My guest tonight is the hostof PBS's Tavis Smiley
and a best-selling author.
His new book is called Before You Judge Me:
The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson's last days.
Please welcome Tavis Smiley.
-♪ -(cheering, applause)
Welcome to the show.
Thank you, sir.Good to be back.
Good to be here with you
talking about, uh,one of the greatest.
Yes. Perhaps the greatestentertainer of all time.
That is always a pointthat's up for discussion.
I mean, uh,people going back and forth
between Prince and,uh, Michael Jackson.
-Yeah. -Both topics thatyou're very int...
You're one of the few peoplewho was name-dropped by Prince.
Everyone would name-dropPrince's name,
-Yeah. -but Prince was like,"I know Tavis,"
-and people were like, "Who?"-(laughter)
Take it any way I can get it.
-Yeah, and you got itfrom great places. -Yeah, yeah.
-In your opinion,-Yeah.
can you compare the two,and should we compare the two?
Um, they're both artisticgeniuses, no doubt about that.
Um, I think the distinction isthat Michael was
much more of a collaborator;um, Prince was autonomous.
I mean,you remember the early days.
Prince would do an albumwhere the lead vocals,
background vocals,all instruments played by...
(chuckles):uh, engineered by...
uh, cover design of the LPby Prince,
photo of Princetaken by Prince--
I mean, back in the dayhe did everything.
But clearly, both of themartistic geniuses,
and it's tragicthat both are gone.
I think more tragicthat both are gone
from a drug dependencyborn initially of pain.
-Yes. -Sometimes, Trevor,we get so caught up
in looking at the iconographythat we lose sight
of the humanity of these people.
And I hope that what this bookdoes is to give us a way
to look at Michael's humanity
rather than just debatinghis iconography
and all that went into that.
That is really tough for manypeople to, uh, to navigate,
you know, because people go,
"How do I lookat Michael's humanity
when he hassuch a marred history?"
-Mm-hmm. -You know, I mean,just in the last two days,
stories have come out wherethey talk about some of the...
the materials they foundin Michael Jackson's home,
whether it be animalsor brutality and, you know,
uh, pictures of children and..
You know, how do... howdo fans then work with that?
How do fans... you know,still see Michael as a genius
and then at the same time,
-Yeah. -look at whathe lived in his life?
Three quick answers.One-- I say all the time
that "some of us"is not the "sum of us."
The S-O-M-E of usis not the S-U-M of us.
You don't want to be judgedby the S-O-M-E of your life.
I don't want to be judgedby the S-O-M-E of my life.
I want to be judgedby the sum total.
And when we judge peopleby the "some"
and we lose out on seeingthe sum total of who they are,
then I think we loseas a result of that, number one.
'Cause none of us perfect.We're not human and divine.
We're just human.That's number one.
Number two-- um,when I think about Michael,
and, for that matter,think about Prince,
now that they're goneand these discoveries are made,
-these stories come out,-Yeah.
Michael is not hereto say anything for himself.
Prince is not here to explainanything for himself.
-While everyone speculates.-That's precisely my point.
But if Prince were here,for example,
if Michael were here--and that's what we try to do
in this book isto put you in Michael's shoes.
It's the last 16 weeksof his life.
He makes this comment,"I'm coming back one more time,
this is it." Eight... I mean,16 weeks later, he's dead.
As a fan, I want to knowwhat happened from the moment
where you said youwere coming back one last time.
-Yes. -And Tavis,I bought my plane ticket
my concert tickets,my hotel reservations--
I'm going to the O2 in Londonto see this.
I love how the fanis making it about them.
-"Look at me! Buy ticket!"-Yeah, exactly, exactly.
"Aw, you went and diedin the middle of my trip? Aw!"
16 weeks later, you're gone, butI want to get inside his world
and inside of his head to see
what that 16-week journeywas like
when you were doingeverything you could
with every fiber of your beingto deal with the tension
of your drug dependencyand this dedication
-Yes. -to stage the biggestcomeback in the world.
And so Michael isn't hereto explain that,
so this book tries to put youin that space,
and it just troubles me thatwe speculate about Michael
or Prince or anybody else andthey can't speak for themselves.
Now, you speak... I mean,very clearly, it is 16 weeks.
-Mm-hmm.-It is a very tragic end
to a very promising, uh, youknow, resurgence of a career.
With regards to Michael...
and Prince, do you thinkthere is a conversation
that needs to be hadaround the painkiller epidemic?
-Oh, yeah. -It seemslike it is more widespread
than peoplewould like to admit it.
Yeah. It is more widespread,and the tragedy is--
and I say thiswith all the love in my heart--
that when it happens to icons,we take it seriously.
-Yeah.-Can I be little bit more bold?
When it happens to rich,white folk in the suburbs,
we take it more seriously.
But when drugs...
snuff the life of everydayfellow citizens of color...
citizens who don't have means,
we don't take the issueseriously.
Everybody now wants to talkabout opioid use.
There are books,there are documentaries.
I've talked about it on my show.
So it's a serious issue now,because it's hitting
a particular segmentof our society.
But if we believein the humanity
and the dignityof al fellow citizens,
we should've been on thisdrug issue a long time ago,
and "just say no"is not an answer.
-Slogans are not policy.-(whooping, applause)
-Powerful words.-Thank you.
It's a fantastic book.It takes us through the life.
Before You Judge Me is available now.
The final 16 weeks.If you're a fan,
you really want to read this.Tavis Smiley, everybody.
-Thank you.-(cheering, applause)