Tattoo Bad: An Article in Defence of Paris Jackson

Show me a scar and I’ll show you a survivor. Show me someone who can proudly exhibit their scars, and I’ll show you a hero.

Michael’s face was adorned with scars. Scars from his acne-plagued adolescence. Scars from his plastic surgery. Michael was riddled with insecurities about his facial appearance. Many of Michael’s idiosyncrasies manifest as a consequence of these scars. His use of long wigs as a masking device. The wearing of a wide-brimmed hat as a masking device. The Aviator sunglasses as a masking device. The mask. A masking device.

Yet he persisted. He continued to show himself to the world.

The days of tattoos as the exclusive hallmark of angry, wayfaring bikers are long gone. Possibly to the subculture’s chagrin.

For at least two decades now the trend for inking one’s heart on one’s sleeve has been prevalent in mainstream society. When the trend began, most people visited parlours and selected from a pre-sketched gallery of quasi-tribal symbols or oriental lettering. The joke being that there must also be people in China walking around with the word ‘LINEN’ or something equally banal indelibly inscribed on a buttock. Proudly wandering around half-naked, oblivious to the bland truth, but satisfied that it increased their sex appeal.

“So… What exactly does that wrinkled depiction of Donald Duck on your ankle mean to you?”

Well. It might mean that you had the time of your life in Marbella. And there’s no shame in that. For to be enjoying a moment to the extent that one wishes to mark it with a permanent visual reminder is a beautiful thing.

Many of us will forever carry those scars. Many of us perhaps now feel somewhat less sexy about them. Nevertheless, as a needled mnemonic, as a nostalgia spur – they hold a treasured place in one’s personal history.

And therein lies the entire point of tattoos.

In the same way there is a sense of identity in having Michael Jackson as one’s idol, there is a sense of identity in a tattoo. Those prudes that self-righteously ridicule the choices other people make in their attempts to fill the void of self (so long as no-one is hurting anyone else), should probably take a look at what they themselves are choosing to use in the satisfying of their own vacuum. Those that dismiss The Inked and feel superior in “not having to ‘resort’ to visual reminders” of who they are, are quite simply and very markedly missing the point.

Are you a mother? Then that is a huge portion of your identity. Do you have stretch marks? Those beautiful scars of pregnancy? If you’re in the demographic that judged Paris Jackson for acquiring ink, it’s probable.

To expect Paris Jackson to somehow not be representative of her generation and its trends is both cruel and bizarre. It is testament to her strength that she is.

Paris Jackson is a self-harm survivor. She has emerged from an adolescence the scrutiny of which can only be rivalled by the experience suffered by her father. She has her father’s fortitude. Her tattoos are dedications of adoration for her father and expressions of her character. In the same way Michael used love and the embracing of individual expression to combat his insecurities, so does his daughter. As if it was ever the case that the sensitive teenager Paris Jackson had to defend her choices,

“Today i can look at my inner forearms and see art that has meaning for me. I don’t see a dark past anymore. My scars and past of self-hatred have been covered by loving marks, creativity, ingenuity.. and depth.”

The pricking pain of the inker’s needle can be a panacea for the burning lungs of an agonised soul. Michael isn’t celestially scowling down upon Paris. Rather, his brow is furrowed in disappointment at those who would frivolously explain away his very own unorthodox, often inexplicable choices without a second’s thought – yet assume some kind of right to nanny by-proxy and by-tabloid his beloved daughter.

Judgement under the guise of concern. Isn’t that what Michael had to so-often endure?

It is absurd to deny Michael’s own daughter this assertion of devotion to her father. Especially  from middle-aged whingers whose sense of self is entirely based on Michael as their idol. Paris is his actual daughter for God’s sake.

Of course, there’s a whole other debate to be had about whether or not the trend for tattoos is in itself indicative of an increasingly insecure and terrified world. That the fear of expressing oneself as a person is manifesting in people choosing to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Yet, let us not forget the many ancient, more ‘spiritually intelligent’ civilisations that used the art-form of inking skin to express themselves. Warriors in particular were well-adorned.

To acquire a tattoo is a courageous decision, irrespective of any underlying reason. Indeed, those that acquire ‘MJ’ tattoos consciously invite some inevitable ridicule. And perhaps the fact that it was such social pariahs as bikers who were once solely synonymous with the art-form is significant.

Besides, it’s not like Michael ever had any tattoos, eh?


Apart from those on his face.




The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Leave Me Alone: A Short Film Rich In Symbolism

The Leave Me Alone video is a trip. Not merely one aboard a rocket and a rollercoaster, but also in the psychotropic sense. Watching it is like dropping LSD then getting lost in the Dangerous album artwork – witnessing the rich, exotic imagination of it all becoming animated before your very eyes.

It starts with Michael being ejected from a trailer park, foreshadowing the subsequent short film Michael would release – Black or White – when the fat, patriarchal embodiment of North America is blasted into Africa for an educational experience. Upon the doorstep of the trailer van is thrown the tabloid junk that distracts the masses from the real problems of the world. This is one of the themes of the Leave Me Alone short film, an issue later echoed in the Dangerous track Why You Wanna Trip On Me.

In Leave Me Alone, the sun is setting on Michael’s Barnum-comparable circus. The red stars that appear on the rollercoaster presage those on the Dangerous album cover. Michael pilots a rocket and laughs gleefully as he loses the dogs in suits that chase him – the same dogs that during the video’s denouement attempt to keep him tied down. Before Michael the Gulliver-esque giant frees himself – as effortlessly as he had danced with the ball and chain earlier. A dance performed alongside the reanimated bones of a stylised Joseph Merrick.

Immortal and omnipotent in legend. Unconstrained by physicality or death.

The short film is fertile in its symbolism. There are pirates attempting to down Michael’s rocket. During the part in which his friend and solace Elizabeth Taylor is featured, Michael closes his mouth and stops singing out of respect for her. There’s even a rotating barber’s pole, which may well be a reference to Michael’s hair loss and reliance on wigs. There’s a haunted mine, a goldfish bowl and a peacock – the latter of which Michael was fond of using as an emblem for racial equality. He rescues Bubbles from slavery. Michael bursts through doors that when closed form a broken heart.

