November 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm EST | by Kevin Naff
An unbreakable bond with Janet
Janet Jackson, gay news, Washington Blade

Janet Jackson has a No. 1 album, sold out world tour and first-time nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

If Janet Jackson is voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next month, it will be — at least in some small part — due to the efforts of mega fan Mike Litherland.

Jackson, who ranks #7 on Billboard’s new list of biggest acts of all time, has been passed over for the Rock Hall honor since she was first eligible in 2007. But after a decade in the musical wilderness following her infamous Super Bowl performance, Jackson is back in a big way with a No. 1 album “Unbreakable” (her seventh, making her only the third artist after Springsteen and Streisand to score No. 1 albums in each of the past four decades), a sold-out world tour and her first Rock Hall nomination.

Litherland has worked since 2012 to get Jackson into the Hall. He started a Facebook page that year titled, “Induct Janet Jackson into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” which has more than 80,000 followers.

“People are really behind Janet again,” Litherland told the Blade. “It was the cool thing to do to bash Janet Jackson after the Super Bowl and her fans took a beating. But it’s all changed and everybody wants to see her succeed again. This induction would be the icing on the cake.”

There’s been a lot of speculation about the perceived Jackson snub, with many assuming the Super Bowl fallout ruined her chances for Rock Hall induction. But Litherland says her long absence from the music scene is likely to blame and the critical and commercial success of “Unbreakable” reminded Rock Hall voters that she’s still a force in the industry.

“She hadn’t had a new album in quite a while,” Litherland said, adding that her close association with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis led some to question her contributions. “She doesn’t get the credit she’s due but Janet is no puppet. If you look at Janet and Madonna’s careers, they are very similar; if Madonna’s in, Janet should be too.”

Litherland, 44, lives with his partner of nearly 20 years in Atlanta and works as a digital marketing manager for AT&T. He’s attended each of Jackson’s world tours, usually multiple times, and says her 1989 “Rhythm Nation” album changed his life. He was a senior in high school.

“My friends were into the punk/alt music but, for me, Janet was an escape,” he recalls. “She was just empowering and powerful and the message was so strong that you couldn’t ignore it. … It was so different and it blew me away and I was obsessed. Once I saw her live, I was mesmerized.”

Jackson even pulled Litherland from the audience to dance on stage with her during her 1994 “janet.” tour stop in Chicago. “I like to think she recognizes me; my partner and I follow her around on tour and she makes eye contact and waves but who knows?”

Litherland says Jackson’s diva persona and club hits made her popular with gay fans but that the messages in her lyrics are what really appeal to him. He cites her No. 1 single “Together Again” as among his favorites; the song raised money for AIDS research and was dedicated to friends she lost to the disease.

“It wasn’t a downer song, it’s very uplifting, a love song to those no longer with us,” he said. “It still resonates today.”

Those uplifting messages draw fans from all walks of life.

“What I love about her audience — it’s everyone from young kids to grandparents, white, black, straight, gay — it says a lot about her name and brand, she attracts everybody,” Litherland says.

Apart from his stint on stage with her years ago, Litherland has never met Jackson. And what would he say to her if he could?

“I would just thank her for providing a soundtrack to my life,” he says. “She’s been there through every major point of my life, from childhood to adolescence to college to adulthood. I can relate to just about every album. I would definitely thank her for that and for loving her fans. And I’d try not to gush too much.”

He’s already seen the new tour a few times, including opening night in August and raves about the “Unbreakable” album. “I like every track,” he says. “It’s mellower, she’s 49 but she has a lot to say. Unbreakable is dedicated to her fans and she truly feels the bond with us is unbreakable.”

With all her new success, critics and fans alike are confident that this is Jackson’s year to enter the Rock Hall. And don’t just take Litherland’s word for it; Jackson has some high-profile supporters this time around, including Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris.

“One could say if Madonna is in, Janet Jackson should be in,” Harris told Cleveland.com. “She dominated that era and has been such an inspiration to today’s stars.”

Jackson is among 15 nominees to the Hall this year, including Chic, the Smiths and N.W.A. Five are expected to win induction after a vote by roughly 700 members. The Rock Hall allows fans to vote for their favorites at rockhall.org, through Dec. 9. The top five win a mostly symbolic single extra vote added to their final totals. Voting ends Dec. 9 and an announcement on the winners is expected in mid-December.

Mike Litherland

Mike Litherland

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

40 Comments
  • Janet fans always using Madonna to make Janet relevant. This is a joke. Janet needs to give away FREE albums with UBER rides and concert tickets to sell albums. Her shows, at small theaters, aren’t even selling out.

