Was Michael Jackson the World’s Biggest Environmentalist?

7 07 2009


Jackson’s “Earth Song,” His Biggest UK Chart-Topper, Wasn’t Released As a Single in America

Michael Jackson was famous for his socially-conscious music, but “Earth Song,” his big, bold environmental call-to-arms, is often overlooked. Still, by sheer dint of his reach, the song might have made Jackson (who bears no relation to U.S. EPA chief Lisa Jackson) a kind of super-sized Al Gore, a decade before An Inconvenient Truth.

“Earth Song” is indisputably the most popular green-themed tune ever. It remains Jackson’s best-selling song in the U.K. (yes, bigger than “Thriller” or “Billie Jean“), and beat out the Beatles‘ first single in 25 years for the top spot on the British charts. But the song, and its lavish globe-trotting video, barely registered in the U.S.

Record executives at Epic apparently didn’t think it had much life in the U.S. Perhaps the themes of ecological destruction weren’t suited to pop radio in the U.S. market, or the song’s musical approach — gospel, blues and opera — was considered too offbeat for American audiences.

Whatever the reason, the song was never released as a single in Jackson’s home country. And the dramatic music video — shot in four different places and depicting man-made ecological devastation and renewal — was only rarely played on American MTV.

Update: Jackson performed “Earth Song” at the 1996 World Music Awards in France, backed up by a choir of young children and cheered on by a crowd of crying fans.





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