Friday, January 15, 2010

Compassion and Change - Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror"

Yesterday I posted a brief article about compassion. The themes of compassion and change supercharge Michael Jackson's 1988 hit, "Man in the Mirror," one of the great classics of pop music." These days, I carefully avoid listening to pop music, but I have to say that this particular song moved me the first time I heard it over 20 years ago, and it moved me each of the five times I replayed it today. I'm not exactly sure why, but the music, the lyrics and the treatment connect with me at a gut level. In my opinion, it's a fabulous song.

A funny story...

Back when the song was popular, Meredith Bell and I co-presented a series of programs on "Managing Change" to the managers of the U. S. Border Patrol. On the second day of one of the programs, we decided to begin the day on a high-energy note. Michael's moving song would get them fired up about change.

The officers took their seats, sipped their coffee and looked at us expectantly. I hit the button of the tape recorder, and Michael did his thing.

At the end of the song, the room fell silent. The participants looked at me with a mixture of disgust, dismay and puzzlement. My tactic had backfired. They hated it. They couldn't believe I had made them listen to five minutes of "The Gloved One." I would have been forgiven more quickly if I had said the f-word in front of their mothers.

Well, we eventually recovered their attention, their respect and their confidence. But we never tried that again!

During the rest of Michael Jackson's life, half the world thought of him as a weirdo while the other half revered him as "The King of Pop." Maybe both perceptions were valid. Rock stars don't make good role models. Music lovers recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. Remembered as "The King of Rock and Roll," Elvis was a seriously flawed man. But I loved his music when I was a teenager witnessing the birth of rock music. And so it goes. Nobody's perfect.

But in my humble opinion, this song is as close to being a perfect pop tune as a song can be. Listen to it again, and tell me what you think.

Videos of this song have been viewed well over 10,000,000 times on YouTube. I like this version because it helps you understand the lyrics and the video doesn't distract from the music itself.


Anonymous said...

I still have goose bumps when hearing this song. It was part of the most formative time of my life. I played it after my keynote speech at NGLS conference and then spontaneously hugged each participant
...all is captured here
Love lives forever...
as "Jacko" said...

Beth said...

I think this song connects with you because you fundamentally believe in personal responsibility, in the efficacy of individual action to change the world, and in the ability of persons to make positive changes in their lives. I think that's why it connects with me, too! And this version, where the words are the medium that make the message crystal clear, is great.

Unknown said...

I think it's interesting that you chose this song for a group of border patrol agents. Man In The Mirror? And by MJ, no less?

It is a GREAT song that speaks to our own stake (for lack of a better word) in humanity's effort to be humane.

Denny Coates said...

Yes, Monica, I find it interesting, too! One of those "sounded like a good idea at the time" blunders....

Tkumah ATD said...

It is a great song. I am partially deaf by crime so the words version made me happy.
You wanted to share something which inspires you and yet it was not to others same.
I can see why and why.
I think that your ability with your partner to uplift and win is more admirable in the mirror:)
Thanks for sharing.

SaVonni Yestanti said...


That is FUNNY! I love Michael; he was a true genius. But sadly, people won't even support a genius if it isn't deemed "cool" to do so. The world fell over itself to get to Michael when he was at the top of his game, but when there was even the slightest question about his character, the world showed how cruel it can be.

"I'm starting with the (Wo)Man in the mirror," takes on new meaning when we attempt to work on our flaws while doing what we need to do to be true leaders who know how to support others through the good and the bad.

Great post!

PQsongwriter said...

I've never been a big fan of MJ but I agree that this song has merit and there is no denying his talent as a recording artist is beyond phenomenal.