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One Year Later – Remembering Michael (by Howard Bloom)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on June 25, 2010

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Today, in memory of Michael Jackson’s passing, we re-post a great tribute written by Michael’s friend and business associate, Howard Bloom, who shared his memories of Michael with me one year ago.

Guest Blogger Howard Bloom
Guest Blogger Howard Bloom
Guest Blogger Howard Bloom began his legendary career in music public relations when he co-founded The Howard Bloom Organization Ltd in 1976, and helped build or sustain the careers of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Queen, Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp, Simon & Garfunkel, Bette Midler, Joan Jett, AC/DC, Talking Heads, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and roughly 100 other stars of the 1970s and 1980s. Here he shares some of his personal reflections on the passing of his client, Michael Jackson, and takes us past all the noise to a quieter place.

* * *

On the night of June 25th, when I was on my nightly mile-long 1 am walk that loops me up to Prospect Park then takes me back to my brownstone, I passed a pair of 18 year olds sitting on a stoop at this lonely hour when the streets and sidewalks are usually utterly devoid of human beings. The guy had long dark black curly hair and the girl had a short, blond haircut and was wearing shorts. The male said something to me as I passed. I walked back, took off my headphones, and asked him to repeat it. He said, “Michael Jackson is dead.”

I asked him why he said that to me. I wondered if he knew me from the Tea Lounge on Union Street, where I do my writing, or from the streets and if he knew my Michael Jackson connection. No, he didn’t. He was telling it to everyone. He wanted no one to ignore it.

He was particularly emphatic about making sure that no one over the age of 30 pass it by or dismiss it. Michael Jackson’s death, he felt, was a loss to all of us whether we realized it or not.

How did I get involved with Michael and his brothers?

It was Spring of 1983 and the Jacksons were getting together to go on the road for their Victory Tour. They were getting the whole family together for this tour, including their dad, who had originally managed the rise of the Jackson Five to the top. Their manager for the Victory Tour called me over and over again for four months, asking me to work with the Jacksons.  I kept saying no.  At this point I’d helped Amnesty International establish itself in North America, had worked with Simon and Garfunkel when they’d reunited for an audience of half a million  in a free concert in Central Park, then when they’d gone out on tour, and I had done Queen’s massive tour of 110,000 seat soccer stadiums in South America.

But I liked to do crusades–to fight for truths others didn’t see.  The Jackson’s tour didn’t feel like a challenge.  It already had it made. Michael had just sold 36 million copies of just one album–Thriller.  That’s nearly three times as many as the previous record holder, Peter Frampton. I didn’t feel The Jacksons needed me.  So I continued to turn them down. But I felt that if you’re going to say no to someone, at least you should have  the courage to say it to their face.  So when the Jacksons came into New York and asked me to meet with them at the Helmsley Palace hotel, I had to do it.  Even though the meeting was at midnight on a Saturday night, and I worked from 9 am until I dropped during the weekends.

The minute I walked into the suite the Jacksons had set up for meetings, two things were obvious. One … from the body language of these brothers you could tell that The Jacksons were some of the most honest, ethical, open people you would ever meet. Two: They were in very big trouble. They didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what it was. But what I did know was this: here was a challenge. There was a wrong to be righted.  An invisible wrong.  A wrong all of us could feel but none of us could name. I had to say yes.

My first meeting with Michael didn’t come until four months later.  I was with Michael’s brothers at Marlon’s pool house in Encino–a tiny two-story building  with one room per floor in the back yard next to Marlon’s pool.  By then I’d done my homework.  I’d read thousands of articles on Michael.  I’d compiled a dossier on the Jackson’s lives.  One thing all the articles agreed on was this:  Michael was not a normal human being.  The articles called him a bubble baby, described him as a person who would shrink from your touch.

But the fact is that neither Michael nor I had been raised in a conventionally normal childhood; neither of us had been raised among other kids.  So I didn’t know the common rituals of normal life.  I had to teach myself by watching other people as if they were specimens and I was a visitor from Mars.  One of the rituals I’d seen was the handshake between strangers.  You know, you see someone you’ve never met before but who others want you to meet.  You walk up to him or her, you stick out your hand, and you say, “Hello, my name is  ______.”  This was a ritual I’d almost never used.  But when Michael opened the pool house’s screen door, I walked up to him stuck out my hand and said “Hi I’m Howard.”

I knew what would happen.  The articles had explained it.  Michael would recoil from my touch.  But that’s not what occurred.  Michael put out his hand, shook mine, and replied “Hi I’m Michael.” It was as normal and as natural as could be. The media stories were false.  But thousands of press people had parroted them as truths.  Something strange was happening in Michael’s noosphere–in the sphere of press perception we are handed as reality.  Eventually those mistakes would kill him.  But that’s a story for another time.

