Last night, I was watching West Side Story with my mom. In the beginning of the movie, certain dance moves really put me in the mind of Michael Jackson, more specifically the Bad music video. So, knowing me, I double checked around the internet and I learned that MJ's "Bad" music video was in fact inspired by the "Cool" sequence in the movie and that the music video has many West Side Story nods.
Here's an example: Check out the Sharks' moves at 3:35 in the West Side Story Prologue and compare them to MJ and his gang's moves at 2:59 in the Bad music video. LOVE IT.
Seeing the two videos together ultimately led me down the YouTube wormhole (insert awkward laugh emoji) and I found another video that had split screen clips of Michael Jackson dancing compared to some of his influences, like James Brown and Fred Astaire. While watching the video, I realized that I have never thought of Michael Jackson as being influenced by anyone. I've only thought of him as a consummate artist. Michael Jackson has always been amazingly talented, skilled and disciplined... but he got his skills from somewhere.
This realization made me think of a quote from one of my favorite books, "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon. The quote is as follows: "You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences."
As an artist, I'm continuously learning that it's up to me find good art, listen to good music, and read books that are interesting to me. Good things in, good things out. The combination of all the things that I take in somehow makes my art my art. And you know what? I find that to be pretty freeing.