Long before conspiracy theorists were analysing pop music videos for signs of Illuminati messages, Michael was incorporating such themes into his art. There’s a Baphometian pushmi-pullyu, as well as pyramids and reptiles aplenty – even an alligator controlling a piano spinning atop its snout. Other things spin. Michael’s brain. From which are cast depictions of a cookie, a nose, a scalpel and planet Earth. Polarities of importance? Or how both personal and macrocosmic issues matter? There is a perspicacious use of Orwellian CCTV cameras.

By the final “Make that change” of the Bad Tour, Michael’s exorcising of the importance of commercial success as a barometer for self-worth was in full swing. Michael had thrown his all into an attempt to ensure Bad outsold Thriller. It dawned on him that this was an impossible, self-defeating task. And rather than let the obsession control the rest of his career, Michael psychically discarded those shackles. The Leave Me Alone short film was a segue into the Dangerous project. It shows Michael embracing his responsibility as “The World’s Strongest Man” – as a poster in the video illustrates. Michael focused his energies on humanitarianism and philanthropy: “There’s a time when you’re right… / There’s a choice you must take”.

This emancipation from his self-imposed rules of success (a liberation that cannot have pleased his record company) enabled Michael to move forward artistically, without the expertise of Quincy Jones as his Executive Producer. It allowed him to experiment with different musical genres on the Dangerous album. The themes of which are loneliness, humanitarianism and self-fulfilment.

Dangerous was Michael’s coming-of-age magnum opus, in which he courageously incorporated religiosity. In the song Jam, Michael laments the confusion in creed and its incongruity with world peace, proclaiming, “She pray to God, to Buddha, then she sings a Talmud song.” Michael began using the Sign Of The Cross in his choreography (often followed by a crotch grab). The lyrics of the song Dangerous quote the Bible. As well as describe a woman as “Divinity in motion.” In Will You Be There, Michael begs us to remember that he’s “only human”, whilst also, with the words “lift me up, lift me up” implores that we elevate him high as a totem for peace.

Divinity exists. Inside every human. But Michael was the most famous one that ever lived, and the reality of divinity is evident in this man’s choice to use his peerless fame as a catalyst for peace.

And whilst the dogs in suits might continue to chase, we can forever throw our heads back in untouchable glee.




The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

The Ides of March: An Article on the Sale of Michael Jackson’s Catalogue

March 15th was a fitting date for the announcement that Michael Jackson’s precious fifty-percent share of the Sony/ATV music-publishing catalogue had been sold to Sony Music at a knock-down price. At a depreciated cost that coincidentally and conveniently just about covers the Estate’s IRS tax fine. With an extra two million thrown in perhaps as a bonus for the architect of the Estate’s deliberate mismanagement.

For March 15th marks the Ides of March. The day Julius Caesar uttered the words “Et tu, Brute?” as he recognised his friend Brutus amongst the assassins that had conspired to murder him.

Of course, there would have been no “Et tu, Branca?” – Michael had long-since realised that the duplicitous lawyer was no friend of his. What with Michael firing him for conflict of interest, due to his representing Sony Music as Michael protested against the company. As well as Michael screaming at people who even mentioned Branca’s name, insisting that Branca was in cahoots with Sony Music and Sneddon in helping bring about the child molestation prosecution.

Furthermore, in his song ‘In The Back’ it takes no wild stretch of imagination when considering who Michael is referring to as he sings of how he is still trying to “deal with the fires that they made”. Indeed, a lifetime of litigation is inevitable when its your own lawyer conspiring against you. Neither is it far-fetched to imagine who the “Johnny” might be that Michael references in ‘Superfly Sister’ – “Johnny” who is “begging pretty please, keep that brother on his knees.”

Yet – I’ll say it again – in the will that was signed by Michael whilst he was provably three thousand miles away, John Branca was granted stewardship of Michael’s Estate in the event of his death.

Such a tragic turn of events how it has become Michael’s true fans that will never buy anything again that they release in his name. The thought of lining the pockets of those criminals makes me feel physically sick.

Michael was killed for his catalogue. He explicitly told us that this would happen.

Julius Caesar’s death marked the start of a civil war, though how there can possibly be a civil war between Michael Jackson fans is beyond me. I simply cannot begin to imagine the mindset of any faction that defends this egregious undermining of Michael’s life work and wishes. Who are these people? Can there really be enough of these avaricious imbeciles in order to form an army? Regardless, their battle is immoral; their Estate built on sand.

Branca has succeeded in both his straight-faced farce and in his aplomb as a conjuror – he has offered just enough glittering explosions to distract just enough people to support him as he saw Sony Music over the finish line.

And Branca is continuing with this technique, with Michael’s children taking the heat. After once again going public with her anti-Sony stance, Paris suddenly became the victim of a media smear claiming that her boyfriend was racist.

Also in the same week, Prince launched his own production company, ‘King’s Son Productions’.

And in this lies some hope.

For in the civil war of Roman times, the throne was ultimately won by Julius Caesar’s son.



The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Holding On: Seven Years Since I Saw Michael for the Final Time

My instant reaction to the announcement of Michael’s appearance at the O2 was to leap on the first available train down from the Lake District to London. I bought an umbrella to present to him and decorated it with gold ‘MJ’ lettering, a drawing of a butterfly and the words ‘Welcome Back.’

I was drunk on excitement. I was going to see Michael again!

Michael’s words were meant to ignite a year of intermittent encounters with him. Yet there was a tangible uneasiness amongst fans. Something seemed terribly amiss.

Michael was killed mere weeks later.

The subsequent inquest into how this happened revealed that behind the scenes of the O2 press conference, Michael had been being bullied. That Randy Phillips had hit Michael and screamed at him “so hard the walls were shaking”, complaining the reason why a terrified Michael was taking so long to take to the O2 stage was because “we still have to get his nose on properly.” Referring to Michael as “the freak.”

Of course, us fans knew none of this. And in spite of our reservations, we chose hope and the seductive thrill of anticipation.

After all, Michael was back.

The consequent ‘This Is It’ project was an empty hearse. A soulless vehicle. It was a snuff movie that took advantage of the world’s grief at Michael’s death, in order to feed the greed of those that coerced Michael into cooperating with the project by using his vulnerabilities and insecurities against him.

In the opening of the ensuing AEG case, the defence threatened “to expose the ugly of your family and your son.” Katherine’s lawyer, Brian Panish asked her, “And how does it make you feel to hear that they’re going to tell everyone that your son is a bad person?” To which she replied, “Makes me feel real bad, because I know my son was a very good person. He loved everybody. He gave to charity. He’s in the Guinness Book of Records for giving the most to charity of all the pop stars. I’m so nervous. I’m sorry.” Panish also asked, “And why is it that you’re here to testify today?” Katherine replied, “Because I want to know what really happened to my son, and that’s why I’m here.”

