Episode 6 – ‘Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to ‘Off The Wall”

Abstract: In this sixth episode, Elizabeth and Karin discuss the 2016 documentary, Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to ‘Off The Wall’, directed by Spike Lee. Their discussion begins with Lee’s body of work, and how it connects with this particular documentary, and go on to explore the use of it as a text for teachers, researchers and academics. Throughout this episode the wonderful solo album, Off the Wall remains a key topic of discussion.


Merx, Karin, and Elizabeth Amisu. “Episode 6 – ‘Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to ‘Off the Wall”.” Podcast, Michael Jackson’s Dream Lives On: An Academic Conversation 2, no. 2 (2016). Published electronically 7/04/16. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/episode-6-michael-jacksons-journey-from-motown-to-off-the-wall/.

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Episode 6 – ‘Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to ‘Off The Wall”
By Karin Merx & Elizabeth Amisu

‘Spike Lee is important because he engages this impassable divide between high art, low art, popular culture and high culture. Spike Lee is one of those directors who are just part of our past, and our present, and our future.’
– Elizabeth Amisu

All Our References and Where to Easily Find Them
1. Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production company has its eponymous roots in African-American history and slave culture.
2. Off The Wall (CD/DVD).
3. Spike Lee, “Malcolm X.” (40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1992).
4. ———, When The Levees Broke (HBO, 2007).
5. Rolling Stone Magazine 10 Things We Learned From Spike Lee’s New Michael Jackson Doc 
6. Spike Lee, “They Don’t Care About Us (Brazil Version).” 1996.
———. “They Don’t Care About Us (Prison Version).” 1996.
7. Joseph Vogel, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson (Sterling, 2011).
8. Mass Media and Racism by Stephen Balkaran.
9. Colour-blind casting: how far have we really come?
10. Spike Lee, “Bamboozled.” (40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1992).
11. Spike Lee’s profile at NYU.
12. More about Mark Rothko from The Tate.
13. Margo Jefferson, On Michael Jackson (Pantheon, 2006).
14. Nyong’o, Tavia. “Have You Seen His Childhood? Song, Screen, and the Queer Culture of the Child in Michael Jackson’s Music.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 23, no. 1 (2011): 40-57.
15. Elizabeth Amisu, “MJ Studies Today III (15-03-16).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies (2016). See especially quotes from Aisha Staggers and Kerry Hennigan in the comments.
16. Lanre Bakare’s review for The Guardian.
17. Japanese trio perform a dynamic cover of Jackson’s Smooth Criminal using indigenous instruments.
18. Adrian Grant, Michael Jackson: A Visual Documentary: The Official Tribute Edition (Omnibus, 2009).
19. Dan Harmon’s upcoming film told from the perspective of Bubbles the Chimp.
20. Joseph Fiennes to play Jackson in an upcoming television program.
21. A first pressing vinyl record of Off the Wall.

Karin Merx BMus, MA, is editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, and author of  ‘A festive parade of highlights. La Grande Parade as evaluation of the museum policy of Edy De Wilde at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’. Find out more about Karin here.

Elizabeth Amisu, PGCE, MA, is editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies and author of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic AfterlifeFind out more about Elizabeth here.


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