Spike Lee Talks Bad 25 Documentary

In an exclusive interview, acclaimed filmmaker/director details the creative process for the upcoming Bad 25 documentary and describes the positive impact Michael Jackson had on his life

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Fascinating, informative and appropriately thrilling, the Spike Lee documentary Bad 25 celebrates the quarter-century anniversary of Michael Jackson's GRAMMY Album Of The Year-nominated 1987 album, Bad. The result is an eminently watchable film that chronicles a period when the King of Pop bravely confronted his most formidable rival: himself.

The documentary, which premieres Thanksgiving night at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, reveals how the late King of Pop worked past self-imposed pressure to top his 1982 masterpiece, Thriller. Allowed unprecedented access to the official Michael Jackson archives, director Lee employs a wealth of never-before-seen video, photos and notes to weave the saga of how Bad was created. These multimedia materials are supplemented by insights from individuals who worked and toured with Jackson, such as Quincy Jones, Martin Scorcese and Sheryl Crow. Interviews with modern pop icons including Kanye West, Chris Brown and Questlove add icing on the cake.

In an exclusive interview with, Lee provided the inside scoop on Bad 25 in advance of its television premiere.

How would you describe Michael Jackson's impact on your own life?
I was born in 1957, and Michael was born a year later in Gary, Ind. Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., I saw the Jackson 5 on Ed Sullivan. I had an afro like Michael and wanted to be Michael, but I couldn't sing. So I grew up watching Michael grow up. I was blessed to see the full development of Michael Jackson, the artist.

The documentary chronicles the creation of most of the songs featured on Bad, but you devote the most time to "Man In The Mirror." Why?
I think it was either [journalists] Jason King or Joe Vogel. One of them made the observation that when John Lennon died, people turned to "Imagine," and when Michael died people turned to "Man In The Mirror." That's the reason we focused a little more on "Man In The Mirror."

was released just as your career was taking off. Does the album possess any personal significance?
Oh, yeah. Like everyone, I wanted to see the follow-up to Thriller. Mike always wanted to better himself, that's why he would write "100,000,000 copies" to himself. He wanted Bad to surpass the sales of Thriller. Michael did not become who he was by being scared. In my opinion, artists can't be scared. If you get scared you're going to keep duplicating what's been successful and not grow.

Some of the most powerful footage in the documentary involves people recalling their reaction to Jackson's death.
Yeah. I know how I felt when Michael died, so I wanted to just ask the question, "Where were you when Michael died?" It's like, where were you when JFK died? Or when Martin Luther King got assassinated? Or when 9/11 happened? One of the most amazing things in the film is a clip where it's Michael and Whitney Houston together. She was presenting a video award to Michael. Now both of them are gone.

There's a lot of footage in this documentary that few people have seen before.
All the stuff came from the estate. A film like this would not be possible [without] the involvement of the estate — that stuff is from the vault. There's loads of stuff in this film that the world has never seen before, ever. Stuff like the rehearsal footage, or the clips of Michael Jackson videotaping Siedah Garrett's demo for "Man In The Mirror." There's a lot of amazing footage, and some of it was shot by Michael himself.

Describe how you made your creative decisions with this documentary.
The manifesto for this documentary was that we wanted to deal with Michael's creative process. This documentary is not focused on anything but his music. I think there's far too much written and talked about Michael's other stuff, so let's just deal with his music. That made it very easy … people were more than happy to talk about Michael's creative process, because they were a witness to genius. They were there in Westlake [Recording] Studios, or they were there at Michael's personal home studio, creating these pieces of music that would stand the test of time.

Many of Jackson's collaborators are very protective of him, even now. How did you get people to open up?
People have seen my films. They know what I'm about, so they trust me. It's not like there's some strange person asking them questions. In all [my] documentaries, I do the interviews myself. Even though a lot of times I've never met the people I'm interviewing, they feel they know me through my films. You've got to make people feel at ease. If they feel at ease, they will be forthcoming.