The distressing details Katherine Jackson had to endure as the court described her son’s physical and mental demise towards death evoked tears, both for justice and remorse. Her recounting the moment she learned Michael had died was nothing short of harrowing,

“Everything went dark, and I just heard screaming.”

A majority of the jury agreed that AEG Live escaped prosecution on a mere technicality.

The Estate refused to support Michael’s mother and children in the lawsuit against AEG.

‘This Is It’ tickets sold out in record time. Hundreds of thousands of people continued to queue and crash websites even after a million had already been sold. A dearth of confidence after the media’s attempted assassination of Michael after the 2005 trial had crippled Michael.

This record-breaking reaction that demonstrated how much he remained loved by the public must have provided Michael with some solace and happiness in his final days.

I hold onto this.



The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Infinite Echo: Remembering my First Michael Jackson Concert

Four pairs of unblinking eyes had watched her reading out the numbers on the newly-acquired credit card. My mum settled the phone back in its cradle and looked up at the four unusually silent and well-behaved children perched apprehensively on the couch across the room.

“Okay, kids…”

She piqued the moment with a mischievous pause.

“So… who wants to go to a Michael Jackson concert in the summer holidays?”

We blinked.

We shrieked.

We leapt into her lap and smothered her with kisses of ecstatic gratitude, each of us promising we’d never be naughty ever again.

My mum had recently been discharged from hospital, where she had spent months recovering from illness. This was her way of apologising for not having been around. Not that she ever needed to.

Immediately – in our naivety – my brother and I began fantasising about which songs Michael might perform. Would the concert simply consist of each song from the Dangerous album? Played in order? We had no idea. My brother was ten years old. I was twelve. This was our first ever gig. Our comprehension of a pop concert had been informed purely through perpetually-repeated viewings of the Moonwalker version of Man In The Mirror. As far as we could vaguely appreciate such an abstract event, the ensuing experience would most-likely entail us weeping ourselves unconscious, before being dispatched from the crowd by a conveyor belt of hands and into the custody of some burly men at the front. Strange men, who apparently preferred to throw water at people rather than watch the Michael Jackson concert happening behind them. Even though they all wore Michael Jackson T-shirts.

We four siblings had already been Michael Jackson fans for five years. But the idea of going to see Michael live in concert set our fan status on fire, instantly rocketing us far and away into the stratosphere.

We were somewhat excited.

Our appetite for all-things Michael became insatiable. We collected everything. We studied him. We imbibed him.

Roundhay Park, Leeds – the scene of the shout. August 16th, 1992 – the day with an infinite echo.

And the infuriating view of a fluorescent shell suit.

We were walled-in by adults making early-nineties fashion mistakes.

Alone, my mum had brought four young children to a Michael Jackson concert. I can only imagine it was our delirious level of excitement and regular reminders of our oath to never misbehave again that helped made the scenario manageable for her.

That neon cage is all I can recall prior to Michael’s arrival on stage. My brain was no-doubt drenched in adrenaline. (Although I know that the support act went by the quite ironic moniker of D’Influence.)

But the memory of the crowd’s roar announcing Michael Jackson was now amongst us is invincible. It remains the loudest sound I have ever heard.

Michael Jackson.

The Michael Jackson.

I couldn’t see a thing. It was bewildering. I felt terrified.

The smash of glass.

Michael had kicked things off.

I turned to look at my mum. Her face was beaming.

I felt exhilarated.

Whenever I could manage, I stole glimpses over the shoulders of the garish giants that jumped around me. With the Jumbotron providing a contingency view.

The details I can recollect are few. I remember feeling embarrassed at not knowing the lyrics to Human Nature for the call-and-response section. I remember instinctively turning to my brother as the words “My footsteps broke the silence of the pre-dawn hours…” began to emanate, to find him looking right back at me; whereupon we both simultaneously screamed “Heartbreak Hotel!” Although, of course, it wasn’t. Unbeknownst to us, Michael now used that spoken intro for Smooth Criminal instead. And as that song’s bassline burst open, the mutual exclamation “Smooth Criminal! Ha ha!” was our delighted response.

During the denouement of She’s Out Of My Life I remember laughing at hearing a man shout, “Cheer up, Michael! She’s not worth it mate!” I remember marvelling at the dancing skeletons in Thriller – from my hindered perspective, all I could see were the puppets, not the puppeteers. I remember Billie Jean. Because two men hoisted my younger brother and youngest sister onto their shoulders so they could see the show better.

Yeah. I remember that.

I remember my mum worrying that Workin’ Day And Night and Beat It were too noisy; before relaxing again in the beauty of Will You Be There.

But most of all, I remember Man In The Mirror.

At its climax I witnessed my hero fly.

I watched Michael Jackson fly.

At least, as far as I was concerned as a twelve year old boy.

The magic. The atmosphere. The adoration.

I became a mere one of millions privileged to see the uniquely superlative spectacle that was a Michael Jackson concert.

The stage lights faded for the final time. Michael Jackson had left the stadium. Fireworks blossomed in the sky, stroking strobes across the faces of a dazzled crowd.

We made our way out of the arena. On our own feet – neither crying nor unconscious. But awestruck and soul-altered all the same.

Little had my mum known what a profound impact the experience of seeing Michael Jackson in concert would have on her young children.

The echo of it.

And she reckons she’s still paying off that credit card.




The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Changes: An Article on Michael Jackson and David Bowie

A maelstrom of loss swirled around, yet its winds were incapable of evaporating the sadness that saturated status updates on social media. Grief unifies, but in doing so makes such a day weigh heavy. The following morning, tabloid newspapers emblazoned the same garish image of the deceased across their front pages, whilst the broadsheets opted for more respectful, sophisticated tributes.

The news of David Bowie’s death was gut-wrenchingly familiar to Michael Jackson fans.

Michael had been a great admirer of Bowie’s, and had known him most of his life. There is a picture of the pair together during the Jackson 5 years, at a party the Jackson family had thrown for Al Green; as well as pictures of the two of the two chatting backstage during Bowie’s 1983 Serious Moonlight tour, with Michael dressed in his Sergeant Pepper garb.

The concept of creating an alter ego and the engendering of enigma – with Michael’s adoption of Sergeant Pepper regalia being an example of this – was something Bowie had been the vanguard for. Bowie pirouetted through myriad identities and musical genres which, as well as enthralling, also discombobulated his audience: who was he?

It is the same principle behind why esteemed actors attempt to keep their true personas a secret by rarely giving interviews: should the audience begin to intuit who they are, it becomes that much more difficult to convince the spectators of any fictitious character they might assume for a role. Said actors need to be as much of a blank slate as possible in order to successfully transform.

And should the audience begin to imagine you as one thing, the switching to an alter-ego has the added benefit of tripping up the expectations upon the embarking of a new project. Or, in the terminology of Michael Jackson’s career, ‘era’.

It was an idea seized upon and utilised by eighties popstars – whose successes, partly as a consequence of adopting this tactic, endured to longevity. Popstars like Michael, Prince and Madonna. The practice continues today. (Just take a look at the evolution of Miley Cyrus and her male counterpart Justin Bieber. Although I think Madonna might have ran out of identities now as she seems to be recycling them. I’m not sure how many times now she’s bestowed the world with the revelation of her being bisexual.)

Madonna also went to see Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour and said in an interview following the show,

“[Bowie] was definitely an inspiration… He constantly changed. He was more like an actor. He kept coming up with new ideas and new images and new feelings and thoughts to get everybody else stirred up.”

Madonna has repeated this homage since Bowie’s death, saying,

“I want to pay tribute to a man who inspired my career… he changed my life when I went to see him in concert in Detroit… he showed me that it was okay to be different… He opened the door for transgenders and made people feel like it was okay to be different, and it didn’t really matter if you dressed like a boy or a girl… what matters is on the inside.”

Bowie is seen as avant-garde in his advocacy of those that felt ostracised by orthodoxy due to their sexuality, dress or lifestyle. Throughout his career, he defied convention. He provided his audiences with a kaleidoscope of characters, each reinvention used as a means to embolden himself enough to have the confidence to appear on stage. Without the armour of a stage persona, Bowie admitted to feeling uncomfortable. This adoption of an alter ego to – paradoxically, perhaps – enhearten himself with the ability to express his individuality, also has the byproduct of giving his art the gravity of capacity for interpretation, and thus the power to inspire on an individual level. This capacity for flexibility also enabled Bowie to engage in juxtapositional career moves, which stratified his appeal to an ever-expanding fanbase. On the one hand, he could duet with Bing Crosby or narrate the introduction to Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman animation, whilst on the other, collaborate with Iggy Pop or Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame (a band, incidentally, that Michael was also a huge fan of, with them being the inspiration, musically, for his song Morphine).

Of course, when Michael reappeared with a new image for a new era, it wasn’t merely his wig that had changed. Michael embraced his skin disease and used it as both an excuse to alter anything he was insecure about as well as a basis for a new image for a new project. Michael’s continuing successes reinforced this behaviour. As Bowie said about his continuous changes, “I got quite besotted with the idea of creating character after character.”

As Lisa Marie Presley states during the Diane Sawyer interview, “[Michael] resculpted himself; he’s an artist.” A statement Michael then endorses with the words, “I’m a performer.” The philosophies of Bowie and Michael demonstrate that judging anyone by their physicality is farcical.

Michael was also different insofar as where Bowie assumed a different persona for each phase in his career, Michael could switch alter egos between songs during a single concert. Just watch on the Bad Tour how he transforms from a hunched, self-conscious figure into a strutting embodiment of self-confidence the instant the first chord of Dirty Diana is struck.

This is what the poet Keats called the chameleon quality – the ability to “tolerate a loss of self and a loss of rationality by trusting in the capacity to recreate oneself in another character or another environment.”

In a similar vein, many of Bowie’s songs don’t overtly draw from his own experiences, with the focus being instead on fantasy characters. One of the techniques he used when writing songs was the ‘Hunter S. Thompson method’ in which he drew inspiration from randomly retrieved words. This approach, however, is markedly different from Michael Jackson’s, in which the inspiration for his lyrics were most often drawn from his own life, albeit with the utilisation of fictional protagonists.

(Even Smooth Criminal (originally titled Al Capone) may well have been inspired by Michael’s introduction to the Mafia around the time of its writing; what with the period also inspiring such lyrics as “Just put your dime on the line baby, I own you… / Somebody said, give up instead on how you feel / One blow to the head is all you need”. With that last line feasibly a reference to the Pepsi burning incident that had recently occurred. With the success of Thriller, Michael encountered a murky world indeed.)

Bowie’s song Kooks (‘kook’ meaning “eccentric person”) from the 1971 album Hunky Dory, was written after the birth of his son, and anticipates his child growing up in unconventional circumstances. The song is an anthem for the acceptance of diversity and nonconformity and rallies against the rigid, stifling stuffiness of the traditional, sterile patriarchal system. Bowie and his then-wife divorced in 1980, with the singer gaining custody of his son. Bowie had been one of the first artists to openly express the idea of the inaccuracies of gender polarisation, and was also now leading the way for unorthodox familial arrangements. Something Michael Jackson ultimately exemplified. 

In the early eighties, MTV had yet to begin airing black artists in regular video rotation. Rick James publicly denounced the channel as racist after its refusal to play his hit Super Freak. Michael’s Thriller video galvanised the change in attitude, along with Bowie’s now-celebrated confrontation with the contemporaneous MTV veejay Mark Goodman. Bowie audaciously ambushed a live interview with his enquiry, “Why are there practically no blacks on the network?” Before highlighting the fact that “There seem to be a lot of black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t being used on MTV… Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair… to make the media more integrated?”

Ironically, it was only when Bowie teamed up with legendary black producer Nile Rodgers, that he achieved transatlantic commercial success (with the album Let’s Dance – the title track being released as a single accompanied by a video depicting a message of racial tolerance). With Nile Rodgers being a man who cites Thriller as one of his favourite albums of all time.

Michael’s Remember the Time video was conceived in response to Spielberg’s refusal to cooperate in the production of a movie that celebrated a time in history when the wealthy, innovative, powerful societies of the world were black.  Michael hired the model Iman Abdulmajid to play the role of the Pharaohess who would grant Michael his first on-screen kiss. Iman also just happened to be David Bowie’s wife. (Michael also employed the services of another black model in the subsequent In The Closet short film.)

