"Earth Song" is the third single from Michael Jackson's album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It is a ballad that incorporates elements of blues, gospel and opera. Jackson had a long-standing history of releasing socially conscious material such as "We Are the World", "Man in the Mirror" and "Heal the World". However, "Earth Song" was the first that overtly dealt with the environment and animal welfare. "Earth Song" was made for the "Dangerous" album but it failed to make the album. The song was written and composed by Jackson; the task of production was split between Jackson, David Foster and Bill Bottrell.
Jackson's intent was to create a song that was lyrically deep yet melodically simple, so the whole world, particularly non-English-speaking fans, could sing along. He conceptualized a song that had an emotional message."Earth Song" is a ballad that incorporates elements of blues, gospel and opera. In the socially conscious track, Jackson issues a plea to God about problems ranging from war to endangered animals.
"Earth Song" remains Jackson's best-selling single in the United Kingdom, where it sold 1.16 million copies as of November 2012. It debuted at number one, where it remained for six weeks throughout December 1995, beating the U2/Brian Eno project Passengers in competition to win the Christmas number one spot, and into the new year. During its stay at number one, "Earth Song" kept the first single released by The Beatles in 25 years, "Free as a Bird", off the number one position.
The song also took the number one position in Spain and Switzerland, peaking within the top five in almost every European state. In Germany, it was Jackson's first single to reach No. 1 of the German Singles Chart and by staying on the pole position for 5 consecutive weeks, it's also his most successful single there. Thanks to this, the song is the 10th most successful pop hymn ever in that country.
The song was only released to radio in the U.S., appearing on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. In 2006, "Earth Song" reached number 55 on the European Hot 100 Singles chart, following the Visionary: The Video Singles campaign, whereby 20 of Jackson's hit singles from the 1980s–1990s were reissued in several European countries.
"Earth Song" was accompanied by a lavish music video directed by fine art photographer Nick Brandt, and was shot in four geographical regions. It centered on the destruction and rebirth of Earth and went on to receive a Grammy nomination in 1997. The song was a top five hit in most European countries. In the United Kingdom, it remains Jackson's best-selling single, and was the country's number-one Christmas single in 1995. "Earth Song" was not released as a single in the United States. Jackson went on to receive recognition from various animal and environmental organizations.
In 1996, Jackson performed "Earth Song" at the BRIT Awards in the United Kingdom; he was there to collect a special "Artist of a Generation" award. Jackson sang while dangling off the edge of a high rise crane lift, which he had used the year before while performing it on the German TV show Wetten Dass. Below, a chorus of backing performers joined in and many of them began to physically embrace Jackson upon his descent. In response to the performance, Jarvis Cocker ran onto the stage without permission, lifted his shirt and pretended to break wind, before giving Jackson the insulting V-sign. The Pulp frontman had been there with his band, who had been nominated for three Brit awards. Cocker was subsequently questioned by police over claims he had assaulted some of the child performers, but he was later released without charge. The singer explained that he found the performance offensive, claiming that Jackson had portrayed himself as Christ-like and could do as he pleased because of his immense wealth and power. Jackson condemned Cocker's behavior as "disgusting and cowardly".
I've always liked this video but I do have to side with Jarvis Cocker about what happened at the BRITs!I was watching the performance on TV with my freinds and we all started looking at each other and saying how uncomfortable we were getting, and how strange and odd the performance was. I said that although I liked the song I really felt he was making himself out to be a Messiah which for me put a totally different spin on the song - at which point Jarvis jumped on stage and protested over exactly the same thing!!