Did you learn anything new about Michael Jackson while making this documentary?
I got to learn that … Michael loved what he did. He was fearless, and his work ethic was legendary. He studied Jackie Wilson and James Brown, but he also went to "Motown University," and learned all that stuff from Berry Gordy. When it came to his art, Michael was not going to compromise. He kept notes to himself where he wrote "study the greats, then be greater." To me, that's the thing.

(Bruce Britt is an award-winning journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Billboard, and other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.)


Jackson Tops Dead Earners List

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Jackson Tops Dead Earners List
GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Michael Jackson topped Forbes' annual list of top-earning dead celebrities with $275 million, earning more than the combined total of the other 12 celebrities on the list. Elvis Presley ranked second with $60 million, John Lennon placed fifth with $17 million and Jimi Hendrix tied for 11th place with $6 million. Forbes compiled the list based on gross earnings between October 2009 and October 2010. (10/26)

UK Arts Council Announces Budget Cut Plans
Following a previous report, Arts Council England has revealed plans to implement the 30 percent cut to the UK's arts funding budget. The cuts will include a 7 percent cash cut for UK arts organizations in 2011–2012, a 15 percent cut for the regular funding of arts organizations by 2014–2015 and a 50 percent reduction to the council's operating costs. (10/26)

GRAMMY Winners To Perform At World Series
GRAMMY winners Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum and John Legend are scheduled to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" during Major League Baseball's 2010 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. Legend and Lady Antebellum will perform at games one and two in San Francisco on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, respectively, and Clarkson will perform at game three on Oct. 30 in Arlington, Texas. (10/26)


The Week In Music: New Judges On The Block
Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson at a press conference for "American Idol" season 10

Photo: Steve Granitz/


The Week In Music: New Judges On The Block

"American Idol" redux leads The Week In Music

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

And your next "American Idol" judges are…"Jenny From The Block" and the man behind "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)." At a press conference on Wednesday, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler were announced as the two new judges for season 10 of the revamped show. Contestants seemed to be brimming with sweet emotion regarding Tyler's new venture: "I'm super excited," said Kaeli Filpi, a contestant from Los Angeles. "My parents are all into '80s classic rock, so I'm a huge fan of him. I'm so excited." After nearly a decade with the predictably supportive Paula Abdul and skeptical Simon Cowell, viewers could be in for a pleasant change. How will J-Lo, Tyler and top dawg Randy Jackson fare? We'll find out when season 10 launches in January 2011.

Katy Perry is one California gurl that runs a little too hot for Bert and Ernie, Grover, Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and the gang over at "Sesame Street." The show issued a statement saying it would not air a taped segment featuring Perry and everyone's favorite tickle buddy, Elmo, due to "feedback" they received. It appears Perry's wardrobe choice during her skit with Elmo and performance of "Hot 'N Cold" was deemed too revealing for the kids. A representative for Perry said the pop star enjoyed her time on the show. Elmo could not be reached for comment but did exclaim, "That tickles!" Meanwhile, the clip in question is available to view at Perry's website.

In real estate news, the last home of late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia is up for sale. The asking price? A cool $4 million. The 11-acre, 7,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style estate is located in Marin, Calif., just north of the famed psychedelic rock act's San Francisco base. The previous owner renovated the house shortly after Garcia's death in 1995, selling many of the home's fixtures to raise money for charity, including the guitarist's…toilet. Heading just six hours south you'll find the residence of late heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio up for grabs. The 5,000-square-foot, English Manor-style home located in Encino, Calif., is on the market for approximately $3.4 million. Amenities include new appliances, a pub bar, 200-year-old wood floors, five bedrooms, and five bathrooms featuring five toilets that can be potentially sold for charity.

Billboard reported that the Michael Jackson estate has entered a licensing deal with SEE Virtual Worlds to create an online virtual world, "Planet Michael." The planet will live inside the Entropia Universe, a massive, multiplayer online game that has approximately 100,000 active users. Game play will focus on Jackson's dance moves and reflect his belief in nonviolence, which will be seen as a departure from other online multiplayer games such as "World Of Warcraft." "With Michael Jackson, we're aiming at different game play," said Martin Biallas, SEE Virtual Worlds CEO. The "Bad" virtual world is slated to be unleashed in late 2011.