Iman and Bowie were extremely active in their campaigning for many humanitarian causes, especially children’s charities. Bowie’s musical canon is peppered with songs inspired by a concern for the welfare of humanity, such as Fantastic Voyage and When the Wind Blows. Any legacy worth its salt contains such material – a bequeathal of the chance that future generations will discover their art and be reminded of the importance of love and respect for their fellow human beings.

Bowie gave a renowned concert in front of the Reichstag in June 1987, a year before Michael performed there – with both artists’ presence igniting riots on the other side of the Berlin Wall, and hence expediting its fall, and freedom for those in East Germany.

Concerning concerts, in March a memorial concert for Bowie will take place at New York’s Carnegie Hall. A mere three months after his death. It’s seven years now since Michael died. The Estate still haven’t managed to arrange a tribute concert for him.

Also, now Bowie fans have experienced the sense of loss unique to being bereaved of one’s hero, it would be interesting to find out their opinion on how they would feel if the Bowie Estate now attempted to release songs recorded by an imposter. To have to contend with problems of the ilk of our latest one, in which the director Spike Lee is claiming that Janet Jackson – the multimillionaire married to a billionaire – declined to partake in his forthcoming Off The Wall documentary because of tensions between the family and the Estate caused by money. Janet Jackson is not interested in money. She has enough money. Janet Jackson is interested in justice and due reverence for the legacy of her late brother.

There are other important differences between the suffering currently being experienced by David Bowie fans and that which Michael Jackson fans endure, with the former faction not having to contend with the malicious digging up of controversial subject matter their idol might have once said.

Racism remains, but our heroes inspire us to persist in our fight to see changes.

As Bowie himself said, “It’s not the politicians who will end oppression. It’s the radicals, with the stink in their clothes, rebellion in their brain, hope in their heart and direct action in their fist.”


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Michael’s World: An Article on Using Michael Jackson’s Fame to Achieve World Peace

Ten years ago I had a talk with my father that became a rather strange source of comfort. The conversation concerned the worries that had begun to prey on his mind after I had been born.

I was born in 1980. It was the tail-end of the Cold War – an era of fear endured by an entire generation that passively imbibed perennial threats of nuclear war, subconsciously absorbed the sabre-rattling propaganda engineered to cultivate artificial differences. So as to create an arbitrary division between those members of the human race living west of Berlin and those that lived to its east.

The term ‘Cold War’ had been coined a mere seventeen months after the official end of World War II – thirty-three years prior to my birth. My dad became terrified by the potential for nuclear Armageddon, with the twitchy fingers of world leaders hair-raisingly close to a hair-trigger button capable of annihilating millions of innocents. One of whom was his newborn son. And by fulfilling his biological obligation to reproduce had now also been introduced to a hitherto-unknown dimension of love.

Yet he was powerless to protect against the whims of psychotic politicians. There was a dawn of realisation of him as a disposable pawn thrown down at the feet of capricious mercy, a recognition of the gravity involved in his having to solely rely on the tenacity in his capacity to hope.

The Cold War has morphed into the War on Terror. The battlefront has crept eastwards, but it remains that the tensions lie between east and west. Tensions tightly and ominously loaded with the potential for unthinkable disaster. The USSR may have been dismantled, but allies are easy to rally amongst nations confronted by the actions of imperialistic crusading that craves omnipotence for its ideologies; sovereign countries patronised by capitalist-driven democracies intent on thrusting themselves unsolicited upon cultures with incongruous belief systems constructed over centuries of highly successful self-rule.

So, yeah. Comfort.

Why did the conversation with my father act as a source of solace for me? Because through it I theorised that global tumult was simply a consequence of toothless fearmongering tactics employed to control societies. That though the volatility of world politics was a constant, surely no Government would ever be so recklessly insane as to initiate Mutually Assured Destruction. Indeed, the technological advances made since the end of the Cold War (officially over in 1991) mean the weapons once utilised to terrify that particular generation of humanity can now be considered as relatively endearing in their benignity. When compared to the capability for destruction contained within their contemporaneous counterparts.

Of course, at the time of the conversation, I was as yet unaware of the unique dimension of love that the privilege of parenthood provides. And now that I am a father myself, that theory which once brought me comfort now causes me to cringe in its naivety.

And I feel the powerlessness.

Bestial acts committed by humankind are indefatigably relayed to us via the all-pervasive, all-seeing media. These horrific demonstrations of brutality which the human race uses to shame itself are borne of a dearth of humility – a virtue vital for reaching compromise. 

Yet the truth is that we are not animals. We have the capacity for civility. We uniquely wield the ability for thought and imagination. We are bestowed with the power to create and solve. It is our gift as a species. But it also our curse. It is also why we are unique in our capability to exercise premeditated acts of evil. It is also why we destroy and deceive.

The onset of terror that arrived with fatherhood was a huge motivation in my writing The First Book of Michael. The most famous man to have ever lived offered himself to the world in an effort to be adopted as a totem for peace. And in my powerlessness, I decided that trying to promote this notion was the most effective thing that, in my own small way, I could do.

The magnitude to which Michael Jackson became a recipient of adulation was unprecedented. People flocked in their millions to experience his talent and hear his message, regardless of his morphing physicality. A physicality that on sight instantly undermined expectations of gender, race and age. And over thirty years of harmonising crowds comprised of tens of thousands of people all hailing from disparate cultural backgrounds, Michael was uniquely positioned to appreciate the absurdity of perceived differences. He routinely observed how love effortlessly transcends prejudice.

Michael Jackson helped galvanise the fall of the Berlin Wall. Citizens of East Germany bravely defied authority and risked imprisonment just to get as close as they possibly could to Michael’s concert in the West.

To love Michael is to be oblivious to his physical transformation. There is no requirement to justify the cynicism of those that speculate salaciously about and sneer at a special human being who dedicated his life and career to promoting love as a solution to the world’s problems. Michael was just Michael, and the joy, hope and escapism his artistry elicited in those that loved him meant that the puerility of the superficiality expressed by those that didn’t understand was meaningless in its very essence. Future generations will balk, bewildered at the absurdity of the idea that twentieth century American law dictated how a person’s standard of public toilet was determined by a person’s particular skin tone. Similarly, they will also appreciate how Michael was just Michael, his physicality irrelevant.

