This podcast is about the life and death of Michael Jackson, and is produced to help people learn English by practising their listening skills and developing their vocabulary. Luke’s English Podcast is a free audio programme for learners of English. Luke is a well qualified English teacher of 8 years experience. He lives and works in London.
Two weeks ago the death of Michael Jackson was announced. Since then, people all over the world have been mourning his loss. In this podcast, you can listen to short interviews with English people from London and their opinions on Michael Jackson’s music, dancing, children, plastic surgery, fans and his death.
Before that though, here’s some news!
The school that I work for (The London School of English) has recently started a blog. It’s called The London School of English World Blog. On this blog you can read about news and stories about the teachers, the school and London. It is written by some of the teachers at the school, including me (and Ben from the podcast about India). We also teach some vocabulary on this blog.
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The Life & Death of Michael Jackson
I thought it would be interesting for you to listen to the opinions of some ordinary Londoners, so I decided to interview some of my friends about Michael Jackson. Below, you can read their comments. Listen to the podcast to hear me explain some of the words and expressions they use.
1. Kevin (actually from Norwich, not London) on MJ’s music:
“I do find that I quite like Michael Jackson’s music. It’s quite catchy and errr melodic. The only thing for me is, the ‘kid thing’ kind of stained it a bit so every time I listen to it, I have to sort of put that bit out of my head… but… erm… I’ve got to admit, when I do hear a Michael Jackson tune I do feel like getting up and doing a bit of the moonwalk and everything. So, err, my favourite Michael Jackson song is Man In The Mirror. I proposed to my girlfriend with that one, so, it’s got a special place in my heart. Obviously, if we have kids, probably, won’t like it as much, but… it’s good stuff!”
2. Florence on MJ’s face:
“OK, so, Michael Jackson’s face. Well, it’s quite a weird face, it’s probably one of the most famous faces in the world. Erm, I think the weirdest thing is when you just look at pictures of him as a child and he’s completely unrecognizable. You wouldn’t even know that it’s the same person. But I do slightly get the feeling that it’s just gonna fall off any minute, because it just looks really… I don’t know! The skin just doesn’t look normal. It looks very frail, very pale. And, yeah, the fact that he denied having any plastic surgery or anything to change the colour, I just find very odd. I mean… maybe there’s some truth in it, but he’s obviously had a lot of work done on it. So, yeah, I find the whole thing… it’s quite depressing really, just knowing he must hate his face so much, or the face that he used to have so much that he’s changed it to the point where he just doesn’t, I mean he just doesn’t look like a normal human being, he looks like some sort of weird, y’know, parts of a face put together.” Luke: “It’s just a little bit weird.” Florence: “Very weird” Luke: “Slightly strange”
3. Raphael (actually from Liverpool, not from London) on MJ’s fans:
“Yeah, so, Michael Jackson’s fans. I dunno, I mean, I feel a bit sorry for his fans, I think, actually, because I think he’s one of these people with truly obsessive fans, you know? And actually, it’s actually quite tragic because some people have actually been killing themselves because they want to be with Michael, which I think is just, ummm, y’know, completely mental to be honest with you. Umm, I wouldn’t really say that I am a fan. I like him, or liked him, but I wouldn’t say I’m like a… I mean I didn’t have posters or anything like that. I had, like, one or two albums when I was a kid, but, yeah he’s got a lot of them and I think it was estimated that he was going to bring about a billion pounds to London or something through these 50 concerts, so I guess that just shows you how many people were out there and how many people are going to be, like, pretty err, pretty devastated now that he’s no longer with us.”
4. Shirley on MJ’s death and funeral:
“Well, when I first heard that he’d died, when I woke up in the morning and heard the it on the news it was a shock but I think I was over it in about 5 minutes. I think it’s all a bit hyped up. It’s very sad that he’s dead, it’s very sad when anybody dies, but I don’t really get it. I don’t really understand why people are, you know, gone into full mourning over the whole thing. I watched the funeral actually, because I was in a situation where I didn’t get to switch over… and well, it was like watching a concert really, and there was lots of people jumping on the band-wagon and everyone loves Michael and everyone was his best mate and err, yeah, Uri Geller, everyone was his best mate and then the thing that I didn’t like at the end is, his daughter was on the stage and she was really upset and one thing that he had done was try and keep them out of the spotlight their whole lives and the first thing that happened when he died is that they’re in the middle of it. I didn’t really like that very much but, anyway I suppose it’s a… well it’s sad but like I said I don’t think I’m going to lose any sleep over it.”
