His voice did not change much from "ABC-123", to Thriller. He got bigger, his voice got bigger, but it never really broke. His songs were timeless and there was much more to him than just a singing voice. His creative genius, hard work and love for his art make him an unparalleled talent. His music will be listened to and enjoyed for the next 500 years. We were all privileged to have lived in the same era as he.
There is only one kind of singer I have ever heard of, or heard an old scratchy recording of, with a voice remotely like his. A male singer castrated before puberty to preserve his voice, a castrato. This is not to say, insinuate or imply that I think ol Joe Jackson orchestrated an unfortunate accident to preserve Michael's voice. Endocrinological conditions can create castrati as well. There are some compelling reasons that this explanation for so much about him should not be dismissed. While I am no medical doctor, I know by virtue of my own experience and seeing the lives of others with my condition the power of the endocrine system.
(If you want to skip the little history lesson. Or you think I am nuts and Michael was just using falsetto..all the time... then skip down to the section "If you thought that this is just about Michael Jackson's voice and
his voice is just falsetto and he's putting up a front, read here first.")
I can already hear some people saying that's ridiculous how could I even think such a horrible thing. Hear me out and don't let the knee jerk way of thinking that any implication of abnormality in that region of the body is a bad thing. Read on and you will see that this is a supreme compliment to him. That said I notice many similarities between the publicly known details of Michael's life, which are strongly suggestive of this. Not the least of which was his sublime singing voice.
Who/What were the Castrati? Carlo Maria Broschi...Farinelli....
Castrati were men with singing voices in the mezzo-soprano, or Soprano range. This would result from the castration of , or an endocrinological condition in a talented young male singer. Thus natural puberty and changing of the voice would be prevented. Due to this the young male singer's voice would retain it's prepubescent pitch tone, and quality taking on qualities unlike a male or female voice. Specifically the pitch range beyond the capabilities of a male, and power and projection, in an era without microphones, beyond the capability of a woman. 1
To bring this to life let me compare Michale Jackson to a singer from the past Carlo Maria Broschi a.k.a Farinelli. 2 Carlo Broschi was born to a family of musicians in about 1705 in Italy. When he was young his family was well to do, unlike most Castrati. He was related to minor Italian nobility on both sides of the family, his father the mayor of a small town. Then in 1717 his father died, Carlo was 12 and it must have been obvious that he was a talented singer because the decision was taken by an older brother of his to have him castrated to preserve his angelic singing voice. The operation was not legal for this purpose so a fall from a horse was staged which would with the medicine of the day make castration necessary. 2
He went on to a level of singing fame which for it's day bears a real comparison to Michael Jackson's level of stardom. He was known thought Italy by 1722 as "the boy".2 Famous for his voice. So high and so soft was his voice that he would sometimes take on the female roles in some opera's appearing en-travesti, dressed as a female. This was a common thing for many of the castrati though it should be emphasized all indications are that their gender identities were male. As a music critic of his day Johann Joachim Quantz :
"Farinelli had a penetrating, full, rich, bright and well-modulatedThis kind of performance, his less than ideally masculine appearance, and the flamboyance of his behavior, as can be seen even in the painting above, and likely jealousy resulted in criticism. Best illustrated by this caricature of Carlo. It is noteworthy that these men were not allowed to marry because as castrati they were unable to reproduce naturally, and in their more pious time the point of sex or marriage was children, at least officially. Often the lives of these people consisted of music music music, and in so many ways they were shut out and distant from most people due to their differences and the phobia's of the masses.
soprano voice, with a range at that time from the A below middle C to
the D two octaves above middle C. ... His intonation was pure, his
trill beautiful, his breath control extraordinary and his throat very
agile, so that he performed the widest intervals quickly and with the
greatest ease and certainty. Passagework and all kinds of melismas were of no difficulty to him. In the invention of free ornamentation in adagio he was very fertile.
Farinelli would go on to a long career in the service of various Opera
companies from France to England to Germany to Spain, and the courts of kings and queens. In Spain he was named to the order of Calatrava. He was well appreciated for his works, and would die a wealthy man. Though all of that came at a heavy price. The childhood of these people was not like that of a normal child.
The training of these men as boys was rigorous for this I quote a paraphrase of 3 as found in Wikipedia.
The regime of one singing school in Rome (c. 1700) consisted of one hour of singing difficult and awkward pieces, one hour practicing trills, one hour practicing ornamented passaggi, one hour of singing exercises in their teacher's presence and in front of a mirror so as to avoid unnecessary movement of the body or facial grimaces, and one hour of literary study; all this, moreover, before lunch. After, half-an-hour would be devoted to musical theory, another to writing counterpoint, an hour copying down the same from dictation, and another hour of literary study. During the remainder of the day, the young castrati had to find time to practice their harpsichord playing, and to compose vocal music, either sacred or secular depending on their inclination.3What does any of this have to do with Michael?
It is from the musical training meted out by Joe Jackson to all his children that we see the first similarity between the life of Jackson and the lives of the castrati. Like most of the castrati Michale Jackson was not born into a wealthy family at all. His father was a worker in a steel mill in Gary Indiana. He would also play in an R&B band. The Jackson children all describe the harsh discipline, sometimes described, by them as abuse at the hands of Joe Jackson. They sang in their modest home as a family band consisting of Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, and Marlon. Michael joined when it was noticed that he had a distinct singing voice, and could dance like James Brown. Michael once said of the rehearsal sessions that his father would sit in a chair watching and listening and holding a belt
"if you didn't do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you". 4Michael and many of the other Jackson children credit Joe and his insistence on incessant rehearsals with their adulthood success. 6
This is all strikingly similar to the kind of training the castrati were subjected to.
Michael's singing voice earned him high praise, he was called a prodigy. By age 14 he had five hit singles to his credit (ABC-123, I'll be there, I want you back, and the love you save as the Jackson 5's lead singer, and Ben solo). He was a virtuoso and more successful than most artist before he even hit puberty.
Like the castrati Michael had a characteristically flashy and flamboyant life style. Like them he suffered criticism for his not typically masculine ways. I will assume that the personal details of his very artistic life are familiar so I will not repeat them here. However it is known that he would dress in a characteristic style all his own. Often imitated never duplicated. He had a innocent and some might say feminine way.