“Destiny” by The Jacksons (1978)

I’m listening to “Destiny” as I type this. A 20 year old Michael Jackson is singing “If it’s the rich life, I don’t want it/Happiness ain’t always material things”, and I’m juxtaposing it in my head with images of that TV special with that scumbag Martin Bashir. The whole special was a shit show, but I clearly remember Michael in some antique shop, buying random things willy-nilly and being, like, “dude…” Where did it all go wrong?

“Destiny”, the song, is an innocent plea for a simpler way of being. Michael wrote it, and I’m assuming the lyrics reflected how he really felt about life at the time. He appeared to be lonely, confused, searching for a greater meaning. All of the slower songs on Destiny (and even some of the faster ones) revisit these themes, which, as time has gone on, makes me wonder if those closest to him tried to sit him down and help him.  I know I’m not the only person who notices this. After Michael passed, Rob Sheffield wrote a piece in Rolling Stone about the Destiny/Off The Wall/Triumph era and pointed out the S.O.S. Michael was sending out in his lyrics, too.

Structurally, “Destiny” is pretty interesting as well. It starts off sounding like a James Taylor song and ends sounding like some weird combo of prog rock and funk that hadn’t really been invented yet. However, what will stick with you the most is Michael singing his lonely, confused, searching ass off.

The video below is taken from the TV show Midnight Special. It’s cool to watch for two reasons: one, Jermaine is with the brothers. For a long time, I thought that Jermaine didn’t perform or appear with the brothers at all between the time he left the group in 1975 and their dramatic “reunion” at Motown 25 in 1983. Here’s proof that he did. I mean, it’s a lip-synched performance so Jermaine doesn’t actually do anything other than mouth the words, but he’s there. The second thing is the weird play-fighting during the song-ending jam. It’s a jarring visual end to a performance of a very somber song.

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