A few minutes later Michael and I climbed the cramped stairs to the tiny room upstairs where Marlon kept his recording equipment. I’d written a press release and I wanted Michael’s approval.  We found places to sit on the stacks of amps and keyboards.  I read the press release out loud.  And as I did, Michael’s body softened.  “That’s beautiful,” he said when I was finished, “Did you write that?”  The fact was, I had. And the fact was that writing press releases was not just a hack job for me, it was an art. I’d edited a literary magazine that had won two National Academy of Poets prizes.  And in the decades since, the Washington Post has called the writing in my books “beautiful.”  But no one else had ever seen the art hidden in the craft and the creativity hidden in the ordinary.  Michael apparently had.

Album Cover
Album Cover

Once Michael had approved of the press release, we went back downstairs to the small single room on the first floor.  Against the walls and lining the room were arcade videogame machines, machines only amusement arcades could afford in those days. And in the center of the room, hogging up most of the space, was a billiard table.  The Jacksons were scheduled to have a meeting with an art director from CBS so the group could decide on the Victory Tour album cover.  They wanted me to be in on it.

When the art director arrived, she bore the portfolios of five artists, portfolios she stacked at one end of the pool table’s green felt playing surface.   These were not just the black vinyl portfolios most commercial artists use to display their work. Every one of these was a custom-made presentation case made of hand-tooled leather or rich cherry wood. And every one was from a legendary artist, an artist at the very top of his field.

We were all bunched together on the opposite side of the pool table from the art director.  Michael was in the center.  I stood next to him on his left.  And the brothers were crowded around us on either side. The CBS art director slid the first of the portfolios toward Michael.  He opened the first page, slowly … just enough to see perhaps an inch of the image. As he took in the artwork his knees began to buckle, his elbows bent, and all he could say was “oooohhhhh.” A soft, orgasmic “ooooh.” In that one syllable and in his body language, you could feel what he was seeing.

Do you know the poem by William Blake

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour  . . .

The intense ambition of that poem, the intense desire for wonder, was alive in Michael. More alive than anything of the sort I’d ever seen.  Michael saw the infinite in an inch.  As Michael opened the page further, inch by inch, his knees and elbows bent even more and his ”ooohs,” his sounds of aesthetic orgasm, grew even more intense.  Standing elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder with him, you could feel him discovering things in the brush and inkstrokes that even the artist never saw. By the time he’d opened the full page his body and voice expressed an ecstasy. An aesthetic epiphany.  I’d never encountered anything like it.  Michael felt the beauty of the page with every cell of his being.

I’ve worked with Prince, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, and Bette Midler, some of the most talented people of our generation, and not one of them had the quality of wonder that came alive in Michael. He saw the wonder in everything. His quality of wonder was beyond anything most of us humans can conceive.

Look, above all other things I’m a scientist.  Science is my religion.  It’s been my religion since I was ten years old. The first two rules of science are 1) the truth at any price including the price of your life; and 2) Look at the things right under your nose as if you’ve never seen them before and then proceed from there. And that’s not just a rule of science.  It’s a rule of art.  And it’s a rule of life.  Very few people know it. Even fewer people live it. But Michael was it, he incarnated it in every follicle of his being.  Michael was the closest I’ve ever come to a secular angel. A secular saint.

Look, I’m an atheist, but Michael was not. He believed he was given a gift by God.  He believed he was given talents and wonders and astonishments seldom granted to us very fragile human beings. Because God had given him this enormous gift, he felt he owed the experience of wonder, astonishment, awe, and Blake’s infinities to his fellow human beings.  But unlike other generous humans–Bill and Melinda Gates, for example–with Michael giving to others was not just a part-time thing.  The need to give to others was alive in every breath he took every single day.

Michael Jackson’s entire life was receiving and giving and the whole purpose of receiving was so he could give. He worked with every cell in his body to give the gift of that amazement, that astonishment to his fellow human beings. Needing the adulation of crowds WAS Michael’s connection to others, his most profound connection, far more profound than family and friends (though those are indispensable), and far more healing. That act of giving keeps an iconic person, a person who never knows normalness, alive.

I’d love to tell you the stories of how Michael made these things clear.  But, again, those tales will have to wait for another day.

It seems strange to say this, but Michael will always be a part of me. No other superstar I worked with wound himself into the threads at my core the way he did.  Michael opened a window to a quality of wonder unlike anything I’d ever been exposed to in my life. For that gift, I felt I owed him. I felt we all owed him.  And we still do.  We owe him an honest view of who he was.  We will owe him that until we finally sweep away the crap of sensationalist headlines and clearly see why those who love him know more about him than any expert or journalist who claims to have probed his life.  Those journalists and experts do not know Michael Jackson.  But if you love him, there’s a good chance that you do.

