ILOSM fam’ we all love us a good Freddie Jackson classic, right? And we also dig the late George Michael’s classic hits too, right? So why was it that while music lovers everywhere were feelin’ these legends’ music, they weren’t seeing eye to eye with each other about it? At least according to Freddie’s side of the story they weren’t.
Freddie did an interview with LATimes back in the day (long before Michael’s passing), for their article titled, ‘Freddie Jackson Won’t Sell His Soul For A Pop Hit.’ That’s when the “Rock With Me Tonight” crooner made it no secret that he had a major issue with the “Careless Whisper” singer.
Simply put, Freddie called out the Caucasian singer with the English accent, for pretty much doing the cultural appropriation thing. He voiced his dislike for George’s incorporation of the Black R&B sound into his pop artistry. Jackson pointed out the all too often reality, that a White singer, like George Michael, could actually dominate the music scene, simply by doing what many Black artists were already doing- yet selling far less records than their White counterparts. Check out the brutally honest excerpts from Freddie’s interview below:
“That . . . that George Michael,” soul singer Freddie Jackson groused. “Who does he think he is? We’ve gotta stop him.” Realizing his statement might have sounded too harsh, he diplomatically backtracked: “Just kidding, George, wherever you are–just kidding. He’s doing better on the Black charts than the black singers. […] What gives? The brothers must not be doing something right if he can come in and take over.”
“Listen, the Black man is still the soul singer,” he asserted. “People like George Michael and Michael Bolton (who recently made the charts with a version of ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’) are good singers. I’m not taking anything from them. White singers can have soul too, but it’s not the same as Black soul. Black singers are born with soul, we live it.”
As his intensity grew, his monologue began to sound like a sermon. “I grew up in Harlem, eating collard greens and fried chicken,” continued Jackson, who’s noted for his candor. “That’s not learned soul, it’s not acquired in some singing school or from copying what you hear on records. I live soul. That’s what you hear in my music or in the music of any black singer. “That George Michael hasn’t been through any of that. Who does he think he is?”
Freddie Jackson said that in the late 80s. When we fast forward to today, many talented White artists, who possess Black culture-inspired sounds, are still dominating the music game- i.e. Adele, Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake, etc.. Therefore, many would argue that Freddie’s words are still just as relevant in 2021.
Although some may argue that the color of one’s skin should not make a difference when in music. Unfortunately, one thing that can’t be overlooked, is that when record sales, digital spins, and bank statements are compared between most Black R&B singers, versus their counterparts, there’s no denying that fans clearly see color.
Freddie does not lack talent by far. However, he simply will never see the 20 million records sold/digital spins on just one album alone, as his then rival, George Michael, was able to rack up- not just for his talent, but for his “marketability” (a cool word the music industry oftentimes uses to say ‘skin tone’).
Jackson’s words may have been harsh, but they’re still a real assessment of what has been proven within the music business. Hopefully one day we’ll see a more fair and balanced music industry, only time will tell.