There’s a new book in town! Now that the professional mourners have put their veils and candles away, the enormity of the artistic life of Michael Jackson remains. To help us make sense of and celebrate those numerous achievements, Armond has put together a collection of his MJ writings under the title Keep Moving and although not in my own hand yet, I assure ya’ll, it’s the best thirteen bones ($10 + $3 shipping) ya’ll can spend on the subject. (See The Michael Jackson Chronicles for ordering info and more.) Why? Because Armond knows. He’s from Detroit. He worked in Brooklyn at the City Sun. He’s our favorite writer about David Lean, Robert Bresson and the recently Mos Def-approved Charles Burnett (see Mos’ superb The Ecstatic, best BK hip-hip album of the year), among other filmic things. In 1992, Armond won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for his essay on Michael’s “Black and White” video title “The Gloved One Is Not A Chump”— indeed.
As a teenage Prince fanatic, I have to admit to checking out on Michael early. Lots of people did, I know, but, thankfully, a lot more didn’t. (I stopped collecting Prince b-sides after 1990 or so.) With the guidance of Armond and others— including Brooklyn’s finest, Combat Jack and All-City King, Dallas Penn— I started catching the fuck up and I’ll say here without shame it’s been revelatory. If I had to pick an album to start with, it’d be the original pressing of History: Past, Present and Future (1995), which because of its clunky format and extra cost (one disc greatest hits, one all-new Michael)— as well as the later censorship of “They Don’t Care About Us”— seems the most elusive of MJ retrospectives. Equally curious in format but available for cheap is the staggering Blood On The Dance Floor (1997), which is half a new album, half remixes of History. Play Michael’s “Morphine” back-to-back with Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night (1975) and try to figure which is cut more raw. Correct answer: both. Michael’s last album, Invincible (2001), features a life after death Biggie verse and much else of interest.
Below is a video of Armond speaking on Michael in at the Dance on Camera Film Festival at Lincoln Center from January 18, 2008. After the introduction, note Armond’s adroit reference to the great dance writer Edwin Denby, who might be Caz Dolowicz’s favorite Manhattan poet as well, more than even Mina Loy, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara and Ted Berrigan. That Caz!
Brian Berger would like to thank Caz Dolowicz for allowing me this space on my own goddamn blog.
Armond White also wrote a superb essay, “Speaking Truth To Power,” in New York Calling.