  • Good stuff! This is a great article. Janet is definitely deserving and quite honestly I’m surprised she’s not already been inducted.

  • Janet deserves everything that’s positive in her life. She paved the way for many artists and helped many of us through life with music and feeding the hungry. Shes a all around champion. Let’s keep the conversation going lol I love u JJ

  • Mike Litherland, on behalf of all of the Rhythm Nation I would like to personally thank you and all of those involved in this process. Your hard work and dedication towards advocating for Janet Jackson to be recognized for her contributions as a record breaking, trend setting recording artist is something to be proud of. Never mind all the haters & f..k all of the the industry insiders who were responsible for banning her music and trying to completely sabotage her career over a breast exposure that the majority of the viewing public never knew it happened before their eyes. This controversial infamous”wardrobe malfunction” was so off the charts that it gave birth to a whole new social media outlet called YouTube, has anyone ever heard of it? Thank you, Janet.
    For those of us who choose to forget or don’t want to acknowledge Janet Jackson’s career achievements for whatever reason that’s fine but you can’t erase charted factual history. Stars tend to fade, true legends such as her will always remain relevant as we reflect on pioneers of genre throughout time.
    Congratulations Miss Jackson on your nomination and your soon to be confirmation of your induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I wish you continued success!

    Luv Always,
    1814

    • Very well said. I’m hopeful that she’ll make induction. Her career longevity, massive impact to the music scene and highly influential on a younger generation, as well as her peers – should pretty much seal the deal.

      And I hope Janet invites you to the ceremony, Mike. You truly deserve something fantastic for all of the hours and hard work and $$ you’ve dedicated to this effort.

  • Well done Mike! Well done!! ??????

  • Mike Litherland I think we were separated at birth. lol
    Although you seem to be older than I am I could have said every single word of this myself. I was 10 when Rhythm Nation came out and it changed my life as well. I saw her at the Rhythm Nation Tour when I was 11 and I was spellbound in awe the entire show. I was never the same after concert just like every single word you mentioned. I have been to every tour as well. Janet has been the soundtrack to my life too. From childhood to teen to young adult to my current myself today. Every single album holds a special place in my heart.
    I could not have said any of this better myself. In fact this is all exactly what I would’ve said.
    Thank you my brother. Thank you.

    • you said on billboard you are 34 tn1814 was released in 89 and you were 10 so that would make you 36! i have screen captured this comment!

      • OK…and? 34, 35, 36. Whats the difference? I wasn’t even really caring about what specific age number to tell you cuz I don’t know you or care about who you are. Its not like I said I was 21 or something. Once you hit 26/27 you stop caring about age. And what? Is that all? Your not gonna come back at me with something more substantial? Now Im wondering how old you are. You sound like your 20 or something. Why are you wishing so much hate on janet? What has she done to you personally …really tell me, I’d like to know. Who’s your favorite pop star. Madonna, Mariah, Katey Perry? So is that why you want Janet to fail cuz she’s not your favorite? Its really pathetic to chase and hunt down wherever people area talking about other people you don’t like just to start rumors and talk trash. Especially when none of these people have done anything to you personally. For example I don’t like Selena Gomez but I also don’t care about finding webistes to talk about her. I have a life and other things I enjoy. I mean you don’t even like her music or never have. So why are putting so much energy into her? Use some of that expert criticism and go get a life.

        • lol!
          i caught you out on a lie i just said a few words and you wrote a novel!maybe you shouldn’t lie about your age sis!

          • Im 35 no wait im 36, no wait I don’t care. Dude its not that serious or funny. Only to you. Im glad you amuse yourself cuz your only one in the room laughing.
            Anyways Im kinda done here so unless you have something more substantial to come back at me with besides “nanny nanny boo-boo”, which is basically all your saying, then Im the winner here. bye.

          • is this substantial enough?

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          • oooh did I hit a nerve?

            …………………/´¯/)
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            …………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
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            ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
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            right back at ya.
            And a nanny nanny boo-boo to you too.

          • not really i didn’t lie like you bae!

          • take care sis and don’t forget to get a refund for the breakable tour!
            xoxo

          • Yes Madonna. I heard you Madonna.

          • what happened to your settings mr 34/35/26/37/38/39 year old?

  • Very well said Mike. I am patiently awaiting the final announcement. I do however feel as though she is going in the Hall on a one way ticket. She is the Biggest name on that List of inductees. Yes…..this will be the Icing on the cake & cannot wait. #InductJanet #RockHall2016

  • There is an “ick” factor when you see an old fart like Mike Litherland behaving like a little fangurl.

  • We’ll continue to fight the good fight! Janet will likely be nominated again next year.

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