Michael’s mission was to attempt the laying of foundations for an eventual future incarnation of humanity. One that innately understands the fundamental right of each and every individual to feel comfortable within their own skin. Without fear of prejudice. Because it will no longer exist.

Michael purveyed the idea that this can be achieved through forming a society built upon an absolute reverence for childhood, in the prioritising of providing environmental circumstances tailored to enable the potentiation of the child. Through them possessing the right to make mistakes on their journeys to self-actualisation, content in never having to question whether or not they are loved; to not be forced to live laboured by the shortcomings of their parents. Shortcomings a consequence of the parents themselves having been deprived of the opportunity to fulfil their potential. A bold mission to terminate the cycle of adults having to search for alternative means of filling spiritual vacuums created by an absence of feeling loved as children. To know that being loved is an automatic consequence of living as their true selves.

We can be liberated human beings, we need not acquiesce to the artificiality of authority, to dictats our sense of humanity is innately repulsed by, yet are obeyed as a result of our being manipulated to fear each other.

Of course, Michael’s plan of action to create peace amongst the human race is vulnerable to being dismissed as nothing but naive, unworkable, nebulous idealism – what with Idealism as a concept forever undermined. But Idealism is maligned only by those terrified in their secret awareness of how Damoclean their assumed position of superiority is. Their arrogance is a manifestation of their fragility.

Something they wouldn’t have to worry about in Michael’s world.


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:


Happy Christmas: Thank You (For Leaking Michael Jackson Gems)

Rumour has it that the flood of rare material the Michael Jackson fan community have recently been graced with is down to a dispute between hardcore collectors. The leaked footage and audio contain some of the things most coveted by the fan community (as well as other stuff we weren’t even aware of) – including Bad tour in Tokyo and Rome, the making of Seeing Voices, the Oprah interview, 2 Bad outtakes, the 1993 Addams Family version of Ghosts, Triumph tour in Atlanta and the second-leg Dangerous tour rehearsals.

It was the latter that created the most discussion, however.

The last song Michael rehearses in said footage before a stand-in takes his place is The Way You Make Me Feel, which he sits out and directs from the front of the stage – choosing to speak the lyrics rather than sing them. The initial reaction to this unusual rendition of the song was of it being a curiosity to savour – as if Michael were reciting poetry.

Sadly, the truth is far more sombre .

During the break prior to the track, Michael can be heard plaintively informing Debbie Rowe that he is in pain, with the suggestion being that he is soliciting pain relief. Michael had recently undergone surgery on his scalp – the Pepsi burning a decade previously was still (and would be until his dying day) heavy with repercussions. Michael found solace through the painkillers – emotional as well as physical. A fact with tragic consequences when considering what was just around the corner.

The footage is a poignant glimpse behind the scenes. Of course, we’d already seen Michael out-of-sorts on stage during the second leg of the Dangerous tour – him evidently unconcerned about reaching his own (albeit uniquely stringent) professional standards.

But upon discovering that Michael was not even capable of completing rehearsals – never mind an entire leg of a tour – we suddenly become enlightened with information that is little less than harrowing.

My last blog post discussed Michael’s reluctance to adlib due to his desire to create the perfect show. Such was Michael’s sadness during the second leg of the Dangerous tour, Siedah Garrett felt comfortable enough to improvise on stage by wearing a wig during I Just Can’t Stop Loving You. To try and elicit laughter from Michael.

I love Siedah Garrett.

As tired as Michael was during the second leg, the rage he was feeling at the injustice of what was happening in his ‘private life’ (a farcical description when it comes to Michael) was nevertheless evident when observing the innovation and energy in his improvised dance spots. Fred Astaire was the first to describe Michael as an “angry dancer” and this anger was never more apparent than in footage from stage performances at this point in his life.

Michael’s embracing of rage, combined with the technical dancing abilities instilled in him as a child (ruthlessly so – which formed part of the rage) is what – ironically enough – provided the ingredients that formed his universally appreciated talent as a dancer. Michael painstakingly mastered the technical abilities of his craft under the orders of his father and pressures of record company executives. He then matured as an artist and put his personal spin (no pun intended) on it. And in doing so, he created something unique, deserved and iconic – his very own genre of dancing. One day ‘Michael Jackson Dancing’ will be as respected as other esteemed styles of dance.

After the spectacular professional success of his childhood, Michael Jackson never needed write nor perform another song ever again. Prior to Thriller, prior to the Bad tour, his status as a musical legend had been indelibly scribed into the history books. Indeed, this is the reason why he has two entries in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the effect of such a childhood also meant that Michael was cursed to never feel satisfied without the love from a crowd.

Yet, I believe Michael grew to appreciate this – which is why he began to concentrate his efforts on using his unprecedented fame for humanitarianism rather than the promotion of his artistry.

I would like to give my personal thanks to whoever is bestowing our community with these wonderful rarities – material that provides us with the priceless gift of intuiting Michael’s humanity through his art.

Thank you!

This is a happy Christmas!



The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

I Can’t Help My Soul: An Article on Michael Jackson, the King of Adlibs

Michael turned the adlib into an art form all of its own. He possessed a unique ability to perfectly punctuate epic crescendos with iconic outbursts of phrasing. With the unbridled passion which Michael emoted these adlibs often revealing more about the truth of the particular piece than the main body of lyrics.

However, the pedantry involved as Michael crafted his songs makes the term ‘adlib’ a difficult one to confidently appropriate in the context of his work. Of course, the man in the recording studio vocalising spontaneous streams of consciousness was adlibbing. But why in the editing suite did Michael ultimately opt to include one particular involuntary outburst over another?

Potentially controversial adlibs were often barely coherent. This ambiguity afforded Michael a degree of artistic liberty he would have otherwise had to suppress. The technique enabled Michael to walk the line between mass appeal and honest art – such was the tense dichotomy between his need for quantitative success in order to feel wanted, and his craving to divulge truth. This approach also had the benefit of leaving his art open to interpretation, as well as helping maintain his enigmatic image and satisfying his penchant for the cryptic. (Nothing epitomises this more than the Dangerous album cover.) The tactic became increasingly necessary as a consequence of legal restraints that bound Michael following the Chandler settlement. Good examples of such adlibs can be found in the tracks Monkey Business, Money and They Don’t Care About Us.

For D.S. – on the other hand – Michael threw such safeguards to the wind and sang explicitly about the subject matter. Then avoided legal action simply by publishing the song accompanied with incorrect lyrics.