Speaking of games, the Huffington Post released its list of Game Changers, celebrating 100 innovators, visionaries and leaders across entertainment, technology and media, among other categories. The main criteria for being included on the list? A willingness to take a risk by saying, "I think I have a better way." The lone musician game changer is, who knows how to get things started. Other notables include Kalpen Modi, who parlayed his role as Kal Penn in films such as Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle into a position with the White House and has participated in The Recording Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill advocacy event; and Apple chief Steve Jobs, who started an iRevolution.

"Glee" kicked off its sophomore year this past Tuesday and the ratings sang to a tune of an impressive 12.3 million viewers. In the season's debut episode, the cast performed hits from Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Lady Gaga. Of course, music and television have always fit together like peanut butter and jelly, evidenced by Billboard's list of top TV themes that have impacted the charts over the past three decades. Themes on the list include "Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys) " by Waylon Jennings, "Theme From Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)" by Joey Scarbury, "Moonlighting (Theme)" by Al Jarreau, "As Long As We Got Each Other" (theme from "Growing Pains") by Steve Dorff & Friends, and "I'll Be There for You" by the Rembrandts (theme from "Friends"), among others. Sadly, the theme to "Saved By The Bell: The College Years" did not make the cut.

After hosting the 82nd Academy Awards last year, actor/comedian/GRAMMY winner Steve Martin has gotten in the business of handing out awards himself with the creation of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. This year's inaugural award went to banjoist Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers, who received a cash prize of $50,000, funded by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation. Pikelny was chosen by a group of board members, including Béla Fleck, Martin, Earl Scruggs, and Pete Wernick.

Elvis Costello is taking an old-school route with the release of four tracks off his forthcoming album, National Ransom, on a pair of 78 rpm discs. The GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter posted a semi-cryptic announcement on his website to alert fans of the limited releases. Details on pricing were not mentioned, but 25 pressings of the limited-edition releases will be made available, each of them personally autographed by Costello.

Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are" is tops on the Billboard Hot 100 while "Empire State Of Mind (Glee Cast Version)" holds the No. 1 spot on the iTunes singles chart.

Any news we've missed? Comment below.

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Last Week In Music


Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies
GRAMMY-winning blues musician and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pinetop Perkins died today of cardiac arrest in Austin, Texas. He was 97. Born Joe Willie Perkins in Mississippi, Perkins gained fame as a piano player on the Chicago blues scene after he joined GRAMMY winner Muddy Waters in 1969, replacing Otis Spann. Prior to that, he played alongside blues artists such as Earl Hooker, Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others. His first GRAMMY Award came in 2007 for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas, an award he picked up again at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards this year for Joined At The Hip with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. At 97, Perkins currently stands as the oldest GRAMMY winner. (3/21)

  Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Is Top Concert Film
Domestic box office earnings from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never totaled $72.2 million on March 20, surpassing Michael Jackson's This Is It ($72.1 million) to become the most successful concert-themed film in the United States, according to a report. Michael Jackson's film remains the most successful worldwide, grossing $189.1 million internationally for a global total of $261.2 million. Justin Bieber's film has grossed a total of $10.8 million internationally to date. (3/21)

Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith: Most Anticipated Fall Album?

Sam Smith

Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images


Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith: Most Anticipated Fall Album?

New albums from Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and St. Vincent also on the way this fall — which release are you most excited to hear?

GRAMMYs/Sep 13, 2017 - 12:16 am

2017 has been a big year already in music, especially for streaming, festivals and Latin pop. With summer sneaking into the rearview and stores filling up with Halloween paraphernalia, we want to know which upcoming fall album release you're looking forward to the most.

So here's your chance to be heard: From Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift to in-the-works new offerings by Sam Smith and Nicki Minaj, what's album are you looking forward to the most in fall 2017?: