Without any doubt, Michael Jackson is a legend in the music history, the man whose songs and fame will never die. He deserved his immortal title “The King of Pop” thanks to his hard work, diligence, and his insurmountable desire to sing. He was a little boy from the poor family and he had only his voice. The Jackson Five, the band where he started his career as a singer, was the prominent step that gave him the brilliant future and solo career. His voice is the subject of many disputations. His life was very interesting and full of events. His vocal coach helped him to cope with vocal techniques that preserved his voice and made his voice sound better. Some people admired him, and some people did not understand; however, there is no person who does not know his name and his famous moonwalk. Nobody has the same voice as Michael had. This paper will talk about Michael Jackson’s life and music – his childhood years, his participation in the band the Jackson Five, and his solo career.
The life of the little star was not easy. He was born in 1958, in Gary, Indiana in a family that consisted of 11 members. Michael had five brothers and three sisters. His parents liked music, and music was what had brought them together. Michael’s mother, Katherine, sang with her sister in the choir and played piano. His father had his band and he played the guitar. When she was 17, Michael’s mother met his father and became a soloist in his band. They sang songs in the style of country and folk. They got married and they started the family. Michael’s parents had many children because they were against abortions. It should be noted that Michael’s father was very strict and he father punished his children strictly. Sometimes, Michael stayed at his friend’s home because he did not want to be with his father. Sometimes, he even punished him with his belt. Joe Jackson, Michael’s father, worked very hard at the steel mill and he wanted another fate for his children, which was the main reason of his strictness. Many people condemned Joe’s methods of raising his children and considered him a despot and tyrant. However, now his children are grateful to him for his upbringing. He wanted a better life for his children and he did everything to achieve it (Tieck, 2011).
As it was mentioned before, Joe Jackson played the guitar. However, he forbade his children to take his guitar and locked it in the storeroom. However, once he forgot to lock it and Tito, the elder brother, took Joe’s guitar without the permission and played it. Joe did not know anything until Tito had torn the string. Angry Joe Jackson punished his son, but still, he asked the boy to play the guitar. He liked his son’s playing and allowed to take the guitar for training. Later, Tito, his brother, and their friend created a band. Michael was young and they did not allow him to be a member of the group (Tieck, 2011).
Michael Jackson’s family was poor, but the children were happy. They spent their time together and they did not know that other families had other housing conditions. Michael’s mother, Katherine, said that they had the old washing machine and it buzzed awfully. Little Michael danced while the machine worked. At that time, Katherine noticed that Michael had an excellent sense of rhythm. Michael also sold sweets to his brothers and neighbors’ children. For the money he had earned, he bought gramophone records (Borsboom, 2011).
Michael was about 5 years old when people saw him perform for the first time. It was a concert in the school and Michael was a soloist. He sang the aria from the musical film The Sound of Music. Michael’s grandfather and mother were invited to the show and his grandfather shed a tear since her grandson’s voice was incredible. At such a tender age, he already had the adult attitude to the song and its representation. Michael preserved the deep presentation of the songs during his life. He took the songs of well-known singers and sang them. One should say that even these singers said that Michael’s presentation sometimes was better than their own (Newkey-Burden, 2009). Smokey Robinson said the following: “A kid, eleven years old, singing that song with that much emotion? It was incredible” (Gest & Eastel, 2011). After the concert, Tito invited Michael in their band. All people admired his peculiar voice, and Michael preserved this childish voice even in youth.
Michael, Tito, and their band wanted to take part in the song contest in the Roosevelt High School. Winning this contest meant that the group or a singer could sign the contract with Motown, the American recording company. This company produced music in a soul style with the pop influence. The young band won this contest. The entire audience stood up and applauded the singers, and even some chairs were broken. It was a moment when a star of Michal Jackson began to shine on the musical horizon (Newkey-Burden, 2009).
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The Jackson Five
After the band’s victory at the contest, Joe Jackson changed the composition of the group. Jackson’s friends were not the members of the Jackson Five anymore. However, the producer of the band claimed that there were seven members of the group. Years later, when one of the brothers left the group, the group did not break-up (Borsboom, 2011).
The Jackson Five became a well-known children band. People admired their songs, and of course, Michael was a star of the group. The brothers studied at school, had training for about 4 hours, had concerts, and at 3 a.m., they came home. In the morning, they went to school again. All children lived in such a rhythm for a long time. At that time, they had enough money for sweets.
