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Michael Jackson, the chaman

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Michael Jackson, 12 years following your voice #9

"Keep the Faith"

@ Renée Paul, artiste peintre, dessin aux crayson de couleurs Brunzeel sur papier cartonné couleur de la terre, 21,5 x 28 cm, 2010, collection personnelle
@ Renée Paul, Wanna be startin' somethin'

You know, of course, the song "Keep the Faith". You probably know how much Michael suffered to record it: a sudden and slight drop in his vocal range caused him difficulties. He wouldn't admit it and wouldn't bring himself to drop the song a few tones. Not that the melody reached particularly high peaks, but the high notes in which much of the final exhortations are confined needed to be powerful. But it was breaking his voice.

Faced with her tears and confusion, Bruce took matters into his own hands. He was one of the few, if not the only one he listened to who was willing to (sometimes) obey when he pounded his fist on the table. So Bruce convinced him to go home and get some rest and told him they'd pick it up later.

And one night, he and Bruce stayed behind to take it all back in a slightly lower key. Michael sang with a sense of urgency, strength, determination, almost rage. He wanted to get to the end of this song and its message. This is evidenced by the frequent saturations that can be heard at times and that Bruce voluntarily kept on the final verses and especially on a "Go on!" that continues to rumble. Michael was devouring the mic. He had his guts out.

But the story I'm about to tell you, which some of you may know, is far more extraordinary. It was told by one of Michael's collaborators, Brad Sundberg, at one of his seminars, when he was talking about this very song.

Brad explained that at a conference he was giving in Russia, he was accompanied by a translator who dubbed his words live. They didn't know each other before. As he played a sample of "Keep the Faith" to the audience, as usual, the woman suddenly stood up and left the stage. Brad, surprised, asked that his seminar be interrupted and marked by a break. He went to her and found her crying. Here's what she told him...

The song she had just heard, she had heard it once before, without knowing who was singing and what it meant. She came from a poor region in the East and lived, at the time, with her parents, who were very poor and for whom, despite all their love and good will, she felt like a burden. One day, when she was 12-13 years old, she said to herself that she was going to commit the irreparable, to relieve them. To leave this sad world where she saw no future for herself. At least they would have a little more money. She ran a bath with the intention of doing what you imagine, and locked herself in the bathroom. As she got into the tub and prepared for the worst, she heard a voice from the kitchen where her mother was. The radio had started playing this song, which she had just heard again for the first time and recognized. "Keep the Faith." Hearing the strength, the rage to live, the determination that came from that voice, of which she didn't understand a word and didn't know who it belonged to, she was as if transfixed. She stood still, clinging to this wave, unable to continue. She listened to it until the end. And she stopped everything. She said to herself that she had to fight, to continue to live, to move forward. That she couldn't do that.

Can you imagine? But wait...

Brad asked her what year it happened and what country she was from. I couldn't tell you which one anymore, but Brad told her (and us), "That's just not possible... That song has never been played on the radio. Nowhere, and certainly not in Eastern Europe or even in this particular country. She was overwhelmed and I, as I write this and as I do every time I tell this extraordinary story, am getting chills.

The young woman who had collapsed in tears in front of him had just understood that she owed her survival to Michael Jackson, whom she did not know at the time and whose language she did not speak or understand. She was there, interpreting one of his most important collaborators and a veil, a mystery, a miracle had just been revealed to her. And to us.

So there you have it. How many lives did Michael save? Literally or figuratively? Directly or indirectly? His genius and his supernatural character are there: in his capacity to transmit a message, an emotion, beyond words, by sometimes inexplicable channels. By his own ardour to overcome, to go to the end of this song which had given him pain, to put his blood, his sweat, his guts into it, he had rekindled the flame of life in the heart of this kid and pulled her out of what should have been the last minute of her existence. That song was about keeping the faith, and she didn't know it. That voice was about a fighter, and she didn't know it. This was a song about going all the way with her music, and she didn't know that either. She just knew that a wave of voice, carried by a radio wave, in an unlikely place and time, had breathed a second life into him. And that was Michael's.

As for wondering how this song resonated in that radio that day, over there, and wondering what path led this woman to become an Anglo-Russian interpreter and to find herself, on this occasion, at the side of the assistant of the aforementioned Michael Jackson making this song heard again? Let's leave Heaven and Michael their secrets...

So thank you for her, Michael. And thank you for all the lives you have saved, cared for, accompanied, supported. For all these small and big free but vital miracles that the media will never report, but that we will transmit much more preciously in their place, to our loved ones, to those who suffer and for whom you continue to be a light as well as to those who refuse to know you, because even in their deaf ears and their hearts of stone, you will end up instilling yourself and creating a flaw...

"The power's in believing, so give yourself a chance…"


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