The last and biggest musical performance of Michael Jackson was in the making. The world was not prepared to what destiny had in store for the mega-star.
In the spring of 2009, after a decade of absence from the stage, Michael Jackson was crafting and perfecting and entirely new concert experience for a world tour that never happened.
The documentary “This is it,” produced after Michael’s death on 25 June 2009 (two years to this day), was based on footage intended for his private library, some of which was going to be released as the “behind the scenes” portion of the DVD planned to follow the world tour.
Only the technicians and dancers involved in creating the show had the fortune to share the last 3 months of the musical career of one of the biggest popular music artist in history.
An unprecedented 50 concerts were sold out around the world with London being the first. Michael was due to arrive in London for final dress rehearsals on 3rd July.
Columbia Pictures and Director of the film and the show Kenny Ortega put together a documentary that shows a glimpse into the exhausting preparations of a perfectionist’s work of art. Expertly edited to a sublime musical score, the film is the closest that the world will see of what was going to be a concert of a lifetime.
In the movie, the group of technicians, dancers and musicians gradually put together the magic of a concert; all under the direction of Michael’s visionary mind. He seemed to have every detail of the choreography and every note and tempo of his songs in his head. During the rehearsals he guided the team with an enthusiastic, caring, yet firm tone, trying to turn his vision into the reality he wanted to share with his audience.
Some scenes show the effort that artists go through in synchronizing ideas, making compromises and many times having to trust the judgement of others. Co-Director Ortega was also influential in shaping the performance and later the movie. In many occasions he is seen as the modulator, an important part in the organisation of such a demanding event.
Playing and working with Michael demanded the best of quality from everyone involved and all were more than happy to oblige as this was a dream job, a melting pot of the best efforts of top professional artists.
Only the best of the best dances were selected for the show. According to Choreographers Travis Payne and Stacy Walker “The idea was to get the big fish from all over the world and put them in the same pond.” Hundreds of hopefuls attended the auditions, travelling days from across the planet but only a few made it to the crew of eleven Principal Dancers. For a dancer, it was the pinnacle of her or his career, to become an extension of “The Man” on stage.
All interviews with dancers and musicians were made during the rehearsals and although Michael is not interviewed per se, his thoughts are heard enriching the content all along.
Being part of the biggest show on earth and working with the most acclaimed pop-artist around was the dream of dancers, musicians, technicians, publicists, photographers, movie makers, tour specialists and managers of the largest venues around the planet, to mention a few.
”This is It”
The movie “This is It” released on 28 October 2009 was a world-wide hit. Sony Corporation’s decision of making the film public only four months after Michael’s death was seen as a cold lucrative move by many fans and some members of the star’s family, who were still grieving their tremendous loss.
Although the large corporation did not respond to the protests, their venture was one of the most lucrative of its kind, making a gross of over $261 million to date. The film was shown in 2D and 3D as some components, like the re-make of Thriller were filmed with this technology. Tickets for the premiere sold out in record time in many countries including the UK.
The movie, made for the fans was dedicated to Michael’s children: Prince Michael I, Paris and Prince Michael II (“Blanket”).
Many of his fans grew-up with him, listening to his music since childhood; from the times of the “Jacksons” in the 60s to his last album “Invincible” in 2001. The influence of his sound and his dance shaped the way popular music is made, performed and presented today. It was one of the catalyst that changed the music industry forever.
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”This is it” the song with extracts from the video
The sudden death of Michael Jackson on the 25 June 2009 shocked everyone. Fans anxiously waiting for the world tour got the worst news one can imagine. Gatherings around the world showed an outpour of grief for the loss of a musical genius.
On the 7th July 2009, almost two weeks after his death, family, friends and fans got together at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California for Michael’s memorial, televised to a worldwide audience of a billion people.
The gathering was an opportunity for popular artists to show their appreciation and respect. 17,500 free tickets went to fans through an online lottery.
Among the messages of condolence, in a very emotional speech, actress Brooke Shields told the world about the real Michael. She had a lot in common with him since both were stars form early childhood. They became friends in their early teens, and dated numerous times. She referred to their bond as "the most natural and easiest of friendships."
Revelations - Years later
Two years after Michael’s death, a few facts came to light that may help put suspicious minds to rest and vindicate his image.
The first one was a revealing interview with Michael’s former wife Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley.
The couple met in 1992, and got married 20 days after she divorced musician Danny Keough in May 1994. The celebrities were the centre of attention for the media and both appeared almost naked in the video “You are not alone.” Life in paradise did not last long. Close to their second anniversary, Lisa Marie filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences.
Lisa Marie, now living in Kent, happily married to musician Michael Lockwood and raising her third child, talks about Michael on an interview aired in October 2010. Among the many happy memories, she reflects on the similarities that she found between the lives of Michael and Elvis, her father, two true-legends in the world of music.
In December 2010, another surprising interview sheds more light onto the private and secretive life of Michael Jackson, this time from his adopted "second family,” the Cascio’s.
Michael became friends with hotel manager Dominic Cascio in the 1970s, who soon introduced him to his family. At the Cascio’s, Michael was made feel at ease, enjoying the warmth and affection of an American-Italian family; an escape from the superficial life brought by fame and fortune.
His frequent visits were kept hidden from the public for more than 25 years and only revealed recently because Eddie Cascio, one of the sons of the family, is the co-writer and producer of “Michael,” a music CD released in 2010 featuring songs recorded by Michael at the Cascio’s basement studio.