“I want you to know that I appreciate my fans not just on occasions like this - but every day of my life. It is your presence, your faith and your loyalty that has given me great strength during difficult times, and it was you who inspired me to work hard and deliver, I owe you.”—Michael Jackson (via stacymjxx)
Unlike “We are the World”, which was widely acclaimed for its humanitarian message and purpose, “heal the World” was met with widespread cynicism, particularly in the US. The New York Times called it “sticky-sweet” and “banal” while All Music Guide referred it to as “middle-class soft.” This dramatic shift in response, however, seemed to be more an indicator of the cultural milieu (the general pessimism and disillusionment of grunge and rap dominated the music scene by 1992) than any real difference in the merits of the songs.
“Heal the World,” like other anthems in its mold, can be viewed as sentimental and idealistic. However, for Jackson the point of a humanitarian anthem was pretty straightforward. He wanted a song with a simple message and a simple melody: something the whole world could sing, regardless of language, race, or culture in particular, he wanted children to enjoy and benefit from it. “Heal the World” was the vehicle for these social aims.
The song was one of the 1st to be written and recorded during the Dangerous sessions. Jackson came up with melody and lyrics in 1989 and began working on it in the studio with Matt Forger and Brad Buxer, among others. For the intro, he had Forger go out to “record children just being children.” He wanted them to say something about the state of the world/planet/environment from a child’s perspective, and he wanted it to be natural and unscripted. This turned out to be much more challenging task that it seemed. “I must have recorded over a hundred kids,” recalls Forger. “I called up every parent that I know. Finally, I interviewed the daughter of a friend of my wife’s. I started asking her these questions about the earth, and she says this line, ‘We have to think of our children, and our children’s children…’ It was totally sincere. Without any pretense or coaching.” Forget brought it to Michael and he thought it was perfect. “I strted editing it to take out some of the stammering and Michael said, ‘No, no, leave it in.’ He loved that kind of spontaneity and innocence and that’s what he wanted to capture.”
“Heal the World,” the song, launched the Heal the World Foundation, an organization dedicated to addressing poverty, world hunger, violence, and disease around the globe. In 1992, the nonprofit organization opened offices around the world and with Jackson’s star power, raised awareness and donated millions of dollars to less fortunate children from Los Angeles to Yugoslavia. The Heal the World Foundation’s numerous activities in the early ‘90s included donating winter relief supplies to the children of Sarajevo, preparing and sending “shoe box gifts” to impoverished children in Bosnia, airlifting doses of urgently needed children’s vaccines to the Republic of Georgia, teaming with Toys “R” Us and AmeriCares to deliver thousands of dollars in toys, food, and supplies to 2 children’s hospital in Budapest and paying for a liver transplant for a young Hungarian boy.
It is no doubt because of the song’s profound pragmatic impact all over the world that Jackson considered the song one of his greatest accomplishments. “Heal the World is one of my favortite(s) of anything I have ever recorded,” he said in a 1996 interview, “because it is a public awareness song. It is something that I think will live in the hearts of people for a long time.”
In January 1993. With the support of former president jimmy Carter, Jackson also initiated Heal L.A., a Children’s Relief Initiative providing “immediate action to help solve the pressing needs of America’s inner city children and youth.” After performing “heal the world” in front of a record audience at the halftime show of the 1993 Super Bowl, Jackson had his $100,000 compensation donated to Heal L.A.
“When an audience lights candles and sways to ‘Heal the World’,” Jackson’s longtime friend Deepak Chopra observes, “a space is created where nobody is unholy, no religion can exercise its imaginary exclusive patent on the true God. To the extent that Michael inspired such feeling, he healed his own demons and ours, if only for an hour.”
Indeed, at Jackson’s 2009 memorial service in Los Angeles, a group-sing of “Heal the World” was the final number. Its melody and words were sung not only by friends, family, and colleagues in attendance, but also by millions watching on TV and online around the world. Perhaps most poignant, however, were his own children, front and center, earnestly singing the utopian dreams of their father.
“I have been and always will be a humongous Michael Jackson fan. When I got the opportunity to dance for him, I was just in total disbelief. You don’t want to just stare at him, you just want to be as professional as possible — but in your mind you’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Michael Jackson.
When we were rehearsing for his tours, when we would learn all the numbers, he would sit us down and it would be in a rehearsal hall, like a dance studio. And he would make us perform the entire show one at a time, from top to bottom. While the rest of the dancers would sit beside him on the floor, he would make you go out by yourself and perform every song in succession, in a row — by yourself.
Talk about the most stressful situation you could ever possibly be in, because you’re totally exposed. Every flaw, everything that you would do wrong it would be exposed. You had no one to hide behind.
He never demanded us to be at our best. He expected it.”—Criss Judd - backup dancer for MJ (via alchrista)