SEATTLE — Michael Jackson was one of the most influential artists of the past century. He had a tremendous impact on music and dance, and used pop music to promote racial, sexual and generational harmony. Michael Jackson may have been best known for his music, but he also influenced many people through his charity and humanitarian work. Writing and performing inspirational songs such as “We Are the World” and “Man in the Mirror” is one of the many ways how Michael Jackson shed light on global poverty.
Jackson’s Songs Brought Global Attention to Poverty Issues
In January 1985, Michael Jackson, along with dozens of other famous artists, met at A&M Lion Share Studios. Their goal was to help alleviate hunger in Africa during a famine that claimed the lives of nearly one million people. In one night, Jackson and the other artists recorded the song “We Are the World”, which raised $60 million for the countries most affected by the famine. The lyrics emphasize the need for action as an individual as well as a community: “We can’t go on / Pretending day-by-day / That someone, somewhere soon make a change / We’re all a part of God’s great big family / And the truth, you know, love is all we need”. Writing songs about world issues is how Michael Jackson shed light on global poverty.
In 1988, Jackson’s hit single “Man in the Mirror” was released. The lyrics are about an individual beginning with their own efforts to help bring good into the world: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways / And no message could have been any clearer / If you want to make the world a better place / Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”.
Co-writer Siedah Garrett stated in a 2017 interview with Songwriter Universe that “the song was deeper than just the visual of a man looking at himself in the mirror. It was that, juxtaposed with the idea of a man going deeper inside himself to change from within. To make a difference on the outside, you have to first start from within. So I think that Michael just got it… he got the meaning of the song right away.” The proceeds from the sales of the record went to a camp for children battling cancer.
Charitable Works and Donations Illustrate How Michael Jackson Shed Light on Global Poverty
At the end of Jackson’s Bad tour in October 1987, he donated personal items such as a windbreaker, sunglasses, and t-shirts to a UNESCO charity auction. The proceeds of the auction went towards the education of children in developing countries.
Jackson was also known for helping hospitalized children around the world. In May 1988, he visited children battling cancer in the “Bambini-Gesu Children’s Hospital” in Rome. Afterwards, he donated £100,000 to the hospital. On Jackson’s 30th birthday, he performed a concert in England for the charity “Give For Life”. The money raised helped immunize 40,000 children. Over eight days in 1992, Jackson visited medical centers, churches, schools and charities in multiple countries in Africa. In September 1992, he financed a playground for orphans in Romania.
After his sudden death nearly 10 years ago, Jackson left behind a legacy of music, dancing, love and humanitarian work. These songs and charitable works are just the tip of the iceberg. He undertook many more works of charity privately, since the work he did was not for publicity or fame. Through music and acts of kindness, Michael Jackson shed light on global poverty.
– Ariane Komyati