals. But even though his performances and music videos may look slick and perfect, it conceals the immense work Michael invested into everything he put his name to. Leading up to his final “This Is It” tour, despite being already one of the most gifted vocalists on earth, Michael was in the studio with Seth Riggs everyday still working on his voice. And just like his other tours, he was planning to bring Seth on the road with him to London for nearly 2 hours everyday of vocal warm-ups, re-balancing, training and maintenance to ensure he could meet the rigorous demands placed on his voice throughout each of his explosive shows! How does your commitment to your art compare to Michaels? How can you draw upon the power of perfectionism to enhance your performances?

“I can`t think of a better way to spread the message of world peace than by working with the NFL and being part of Super Bowl XXVII.” – Michael Jackson

This performance marked Michael Jackson’s arrival into super stardom. But yet what brought him there was driven by a sense of deep purpose that fed into creating the bigger than life persona he did. What purpose can/do you align yourself with that is truly meaningful to you?

“I wake up from dreams and go ‘Wow, put this down on paper.’ The whole thing is strange. You hear the words, everything is right there in front of your face.” – Michael Jackson

What are some ways that you can shake up the place you sing, write, perform, or express yourself from? How can you learn from and draw upon the things that already exist around you and within you?

“I`ll always be Peter Pan in my heart.” – Michael Jackson

Referring to his lost childhood in the music industry, Peter Pan was a powerful archetype to Michael. What archetype is symbolic of or embodies your story as a singer or performer? How can you draw upon and learn from it’s energy?