Sunday, March 20, 2016

Track of the Week: The Jacksons "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)"

I recently watched Spike Lee's new doc about Michael Jackson's career transition from the Jackson 5 to his solo breakthrough with Off The Wall in 1979, and really got into it. I hadn't known much about that liminal time, or the songs he did with his brothers (minus Jermaine and with now with Randy) as The Jacksons for Epic Records, their home after leaving Motown.  While the music Michael Jackson made in this period is not as consistent or iconic as what he would go on to do, some of it is really fantastic. My favorite of these songs is "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)," a superbly funky groove with Earth Wind, and Fire's horn section adding some sparkle.

Michael's voice has really matured at this point, and that ineffable Michael Jackson "feel" is already in effect.  The most bittersweet point in the documentary was seeing the Jacksons perform this song on American Bandstand, and seeing Michael's electricity as a performer, and the smile on his face as he was obviously just enjoying himself so much. At this point he was still only 19 years old, but aware of his powers and his ability to master them, and gleeful at that knowledge. He looked so young and so real, before the years of disfiguring his face and of fame warping his mind. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes thinking about what was to come for him. The decades of tabloid stories and the relatively mediocre nature of his later output had made me forget just how amazing he was in his day.

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