5. Claudia on MJ’s children:
“I suppose the first thing I think about when I’m trying to remember Michael Jackson’s kids, are, is, Bubbles his monkey because that’s the first thing I really associated with him when I was a kid, and then I guess I didn’t really think about his children much until he dangled Banket over the balcony and everyone thought he was nuts, erm, and I know he’s got three, I think three children. Paris, Prince Michael the 1st or 2nd and the 3rd or something, err, the little one’s called Blanket, I know that, erm… and… I know there’s a lot of scandal over whether or not they’re his. He always covered up their faces so no-one really knew. Some people thought it was to protect them. Some people thought it’s because he’s a freak. So, no-one really saw them but then when I did see them, they didn’t look anything like him. Actually, the oldest, the boy, the older boy weirdly looked a bit like he does or he did recently after his plastic surgery and whitening of his skin, so I don’t know quite how it works. But, erm, I think one of them has a different mother or something. I know there’s a lot of discussion about what’s going to happen to them now he’s dead. I read somewhere that he wants Diana Ross to have them, but she’s not that up for it. Erm, maybe his parents might have them. Errrr, and, yeah I suppose the latest thing is that they’ve been revealed on TV and Paris has moved the world with her emotional tribute to her daddy, so, erm, yeah that’s about all I know.”
6. Michelle (actually from Norfolk, not from London – but she lives in London now) on MJ’s dancing:
“Well Michael Jackson was a completely amazing dancer ok? I can remember trying to moonwalk in the kitchen and it all ended in tears. I think I ended up smashing my face on the tumble dryer. Our Mum actually banned us from moonwalking in the kitchen, so, err…”
Michelle: “Yeah, this truly did happen. Yes, we did, we did yeah. Because trainers didn’t work, you need slippery shoes and err, it all got a bit dangerous but he was amazing. Thriller was a great video wasn’t it?”
Luke (rudely interrupting): “It was dangerous because you didn’t have slippery shoes? So would it have been safer with slippery shoes?”
Michelle: “If we’d had slippery shoes it would have been so much safer…”
Luke (not making any sense): “I think what this is, is, errr, a joke, right?”
Claudia: “Justin Timberlake… everyone says he’s an amazing dancer”
Michelle: “Justing Timberlake doesn’t compare”
Luke: “Justin Timberlake… this has just broken down into nonsense… OK, so final point?”
Michelle: “Michael Jackson rules”
Luke: “And on that bombshell, I’m going to press ‘stop’”
7. Dong-Jin (from Korea) on MJ & Korea:
“He was the person who was interested in Korea, because, you know, in Korea there are some problems between North and South and he was trying to help us, you know? And also, yeah yeah yeah, that’s why most Korean people love him. Because, they, he had a concert and also, I don’t know exactly. We knows that, we know that… I don’t know how can I explain… My favourite song is, We Are The World… sorry sorry. Honestly, for me ‘Dangerous’ because his performance is really nice. Michael Jackson, we love Michael Jackson, especially for his personality, because, you know, even though he’s got a lot of rumours, we don’t believe. Honestly, I don’t want to believe, you know. I want to just focus on his achievements, something like that. And, err, even… errr. I really like him. That’s all…”
8. Andy P(from Birmingham):
Luke: I’m going to ask some of my friends about the whole Michael Jackson thing now. Err, Andy.
Andy P: Hello
Luke: Err, where were you when you heard that Michael Jackson had died?
Andy P: I was at home.
Luke: Right… and how did you find out?
Andy P: Err, on a website, on the Guardian website.
Luke: What time did you discover the bad news?
Andy P: In the morning. 9 o’clock-ish
Luke: Right… So what did you do when you realised the truth of the situation?
Andy P: Well, I realised the truth quite quickly that he had died, so that was not much of an issue. Umm, and then I just looked at some other news.
Luke: What, did you cry at all?
Andy P: No.
Luke: RIght, ok, thanks Andy!
9. Neil (from Birmingham):
Luke: Neil! Neil, so just err, what thoughts ran through your head in the hours after you realised Michael Jackson had passed away?
Neil: I’m going on holiday.
