It’s a great interview – and I hope every Michael Jackson fan has a chance to listen to it: choreographer and director Vincent Paterson on the MJCast special podcast for Michael’s birthday, 2017. (1)
There is so much to enjoy and information to glean from the interview, my only disappointment being that it didn’t last long enough to cover some areas I was interested in from Vincent’s 17 years of collaboration with Michael Jackson – choreographing the Super Bowl performance of 1993 and directing the Blood on the Dance Floor short film, for example.
Vincent also directed the Bad tour with Michael – I would have loved to have quizzed him about that – not the least because it would have provided some further insight into Michael’s stage craft.
As for Blood on the Dance Floor (1997), this dates from one of my favourite MJ eras, though not the only one. Here we had mature Michael in a performance that is both spell-binding and provocative – speaking from my personal point of view as an unashamed, besotted fan (per this WordPress article!). (2)
But, returning to the interview, Vincent spoke about starting to take notice of Michael as a singer “when he started stepping into his own realm and started to explore, finding his own voice…” This really resonated with me, and I guess explains pretty much the way I feel about Michael’s solo adult material compared to the J5 and Jacksons’ stuff. That may seem like sacrilege to some MJ fans, but it seems I’m not the only one.
While I wasn’t into the Grateful Dead, like Vincent, I bought albums by the Eagles, America, Loggins & Messina, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt – having come through my teens in the 60s with the Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary and Lee Hazlewood. The Jackson family wasn’t present in my record collection at all.
I can’t remember the first time I heard Michael on the radio, either singing with his brothers or as a solo artist; I was just too entrenched in other music genres to take much notice. I don’t remember when I first saw the ‘Beat It’ or ‘Thriller’ videos (in which Vincent performs), but I DO remember the first time I saw ‘Bad’ on TV. It really made me sit up, take notice and think: “Wow, Michael Jackson has grown up [i.e. matured] and become sexy!” That tells you a lot about my relationship (as a fan) with Michael Jackson.
Of course, I can recognize Michael’s artistic maturity evolving with the development of his videos, starting with ‘Billie Jean’ and its ‘noir’ visual references. This evolution continued with the short films for the ‘Bad’ album and his collaboration with artists like Vincent Paterson who had expertise in choreography, performance and staging – and a willingness to take up the challenge of realising Michael’s vision for a piece. Michael’s instruction to Vincent for the choreography for ‘Smooth Criminal’ was “Let the music tell you what it should be”. The outcome was a classic video which was later translated into a live performance staple for Michael’s tours. (3)
Another performance mentioned in the interview with the MJCast is the MTV 10th Anniversary presentation of Black or White and Will You Be There. (4) Is there a Michael Jackson fan in the world who doesn’t love this? If so, I haven’t met them. (And we probably wouldn’t have much in common if I did!)
Vincent explains about staging Black or White using elements from the black panther portion of the original short film – basically to show everyone that, irrespective of the controversy that arose following the premiere of the Black or White video on television, they were happy with what they had done, and they were going to do it again, “so, too bad!”
Finally, Vincent’s comments on staging Will You Be There for MTV had me feeling I was truly in sync with this man’s sensibilities when it comes to Michael Jackson. “I know that this will sound corny to a lot of people,” he says at approximately 80 minutes into the interview, “but I don’t care, it’s my truth. I never really met anybody that to me embodied as many of the characteristics of Jesus Christ… than Michael Jackson. Kindness, patience, love, understanding, generosity; I could go on and on.
“So, in a way I wanted to just say that this is a good man. This is, in a way, a holy man. This is a really good man, and at the end (I’m getting teary-eyed now) …I just thought that Michael was a vulnerable soul and I wanted the world to see him protected and so I brought this model named Angela Ice in on wings and ended it with him wrapped in her arms; so that’s what I did.” (5)
As someone who loves the presentation of that beautiful song of Michael’s, all I can say is: thank you, Vincent Paterson. Thank you for capturing my emotions with your production back in 1991, and for sharing your own love and respect for Michael in your interview.
(1) The MJCast – episode 064: Vincent Paterson Special – access on:
(2) Kerry Hennigan: “What is it about ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’? or: Michael Jackson as alpha male” https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/what-is-it-about-blood-on-the-dance-floor-or-michael-jackson-as-alpha-male/
(3) Kersti Grunditz: “The Man Behind the Throne” documentary – Complete Michael Jackson part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrxTAs7aV8U
(5) The MJCast – episode 064: Vincent Paterson Special
Other interviews with Vincent Paterson that feature his work with Michael:
Career overview including working with Michael: https://vimeo.com/184229711
Working with MJ: https://vimeo.com/184602311
Vincent’s website: http://www.vincentpaterson.com/