With time, the band improved their skills even though they did not have very fancy instruments. Still, they had a soul and they sang sincerely. Michael had a perfect sense of rhythm, which made him a very good dancer. He also copied other stars’ dancing moves, and he was a nice and sweet boy. Joe Jackson prepared his boys for the adult life. He told that the period of childhood was short, and when they faced the adult life, they would have to be ready (Tieck, 2011).
Motown did not want to work with children because they could have problems with the law. Bobby Taylor was the person who believed in a young band and insisted on working with them. The Jackson Five worked with the best musicians and singers of that time. Grateful for this chance, they improved themselves and became better and better with time. However, Bobby Taylor’s efforts remained unnoticed. Nobody estimated his contribution into the career of the young band. They sang in the musical style called soul that was popular in the USA in the 1950-1960s. This style combined jazz, African gospel music, and rhythm. It was new stream in the music. When Katherine first heard her sons’ sing, she disliked it. Her children listened to the band Temptation, country, and folk music, and this new style was unknown and strange to her.
With time, the Jackson Five gained more and more popularity. They sang in Apollo, the theatre, where well-known singers held their concerts. The group won the song contest in Apollo and moved to Los-Angeles. They had enough money and they were quite popular. However, the studio did not allow the young stars to become independent and to write their own songs. This fact disappointed the brothers, and the band found another record company to work with. The company paid them $1,000,000. Later, the band was renamed into The Jacksons. They wrote the songs, but they were not as popular as before. Later, Michael realized that he could not be a member of the group any more, and he started a solo career (Borsboom, 2011).
He worked hard, and as a result, he became an icon for millions of people all over the world. He had a brilliant voice and his vocal techniques were widely used in the teaching of vocal.
The Unique Voice and Vocal Techniques of Michael Jackson
His voice is a subject of many controversies. Many people admire his childish voice and some people dislike his songs and voice. His voice was a lyric tenor. Seth Riggs, a vocal coach of Michael Jackson, said that Michael’s vocal range was 3.5 octaves. The teacher taught him to use his voice extensively. His aim was to sing without force because if the force were used, the vocal chords would be damaged. The vocal coach tried to preserve Michael’s childish voice even after the mutation. They did it in the following way: Seth Riggs did not violate his voice; Michael sang carefully and he did not take very high pitches in the period of mutation. It helped him to preserve childishness of his voice (Anderson, 2012).
Even through the years, Michael Jackson preserved his falsetto notes, but his voice could touch every soul. Such songs as “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “Thriller”, and “Lady in My Life” are the bright evidence of that. Riggs helped him to extend his voice and found a balance between the “bridges” and “breaks”. Riggs helped Michael Jackson to find the muscular freedom that helped to protect the voice from the crash and prolong the career of the singer (Anderson, 2012).
Seth Riggs published the book, where he described the main techniques. Of course, it is hard to complete Rigg’s vocal techniques successfully without the help of the master. However, it is very useful to study these techniques and it will help young singers to avoid some crucial mistakes. For the singer, the voice is the main instrument. If the vocal technique is inappropriate, the instrument will break down. Unfortunately, in some cases, it will be impossible to restore the voice. Even in the case of restoration, the voice can be not as right and strong as before (Anderson, 2012). Once, the well-known singer Whitney Houston said about Michael Jackson: “He was my favorite singer, my favorite entertainer” (Gest & Eastel, 2011). After the death of the King of the Pop, Mickey Rooney said the following: “There will never be another Michael Jackson” (Gest & Eastel, 2011).
The career of Michael Jackson, when he was a member of the Jackson Five and the Jacksons, was successful; however, it was not enough for him. He knew that he could do more. His vocal techniques such as “bridge” and “break” and his skill to sing notes very accurately made him a unique singer. His vocal teacher considers that his manner of singing would never be repeated by anyone. Michael ‘felt’ the rhythm, notes, and the soul of the song. His passages from the note to the notes were perfect and easy for him. He did it very smoothly and these sounds were pleasant to hear. The pop icon died in 2009, but there is nobody who can excel him in the manner of the presentation of the song and depth of the voice and thought. He is an immortal legend of music.