After reading this last section of Jermaine Jackson’s book, I’m sitting here wondering how my life might be different if I had a family member who not only encouraged my passion but also pushed me to be better than the most talented.
How Michael Acquired Excellence in Music
Jermaine dispels the belief that his father was a strict uncaring music manager. Instead, readers see a man who saw natural talent and passion and cared about his sons enough to spend all his free time with them encouraging them to be excellent, not just great.
Jermaine explains that his father, Joseph, had experience as a musician, but never saw the success his sons would later find. Joseph initially created a trio of Jermaine, Tito, and Jackie. Michael at age 5, spent the rehearsals playing homemade drums. Once Michael wowed an audience of family members with his sweet pure voice, his father added him to the group. Marlon joined at his mother’s insistence, and the quintet, under the tutelage of their father, became the Jackson 5.While Joseph was strict about regular rehearsals and perfecting each brother’s performance, Jermaine insists this was not an uncaring man:
- When he witnessed our gradual improvement, this pleased him and in turn made us dig deeper. Impressing him and winning his respect mattered. Family members … came over, and Joseph asked us to sing. He noted their enthusiastic reactions, but it was never good enough. “You can give more. We can be better.” At least Joseph was kicking our butts with something we loved doing. At least he was spending time with us, unlike a lot of fathers in the neighborhood. We felt driven, not pushed, guided into where we wanted to go.
Joseph wanted the group to appear as natural performers, not trained ones. Michael worked hard to understand the emotion in music so that he could show feeling on stage without appearing fake. All the brothers studied James Brown and the Temptations. It was Joseph’s intent that the group learn to “play the microphone”, develop “showmanship”, and “[understand] … voice is the melody, and melody is everything”.
The Jackson 5’s first musical competition came shortly after Michael’s 7th birthday; and along with 14-year-old Jackie, 12-year-old Tito, 11 year-old Jermaine, and 8 year-old Marlon, the group was honored as the 1966 Roosevelt High School Contest Champions.
Lessons Learned in Acquiring Excellence
I’ve loved writing from an early age. I received recognition, but no one really encouraged me to improve upon my writing. No one spent extra time with me to ensure my writing was better than the best. I’m sure I’m not the only one with these thoughts. When we’re young, we need more than just recognition for our talents. We need more than just a classroom teacher who must focus on the entire class and not individuals who already show potential for greatness. And, when we’re young, how are we to know to ask for mentoring. We probably think once our talent has been recognized, we probably are experts.
I’m thankful for many of the teachers I’ve had from elementary school through college, but it wasn’t because of their teaching style: Rather, I was smart, and I was a quick learner. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing course in college that my writing skills were relatively poor. The same was true of my Spanish. I excelled in my high school classes, but my first long-term trip to a Spanish-speaking country, I struggled to have even a small conversation.
Certainly, talent and passion are not enough to acquire excellence. I have since traveled extensively to Spanish-speaking countries, and those I’ve met have patiently helped me to improve my conversational skills. As to my writing, once I rediscovered the passion, I sought out mentors. Continued studies in post-graduate school, of course, also improved my writing skills. Still, I can’t help but think of so many years wasted because there was no one who said, “that’s good. Now, let’s make you better”.
I suppose in the end the best wisdom I can leave is to young parents. When you see passion and talent in your children, make sure you nurture it. They don’t know that it can be improved upon, but you do! Don’t wait too long!
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