Good Bye Michael
Good Bye Michael


Howard Bloom’s Latest Book
Find out more about Howard Bloom at
The Goal–To Save The World By  Changing Its
Author of: The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (“mesmerizing”-The Washington Post), Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century (“reassuring and sobering”-The New Yorker), and How I Accidentally Started The Sixties (“a monumental, epic, glorious literary achievement.” Timothy Leary).
Former Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute; Former Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University
Founder, The International Paleopsychology Project; Founder, The Space Development Steering Committee; Founder, The Group Selection Squad; Founding Board Member: Epic of Evolution Society; Founding Board Member, The Darwin Project; Member Of Board Of Governors, National Space Society; Chairman of the Advisory Board, Asian Global Summit; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International Society for Human Ethology, Scientific Advisory Board Member, Lifeboat Foundation, Advisory Board Member, The Buffalo Film Festival.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Diánna MartinNo Gravatar June 30, 2010 at 10:30 am

I’m so glad this was posted.

I am a big fan of Howard Bloom (I have many of his books, and love his essays on Shakespeare), and I was always a big fan of Michael Jackson.

I thought it was such a tragedy when Jackson passed away – and it’s not a coincidence that his picture and the post I wrote about his death on one of my blogs continues to get more hits than anything else. The people who mocked his death are jackals and the people who felt it didn’t matter any differently than someone else are indeed younger than 30.

I have my own first printing Thriller LP that I played until it was nearly worn away. I watched endless hours of the video on MTV (back when MTV was still a music channel and not some reality show world).

This was a lovely piece and would have escaped my attention if you hadn’t posted it. Thank you.

malcyNo Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 5:21 am

Thank you for the truth that you have written about MJ.He has gone back to his Creator having used all his talents given to him by the Almighty.How many of us can say that about ourselves?

Lisa MJJ1111No Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 6:20 am

BEAUTIFUL! When Michael passed away, I felt as the planet shifted! I was numb, zombie like for 2 months–could not eat could not sleep..and I was not a fan! Oh I never believed the lies, because although I was not a fan, I saw right thorugh him-his essence, his hug, beautiful, extraordinary HEART and SOUL..and since then I have had many and I mean many Michael Moments. Michael appears in my dreams, I feel him all around me! Now I am committed to keep his legacy alive, it is my mission. Michael was and IS an ANGEL- One of God’s greatest gift to us..This world did not see because this world is blinded by it’s own ambition of materialism, fear, and power and control..Michael KNEW he was A He had to GIVE that Gift AWAY..and the more he gave to us the more he received and the cycle continues..DEATH only released his SPIRIT even more,, even more powerful! Michael’s stronger, for it is no longer contained in human flesh. God does work in mysterious ways to have an atheist see Michael’s GOD ESENCE?!! Thank You Harold Bloom–for having the ablilty to see TRUTH, feel TRUTH, and speak on TRUTH..RIP my ANGEL-KING..I do believe in God, love God, and I KNOW from the abyss of my soul that I will see Michael in paradise.

ultravioletraeNo Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Absolutely beautiful. PLEASE consider writing a book about Michael to set the record straight! There is an urgent need to protect his legacy for the future generations who will want to know about this angel who walked amongst us, hiding in plain sight.

RobertaNo Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Reading what Lisa wrote above put into words my exact experiences since Michaels passing,I have had profound experiences that I cannot explain since the day of his death, I know it was spiritual. I have been driven to read and research all that is availabe about him. The more I have learned about his life, the more I am convinced that he was a messenger from God in our lifetime, persecuted and condemned he remained kind and true to his calling of love. I am 67 year old, educated and experienced in the challenges of life and in these many years have lost numerous close family members and friends, I have yet to be as profoundly affected by a death as I have been with this unusual, beautiful being. I cannot understand or explain it, I simply now accept it and embrace the deep pure emotions that I experience as I have come to know this remarkable gifted man.

nino fincherNo Gravatar January 20, 2011 at 5:02 am

Thank you.
Do write more about Michael. Thank you for appreciating him so profoundly and for taking the time to write…

Roberta M.No Gravatar January 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

I echo many of the sentiments above. I’ve been a fan of Michael’s since 1969 when I was 12 1/2 and Michael was 11 and I continue to mourn his passing. I pray that when Mr. Bloom says “I’d love to tell you the stories of how Michael made these things clear. But, again, those tales will have to wait for another day.” that he makes that day to tell those stories very soon. I am a historian and know that stories get lost when we hesitate in documenting them. The world needs those stories Mr. Bloom. Thank you for sharing what you have and please don’t wait too long to share the rest.

