According to Brooke Shields , Michael Jackson’s favorite song wasn’t one of his own. It was “Smile,” a tune written by none other than Charlie Chaplin (with lyrics by the English duo of James Phillips and Geoffrey Parsons) for his 1936 film “Modern Times.”
Over the years, the song — with its message of positivity and overcoming adversity — has been covered by a who’s who of greats, including Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Judy Garland and Jackson himself, on his 1995 double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future: Book I. And now, you can add Michael’s brother Jermaine to that list.
On Tuesday (July 7), Jermaine Jackson brought the crowd at the
Michael Jackson memorial service to their feet with his touching take on the song, which followed an emotional speech by Shields, Jackson’s longtime friend.
“There is a line [in the song] that says, ’Smile when your heart is aching,’ ” Shields said in her speech. “And though our hearts are aching, we need to look up, where [Michael] is undoubtedly perched in a crescent moon, and we need to smile.”
With that, Jermaine Jackson strode to the stage, dressed in a dark suit and wearing a single, sequined glove, and began singing the song. His voice was tender and trembled a bit, but it grew stronger as the song progressed. Standing beneath an image of his brother, and backed by the house band, his was a classy, downright retro performance, recalling perhaps Cole’s take on the tune.
But then, as the band fell away, it was just Jackson and his voice, which slipped into a smooth upper register as he brought the song home and fought back tears.
“That’s the time you must keep on trying/ Smile, what’s the use in crying?” he sang, stopping for a few beats to stop the tears from falling down his cheeks. “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile/ If you just smile.”
And with that, the audience inside the Staples Center rose to their feet. Jackson thanked them and, in a solemn moment perhaps missed by most in attendance, he took a petal from his boutonniere and gently flicked it onto the lid of his brother’s gold-plated casket. He then walked off the stage, into the arms of his waiting family, while a single spotlight shone on the stage and an image of the Jackson 5 appeared on the screens.
Charlie Chaplin would have been proud. Michael would have too.
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”
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