Don’t you carry nothin’
That might be a load.
How wonderful is it that after the Scarecrow is taken down from the pole by Dorothy in The Wiz he can not only walk but he can dance like, well, Michael Jackson? Though his performance of the cynic’s anthem “You Can’t Win” was stellar, it’s his ability to swing in the polar opposite direction on the following first iteration of “Ease On Down the Road.” Michael joins with Diana Ross on the joyous song about leaving all your baggage and moving on to something better.
Though this song is a recurring theme throughout the rest of the musical, later including Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man and Ted Ross as the Lion, Michael is hardly contained by the song. In fact, his vocal power is almost distracting on the song. The points where he and Diana are singing in unison prove that the, at the time, young man had really honed his range and was really falling into a stylistic groove. Michael was still working things out, though, and The Wiz served as a great laboratory.
Listening to “Ease On Down the Road” and the confidence in his voice, it’s clear how just how differently Michael sang and acted the Scarecrow character. There was a lot vaudeville, a lot of Chaplain, on the screen. He was clumsy, goofy, shy, malleable and earnest. Until he started singing and dancing. As he and Dorothy dance up the yellow brick road he stumbles, he buckles his legs and then he does a series of tight, perfect pirouettes. At the same time he’s stifling this enormous voice so as to not completely out-shine Dorothy/Diana.
“Ease On Down the Road” is Michael on the precipice of his astronomical solo fame. Off The Wall was released a year after the film premiered. He hadn’t made a formula of his movement, but he was working toward its perfection. He hadn’t completely refined his adult voice so he was looser and more open. It really is fun to listen to him working all of this out.
Michael Jackson and Diana Ross: “Ease On Down the Road”