By Jermaine Dupri on 18 October 2012 in LISTEN UP!
Michael Jackson will forever live on through his music in the collective beating heart of the world; that is a fact. As we remember him three years after his death, it is not the struggle we remember, but the music, the dance, and the persona that won him titles like “The King of Pop” and “the most successful entertainer in history.” Yet, MJ was more than just the King of Pop, he epitomized the changing nature of Black American Music with both his style and innovations. Integrating exquisite songwriting, fantastic hooks, and the most fly dance moves known to pop music, Jackson made his way into our hearts honestly.
When the topic of Michael’s legacy comes up in jazz circles, it usually revolves around his longtime producer, Quincy Jones. The name Quincy Jones resonates more freely in the jazz crowd as a result of his extensive discography which includes work with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, Roy Haynes, Clark Terry, Cannonball Adderley, Milt Jackson, and Count Basie to name just a few. Yet, it was a very different project which brought the two together. Jones was tapped to arrange the musical scores for the film The Whiz in which Jackson was to be the Scarecrow. As a mutual bond ignited from Jackson’s dedication to his role and Jones’ musical talents. By the end, Jones had agreed to produce MJ’s fifth studio album, Off the Wall (1979), which would include songs written by Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Rod Temperton, and others. Looking through the credits reveals an all-star cast of musicians with precise musical pedigrees including George Duke, Larry Carlton, Louis Johnson, Greg Phillinganes, Wah Wah Watson, Bill Reichenbach Jr., and Phil Upchurch. Off the Wall sold upwards of 20 million copies worldwide, but it would be the next record which cemented the pair as an unbeatable match
Released three years later, Thriller represents the culmination of 30 songs Quincy and Michael put together as prospective tracks (only 9 of which actually ended up being included). Michael’s ambitions were only growing at this point after failing to win Record of the Year and being denied a cover story with Rolling Stone Magazine. As musical tastes were changing throughout the industry, QJ and MJ worked together, set on making a record that would appeal to all. They brought in actors, rock legends, jazz musicians, programmers, vocalists, and a whole crew of supporting musical acts to create an album where ”every song was a killer.” The result? Record sales hit a reputed 110 million making it the best selling album of all time and the record won 8 Grammy Awards.
The partnership between Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones was steeped in the pursuit of perfection. With all said and done, Quincy brought Michael the means to achieve the perfection he always strived for and Michael brought Quincy the perfection he forever sought. The influence of this collaboration is limitless