Michael’s adlibs were uniquely raw, soulful expressions that were specifically and intentionally included for a purpose; as with all of Michael’s art, there was always a reason for position.

Bearing this obsessive pedantry in mind, it’s interesting to note the “see” adlib that Michael used on the Invincible album. The word “see” occurs in twelve of the sixteen tracks. It’s a common verb, admittedly – but one Michael deliberately added to songs that otherwise didn’t contain it. On Invincible, Michael incorporates Notorious B.I.G’s rap from You Can’t Stop The Reign, which includes the line “Put that on my diamond bezel, you’re messing with the devil”. Michael would famously go on to label Tommy Motolla as the devil during the ensuing campaign. The album also contains arguably the most beautiful adlib Michael ever performed, when evoking the image of a butterfly with his fluttering falsetto.

I remember the first time I heard Scream and recognised the adlib “Blame it on yourself!” from Blame It On The Boogie. I also remember thinking how thematically disparate the tracks were – one a carefree proclamation of joy, the other an anguished riposte. Both uttered from the same soul under circumstances worlds apart.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Michael’s vocal improvisations reside in Who Is It. The pain of loneliness and the imploring for understanding are tangible. The track drips with lament. The same applies to those in We’ve Had Enough and Don’t Walk Away.

Michael’s adlibs were regularly the saving grace of any relatively supbar output – recordings he usually agreed to be involved with as part of deals or favours. His featuring on Eddie Murphy’s track Whatzupwitu in return for the actor’s appearance in the Remember The Time video being an example that springs to mind.

The importance Michael put on the power of adlibs can be seen in the making-of footage of What More Can I Give, where as producer, he is seen demonstrating how to emote effectively with the exclamation “Wasting! Wasting my time – no!” then instructing how “On the adlibs I just want you to soar.” However, it seems the performance requested didn’t quite reach Michael’s standards, as that particular adlib ended up being sung by himself on the final edit.

On demo recordings, we can hear how Michael experimented with different vocalisations. Whilst these aren’t strictly adlibs, they are invaluable in illustrating Michael’s creative process. How he often had ideas for instrumentation and sounds that he wanted to include in a piece, but was trying to find the right moment for them. Instances of this can be heard in the outro to Don’t Be Messin’, which features a lick first heard in State Of Shock, as well as in the demo of We Are The World with the “Sha-la-lingy” refrain that was ultimately omitted. In the same vein, it’s also necessary to differentiate between true adlibs and the watermark “hee hees” and “hoos” that Michael employed in his songs. Although, naturally, these were still placed with the same precision so as to generate maximum musical impact.

Perhaps the potency inherent in a well-positioned, well-expressed adlib became apparent to Michael during that fabled instance whilst recording I’ll Be There with the Jackson 5. Michael spontaneously sang the words “Just look over your shoulders honey!” to the annoyance of his brother Jermaine, who pointed out the error – that it is impossible to look over both shoulders simultaneously. Berry Gordy, however, was delighted – pointing out that it is such imperfections that make something genuine. At the very least, Gordy’s support in the matter must have surely bolstered Michael’s confidence – particularly as the adlib made the finished cut.

Michael perfected the art of adlibbing during his time in The Jacksons, with the tracks Style of Life, All Night Dancin’, Strength Of One Man, Things I Do For You, Walk Right Now, Lovely One, Blues Away and Wait all featuring fine examples. The latter two containing personal favourites.

And let us not overlook Michael’s adlibs during live performances. On the Victory Tour especially, when Michael was still more inclined to improvise – with Working Day and Night in the Kansas show containing a prime exhibit. Another adlibbed performance I’m especially fond of is at the denouement of Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ from the same concert, when Michael appears to be doing no less than goading his duet partner with the words “I’m not dreaming brother!”

Maybe in retaliation for the I’ll Be There incident.

It is the Bad era, however, that I contend includes the finest display of live adlibbing Michael ever expressed. Michael’s vocalisations during the finale of Man In The Mirror at the 1988 Grammy Awards elevate the performance from a mere show to a spiritual experience. Michael transformed into a Preacher.

But with each successive tour, Michael’s inclination to improvise – at least, vocally – progressively dwindled.

Spontaneity became more and more of a rarity, with Michael’s professionalism manifesting as reluctance to leave any room for error. The logic behind this ethos becomes apparent with a simple consideration of the extent of Michael’s work ethic. He embarked on world tour after world tour, breaking records for length of time spent on the road and audience attendance figures. James Brown was known as ‘The Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness’ but Michael must surely give him a run for his money in earning this accolade.

This work ethic was also evident during Michael’s long stints in the recording studio, with his predilection for absolute perfection being notoriously difficult to satisfy. Michael appreciated this about himself, admitting that if it were left up to him, nothing would ever get released due to his self-effacing dissatisfaction with it.

Bearing these factors in mind – the level of effort Michael expended when creating his art, and the pathological extent of his perfectionism – it’s easy to see how Michael was tempted to start lip-synching performances when the opportunity arose. This idea is supported by the fact that on the Victory Tour, in spite of the song Thriller being fresh as well as the most famous piece of music on the planet, Michael’s frustration with the contemporaneous quality of live sound production meant the track wasn’t included on the set list. The technology simply wasn’t advanced enough to do the song justice live on stage.

The same reason applies to why – after initially being mooted to feature – neither In The Closet nor Remember The Time were performed on the Dangerous Tour. Although Michael had to some degree embraced lip-synching by this point, miming these two songs in addition to the other Dangerous album tracks that featured in the concerts – all of which were usually lip-synched – might have been construed as taking things too far.

One song – almost uniquely – that Michael consistently performed live throughout his career was Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, and it’s interesting to note how when asked which song he was least happy with in terms of it being the finished article, he cited this one. Michael’s desperation to replicate live the sound he had worked so hard to achieve in the studio is also evident when seeing him instruct the band during rehearsals for This Is It.

By the time the HIStory Tour arrived, Michael seemingly felt the stigma associated with lip-synching had subsided enough for him to utilise the medium for the majority of the set list. It’s no secret that Michael signing up for the HIStory Tour was done under duress and purely as a consequence of the 1993 allegations. Michael needed to respond proactively and remind the world of his status as the master of stage showmanship. The prevalence of lip-synching on the tour can no doubt be partly put down to this. However, Michael had now been indefatigably entertaining and touring the world for three decades. He suffered with breathing problems. His need to get back on the road and fly his flag conflicted with his physical capability to do so. And the perfectionist in him would never allow a run of shows in which things might often be less than immaculate.

