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Michael Jackson: The message behind the music

Last updated on: July 2, 2009 

Michael Jackson: The message behind the music

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Shifra Menezes

It has been a career the likes of which has never been seen before and possibly never will again. From the dizzying heights of over 750 million records sold to huge success to innumerable awards, he's seen it all. And just as he was set to remind the world once more why he was truly the King of Pop with a 50-concert UK tour, Michael Jackson passed away.

Looking back over his spectacular career, there are some memories that will be etched in our minds -- the moonwalk, the sequined glove, the white socks and, of course, the much imitated 'I love you!' he'd so characteristically declare at almost every public appearance. Towards the end of his life, while this declaration had become an idiosyncrasy that inspired many a comedy routine, he did demonstrate this love for humanity -- through his songs and his charity.

As fans the world over come to grips with the death of one of the greatest performers of all time, they can take solace in the fact that he will live forever through his music. And through his music the message of peace and love lives on.

In celebration of a life that has touched millions of hearts, we look at the songs that propagated his message of love and tolerance.


Image: Michael Jackson, a collage

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Each of us has the power to change the world

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We are the world

We are the world,
We are the children,
We are the ones to make a brighter day,
So let's start giving

Written by Michael and Lionel Richie, the song brought together 45 of the biggest artists of the 1980s to raise funds for relief in famine-stricken Africa.

Probably one of the best-known charitable efforts by the music industry anywhere in the world, the revenues from the single are estimated at over $60 million.

This was a great initiative to mobilise and involve people on a global scale in the humanitarian effort and bring relief to those in need.


Image: Michael Jackson

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Be the change you want to see in the world

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Man in the mirror

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

This song received much critical acclaim and with good reason too. The lyrics speak for themselves -- change the world one person at a time, starting with yourself.


Image: Michael Jackson

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Equality for all

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Black or white

See, it's not about races
Just places
Faces
Where your blood
Comes from
Is where your space is
I've seen the bright
Get duller
I'm not going to spend
My life being a colour

The song was an immediate hit, the records sold like wildfire. And while the video did much to boost sales, with its visual effects and camera tricks, the underlying message remained -- equality for and tolerance of all races and religions.


Image: An album cover of Dangerous

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Save our world

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Earth Song

What have we done to the world
Look what we've done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son...

Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth, the weeping shores?

Among the many songs MJ wrote and recorded encouraging social awareness, this song spoke directly for the need to protect and preserve the environment.

The song was propelled by a powerful video of destroyed rain forests and indiscriminate hunting, and depicted the eventual path of ruin humanity was treading.

The powerful rhythm and chorus are a strong call for action to conserve the Earth and its resources.


Image: An album cover of Earth Song

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Believe in yourself

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Keep the faith

Climb the highest mountain
Swim the deepest sea,
All you need is the will to want it
And a little self-esteem

While the song did not meet with the frenzy that some of the other songs on the Dangerous album did, the lyrics do carry a compelling message.

Many of MJ's songs call for introspection and change from within, this one though speaks of the heights of greatness one can achieve with just a little faith.


Image: Michael Jackson
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters
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Reach out to those in need

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Heal the world

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
Make a better place
For you and for me

The song and the video were created for children in war, famine and other stricken regions across the world -- Sarajevo, Africa, India, China.

Encouraging world peace and humanitarian efforts to reach out to those in need, the song inspired the 'Heal the World Foundation', a charitable organisation.

As part of its efforts, the foundation distributed millions by way of food, clothes and medical supplies to less fortunate children around the globe.

Image: Heal the World

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AIDS awareness

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Gone too soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day
Gone one night

Like a sunset
Dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon

The song was dedicated to Ryan White, a young boy stricken with AIDS. Michael befriended the teenager before his death in 1990, and championed the cause of AIDS research and awareness.

The video was a compilation of White's experiences of discrimination and his activities to spread awareness about the disease.

Through the song and video, Michael highlighted the need for awareness and acceptance of AIDS and its victims. Now, with his death, this is perhaps the song that best captures the emotion of millions worldwide...

Michael, you will be missed.


Image: Michael Jackson
Photographs: Megan Lewis/Reuters
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