Michael Jackson Brit Awards 1996 Earth Song *Exclusive*

Michael Jackson performed “Earth Song” at the 1996 Brit Awards (February 19th). He also collected the “Artist of a Generation award”. The main talking point of this performance was Jarvis Cocker jumping on stage during Michael’s performance and being chased off the stage! I also have a little exclusive bit of information from this show for you! Michael Jackson performed this song 4 times outside his History Tour, changing the performance and staging each time. We looked at Michael Jackson’s Monaco world music awards performance previously.

Brit Awards controversy

The Brit Awards is known for controversy and this year was no exception. It seemed that Michael Jackson always caused a storm where ever he went and the Brit Awards 1996 would end up with people in police cells and stage intruders!

Artist of a Generation award

Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” had just spent 6 weeks at number 1 and Michael was on a promotional tour for his album. He performed the song at a few places and collected awards. On this occasion he collected the “Artist of a Generation award”. It is usually the case that if Michael was to perform, an award would have to be created for him. Michael was introduced by Chris Evans, who was very kind to Michael. He also forgot his sunglasses on the table after he spoke.

Bob Geldof introduction – controversy part 1!

“He is probably the most famous person on the planet, God help him. When Michael Jackson sings, it is with the voice of angels, and when his feet move, you can see God dancing.”

Bob Geldof would later go on to say that this was basically just put in front of him to read and whist reading it, made him feel uncomfortable. The whole show (In fact the whole Brits series) had serious religious overtones which would make a memorable night indeed!

Earth Song -The performance


Michael Jackson appeared on the stage on top of a uncapped pyramid type sculpture. For starters, this isn’t a very good idea because Michael had to walk down a massive slop, which obviously means that dancing is out of the equation. He had a small lip at the front to dance, but during this performance, actually danced very little. The stage was basically covered. That said, the lighting and the fans were great. You had the height of the stage, for the fan and smoke installation, which really worked well. The crane installation just for Michael, reportedly cost $250,000.


Unusually for Michael he was basically wearing ALL BLACK. He obviously had the tints of Red, but this means that you can’t really see his dancing. Even Michael himself spoke of the importance of white sick etc to make an impact on stage and so you can see the dance moves. It was too dark – He never wore this outfit again. In addition, underneath the black outfit he had a full white outfit, which did look a lot better BUT, the amount of time it took to take off the black one, was too long. He talked with a pair of trousers around his legs at the end and the dancers had to take them off whilst he stood out of them.

Too many children on stage!

This was more like Oliver Twist than a conventional Michael Jackson performance. It was also a one off and the live version of this song changed significantly over time. The children came on way way too early. This obviously takes the focus away from Michael. If you wan’t to see children crying then you’d go to a nursery or Oliver Twist the musical 🙂 They got the balance right during other performances, I think. Let the children and singers etc come on later and sing the “What about us” sections or the lead in … not the verses, and just hang around on stage doing an amateur dramatics society performance whilst Michael Jackson is trying to perform! 🙂 It’s distracting.

Religious overtones

The religious aspect of the show is what would cause the most controversy. Michael got the balance just right in Monaco at the world music awards and subsequent History World Tour. During the History Tour he was saving the audience and the children from the tank, which makes sense. During this performance it was just standing, Christ like, having children kiss you and all the rest of it … I don’t personally find this offensive – just a bit obvious and boring. This is one of my favourite songs of Michael’s but without doubt one of my least favourite performances. Some times you can have over kill, and this was it … Uncapped pyramid stage, angels and god introduction, white light with arms outstretched, children healed on stage after kissing Michael, preaching about children dying … If you’re going to do that, fine, just not so obviously, I say.

Jarvis cocker: stage intruder!

Jarvis Cocker is probably most known for jumping on the stage during this performance! He ran up on the stage, waved around, ran to the top of the pyramid stage and ran off. He was actually chased off the stage by security – although this wasn’t security dressed as dancers – this was TRAVIS PAYNE, Michael choreographer, who got them of the stage! (nearly certain). He said that he was protesting against the performance (probably after a few beers!). Jarvis was actually detained by the police after the show! They even took him to the cells for questioning after it was mentioned that somebody was injured or touched on the stage. Michael Jackson released a great statement after the event … very long. Coincidentally, the comedian Bob Mortimer, back stage at the time, helped represent him and get him released! You couldn’t make this up!

Michael’s speech

This was a very eventful performance indeed because Michael’s speech was wrong. Scientists released a statement the next day questioning his facts and number of children who die (300,000 every minute …) … a simple mistake.


I have a little exclusive for you! For me, the show really started when Michael jumped on the crane and it got exciting after that. It’s a pity that the director was filming Jarvis Cocker instead of Michael on the crane. Something happened between this point and the end of the song. You can’t see it on camera as the quality isn’t good enough but you could see it if you were in the front row or have close up press picture when Michael was talking at the end of the song.

Michael cut his hand and was bleeding during this performance!

When Michael jumped down from the crane, he jumped from height. The usual protocol is too wait for the crane to come down to stage level and step off. It is interesting to note that Michael ALWAYS did this from this point onwards. Anyway … after jumping from the crane it looks like he catches his hand on the bar … he then runs to the top and down the slope. During his speech he clearly has blood on his hand, which wasn’t there before the crane. In fact take a look, when he jumps from the crane and you can see him react. This is not apparent on the video.

So there you go … Earth Song at the Brit awards!

By Anthony King (c)

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