Luke: Ok, but didn’t you, sort of, feel any emotions at the time?
Neil: Err, I was in quite a big hurry. Errr…
Luke: ‘Hurry’ isn’t technically an emotion, Neil, so… talk about your feelings. Ok? Don’t worry, don’t be shy. What happened, on that fateful morning?
Neil: I went on holiday.
Luke: Ok. You can see I’m getting a lot of information here.
Dave (from Birmingham):
Luke: Dave, Dave! Dave’ll tell me lots of things. Tell me about Michael Jackson.
Dave: Well, he was a large part of my life for many years. Certainly towards the latter part of the 20th century, his music, in my opinion, became less and less of the kind of thing I’d like to listen to…
Luke: So you like his early stuff rather than his late stuff
Dave: I think that’s not that outrageous. Most people, felt similarly about him. The day he died, I was awake in bed, it was around 4.30AM when I found out and the BBC news started to do blanket coverage… that means they were doing it all the time…
Luke: So they weren’t reporting any other news, it was just Michael Jackson
Dave: Absolutely, yes.
Luke: Blanket coverage. Like a blanket over your bed. So bizarrely, you were in bed…
Dave: …with the blanket over me…
Luke: …when the BBC started doing blanket coverage…
Dave: …of Michael Jackson’s death. I texted a friend of mine who takes particular interest in this, but he’d already found out off three other people that Michael Jackson… that The Jackson 5 were now the Jackson 4…
Dave: I certainly wasn’t upset! I think, you know, “MAN DIES” isn’t necessarily news…
Luke: Right, well, if it’s Michael Jackson it’s news, isn’t it?
Dave: That’s arguable. That’s contentious.
Luke: I’ll explain what contentious means later…
Dave: But, erm, yeah it’s upsetting for family members, but from a personal perspective it’s not something I necessarily consider to be newsworthy.
Luke: Right. Can you sum up the whole thing in a word, perhaps?
Luke: How about a sound?
Dave: Heeeeeehehhhh heh eh heheh eheh
Luke: Right, thank you. Thank you very much. I don’t think I’ll use that. But that was very… David’s comments were a lot more interesting than everyone elses. Liz, do you have anything to say on the subject? … No? Ok, she want’s to go back to sleep I think. Erm, right, everyone wants to go home. That’s it. That was, erm, slightly underwhelming…
Jim (Dave’s brother, from Birmingham):
Luke: How did you feel when Michael Jackson died Jim?
Luke: No change of emotions at all.
Jim: Nah. It happens to everyone eventually.
Luke: It does, yeah. Very philosophical. Erm, generally what did you think of Michael Jackson?
Jim: Errr, he had a hard life.
Luke; yeah? What about all that money? That was quite nice for him…
Jim: Yeah, but he was pushed into, err, celebrity-ism.
Luke: Ok, I’ll explain what celebrity-ism means later… It’s good. It’s a good word, but I expect that all the listeners won’t understand what that means, but that’s fine. What did you think of his music?
Jim: Yeah it was wicked. [wicked is a slang word which means 'really good']
Luke: Ok, erm, what about his face?
Jim: That was a shame… err… could have had a bit of work… err… do to…
Luke: Yeah, ok, he had a bit too much work done, didn’t he? Well thanks for… Any other comments about him?
Luke: OK! Thanks! Liz! Liz!
Liz (Dave & Jim’s younger sister, also from Birmingham):
Luke: Go on… what did you think of Michael Jackson?
Liz: Erm, I found him quite a bizarre character. I did like his 90s music and I always will. Dirty Diana, and Man In The Mirror being my two particular favourites.
Luke: What about the, sort of, news reports about him? You know, the negative reports… Where do you stand on that?
Liz: I think that child molestation is a very serious accusation
Luke: Yes it is. It is very serious. I don’t know why we’re all laughing,
Liz: Erm, the very fact that that does have so much evidence around it does make me question in some depth Michael Jackson and his character.
Luke: Right, so you think he might have actually done it?
LizL Potentially, there is always that case if you take something to trial, is it not?
Luke: Yeah, there’s the possibility that it’ll be proven that he did do it, yeah. Ok, thanks for your comments.
Liz: No problem.
Luke: Jolly good.
Michael Jackson’s Amazing Dancing:
Very interesting Michael Jackson interview with Martin Bashir (Part 1):