Kerry HenniganNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

I followed this link from and am so glad I did. this is a marvelous article and I will gladly pass it on through my own MJ fan-friends throughout the world. Thank you so much to Howard for writing it and telling us what we already believed, but you reinforced the truth of it by relating your first hand experience of Michael. I am a Catholic/Panthiest. I was raised to believe without being dogmatic, to always be open to the beliefs (and feelings) of others. Their beliefs are just a valid as mine. I too believe that God gave Michael a great gift. The fact that he knew this and felt passionate about using it to improve things for others is more than what many successful people do. For his passion, his perfectionism, his love for humanity and his great, great artistry, I believe he suffered something akin to martydom at the hands of the tabloid media. I pray we all learn something from losing Michael, but I fear that those who most need to learn are those who never stop to consider the feelings of others. But, I keep on hoping, and prayer, and thanking God for the gift of Michael, who lived with us for as long as God could share him.

victoriaNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I had been a casual fan of Michael Jackson’s for my entire life. His talent and his gentleness always drew me in, but I too experienced unexplainable grief and awakening upon his death. The first four months were a blur of spiritual synchronicity, one unusual occurrence after another. I thought at first that I might be going over the edge. But, I stuck with the L.O.V.E. following the energy thread wherever it would take me. Here I am 18 months later still following and now believing that something much greater than we understand has been happening. Keep this going, for I do believe Michael was a saint in our midst……I also believe that his can now affect us in ways that were unimaginable when he was with us in the physical plane. If we continue with his message of LOVE he will be immortal and he will help humanity make it to the next shift in consciousness – something we are in dire need of…….. Michael I love you and I want you to be there…..

From Russia with L.O.V.E.No Gravatar February 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I am from Russia. I am 36. I wasn’t Michael’s fan but after His passing i found out that I love Him more than anybody. And I wonder why. I suppose that it happens with me and others because of WHO Michael IS. I am not in religion ( but I do believe in God and in such Masters as Jesus, Buddah) and i can tell that HE IS exactly the event which was discribed in Bible , Koran and others religious books as Second Coming! I know it. I feel it. And us MANY!!! Prove me that we are wrong!

Cynthia KentNo Gravatar February 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Beautiful tribute and post about Michael! There was no one on earth like him.EVER!!! I often tell people no death has ever affected me so much.

Elizabeth- cawobethNo Gravatar January 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm

thank you so much.
I read this quite a while ago but failed to comment. This is one of my very favorite write-ups about Michael.
Why ? Because it’s so believable & in sync with what I sense from Michael.
If more people had gratitude for life itself & saw the world like a wide-eyed child; like Michael, what a better world it would be.
May 2012 shower you with love & light.

KatieWNo Gravatar February 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Please write more about Michael as you stated. What worries me most is that in time, his music will fade. Rarely do i hear his music played in NYC and if they do, it is the same Thriller and the old songs. MJ has the most sublime catalog of recorded and demos. We must insist that they be played. And as far as his legacy. The vultures, the MSM and tabloids want to continue the old meme of who Michael was in their minds. It sells papers, magazines. I wish a documentary would be made of Michael’s trips to hospitals, orphanages and especially his trips to Africa (him being crowned King). That would quiet the parasites who insist Michael hated his race. I became a fan after he passed and cannot still understand the pain I feel for him. For the way he was treated. I want his legacy to shine as he deserves.

monicaNo Gravatar July 10, 2013 at 12:55 am

Four years later and still feeling the effects of our loss of Michael. My feelings echo so many above. I thought I was going off the deep end as well for months and months after June 25, 2009. What a lovely intuitive soul Mr. Bloom is for sharing his experiences with words connected in a tapestry of Michael’s spirit. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Bloom’s birthday is June 25th. At first realization of this fact, I felt a twinge of pain for him. After further thought, I concluded that Mr. Bloom has likely made a beautiful cosmic connection between the folding over of their two lives; a meaningful circle of time and association…science and art. I am so interested in his thoughts and hope he shares more so that through him we may feel some far off, yet close to our hearts link to Michael.

SusanNo Gravatar April 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Is it true that the Michael Jackson Tribute portrait puts actors’ dots near MJ’s heart, while his real fans and soul mates who supported him at his trials, the kids he visited in hospitals, men and women who spent nights in the rain just to tell him “i love you”, the fans who prayed for him for decades, those who love him from the heart, the poor people he helped feed… all the “non-hollywood” are considered unfit to be dotted in and around his heart?

Is this a real tribute to the heart of Michael Jackson?
What about what was truly in MJ’s heart? equality, children, the poor? Shouldn’t their dots be placed at his heart? as was the case in his real life…

NinoNo Gravatar May 31, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Many STILL need to hear more of how gracious and kind and noble a person Michael was. I think of him daily with a profound respect sadness and gratitude. This world is so much worse with out him…

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