As well, lip-synching freed up Michael to focus more on his dancing. Indeed, ironically enough, the HIStory Tour contained the most on-stage spontaneity we had seen since the Victory Tour, with Michael more inclined to stray from a song’s recognised choreography as well as incorporating a great deal more audience interaction than we had ever previously seen. Audience interaction was something Michael once asked Bruce Springsteen for advice about – divulging to Springsteen that the rock star’s ability to converse naturally with his audience was something he envied, as he himself was too shy to do so. The HIStory tour was the closest Michael came to achieving this – even if the conversation was a rehearsed part of the show (there was never any bug on the dance floor).

Michael’s sense of perfectionism in the production of his art ensured its longevity to legend – with the sacrificing of spontaneity being a relatively trivial price to pay for this. Besides, it makes any instances of involuntary expression all the more valuable to us fans. Ultimately, it is irrelevant whether or when Michael was miming or not. That wasn’t the point. For better or worse, these days, live vocals are increasingly scarce in any pop act anyway.

When Paul McCartney told Michael of his reservations about the lyrics for The Girl Is Mine, Michael dismissed them, explaining how he was far more interested in successfully conveying the feel of the piece (albeit, the way this “feel” was communicated had to be done to perfection). Similarly, when performing, Michael was more concerned about the audience’s experience and reaction. Had he managed to blow their minds? Had he lit that spark in a soul? Had he advanced his mission?

Michael’s pedantry concerning his art is what makes the Cascio deception so viscerally repulsive. The original version of Keep Your Head Up even sampled lines from Earth Song for use as ‘adlibs’. The very notion of even attempting such corruption is sacrilegious and betrays Michael’s memory – not solely because of the inherent malevolence involved in prostituting Michael’s voice, but because it exemplifies how little those at the helm of his Estate understand the man they once tricked into believing was their friend.


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here:

Visionary: An Article on Michael Jackson’s Long Game

Halloween approaches once again and three decades later ‘Thriller’ remains as the untouchable artistic embodiment of the festival.

Christmas pop hits are goldmines for their creators, with their annual dusting off guaranteeing them a financial windfall. However, there are hundreds of artists competing for airplay at the time.

At Halloween, Michael is more-or-less the sole contender for royalties.

The decision to change the theme of the love song ‘Starlight’ into what the world now recognises as ‘Thriller’ was a stroke of visionary genius. The song and video ensured Michael’s relevance in the pop charts forever.

It was also during this time that Michael was becoming a businessman, with his shrewd acquisition of the ATV catalogue following soon afterwards. ‘Beat It’ from the Thriller album has been interpreted as a cry against racism, and the opening line “They told him “Don’t you ever come around here / Don’t wanna see your face, you better disappear”” could easily be construed as a reference to the obstacles Michael was facing upon his foray into the business side of music.

As the singer Rihanna recently lamented “…when I started to experience the difference [in attitudes towards her race] – it was mostly when I wanted to do business deals.”

Another example of Michael as the artistic visionary came with ‘Black Or White’. Of course, the theme of racism in the track is overt, but there also exists a subtext in which Michael calls out the racist press. Michael bemoans his having to explicitly inform the “Saturday Sun” of his achievements and his status as the King of Pop, as well as proclaiming that he “ain’t scared of no sheets” – a dual reference to the KKK and newsprint media.

Indeed, the evidence is there for all to see – in black and white.

In order to mock him, said newspapers perennially compile comparison pictures that demonstrate Michael’s physical transformation over the course of his life. They are Ripley-esque in their intent to intrigue the prejudicial masses and in their disregard for the dignity of their subject.

However, what these montages actually demonstrate is the irrelevance of a person’s physicality.

This was visionary genius of a different, more poignant sort.

When looked upon with hindsight by the generations growing up now, the Michael of the Jackson 5 and the Michael of 2009 will be the same person, and the physical transformation will be irrelevant. He will simply be Michael Jackson.

Future generations will understand that Michael’s eccentricities should be celebrated, not scorned. So what if he was obsessed with childhood? Kept mannequins to ward off loneliness? Sculpted his visage? Who cares how his social anxieties manifested?

I mean… what do you want from your genius? Genius both suffers and revels in its being ostracised from close-minded society: the same society that relies on such genius to escape the predictable humdrum of their daily lives.

Frank Dileo exacerbated the extent of Michael’s eccentricities and harnessed them for promotional purposes. This strategic oddball manufacturing was intensely successful. But Dileo’s tactics spectacularly backfired. The world thought Michael too bizarre. So his vulnerabilities of loneliness and unique affinity with children were used against him. With ruthless malevolence. By forces hell-bent on acquiring that ATV catalogue.

Michael bought the catalogue in 1985. It cost him $47.5 million. Today it is worth $2 billion. He fought tooth-and-nail to keep it. It was his prized possession – the totemic culmination of his extraordinary rags-to-riches adventure. Although its phenomenal value weighed heavy, Michael was nevertheless stolid in his determination to retain it.

Which is why, for the third year running, Michael has topped Forbes’ list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. By quite some margin. In fact, if Michael were still alive, he would have made fifth place on the equivalent list for living celebrities.

Meanwhile, Michael’s remains lie in an unmarked grave.

The horror inherent in ‘Thriller’ is harmless, tales-at-midnight fun. The true horrors exist in the insidious souls Michael encountered upon daring to enter the domain of the devils in suits.

Who continue to prise away in their efforts to possess the catalogue.

But supporters of Michael’s artistic and humanitarian legacy are many and credible. His mission is intact and his vision persists.

Janet Jackson’s latest album – ‘Unbreakable’ – effervesces with tributes to her late brother: in ‘The Great Forever’ her voice is pitch-shifted to resemble Michael’s; during the song ‘No Sleeep’, Michael’s song ‘Butterflies’ is referenced; whilst in ‘Broken Hearts Heal’ she reminisces about their shared childhood. The song also features a sample from ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’.

Though perhaps the song ‘After You Fall’ contains the clearest guide to her intentions, with its lyric,

“After you fall / Who’s gonna be there / With you through all / Who’s gonna care for you / After it all / Who’s gonna be there / After you fall / I will”.

And so will we.


The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here: