A Genuis At Work: Stories and Recollections of those who worked with Michael

Part III:

ВLACK&WHITE : It's known that Michael writes a lot of songs every time when he works on an album.For the BADalbum he had 80, and for DANGEROUS 60 songs.

Bruce Swedien : True that. Michael always brings new songs to the studio. For HISTORYhe wrote 30-ishsongs.

ВLACK&WHITE : What is happening with the songs, which won't be included?

Bruce Swedien : They are going in the "safe"...

ВLACK&WHITE : So, there is a "safe" somewhere, which contains hundreds of songs never heard before?

Bruce Swedien : We have a small one here in New York, but in LA is the bank with all of the Michael titles. What we have in stock is recorded and kept in a computer and there are a hundred songs, or even more than a thousand. Michael writes non-stop, all the time he has ideas for songs.There are hundreds of tapes Michael has something recorded on in our archives. From the small micro tape where is just a melody to the tape on which is the song ready to be released. Most of all there are only demos.

ВLACK&WHITE : And what is going on with all of those songs?

Bruce Swedien : They are waiting their turn. One day they will be re worked or left just as they are.

ВLACK&WHITE : Is HISTORYgoing to be like BADand DANGEROUSmost of it written by Michael.

Bruce Swedien : Definitely. Michael composes almost all of the songs from the new album.

ВLACK&WHITE : What is it we can expect?

Bruce Swedien: Something extraordinary. I think withHISTORY Michael will get the respect, he deserves as a singer and composer.

ВLACK&WHITE : Don`t you think he is been respected for those features already?

Bruce Swedien: No. Michael is been respected by the audience. He is very popular, but he is not recognized as a great composer yet. I hope that with HISTORY people will discover his talent.

ВLACK&WHITE : Would you compare HISTORY to his other previous albums.

Bruce Swedien : HISTORYhas already become my favorite album. In my opinion this is the best Michael has ever done. His singing in some of these songs are amazing. He has never been that far before.

ВLACK&WHITE : What about the songs?

Bruce Swedien : Michael wrote 2 songs forHISTORY, which I would say are the best he has ever created... Words of those songs are the most personal and the most beautiful he has ever written. He went above and beyond him self. The horrible things he went thru lately inspired him a lot...

ВLACK&WHITE : HISTORYis not out yet, but he is your favorite already! In that way of thinking isn't his last one your number one album?

Bruce Swedien : May be! It is true that your favorite would be the newest, the latest. But to tell you the truth, I think Michael has never done anything at that high level as long as the lyrics, music and vocal performances are concerned. I hope that people will appreciate and respect that. Michael is one international treasure.

ВLACK&WHITE : These 2 songs you mentioned, what do they look like?

Bruce Swedien : The first one is pretty personal. In this song Michael explains he was not allowed to have a childhood, that he lost it, his voice is awesome in it. The second one is different. Michael wrote it in Moscow, when he was on tour. He was alone and tortured by the false accusations against him. He expressed his feelings writing wonderful words (BLACK &WHITE: Bruce sings us the song he thinks is lovely).
The songs starts off with the sound of rain, this is the rain of Moscow, the rhythm is very complexed...there is an infinity of small sounds merged together, Michael makes drums (percussions) with his mouth.

ВLACK&WHITE : Recently we found out that one of the songs, which will be in HISTORYwill be titled ”Earth Song”(after a lot of negotiations with Bob Jones we got the approval of stating the name of one of the songs on the new album).

Bruce Swedien : You are well prepared! In fact, yes, there is a song called“EARTH SONG”. This is a song from the upcoming album, even though we haven`t recorded the final version. Michael has to add couple more words to the refrain...This song will become classic. Michael's capabilities are so vast, he did amazing things forHISTORY. In another song from the album, for example, he sang with all symphonic orchestra. He entered the studio with 80 musicians, they played their part and Michael sang in front of them. There was no interruption, it was unbelievable.

ВLACK&WHITE : Which song are you talking about?

Bruce Swedien : About the song dedicated to Charlie Chaplin.

ВLACK&WHITE : So, the version we will be listening to, was recorded live and without interruption?

Bruce Swedien : We wanted to do that from the very beginning and we could've done it, because the performance was unbelievable, but Michael is such as perfectionist that he wanted to get back to the studio and sing his part again. He always wants everything to be perfect.

ВLACK&WHITE : ...Anyways, what do you think, nowadays how many performers are able to record a song together with a symphonic orchestra live? What do you think?

Bruce Swedien : None! I can't see any. Michael's the only one! When you check this song out, you will find out to what extent his voice could be magical.

ВLACK&WHITE : It's know for Michael when he records in the studio, that he shuts all of the lights down and he dances...

Bruce Swedien : Most of the people do that. It's done so they can focused on the performing.Michael does it as well, he prefers to be surrounded by darkness, except for that little light for the list in front of him, but it doesn't allow us to see him. Sometimes he dances...

ВLACK&WHITE : Today we found out that Janet Jackson has been in NY for couple of days. Did she stop by to hang out with Michael yet?

Bruce Swedien : To tell you the truth I must say that there is going to be a song by two of them on the CD... She was here yesterday accompanied by Terry Luis and Jimmy Jemm, who are the producers of the song.

ВLACK&WHITE : That was expected by everyone, and should've happened sooner or later, one day or another. How is the recording of the song going on? How is the work going between them?

Bruce Swedien : It is a lot of fun to watch. They won't sing together, they would rather watch the other one sings, so they are taking turns to go and sing!

ВLACK&WHITE : What about the work with Jimmy Jemm and Terry Luis?

Bruce Swedien : Awesome! They are professionalsand it's great working with them.

ВLACK&WHITE : Bob Jones told us Prince stopped by awhile ago, what's up with that?!?

Bruce Swedien : This is true, Prince came to the studio. He was passing by, stopped in and wanted to see Michael...he hung around and heard a few songs...

ВLACK&WHITE : Did he like them?

Bruce Swedien : He said they were good.

ВLACK&WHITE : Ok, you meet with so many famous people and musicians, doesn't that make you work with other performers except for Michael?

Bruce Swedien : No! Once you've worked with Michael, you wouldn't want to do business with anyone else. I got the chance to work with the most famoust names from the contemporary scene, but the biggest contribution to me were these three - Duke Elington, Quincy Jones, and Michael Jackson.

ВLACK&WHITE : Do you think there is someone out there who might become the new Michael Jackson after couple of years?

Bruce Swedien : No, there is no such person. Often I hear people say: "Hey check this one out, this is the new Michael Jackson" 6 months later that person disappears and you dont hear anything about him anymore. Michael's the only one.

ВLACK&WHITE : Michael is married now. What do you think about his marriage with Lisa-Marrie Presly?

Bruce Swedien : This marriage is not for commersial purposes. This marriage is pretty serious thing and Im gladto see him happy finally. Lisa Marie is great, they feel very good together. They are inseparateble. She comes very often to the studio. It feels good to me, seeing that, because of that relationship Michael has changed.

ВLACK&WHITE : After you've worked with the greatest people and the greatest person, are there anything else you dream of?

Bruce Swedien : There is always I dream about, to start work on something new with Michael...

ВLACK&WHITE : Haven't you reached your limit yet?

Bruce Swedien : No, because the greatest challenge has been always ahead of us, we would never give up following the dream, ever...
Remembering Michael Jackson
By Kina Poon

Wade Robson, choreographer
Michael’s movement was this amazing amalgamation of all his influences, filtered through this beast of a dancer. His lines were so dynamic. He understood the strength of simple movement delivered with incredible precision and energy. An invert of the legs and an extension of the arm were so much more powerful than 15 pirouettes. His energy shot up from the earth. God danced through him.

I remember the first time he taught me the moonwalk at the dance studio at Neverland. I was 7, I think. I remember standing at the ballet barre and him teaching me to push back one foot at a time, teaching me the weight distribution on the balls of the feet. “Now just go, push off, and fly!” he said. That night I couldn’t sleep. I had to get up every 15 minutes and do it again.

I learned altruism from him. In the entertainment industry, it’s easy to get jaded. Despite all of the madness he went through, he had such an innocence. He trusted people, and in his heart, believed in them.

Brian Friedman, choreographer
Even in his most subtle moves, he forced you to watch him. No one hit as hard as he did. He’s one of the only people who could stand still for 30 seconds, a minute, and not let you look away.

Thriller, Smooth Criminal, Ghost, and Captain EO molded me as a creator. Without projects like these, I would be afraid to take the risks I do. If Michael had just described the plot of Thriller, who would’ve ever believed him? But he made it anyway and it is the most iconic video ever.

He was the first person to have technical dancers from contemporary and ballet backgrounds dancing with Pop N’ Taco. It was incredible to see him bringing the worlds together. He gave every audience member something to connect with.

At 14, I booked a job with him. At the end of the live show, I happened to be standing next to him. He put his head close to mine, pointed to the signs in the audience, and said, “I don’t understand why all these people love me.” Especially to a kid, it was so honest. He was saying “I’m normal.” It put me in a position to always stay grounded.

Brian Thomas, teacher/choreographer
The first day of rehearsals for Michael’s 30th- anniversary celebration everyone was terrified. When he came in to watch the choreography I had made for him, I said, “OK, you can sit over here.” I looked over, and my son had put some candy and a picture he drew of Michael on his chair. I apologized, “My son must have done that.” Michael fell on the floor laughing—he was literally rolling. He said, “Show me some dance moves” to my son. It broke the ice, so the dancers weren’t so afraid. He could’ve been a diva but he was nice to everyone. That’s what I remember most—his childlike spirit.
Buddha Stretch, teacher/Remember the Time music video choreographer
Michael’s a combination of so many different styles and influences. I think his biggest influence was James Brown, with some Bob Fosse, some Fred Astaire, some Don Campbell and the Lockers, some Nicholas brothers, and later on, some hip hop. We were working on the video for “Remember the Time,” and Michael wanted to learn everything that we did—any little movement, even if we were just playing around. He was so interested in what made us dancers, what made us do hip hop. He wanted to experience going to a club and dancing in a circle. We were going to dress him up in a hoodie, hat, jeans, and sneakers, but the last day, his security and his management talked him out of it.

Randy Allaire, co-founder of the Edge Performing Arts Center/MJ backup dancer
for eight years

How many stars can brand a step like he did? He affected generations of dancers. He pulled guys into the studio and made it OK for us to move. A lot of Michael’s movement was dance, but he always tried to go for the pedestrian feel. As dancers, we were very careful to not look like dancers. We had to be more accessible.

Michael was very generous, a very good soul. There were definitely the two sides: the ultimate showman and the regular guy—however regular you could be as a superstar. But he controlled it all. He collaborated with many choreographers, but it was always MJ’s vision and direction.

Chloe Arnold, tap dancer/teacher
He was 100 percent unique and heartfelt. To take our art seriously and realize how many people we can affect—that’s something we can take from him. There are so few artists genuinely creating their style. With Michael, you could see a silhouette and immediately know it was him.

Jared Grimes, tap dancer
Michael Jackson was a human phenomenon. To me, he is up there with the seven wonders of the world—a god of dance. I remember when he popped out of the floor and stood still for five minutes at the Bucharest concert—I had never seen an aura that strong before.

Akram Khan, choreographer
When Michael Jackson came along with Thriller, my world changed. I thought, There’s hope. He’s closer to my color. I was in love with the fact that he had the power to draw people in, not only white people but people in general.

Jorma Elo, resident choreographer, Boston Ballet
Growing up, MJ inspired me to learn to dance and how to put together a great show. I remember getting together with friends before going to a party one Saturday night in the early ’80s. Somebody had a VHS tape of him doing Billie Jean at the gala show where he first did the moonwalk. All the girls wanted to see it over and over again—it kept looping for hours. We never got to go out. MJ kind of destroyed that evening by being too good and magical.

Darren Hayes tweeted about Michael Jackson recording "Fall Again"

For Michael Jackson fans - This is an untold story of my almost encounter with the King and how M.J inspired me.

Fans of my music will be familiar with my song 'Insatiable'. It was co-written and produced with Walter Afanasieff. What many people don't know is that I wrote my song as a reaction to and after having been inspired by a song that Walter and Alan Thicke wrote for Michael back in '99 called 'Fall Again'.

Here is Michael's demo version


The story goes like this.

When I was recording the Savage Garden album 'Affirmation' with Walter in 1999 at his studio in San Francisco, he played me a demo of the song 'Fall Again' which at that time had Robin Thicke's vocals on it. Walter and Robin had intended to submit the song to M.J for his 'Invincible' album project.

I was completely in awe and all I could hear was Michael.
At the time, Walter told me he wasn't sure if Michael would be interested but as a fan I had a feeling that when M.J heard it he'd respond like I had. It reminded me of the lushness of classic Michael songs like 'Human Nature'.
I knew M.J would kill it.

Sure enough, the song got to Michael and he loved it and agreed to cut a demo of it.
Slight hitch? The only time M.J had available was when Walter was booked in with me to finish the vocals for the Savage Garden album 'Affirmation'.

Walter decided he could record both sessions and so we flew to New York and
I recorded in the mornings with Walter at Sony Studios and he then left in the afternoon to record Michael Jackson at The Hit Factory in the afternoon literally across
the street.

The version in this post is the one and only time Michael ever sang the song. One take. He hadn't even had a chance to learn the song properly (and what an amazing job he did!).

The day he recorded Michael Walter came back to my session at Sony Studios about 2 hours later beaming. He spoke in glowing terms about Michael, about his voice, about his politeness and talent. And what touched me the most was he told me that Michael's children (Prince and Paris) were at the session and M.J had set up a t.v monitor in his recording booth so he could see the children playing with the Nanny in another room while he was singing. The session was cut short because the children were poorly and Michael wanted to be a good Dad and tend to them. He apparently apologised and left the session after only one take.

I never heard Michael's version until it was released many years later (even though Walter knew I was a massive fan he respected M.J's privacy and never played it to me). But I had remembered the feeling and the magic of the song from the first time I heard Robin Thicke's vocal and so when it came time for me to record my first solo album, I asked Walter to try and write a song with the same energy with me. That's how we wrote 'Insatiable'.

It's amazing to hear Michael's demo version of 'Fall Again' so many years later and be in awe of his artistry. Michael is the reason I became a performer (having seen his 'Bad' tour in 1987 and knowing in an instant that performing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life). Listening to his records taught me how to sing. I'm proud that years later in my own career there are pieces of him in my work. And although he is not with us anymore, I like to think that little spark he ignited in me as an artist is part of his legacy.

Sorry if this was long and sappy - but I know there are M.J fans out there who would appreciate this story. I'd always wanted to tell it. And today I did.

As a funny epilogue to this story - here's the bit where I almost met Michael.

At the time of the recording, Tommy Motolla was president of Sony Music. He came in to the studio the same day Walter was recording M.J and he said to me 'Darren, there's someone very special that I'd like to bring in to the studio to introduce you to. Is it o.k if I bring another artist in here to say hello?" he said.

Of course I thought he meant Michael.
Of course he meant Michael right? Michael was across the street working with the same producer I was with! Bring it on!
Tommy left the room and said he'd be right back.

So I sat there in the studio with the engineer, absolutely about to pee my pants.
Tommy knocks on the door.
My heart stops.
And then it sinks.
In walks Tommy with a very tall later 40's white male with blond hair.

'Darren this is Darryl' Tommy says.

"Hi' I say with mock enthusiasm.

Tommy proceeds to play this man 'Two Beds and a Coffee' machine, the song that we'd been working on that day.

Darryl sits back in his chair and with the most sincere tone tells me that I'm an incredible song writer and that he loves my voice.

'Thanks!' I say, still devastated this man is not Michael Jackson.

When Tommy and Darryl leave, the engineer turns to me and says
'Do you know who that was?'.

'Nope' I say.

'That was Darryl Hall, of Hall and Oates'.

Now let the record show, I was and remain a MASSIVE fan of Hall and Oates.
And I felt incredibly rude for being oblivious to this fact. In my defence Darryl had a beard at the time and my memory of him was clean shaven and much younger of course.

So I died a little twice that day.

But there you have it.


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/item_ua3tp3KLJDnUZKeaoi72jK#ixzz1QfR6KLeZ

Film director Rob Cohen met Michael Jackson in New York in 1978 while producing "The Wiz," the film version of an all-black Broadway production of "The Wizard of Oz" starring Diana Ross.
He was such a sensitive guy that when we would go out to dinner -- he was a vegetarian -- he would apologize to each vegetable before he ate it. He ordered steamed vegetables and he literally would say, "I'm sorry, Mr. Carrot" and "I'm sorry, Mr. Broccoli." He was so empathetic to other people and all living things -- that's really what I remember most about Michael, even more than his dancing and singing. When you talked to Michael, you really felt he was feeling what you were feeling.

I remember one night doing a recording session for "Ease On Down the Road," and Quincy [Jones] was in the studio laying down the tracks. Michael was there with Diana, and Diana was singing her part, and then it was like "OK, Michael, let's bring in your part." Michael did a riff from "Ease on Down the Road" in that sweet angelic voice, and Quincy's eyes just lit up -- I'll never forget it. It was like watching a leopard looking at a goat. Quincy was just like, "What?" And from that moment on, those two were united, and soon they went on to do "Off The Wall" together and then "Thriller," and it was all started there in that moment.
He loved New York City. We got him and La Toya an apartment on Central Park West and sometimes I'd pick him up or drop him off and I'd always notice tons of crates of Perrier water.
I said, finally, "Michael, what's with all the Perrier?" And he said, "I like to bathe in it. I like the bubbles." Every once in a while I'd get him to come out with me to Studio 54 on a weekend night, and we'd always go with a big group of fashion models and he would get out there and dance and just ignite the place. He already had those moves, you know? He didn't just invent them for his videos. He didn't go as far with it back then, but he did the spins and the moonwalk, a little Fosse, a little Astaire.
He had no idea the effect he already had on people. We'd get back in the limo with him at the end of the night and I'd say, "Michael, you know you could go home with this girl, or you could go home with that girl. Why don't you take some of these girls home with you?" And he'd say, "Really, you really think they like me?"

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/item_ua3tp3KLJDnUZKeaoi72jK#ixzz1QfPaGU48
SIEDAH GARRETT: Behind the Man In The Mirror * Working with Michael Jackson

Hard to believe it’s been more than two decades since “Man In The Mirror” was born. This is a little journey back to that time. It’s a tribute to the legend that was then and always will be Michael Jackson. And to the songwriters who wrote this anthem for him.

It was Fall of 1987, and I had just recently succeeded in convincing the fine folks at the National Academy of Songwriters to appoint me as editor of what was then essentially a newsletter and calendar of events, SongTalk. My aim from the start was to invite the world’s greatest songwriters to sit down for in-depth interviews about the art and craft of songwriting. As we had virtually no advertising and because we published on newsprint, we had ample space for long conversations.

For my first issue I scored an interview with the legendary Frank Zappa, but was notified quickly that his face should not grace our cover, as he was deemed too politically charged of a figure for what was to be the debut of our new magazine.

We were in the enthralling wake of Michael Jackson’s astounding Thriller. The world was, of course, entranced and enraptured by the pure passion that was Michael, and songwriters were tuned into the fact that in addition to being maybe the greatest performer this country has known, he had also become a seriously great songwriter. So I started politely pestering, as was my way, Miko Brando – Marlon’s son and Michael’s main man – to arrange an interview with Michael that would focus only on his songs and songwriting. It wasn’t to be. I even called Michael’s lawyers and folks at Quincy Jones’ office, all of whom were impressed by our chutzpah in even asking, but none of whom – with Miko always the sweetest and most apologetic – who could set up the interview.

“and no message could have been any clearer, if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change…”
We knew MJ had been working on the follow-up to Thriller, again to be produced by Quincy, and word came through that Michael had cut a song by a beautiful woman and amazing vocalist named Siedah Garrett, who co-wrote, with the then unknown Glen Ballard, “Man In The Mirror.” Siedah also sang a duet with MJ on his song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” I quickly surmised, not entirely accurately, that Siedah would become a blazing star, and if we could get her for SongTalk early on – and be our cover story – we could get a jump on what would surely be a stellar career.

Glen Ballard, as students of songwriting and pop music already know, went onto enormous success as a co-writer and producer with Alanis Morrisette on her first albums, as well as many other projects. He wrote the music for “Man In The Mirror” and Siedah, who also adds her distinctive vocal sound to MJ’s record of the song, wrote the words. She was already famous for her own vocals and for her great gift at arranging vocals. She got her start when Quincy Jones picked her out of about 800 hopefuls to sing with his group Deco; she sang the lead on the dance hit “Do You Want It Right Now.” She also sang and arranged vocals on Madonna’s True Blue album, and started churning out great songs she wrote herself for such artists as Kenny Loggins, The Pointer Sisters and Donna Summers.

The Girl In The Mirror: Siedah Garrett
But her biggest break came when Quincy told her that MJ needed songs for his next album. She and Glen got to work, knowing they needed something that not only sounded like a hit – something with the luminous musical magnitude of a song Michael could make his own – but something with a lyric of substance. Together they created a song that would forever be linked with Michael; he loved it so much that it is the only song lyric to be quoted on the album. Not the whole song, but the line, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”

Michael was not only stunned by the song, but also by the soulful beauty of Siedah’s voice on the demo (indeed, she sings the song with as much passion and purity of intention as Michael would also inject into it), that he immediately enlisted her, and not other notables being considered (such as Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston) to sing a duet with him on his song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” She also was to learn that Michael wanted her to personally guide his vocal sessions for “Man In The Mirror” as he wanted to sing it like she did on the demo. (The following year, she, Glen and Michael co-wrote the song “Keep The Faith.”)

So I succeeded in arranging an interview with both Siedah and Glen – it took place in a sunny office at Warner Brothers’ Burbank headquarters, where I was to conduct scores of interviews. We also did a cover-photo shoot with Siedah, in which the photographer suggested we blow bubbles into the shot, which we did – with the lovely Siedah jumping and exclaiming, “I got a song on the new Michael Jackson album!” And the great thing about her, among which there were many, was that she was genuine – as excited as a child at what, for a songwriter, was not unlike winning the lottery. It was a dream come true.

Here, more than two decades since that moment, is my interview with Siedah; an interview with Glen Ballard will be in the next edition of Bluerailroad.

Bluerailroad: How does it feel to be thrust so thoroughly and intensely into the spotlight?

Siedah GarretT: It is amazing. I’ve been thrust into the limelight so quickly. This level of media attention is so new to me. Like I never go shopping anymore. I never have time to go to lunch. My time isn’t my own anymore. I’m very busy doing stuff like this, and writing and recording.

“Man In The Mirror” has a long, rich melody. It has four sections – the verse, chorus, bridge and tag. Did you and Glen write it all at once?

Actually, yes. It all came at once. Usually it goes in stages. We have an initial writing session in which we come up with all these ideas and deviations of ideas from musical variations. And we Also start a lyric idea from that point. Then I take it home and embellish the lyric and Glen embellishes the music. Then we meet again and put all the parts together.

Where did the title come from?

I had it for about a year. I have a book and when I hear things that I like, I write it down. I keep a pad in my car at all times.

When I go to Glen’s house, I’ll listen to what he has to play me and I’ll leaf through my book at these titles that I’ve written or collected. And if anything else catches my attention that works well with his music, we’ll use it.

When you came up with that phrase – “Man In The Mirror” – did you know how you would use it in a song?

Yes. When that title came to me, I already knew the concept behind the whole song.

Did you write it with Michael in mind?

Yes. Quincy [Jones] asked me for anything from a funk-groove street song to a ballad. So I figured I pretty much had free rein.

I know you met with Michael then – had he heard the song first?

Yes. We had the demo of the song done on a Friday evening. Knowing that Quincy Jones’ offices were going to be closed until Monday, I called [Quincy] and said, “I can’t wait until Monday.” He told me to bring the tape over. I did. Four hours later – four hours! – he called me. He said, “Baby, the song is great. It’s really good. But– ” I said, “But what?” And he said, “I don’t know. I’ve been playing songs for Michael for two years. And he has yet to accept an outside song.”

Three days later I got a call from Quincy and he told me that Michael loved the song and wanted to cut it. I screamed! Couldn’t believe it.

“A willow deeply scarred…”
Then he said that Michael had a great idea for the background; he’s gonna have the Winans and Andre Crouch an a choir. Then he said, “And I might be able to squeeze you in on that. I said, “Q Babe! Thanks!” [Laughs]

A few days before the session I got a call from Quincy. He told me Michael wanted to extend the bridge and needed some new lyrics for it. And he was trying to tell me the message that should be in these new lyrics. He would say, “Michael wants so-and-so,” and then, in the background I would hear, [softly and high-pitched] “Mmmrrrmmrr…” And it was Michael, you know?

This went on for a little while, with Quincy translating for Michael. Finally, Quincy says, “Hold on,” and puts Michael Jackson on the phone, right? I’m home cooking dinner, right? And inside I’m like “OMIGOD!! It’s MICHAEL JACKSON!!” But on the phone I’m like [softly and coolly], “Yes, Michael?” Really cool, you know?

He said, “I love your song and I think you have a great voice.”

I said, “Wow. Thanks! Thanks for doing it, dude!” [Laughs]

So Michael tells me what he wants and I take off to find the answer to his dilemma in the bridge. I came up with three different ideas for the part. But then the song turned out to be long anyway, that they never used it. So it’s pretty much as it was in demo form with the exception of the key change.

Often key-changes are corny, but this one works so well, especially at it arrives on the word “Change.”

That’s it! It does really work. It’s such a lift.

How does it feel that a song about changing your life has so profoundly changed your life?

It is ironic, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m a happy puppy. Things are going so right. My plan was nowhere near this grand. God’s plan is great!

Speaking of God, I understand that when Michael asked you where you got the idea for the song, you said you asked God for it.

My answer to him was that “I asked for it.” I didn’t mention God because I didn’t know where he was as far as religion goes. But he knew who I was talking about. I didn’t ask my neighbor George for it!

And you did ask God – that is the truth?

It’s God’s honest truth! I said, “I want to write a song for Michael Jackson.” Since I wanted Michael to know who I was, I was thinking in my mind, “What can I say to him that he wouldn’t be afraid to say to the rest of the world?” And this song came through. [Claps hands and laughs.]

When did he ask you to sing the duet with him?

It came as a total surprise. Quincy called me after I had worked with him doing the background vocals for “Man In The Mirror” to come back to the studio to do more work.

“They follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see, cause they got nowhere to be, that’s why I’m starting with me…”
But when I got there, I was surprised to discover that there was nobody else in the studio but Quincy, Michael and me. And the song they were working on wasn’t “Man In The Mirror.” It was a song that Quincy had given me a tape to learn. But I had no idea – I do lots of vocals on demos for Quincy, so this was nothing unusual.

So Quincy said, “You got the tape, right? Did you learn the song?”

I said, “Sure, I know the song.”

He said, “Well, go in there and sing it.”

I go into the booth: there’s two music stands. Michael Jackson is standing at one of them in front of a microphone and there’s another microphone for me. This is the first time I realized what was happening. On the sheet music it said, “Michael, Siedah, Michael, Siedah, etc.” I said, “Wow! I get it.”

“make that change…”
Well, when you got the demo tape of it – was Michael singing it?

Yeah. I should have known that something was strange because, of course, I know Michael’s voice. But I didn’t put it together.

Did you and Michael do the vocals at the same time or overdub?

We did them together. It was exciting. But see, Michael is funny. He has a real keen sense of humor. Which surprised me, because you hear all these stories about how strange he is. I guess he felt relaxed with me because I wasn’t in awe of him when we met. I was kind of, “Yo, Michael, what’s up?” I think he found that refreshing.

No weird behavior on his part at all?

Well, if I was talking to Quincy and we were serious for some reason, Michael would toss cashews and peanuts at us. I would be talking to Quincy and these peanuts would fly by. [Laughs]

You know, the duet is a very serious love song. And when I was doing my verse, Michael was making these faces ar me so that I would mess up. Quincy would say, “Siedah – come on! You’re holding up the whole album!” And I would get in trouble!

Another time I came into the studio expecting to be alone with Michael.

And there were all these people there – technicians and film people. Maybe 50 of them. They were doing a documentary on the making of Bad. And his monkey was there. Bubbles. I walked into the studio and the monkey walks over to me and walks up my leg and rests on my hip. It was weird.

Then I removed the monkey [laughs] and these two guys opened this enormous metal box, taller than I am. It was the snake. And this guy had a piece of the snake as big as my thigh! I didn’t want to see the rest of it so I excused myself.

Michael came into the room where I saw and said [softly and high-pitched], “I noticed that when they brought out Muscles that you left.”

I said, “I’m just not into snakes.”

And he said, “Aw, you just chicken.”

I said, “Yes I am. When I see snakes, I think of handbags, belts and shoes, you know?” [Laughs]

I understand when Michael heard the demo of you singing “Man In The Mirror,” he said he wanted to sing it like you.

That was such a high compliment. We’d finished the part we had to fix on the duet so I was getting ready to leave. I was packing up and he said, “Where you goin’?”

I said, “Aren’t we done? Isn’t this history, dude?”

He said, “No. We’re getting ready to do ‘Man In The Mirror’ and I need you to stay because I want to sing it like you.” It was great. I stayed. It was like I was producing.

Was Quincy leading the sessions – or was Michael equally involved in producing?

When I was there, Michael was doing vocals so he wasn’t producing. It’s hard to produce your own vocals. I don’t know how it was when I wasn’t there.

Did you see how Michael prepared vocally for the sessions?

Yes. He spends two hours with Seth Riggs [the vocal coach].

Unfortunately, at $50 an hour, Seth is a little out of my range.

Did you know that your duet with Michael on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was to be the first single off the album?

They didn’t tell me until a couple of days later. Quincy said he listened to the song with his eyes closed and he couldn’t tell who was who – me and Michael. He said that made him a little nervous. So I went back and changed my parts a little bit. I didn’t plan to sound like him, you know. I wanted to sound like me !

When you and Glen wrote “Man In The Mirror,” did you grasp how important, how special, it was?

Yes. I knew it was special. So did Glen. You kind of know. But I wasn’t sure that anybody else would like it. That’s where politics and timing all come in.

But I had a very good feeling about it the day we wrote it. When I left Glen’s house the day we wrote it, we hugged each other and we said, “Man, there’s something about this one.” We knew it.

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February 23rd, 1988

She performed with Michael Jackson at Kemper Arena that night and again on the 24th.

Sharing the lights with a superstar; Jackson backup singer lives fantasy
By Brian McTavish arts and entertainment writer

Sheryl Crow's family in her hometown of Kennett, Mo., population 10,000, "just absolutely can't believe it," she says. Sometimes, Crow can't believe it herself. "I can't even explain it," Crow said in a recent telephone interview. "When you walk out on stage and there are 68000 people out there who are screaming, it's just overwhelming. In fact, it's almost like a fantasy. You can't grasp it.''

The truth will out: Crow, a 26-year-old graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and a former elementary school music teacher, is one of four backup singers in Michael Jackson's world-tour band.

(Jackson begins the American leg of his tour at 8 p.m. today and Wednesday at Kemper Arena. The shows are sold out.)

Crow studied opera at MU but continued to sing regularly in pop bands during high school and college. After graduation, she moved to St. Louis, where she taught school and recorded jingles on the side.

When two jingles she did for McDonald's and Coca-Cola got picked up nationally, the optimistic Crow moved to Los Angeles in November 1986 to pursue a singing career. Two months later, Crow began getting regular jobs singing jingles and performing other session work.

In August 1987 she heard through the grapevine about closed auditions for Jackson's stadium tours of Japan and Australia.

''Then, the very next day, we started rehearsing. A month later we were on the road.'' Within three weeks after winning a spot on the tour, Crow had gotten rid of her apartment and car and was ready to go for a year on tour. ''There was no time to think about it whatsoever'', she said. ''Within a matter of two days, your life can be really shifted.''

Crow has only respect for Jackson s ability. ''He is an unbelievable entertainer,'' she said. ''He is so magnetic, you can't even take your eyes off him when he's performing. He's such a great dancer. I've seen his moves night after night after night, but every time I watch them it's like I've never seen them before. It's really amazing. And he's completely professional, '' Crow said. '' He's a perfectionist. He hears every little detail. If he doesn't hear a keyboard part in the middle of a tune, he immediately calls it. He knows if you're singing under pitch. He's so perceptive. He's completely tuned-in at all times.'' Jackson the perfectionist reportedly spent Monday night at Kemper Arena rehearsing and checking sound levels for the shows. The up-and-coming vocalist doesn't have much contact with Jackson outside of work.

That is basically because he's so busy, she said. He takes up a lot of time to visit children's hospitals and schools. He does a lot of photo shoots. He's working on videos at all times. He's been a major star since he was 4 or 5 years old. At times I want to shake him and say, Gosh, let s go get a hamburger! He's never had a normal life like I've had. He's always been a star. He's always been surrounded by people. But he is a normal person. When I first met him, I had heard lots of things. He's got a good personality and he s very intelligent. He s quite normal. He's a joy to work with.''Especially during Crow's planned duet tonight with Jackson on ''I Just Can t Stop Loving You'', a No. 1 hit from Jackson s current album, Bad, a 12-million seller. ''It's really a treat, to actually be standing there singing a song with him'', she said.
Interview with Jonathan Moffett

Micheal's drummer

Valmai: Jonathan, I’d like to ask you a few questions about Michael now. You worked with him for many years after he became a solo artist. What was it like to tour with him? Are there any experiences you are able to share perhaps, that were funny or poignant or that stand out above all the rest?

Jonathan: I have to say that working with Michael was amazing, absolutely amazing! That’s no overuse of the term and the word because he was such a genius; beyond the word genius a lot of times. Michael was a true genius. His gifts and his talents, his dancing and singing just denoted that he was a genius, you know? Everybody all over the world was in love with him. His sound and his moves, his image, his nature, I mean, he was just truly, truly gifted and blessed.
Working with him, and watching and learning from him, from a genius, lifts your abilities up, your vision, your view, your capabilities and possibilities. It was brilliant for me having the opportunity to work with Michael. I learned a tremendous amount from him; working with him on how to do things the right way, on perfection, on the meticulous, on dynamic’s and on being bigger than life. That was one term he always loved to use, “It’s gotta be bigger than life, and to make such an impression on people they will never forget it for the rest of their lives.” So working with Michael was just phenomenal.
To watch him dance at each concert was like me looking for a new planet; a new galaxy and discovering it because every time you think you know all of his moves, as I mentioned earlier, he does something that just dazzles you. And I’m back there; I’m supposed to be working, but I’m back there screaming and shouting, “Go Michael!” I’m like the fan on the other side of stage, but it was so amazing when he did something so totally, totally stunning. Every night I looked forward to that.
And his voice was just so remarkable and emotional and passionate, way beyond most people. There are very few singers who have such great passion and emotion, Stevie being one of them, but there’s a very, very limited amount of artists that can evoke such emotion. That, coupled with the dance, coupled with the imagery and his vision that he brings into concert, it’s just unparalleled. And the greatest of technology in his shows, his vision and creativity as you see in This Is It, how to put together a show and how to make things beyond belief so to speak, Michael had that. I learned a great deal from him and working with him was one of the greatest treasures. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and career to work with the absolute best in the world. It was just amazing. I learned a lot in putting together a show and performances and theatrics and stuff.
But, one of the special moments can be found on one DVD. I think it’s on You Tube. We were in Germany filming for a live broadcast, and during the middle of the show he’s talking a little bit in the middle of the stage between songs. This little bug comes on stage, a love bug or some kind beetle bug. It’s on the floor and he sees it. He gets so concerned about this little bug and says, “Wait, wait, wait, there’s a bug on stage.” And people started laughing. He said, “Security, Security...Come get the bug.”
So people started cracking up and laughing, but he wouldn’t let the show go on because he was afraid he was going to step on the bug. And people started clapping because he had that kind of concern. Something as simple as that, as caring and emotional as that was a great moment, and a glimpse into his life as to whom he was. He stops a big production, a big machine of a production to protect this little bug so it didn’t get hurt with the dancers all over the stage. So that was a very special moment I think; something as simple as that, but very dynamic that he would have that much concern for the smallest life was very special. That’s one thing that stood out in mind as part of the show. His performance speaks for itself, but outside the performance, it shows the human being that he was.

Valmai: Yes, and I’ve seen that video; I’ve seen it on You Tube.

Jonathan: Yeah, it was a magic moment.

Valmai: Oh, yes, very. Jonathan do you feel that Michael helped you to become a better musician?

Jonathan: Of course, yes, absolutely! Working with and observing from behind, I had the best seat in the house. Observing from behind the greatness and magnitude of the performance, and watching how he delivers dynamics and excitement in his performance, you learn a lot in the process of putting a show together. Like on This Is It, everybody could see how he puts it together, and I’ve been in behind the scenes watching that for thirty years and learning from him. So now I have great confidence when I do my shows.
I’m doing tribute shows for Michael now and people really enjoy it. They feel like it’s a “Michael” show. It’s a one man show; just me, slides and his voice and music from his tour and songs. A lot of comments were that they felt like it was a "Michael show." I didn’t have all the big production. It’s just my giant, giant drum set, and I perform just like we were on tour, as if it was a concert with Michael. That and learning how to put together the right slide at the right time, right moments, and from working with Michael, made that show work. If I had the budget that Michael had, I feel that I could carry on the legacy and the tradition and the class that Michael foresaw because I learned a lot from him; watching how he does it and being around him.

Valmai: Michael was a master at synchronizing his dancers and musicians so that they flowed together in a seamless and perfect harmony. Can you give us a glimpse into his creative genius? Is there a story that you could tell us that we don’t already know?

Jonathan: Well, that question is a testimony and demonstration to how much he knows his music. To direct everybody, to know when something is missing, one single note in a chord, he knows it. He points it out, “Something’s wrong with that chord. What’s wrong with that chord? There’s a note missing.” Then he will actually hum the note; sing it out aloud, “daaaaaaaaa”…“Where’ s that note? That note’s supposed to be there.” I’ve seen him time and time and time again do that. The same thing with the guitar parts. He’ll describe it; he knows that, he knows everything.
When we didn’t have percussions, we’d have the percussion parts in the computer that we would play to, and if a certain rhythm or pattern, (we had so many rhythms and patterns overlapping each other) if a certain element wasn’t there, he felt it. He feels everything, and his emotions tell him there’s something missing. He’ll think about this and he knows exactly what part is not there, what rhythm is not happening that doesn’t make the machine run smoothly. It’s like an engine. If one of the valves is out it stutters, it splutters you know, and he can feel that it’s not running smoothly. Michael knows all his music like that, and when all the valves are timed and running right and firing properly, Michael knows when it’s right because he feels it emotionally. He has the knowledge of how the music was put together. So I think that’s remarkable and it really answers that question. His band is so tight because he knows when something is missing.
We do all the homework and learn it; we’re supposed to learn it and come to rehearsal. That’s what we are getting paid for, and I make sure, that’s why Michael likes me there because he knows I do that with no excuses. He just trusts me totally because I have the same mentality. It’s got to be perfect, it’s got to be right, it’s got to be what the artist wants because that’s what I am getting paid to do. He never checked me once to make it right for him so he can get his best show. I gotta get my best show just so he can get his best show. He’s counting on me, and the whole show is counting on me. How can I let them down? I can’t. That’s my mentality, there’s no way.
So he trusts that everybody will be that way, and that’s why he hires you; the people that are capable of delivering that. If you’re with him on stage or in rehearsals, it’s because he trusts that you’re on the same level for focus and concentration and desire to be your best. Now sometimes some people fall short, you know, get a little lazy or don’t learn anything right or don’t perform it right, that’s when, like in the movie, he got on the keyboard player. He was the Music Director and Michael had to kind of teach him again. So sometimes that happens unfortunately, but for the most part we all get there and we do what we’re supposed to do. Michael refines it. He’s the chef so he’s putting more seasoning in here and there, “Change this and change that. Play that with maybe a little more attitude right here.” He refines it and mixes all the ingredients together. It’s a recipe, and he makes sure it’s a good dish to serve to the public so that they enjoy the meal of music.

Valmai: But I think that was part of his genius. With Michael, he just seemed to know everything about every element of the music. And like you said, he felt it inside. I think that’s what set him apart from a lot of other artists.

Jonathan: Everything is emotion; everything is emotion and feelings. You know, to see things with emotions is just like having a different vision; an emotional vision. I’m that way so that’s why I understand him. I’m exactly that way. I can work with him with ease and it’s easy for me. He and I are cut from the same cloth. He knew it and I know it, so you know, I just thought there was a magic between us. It was something that he felt that’s why he wanted me there. I feel fortunate and blessed to have been able to function on that level and to please somebody like him. I’m all about wanting to please the person and make them want me back, and that second gig and the call backs are more important than the first one. The first one you’re trying to prove to yourself. The second one is proving that you did prove yourself and they want you. So they mean more than the first time you work with somebody.

Valmai: And you were very, very blessed. You really were.

Jonathan: I know, I know. I don’t take it for granted. I will always cherish it and I’m very grateful.

Valmai: Jonathan, people speak of an energy around Michael; a light. Did you ever feel that?

Jonathan: All the time, every time I am around him. That’s why you know you are in the presence of greatness. That’s why you know you’re in the presence of somebody special. Just count the number of fans and people and the multitude that love him around the world. He’s one man loved by... CNN said that over one billion people mourned Michael from all the remote areas of the world, as well as all the known areas. What other human being can draw that much sympathy and that much hurt from their loss. Michael had something special, a radiance, and when you were in his presence the whole room changed.
People would say, "Michael’s coming," and everybody got nervous. As soon as you had the vision of him, even just knowing he was coming, you felt something, like a tingle happening. Just to watch him walk through the door, it’s like all the molecules in the air stop and you can pinch them with your finger; pick them up. It’s like you could see the smallest speck; you could see the molecules in the air when Michael walked in the room. He changed them; the molecular structure of the air. And that’s the equation of what happens when Michael enters, and everybody in the room felt it and knew it. Then their attitudes and personalities would change. They would perk up their attention, but they would always say, “There’s something with him. When he came in I got nervous. I felt something!” And I would hear that over and over again and I would say, “I know, I know. I’ve been feeling it for thirty years.”
And he was just so pleasant; just something with his imagery. Everybody radiates from a different frequency, and Michael had the highest level of energy I think without being from another world. His gift and his humanity of spirit were just so powerful and great and deep. He was a different human being from most of us; from all of us. He did affect everybody that came around him, from leaders of the world to normal folk, from children to people, grandmothers. Every single person that’s been around him said they felt something, that I remember seeing or talking to.
And that’s why people cry. People absolutely cry. I would sit on stage and watch them pass bodies, like back in the medieval days when people died of the plague. You would see them lift bodies, arms dangling and legs, heads swinging, and there was like an ocean of people with their arms up passing bodies to the front, to the gate. There would be a line-up there of emergency vehicles... five, ten of them lined up. There were stretchers and triages back there. One by one, people were passing them forward; sometimes a multitude of bodies moving across the crowd being passed to the rescue people. They would give them smelling salts and try to revive them. Some people were just totally gone, unconscious, you know, like totally no life in them, and that’s just from being in that stadium with Michael. I just got to just sit back there and marvel at it. It was just the most powerful thing to see, and that’s just from that one man in the center of the stage. He made even men pass out; women and men. That’s a power and Michael knew it. He knew he was gifted with something special, a purpose; uniting the world and uniting people.

Valmai: In the movie This Is It, you talk of Michael being a gift of God, sent to teach us to love; how to love and how to be. What did you learn from him that you remember every day now?

Jonathan: That every body’s a human being. Beyond the classification and categories, we are a human race. Michael treated everyone the same no matter what race, religion, and creed. You would see him all over the world on television; with all nations, all people, friends, foe’s, enemies alike, he was always the same. He didn’t stop his love of people or children especially. He would go to one of our worst enemies, the Nation, and he would love the children there and visit them at the hospitals.
And these are some of the kids that might grow up and decide to attack America, or whoever. Michael didn’t see that. He saw the child, the human being, the blessing of life from God. He would give them the gift of money and might even buy a kidney for the same people out of his hard earned money, and he wouldn’t think anything at all about it.
Whatever it cost; buying machinery for the hospitals all over the world, people have benefited from Michael’s gift of life, from the machines that keep these people alive at the hospitals. The kidney for a child, the transplants that Michael paid for out of his own pocket and asking for nothing, most people didn’t know about it until after he passed away or how much he really did. He asked for no publicity. He wasn’t in the newspaper. A foreign newspaper the next day didn’t credit him. That was one of his criteria; nobody knew. He didn’t want it to get publicity because he did it out of his heart.
People say Michael was broke and he was in debt for 300-400 million, but now it’s come out that Michael was one of the greatest, if not the greatest philanthropist that ever lived, and he had given away over 300 something million dollars of his own money he worked for. If he had that 300 something million dollars, I guess he wouldn’t be broke would he? No, I doubt it.

Valmai: No, he wouldn’t.

Jonathan: It’s the same amount as what they say he was in debt for. Out of his kindness and generosity and love for people that he didn’t even know and that didn’t really know him, he gave away to help, and then of course he had money problems?
I’m that way; I was raised that way too. I see the transparency; people might as well have skin I can see through because I see the heart, the spirit. That’s another way Michael and I were related also. We recognize the same things in each other. We both love children. They’re the closest we will ever get to God, especially in a newborn infant. That’s the closest we will get to seeing God and being with God. So Michael was the same way; we related to each other in that way. We knew without even speaking of it. We knew we had like minds that recognized one another without even saying the words.
One of the things I learned is that I’m doing the right thing. I’m living the right way by being open-spirited. Michael proved that it does work, that it can work and it can make a difference. It can bring a multitude of people together because he did it. He proved it unselfishly. So I learned it’s possible because Michael proved it.

Valmai: Do you think Michael used his music as a way to get his message out there?

Jonathan: Of course. It’s evident in his music and songs; a lot of his songs. I mean, he made some shake your booty music too, but a lot of his important music is his message music, and people appreciated it in such a way they didn’t feel like they were being preached too. They wanted to hear it; the music about concern, about love and togetherness. A lot of times people shun away from that music because we feel like we’re being preached too, like we’re at church. We don’t want to hear that. Michael had such a way and such a nature that people wanted to hear it and loved hearing it. It didn’t sound like a sermon or preaching. They were curious and they wanted to become that; they wanted to see that vision he put forth.
He was a prophet in a way you know, in his music; a modern day prophet. Like I said, he was sent by God to enlighten, much like the prophets of old times. A lot of people don’t recognize it because he’s different in that he’s an entertainer, and he was sent in that form of being an entertainer, so a lot of people overlooked the prophecy he was teaching. His teachings of love and concern; you can hear about his concern with "Earth Song," and other songs he preached concern for the planet and people, for humanity, for one another. I think he’s a wonderful human being. I think he’s a lesson for everybody to learn and model after in that light; the light of concern and caring for one another. Sure would be a better world if everybody did.

Valmai: I know, it would, wouldn’t it? That’s why I think it’s so important to continue the legacy that he left for us.

Jonathan: Exactly! I agree.

Valmai: What do you want a generation 100 years from now to know about Michael?

Jonathan: That he was a man of power; of positive power that brought people together in the time that he lived. He brought people from all walks of life, all Nationalities and like I said, friends and foes alike. He was healing in the spirit because he healed a lot of people with his music and with his spirit. Being in his presence when he visited the hospitals, the children would be miraculously healed, I was told. Michael should be remembered for being one of the most positive human and unselfish human beings that ever lived. He just happened to be a singer and dancer too.

Valmai: So Jonathan, what are your plans for the future? Do have any tours coming up? Are you working on anything at present? Any albums?

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m working with the group Cameo, the funk band. Cameo has been around since 1977-’78. I’ve been with them since ’82 off and on. They let me go for someone like Madonna or Michael; they let me go do that. They say they don’t want to stop me from making that big money, but my chair is always there. “When you come back let us know. When you come back you’ll be right back in.” So, since Michael passed I’ve been back with them. I left them to do This Is It with Michael, and then afterwards I needed a little time off you know, because it was too much; I couldn’t work right away. So, when I was ready I called them up and they took me right back in. I’ve been back with them since November of 2009, and still working with them.
I’ve been working with Jermaine Jackson; he wanted to do a tribute show to Michael. I work on my own one-man tribute show, like I mentioned, and I work with promoters now who try to book me around the country and hopefully around the world you know, to continue the legacy and the music. I’m Michael’s drummer so I want to continue playing with Michael, the music, the tracks and talking about him, and let people know the magic he and I had together; the caring he had and to keep sharing his music. It’s not like having him there, but with the images and playing to his voice, playing to his tracks, it’s almost like that. It’s the next best thing, you know, not like playing with a cover band or a look-a-like, I would never do that, and I wouldn’t want to do that. This is like playing with Michael; his image is there, his voice is there and all the fans say they felt Michael in the room. This is as close as I can get to that now, and I love doing it because I always loved playing his songs, his music, and hearing his voice and playing with him. So I’m doing that as well as Cameo.
There’s something huge on the horizon I can’t talk about right now, but it’s forth-coming. I just can’t talk about it right now. It’s gonna be unbelievable and I’ve been talking with some people about it. So that’s happening. I’ve got my own music; I have a lot of music much like Michael’s. Like I said, we are very like-spirited, like-minded. I have message music and I’m working on an album, somewhat like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On; a message album that’s very commercial, but still songs based on the topic of life and humanity, much like Michael’s songs of that nature. It’s in the works now, and I have songs fully or partially written, and I have lots of other music. I have two hundred songs in the works at one stage or another, so I’m trying to get my music finished and ready for release this or next year.
I’m working on a book; a coffee table book that encompasses my career, my artwork. Like I said, I’m an artist and a designer. I design all my drum sets that people see and like. I design clothes; I design bass guitars and other things. The book’s going to have my poetry; my mindset. My mindset is when I watch TV, CNN or anything, and if something comes up about love, society, humanity; everybody has got their own opinion, but I write mine down and my viewpoints so to speak on all of these issues. Then I sign it and date it and people know that in that specific moment of my lifetime; I even put the time, say between 10:12 and 10:25 when I finish thinking and writing it, I put the time I finish, so people can specifically see where Jonathan Moffett’s mind and heart was at that specific point in his life. I have writing like that which goes all the way back to ’76. I’m compiling and working on a book to release those things, along with my coffee table book.
All the memorabilia; I’ve done 24, 25…gotta count, get the number right…I’ve done 24 or 25 major tours in my 32 years of professionalism, and I kept all the memorabilia, pretty much all 99% of it. I’m going to take photographs of it all and that’s going to be in the coffee table book as well. And DVDs’ of the travel footage I have, the sound checks, family footage of people here in New Orleans, so it’s going to be a great multi-media book. I’ve been working on it a number of years now compiling, and I hope to get that out in the next year or two, and a book of poetry.
I mean a lot of things I am working on; drumming and elements of the drumming world. I have never done a drum video so I’m going to be doing a drum video in the next year or two; instructional video. A drum book, so people can read and learn my patterns. There’s just a great multitude of things I have in the works but I’ve been working with others so much, I haven’t had the quality of time to really finish my own projects.

Valmai: The book sounds incredible. You will have to let me know when it’s published because I really want to own a copy of it. Jonathan, I am so grateful you did this interview; I’m so excited about it and it’s been wonderful talking to you. You have given me such an insight into Michael just hearing you talk; it’s just been wonderful, it really has, and I want to thank you very much.

Jonathan: You’re so welcome, so welcome. It’s great talking about things. I want the world to remember him.

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July 1990 The first publicity pictures of Michaels ‘LA Gear campaign begin to circulate in magazines as well as the first TV commercial showing Michael dancing in the street with his niece Brandi. Here is a sound designer extraordinaire Stephen Dewey of Machine Head. He mentioned that he'd worked with Michael Jackson on the famed "Street" spot for LA Gear...here are some of his recollections:

"Shortly after I embarked on the sound designer phase of my career, I received a call to work on an LA Gear advert for a Michael Jackson shoe.

This job, it turned out, was going to be a little out of the ordinary! Instead of people coming to me, I was required to appear at a film mixing sound stage in the valley, Todd-AO, as I recall. I hefted my hundred pound Fairlight computer and various other gadgets into the car and headed over for a brisk nine am start. This was back in the day of video tape. At that point, film sound stages were still very much film-based, so deploying a 3/4 video deck caused quite a kafuffle, let alone a sound computer. Doughnuts were dropping everywhere. An hour or so later, with video and smpte time code flowing freely, I was ready to roll, waiting nervously for Michael Jackson. I had spent many hours in the studio with Michael in a previous incarnation of myself, as a sound programmer, working on the "Bad" album. So I had a general idea of what to expect.

Soon enough, a slender, quiet, but massively charismatic presence entered the room, uttering quiet but cheerful hellos. A little time was spent chatting with Sandy, the owner of LA Gear, who was there to observe proceedings. We began work by viewing the cut, spotting, identifying what sort of sounds would go where. Since the spot featured a solo Michael dancing in a lamp lit deserted alley, I was going to have little use for my library of sounds. I knew that Michael would like to act out the sounds himself, and sure enough, ever the performer, he was delighted when I told him of my plan. The stage wasn't a foley stage, it was purely a mix room, so there was not much there, other than the sofas, a giant console, some floor space and the screen!

We improvised a lot. For Michael's foot sounds, we ran a long mic cable out of the back of the studio lounge and into the parking lot, where he performed a variety of spins, jumps, skids, and stomps. Following that, we came back in the studio and set up the mic in front of the screen. While playing the film, Michael replicated the moves and I captured the sound of his clothing, his breaths, body hits and various shouts. When we had finished with that I began to sort through the sounds we had so far and create a track to match action. This he enjoyed immensely, and as I worked, Michael chatted away, swapping anecdotes and generally being the playful joking person that he was. Very polite and always respectful, he was fun to be with. Having established the Michael portion of the track, I then added in the additional sounds to complete the track.

We were approaching the end of the afternoon, as we moved from a building phase to the mixing phase, adjusting the relative volume of the sounds until, a few hours later we had a finished piece. I was tired, but it was fun. Although Michael was perfectly pleasant, I was still creating - on the spot - an entire soundtrack from scratch with one of the most enigmatic and notorious people on the planet. No pressure!! It was with great satisfaction that I loaded the computer back in the car and headed home."
CJ deVillar – Producer Mix Engineer Bassist

Songworx.com – In 1998 I was fortunate enough to engineer for Michael Jackson after he asked me to record several of his vocal sessions and track a few of his producers. His passing is some pretty sad news and my memories of those studio sessions has compelled me to share a few of my experiences and observations about Michael so here’s one of a few i’ll post.

Several days after Michael’s passing a friend of mine came across a TMZ entertainment news exclusive of an unreleased Michael Jackson song and sent me a link to a short mp3 clip at the TMZ website.

To my surprise it was a song I worked on as a recording engineer and bass player as well in 1998 at the “Record Plant” in Los Angeles. The song was called “A Place With No Name” which was a re-make or more like a flip of “America”, the 70′s rock band’s timeless hit “A Horse With No Name” It was a muse track for Michael and producer Dr. Freeze, writer/producer for “Bell Biv DeVoe” and “Color Me Bad” hits. I’m not certain if it was Freeze or Michael who kicked off the idea first, but I know Michael loved the “America” song, though he did work out lots of other music explorations for the fun of it, or at least with no specific outcome in mind other than finding a surprise in the process. An observation.

Actually Michael has hundreds of songs worked up on that premise and I’m certain what I saw was only the tip of that iceberg! That sound clip is definitely a session rough mix since it doesn’t have a mix and master polished sound on it. For those unfamiliar with what a session rough mix is, it’s from the session multitrack tape that was up on the recording console that day for whatever work was being done to it, which was quickly or “roughly” mixed and recorded to a recordable CD or DAT tape as Michael liked it. Also, my bass track sounds raw and loosely compressed so it just may be from that very bass session, but I can’t be certain.

Anyway, of course I had a lot of fun recording Michael and Freeze, but what was most fun was playing bass on the track and how it showed me Michael’s relentless musical energy so vividly. A few days before my bass session, Dr. Freeze expressed that he and Michael wanted to have a “bass guitar” sound on the track. I told Freeze I can play and would be happy to lay something down for him. I brought my bass down to the studio, and a few days later Freeze was ready to record it. The problem was I was a bit concerned to play on MJ’s tracks while MJ was around. I just didn’t want to jeopardize my position as an “Engineer” goofing around on Michael’s music, but in the end it was unfounded paranoia on my part. Regardless, we waited till late in the eve when Michael usually slipped out for home long before that, at least based on his MO from the previous few weeks.

When I was certain Michael had left the studio I plugged in my bass and started to play around with the track with Freeze. But the very second I plugged in, I saw Michael emerge from his studio lounge through the vocal booth glass and into the control room, so I was like; Uh oh!, since I kind of felt busted in a way. Michael immediately said; “what are you guys doing”? I replied sheepishly; laying down some bass Mike. He said; let’s hear it. So I played a few bass licks and he immediately got excited and said; are you recording!!? Umm, no Mike, I’m just trying to find a vibe. Mike said; play and record it all! So I dropped in (hit record) and jammed on the song. Well, Michael turned up the big main speakers LOUD! and was loving what I was playing.

After several seconds Michael was in my face rockin out like we were on-stage at a live gig while I pulled off all kinds of bass ideas. At the end of that pass he said to do another and off we went again. Michael was poppin and lockin, playing air guitar while we pulled out our rock poses in front of the console. He would say; Oh yeah CJ, that was stinky!, sooo stinky ( a good thing for Mike ) Lets do another! Ok Mike, I dropped in a total of five or six times with the last one being a solid groove track so we didn’t have to comp a bunch of bass ideas to make the song listenable right away. Which sounds like that bass pass in the “A Place With No Name” mp3 clip if my memory serves me. After more than a half-hour of rockin with Michael and a few more loud playbacks, I put together a quick rough mix and made him a dat tape to listen to. He graciously thanked me again and then went home for the day.

CJ deVillar – Producer Mix Engineer Bassist

Thank you so very much Michael. Rest in peace.

Thanks to everybody who is contributing to this thread. It is just a joy to read.
I worked with Michael on many occasions...first in 1979 shortly following the release of "Off The Wall", which was recorded at my old studio, Image Recording, when it was owned by its former owner, Allen Zentz.I then spent some time in 1980 (or 81?) with Michael recording demo's for Thriller. This was great, because it was just the two of us and whoever Michael had coming in. "John, we have Jonathan Moffit coming at 12:00, then Greg Phillinganes at 1:00...oh, and we're recording strings at 4:00!". Wow, what a great experience working so closely with him. I had him on the mic for some days recording vocals, and it was an amazing experience...he would be dancing up a storm while singing and doing all of those "grunts, oohs, ahhs" vocal sounds that would pepper his tracks. He asked me to take up the carpet so he could dance, and in between takes, he would sing other popular songs of the day just freestyle and acapella and we would talk about the music we liked.Over the next year or two, I hosted the Jacksons many times, recording various tracks, claps (we had a jacuzzi room which they loved to use for the massive white-noise claps that people liked back then). I got to know all the brothers.Bruce Swedien came back to Image Recording to record a song (or two?) for the Jackson's "Victory" record in about 1983. Another great experience, as Bruce did (as I recall) a string quartet and (perhaps) Michael's vocal at the same time. Bruce IS the best of all time, by the way. BEST.I believe there were a couple of sundry Jacksons sessions over the next couple of years, but by that time, Michael was hugely popular and I didn't see him as much. The next time was really in 1995, when Robmix and I worked on the HIStory album. Rob worked on this for quite a long time (2 years?), while I worked on it for a few months. We were all holed up in Larrabee North, where Bruce had a room (or were you guys at Record One, Rob?)...Eddie Delena was recording quite a lot Michael's vocals at Larrabee in one room, and I was put in another room to engineer for whomever needed it...my most memorable session being some days with Dallas Austin and on one day, recording The Notorious B.I.G. for his rap on "This Time Around". There I was, standing in a room with Dallas, Biggie and Michael. I'll never forget it.The final days of that album were made interesting, by Bruce giving me the task to sequence the album and edit it down to a size that we could fit onto a CD. This was no small undertaking, as about 7 minutes needed to be trimmed somewhere. I laid this all out in Sound Tools and came to know every bar of every song very intimately. I found places where songs could be tightened up and came up with many suggestions. On the night of mastering, I was put in a room at Bernie Grundman's with my Sound Tools rig, and in this room, I would have to "negotiate" with Michael about what to take out. I'll never forget this night...Michael came in, and Bruce told MJ that we would have to remove either 1) one whole song or 2) edit the others to fit onto a CD. We chose the latter...I started with song one and played Michael my edits, "Oh no, we can't take THAT out...it's my favorite part of the album!". OK. Let's try another, "Oh no, we MUST keep those four bars". OK...let's go to the vamp, which carries on for two minutes...how about removing these eight bars, "Oh no, that's my favorite part of the vamp!". Well, you get the picture. Meanwhile, Jimmy Jam was in with us, telling Michael that all these edits were killer and actually make things better. And over the course of about 5 hours, we got it down. By this time, it was probably 3:00am, and I was wiped out. Bruce walked in..."Okay, John, I want you to make all these edits on the 1/2" masters right now!". My first thought was, "You've GOT to be kidding!" I had used some crossfades in Tools and such, plus I was worn out from "bartering" with Michael. But, into Bernie's room we went, and with Bruce over my shoulder, I cut the 1/2" tapes. As I recall, this took a couple of hours, and we were done. By the way, video footage of my "bartering session" with Michael exists, although I was never able to get a copy.Perhaps someday!After that album's completion, we were all invited to The Neverland Ranch with spouses and kids for a day of fun, with Michael as our host. What a memorable day that I will recount in another post...my arms hurt now!Take it away, Rob...
I was fortunate enough to work with MJ early in my career. He was an incredible artist. Talented beyond your wildest dreams. Extremely generous, and a hard worker. I actually went from a staff assistant at the Hit Factory in NYC to freelance engineer under Swedien and MJ. They were due to start in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake hit so they moved to New York. One room was all Bruce, the second room was the writing room. I started assisting Bruce's writing partner Rene Moore. I would track stuff with Rene, and Bruce would come in and tell me what I did wrong, sit in for a few hours and set us straight. After a couple months MJ arrived and the entire tour rig was moved in along with Brad Buxer, Andrew Scheps, and Eddie Delena. I continued to assist them until the whole crew moved to L.A., they decided to take me with them. I would assist Bruce during the day, and help out every where else at night - assisting, engineering, programming, and on one song playing guitar. We had two rooms at Record One, and two rooms at Larrabee where I met John. At one point in NYC we had just about every room at the Hit Factory. The crew was great, and I learned so much from all of them. I learned to engineer from Bruce Swedien, John, and Eddie, and got to sit in with producers like MJ, Jam And Lewis, Babyface, David Foster, Teddy Riley, and Dallas Austin. I was actually asked to leave the project early on because there were too many people around and MJ didn't know me. Luckily, I was rehired about 10 days later. At the wrap party MJ apologized profusely, and expressed his gratitude. Truly the most sincere man you will ever meet. Some random memories:One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. "here's the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here's the second chord first note, second note, third note", etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57.He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills. At one point Michael was angry at one of the producers on the project because he was treating everyone terribly. Rather than create a scene or fire the guy, Michael called him to his office/lounge and one of the security guys threw a pie in his face. No further action was needed . . . . .During the recording of "Smile" on HIStory, Bruce thought it would be great if Michael would sing live with the orchestra. But of course, we didn't tell the players that. We set him up in a vocal booth off to the side. They rehearsed a bit without vocals in, then during the first take Michael sang, just about knocked them out of their chairs. His beatboxing was without parallel, and his time was ridiculous. His sense of harmony was incredible. Never a bad note, no tuning, even his breathing was perfectly in time. Once, while we were taking a break, I think we were actually watching the OJ chase on TV, there was a news program talking about him being in Europe with some little boy. I was sitting next to the guy while the news is making this crap up. He just looked at me and said this is what I have to deal with. I spent close to 3 years working with him, and not once did I question his morals, or ever believe any of the allegations. I wasn't even a fan then. I saw him interact with his brothers kids, other people's children, and at one point my own girlfriend's kids. I got to spend a day at Neverland with them. A completely incredible human being, always looking for a way to make all children's lives better. Every weekend at Neverland was donated to a different children's group - children with AIDS, children cancer, etc., and most of the time he wasn't there. He was simply living the childhood he never had. In many ways he never grew up. I was assisting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis while they recorded the background vocals for "Scream" with MJ and Janet. The two of them singing together was amazing. Super tight, no bad notes. One part after another. When they took a break they sang the showtunes they used to sing as kids. Again, perfect harmony. Mj refused to sing the "stop f*ckin' with me part" because he would NOT curse. I was the tape op for the recording of the background vocals on "Stranger in Moscow". Scared the hell out me. Michael was dropping in and out on syllables, rearranging the notes and timing as he put it down. No Pro Tools at the time, just 2" tape, and my punches. I erased a live keyboard overdub that he played one night. He came in the next morning, replaced it, and never uttered another word about it. I was there when Lisa Marie was around. They acted like two kids in love. Held hands all the time, and she hung out at the studio for quite a while. I never questioned their love for each other. We recorded a Christmas song during the summer of '94 that needed a children's choir. Michael insisted that the entire studio be decorated with xmas lights, tree, fake snow and a sled for their recording. And he bought presents for everyone. The last weekend of recording on HIStory he came to me and Eddie Delena, and said "I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us are going to sleep this weekend. There's a lot to get done, and we have to go to Bernie on Monday morning". He stayed at the studio the entire time, singing, and mixing. I got to spend a couple quiet moments with him during that time. We talked about John Lennon one night as he was gearing up to sing the last vocal of the record - the huge ad libs at the end of "earth song". I told him the story of John singing "twist and shout" while being sick, and though most people think he was screaming for effect, it was actually his voice giving out. He loved it, and then went in to sing his heart out. . . .Later that night, while mixing, everyone left the room so MJ could turn it up. This was a common occurrence during the mixes, and I was left in the room with ear plugs, and hands over my ears, in case he needed something. This particular night, all the lights were out and we noticed some blue flashes intermittently lighting up the room during playback. After a few moments we could see that one of the speakers (custom quad augspuergers) was shooting blue flames. Mj liked this and proceeded to push all the faders up . . . . MJ liked hot water while he was singing. I mean really hot !!!!! It got to the point that I would melt plastic spoons to test it. Bruce and I were talking about walking to the studio everyday in NYC, and what routes we took. Michael looked at us and said we were so lucky to be able to do that. He couldn't walk down the street without being harassed. It was a sad moment for all of us. The studio crew got free tickets to the Janet show so we all went right from work one night. About halfway through the show we see this dude with a long beard, dressed in robes dancing in the aisle behind. I mean really dancing . . . it was Mj in disguise. Kind of like the costume Chevy Chase wears in Fletch while roller skating. He got one of the first playstations from sony in his lounge . . . we snuck in late at night to play the games that hadn't been released yet. A couple people on the session hadn't seen Jurassic Park while it was out, so MJ arranged a private screening for us at Sony. He was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral . . . . I was lucky enough over the course of 3 years to have access to the multitrack masters for tour prep, videos, and archive purposes. To be able to pull these tracks apart was a huge lesson in production, and songwriting. A chance to look into the minds of geniuses. Of all the records I've worked on, MJJ was the only company to give platinum award records. One day we just all sat in the studio listening to his catalog with him for inspiration. He loved the process, he loved the work.


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Re: Billie Jean director Steve Barron remembers making the short film

Does anyone know where the BILLIE JEAN video was filmed, which movie house? Hollywood Center? Universal? Culver City? and the dates? From the interview, it seems to be November 1982? Thanks.
Re: Billie Jean director Steve Barron remembers making the short film

Great article
Re: Billie Jean director Steve Barron remembers making the short film

Love reading things like this :)
Re: Billie Jean director Steve Barron remembers making the short film

Does anyone know the real name of the other characters in the clip ?
Re: Billie Jean director Steve Barron remembers making the short film

I only know there are some similiar scenes with Fred Aster's 'The Band Wagon' in BJ video (as well as some moments in SC and YRMW videos)
And I remeber Baron said that one of girls on the big screan is the very Billie Jean!
Love this video very much!

Michael Beardon Interview, This Is it

MoviesOnline recently sat down with Michael Jackson’s musical director, Michael Bearden, to talk about his new film, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT, which offers Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this past summer in London’s O2 Arena.

Bearden is an accomplished musical director/keyboardist/arranger/composer for a diverse range of musical superstars. He has performed and/or recorded with some of popular music’s giants including: Sting, Carlos Santana, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Chaka Kahn, Patti Austin, James Ingrahm, Patti Labelle, Yoko Ono, George Benson, Natalie Cole, Yossou NDour, Boz Scaggs, Lenny Kravitz, Luther Vandross, Issac Hayes, Aaron Neville, Edie Brickell, Jon Bonjovi and legends Nancy Wilson, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles and served as musical director for Madonna and Rod Stewart to name just a few.

His diverse musical skills have also been sought by younger artists including: Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Destinys Child, Brandy,India Arie, Fantasia, Neyo, Chris Brown, Rhianna, Ashanti, John Mayer, Faith Evans, Brian McKnight, Mary J. Blige, Da Brat, Mya,Marc Doresy, Joss Stone, Usher, Keisha Cole, Angie Stone and musical director for Jennifer Lopez , Anastacia, DAngelo,and The Veronicas, among others.

He has also written, produced, and performed for such notable jazz artists as: Rachelle Ferrell, Herbie Mann, Everette Harp, Will Downing, Nelson Rangell, Marion Meadows, Regina Carter, Noel Pointer, Special EFX, Pieces Of A Dream, Jonathan Butler, Victor Bailey, Stanley Turrentine and collaborated on Herbie Hancock's Grammy nominated album Possibilities.

An accomplished composer, Bearden’s feature film scores include Drop Squad produced by Spike Lee (starring Eriq Lasalle and Ving Rhames) and the indie film The Visit directed by Jordan Walker Pearlman (starring Rae Dawn Chong and Billy Dee Williams). Michael scored two debut indie features, The Arrangement for filmmaker H.H.Cooper and One Week for director Carl Seaton. In addition, Michael penned the score to Dense, the directorial debut feature film for Soul Foods Vanessa Williams. He scored the feature Constellation (starring Gabrielle Union, Leslie Ann Warren and Billy Dee Williams) as well as the feature film/doc America The Beautiful for director Darryl Roberts, and director Ian Inabas’ Sundance film/doc American Blackout, as well as the dark comedy "Redrum" starring Jill Marie Jones. Bearden recently performed with all acts at the historic Lincoln Memorial "We Are One" concert for the Obama inauguration.

Michael Bearden is a terrific guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his friendship and recent collaboration with Michael Jackson on his new film, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT:

At what point did you know that one scene between you and Michael was going to be in the movie? And when you saw it for the first time, what was your reaction?

MB: Oh me and him? Telling him “More booty”? What happened was after MJ’s memorial, we had a few days off and then we get a call from AEG -- Kenny Ortega, our wonderful director, Travis Payne, our choreographer and Associate Director and Associate Producer of the film, and me, also Associate Producer of the film. They asked us to come down and see out of the 80, 90, 100 hours we had, maybe a 4-hour long string, so we saw that and that was the first time I saw that scene and I just laughed because that moment in the film is – MJ, that whole week, was supposed to come in with me and my band and he would either have something else to do or he didn’t so there was me being frustrated because he wasn’t there. He was asking for things and I was like “Well, if you had been here, I would have had them for you.” (laughs)

Q: He wasn’t coming?

MB: No, no. It wasn’t that he wasn’t coming. He was working. We were working. This tour was a massive undertaking. A lot of times Travis would have him or I would have him or Kenny Ortega would have him or we collectively would have him so he was just busy doing a lot of things so my time was getting cheated in the initial stage. It didn’t in the end as you saw in the film. It was glorious and all of that. I’m never one to back down and then MJ wasn’t either. But, it wasn’t a confrontational thing. It was just he wanted what he wanted and I wanted what I wanted. Together, he and I would call it…all of us would call it creative jousting. He would do something and I would go “Yeah, I like that but try this.” So what you see there is not tension so much and I’m always silly and as you can see, I made him crack up at the end. He says, “I knew exactly what you meant.” And we always embraced and we always said “I love you.” He’d say, “God bless you, Bearden. I love you.” He would call me by my last name because we had about 10 or 12 Michaels on the tour. (laughs)

Q: Was he not planning to do Bad?

MB: See, here’s the thing. The set list, if MJ did every hit that he ever had, he would be on stage for 24 hours or at least a week. One of my earliest meetings with MJ, he actually went on line and, by going on line, I mean his older son, Prince Michael, probably got on line and he asked the fans what they wanted to hear. So he had a computer printout of a list from 1 to maybe 50 or 100 and he really wanted to give the fans and serve them what they wanted. He really loved the fans so much – more than any other artist I’ve ever worked with. I’ve never seen this before ever. One day we were having a meeting – he and I and maybe one of his young sons – and he showed me the printout, then he showed me his personal handwritten list. He’d take out his reading glasses which I thought was great and he showed it to me and said “What do you think, Bearden?” And I said, “You know, MJ, this is cool, but you have no J5 and you have no Off The Wall.” He says, “I don’t?” And he looked at it and went “Ahhh.” It was an angst ridden thing for us because he had so much material and so much great stuff and we really wanted to serve the fans but he also wanted to do his message pieces of Heal the World and We Are the World. That’s a big thing for him and to rescue this planet and help heal how we treat each other on the planet. So we couldn’t take those songs out. Remember the Time, there as Bad. There was so many things I wanted to do and he wanted to do them as well but we just… I said, “You know, if we do this MJ, we’ll be on stage for 3, 4, 5 hours. We can’t do that every night. You’ve got 50 days. He says, “Oh yeah, I don’t want to do that.”

Q: Are there some that will be on the DVD that aren’t in the film?

MB: Hopefully, there are some things. Obviously we couldn’t put everything in a film ‘cause you would be in the theater for 24 hours. There’s gonna be some extras, hopefully. They call it ‘added value’ now. It’s too fancy for me, but hopefully we’ll get to do some numbers on there that we didn’t do before.

Q: Do you know which ones?

MB: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Q: What was he planning for his finale and encore? Did you get that far?

MB: We sorta kinda got that far but not really. We were just on the way there. To this day we don’t have the set list. We were in the process of just chiseling. It was my job and his job, but towards the end he gave it to me. He wanted to put it on me. “Well you take out the verses ‘cause I don’t want to cheat the fans.” It was almost too painful for him. He would just go, “Oh.” I blew up a set list one day, poster size, put it in his dressing room, went in there with him. I said, “Okay, I’m going out here. You mark it up for me. You do it.” And I came back and it was still not touched. I said, “MJ, what are you doing?” He said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. You have to do it. You have to do it.” So we would take some things out of it and literally he would look at me. I would put the marker by it and I would go, “Okay. Cut that out.” And he’d go, “No, no…” It was painful. So we kind of got there. We probably were gonna do Man in the Mirror, but maybe not. We didn’t know.

Q: As the finale?

MB: We didn’t know. We didn’t know.

Q: I always liked the song from Free Willy. I wonder where that ranks on his list?

MB: I don’t remember where that ranks. There’s a lot like that that he loved.

Q: In that scene in the movie between you and him where you’re talking back, Michael doesn’t come across as a diva. How did you see Michael and what did you discover about him after you really got to know him?

MB: I discovered that he was not a diva and he was not a perfectionist in the dictatorial sense where “You must do what I say” kind of thing. He was very collaborative and a lot of people, including me, didn’t really know. I worked with a lotta, lotta stars, big artists, and Michael just had a mystique about him that you didn’t think you could touch him. He was quite the opposite. He was quite probably the kindest, the most generous, the most gracious, the most approachable artist that I every worked with in my life, and you wouldn’t think he would be. We would say “God bless you” and then “I love you” every day. Now how many bosses tell you they love you? Okay? So that’s what it was to work with him. He knew what he wanted and he wasn’t afraid to tell you. But he was also not afraid of change if you could make something better, make his idea better. He was open to that and he didn’t mind being vulnerable in front of you and if you made something better, he would go “Oh no, that’s better. That’s better. I like that better.”

Q: Was he planning to do live vocals for every song?

MB: Yes, and I didn’t want him to.

Q: You didn’t? Because a lot of artists now when they…

MB: Absolutely and everybody does it. I’ll tell you what, I can do an experiment right now. Just sit in your chair and do this (bouncing up and down) and try to have a conversation. Now imagine dancing and doing that. And I would tell him and he would just resist it. “No.” I’d say “Well MJ, everybody knows you can sing. You’ve been doing it since you were 5. It’s not like a Milli Vanilli thing. It’s you. It’s you.” But he would not do it. I would say, “Okay. Well, at least let me lower the key some and then he would go, “Okay. But make it only a half step.” “Alright MJ.” Then, some pieces he would, just like on the J5, and then I’d say “What about a half step on this?” And he said, “No, you gotta do long. I’m too old to sing these songs.” So yeah, you’re right, I didn’t want him to, but he insisted. And to his credit and to his genius, that was Michael.

Q: For the Jackson 5 stuff, did you lower the register a little bit for him?

MB: Can you do things like he would do them? No, no.

Q: In the film he uses the expression “let it simmer” a lot. Were there any other Michael Jacksonisms?

MB: There were a lot of MJisms that we just – “simmer,” “bathe in the moonlight,” “I’m sizzling.” That is my favorite, “I’m sizzling.” I can’t think of it. There’s so many. There’s so many and we would just talk. There’s one moment in I Wanna Be Starting Something. You can see him talking to me. “I don’t hear that [beat boxing].” And he would talk to me like that. So one day he and I were in his room and he said, “Yeah, so you know that part? It needs to be louder.” And he said, “You know, that’s like his cousin. It goes through the guitar and his cousin is there. His cousin is running up right next to him. So you got to heavy him and then you have a cousin.” He would talk to me like that. That’s a Michael Jacksonism. Just regular, you know, nothing big, just something simple that everybody’s able to understand.

Q: Well you’re probably the last person I can ever ask this, what did Shamon mean?

MB: Shamon is, it’s just a combination of “come on” and some things that he got from his Motown days and it’s just…if you notice, MJ would never do anything regular, especially when he was on stage. So, every moment, there was no wasted movement. So every time, if you watch the film again, you’ll see if he’s standing there and the singer is singing, if he’s doing a duet with Judith, he’s always animated and he’s always doing something. He’s always gracious and he’s always doing this. Every moment means something. I asked him one day “MJ, why you have tape on your hands?” I always wanted to know that and it was a great gig for me because I would have him personally and it was one of those gigs where he would say, “If you had this person alone, what would you ask him?” and I took full advantage of it. And to his graciousness, he would say to me, “You really want to know?” and he would just honestly tell me and he never turned me down. The tape on his fingers he says “Well, ‘cause it feels good.” It was like a batter in a batters box. The hands have to feel a certain way. But then it was also that if he throws his hand that way, the white, your eye goes to it. So there’s no wasted moment. It’s a show biz thing. You just go “Bam!” You’re looking at his movement but that eye, that white will always catch you. You just … So you’re on stage doing that. It’s just one of his show biz tricks that he learned when he was a kid.

Q: We saw him in the auditions with the dancers, how involved was he with the band? The Australian guitarist, Orianthi (Panagaris), was amazing.

MB: I’ll tell you that story. One of my first meetings with MJ was about the band. We chose his drummer. We call him Foot. His name is Jonathan Moffett. He’s been working with MJ for 30 years. I said, “Okay, you can have…” My thing was I wanted to come in and clean house, just do everything like a new start. We’re going to be together for two years. It had to feel like a family. So I didn’t want any agenda, any fire starters, anything like that. If you want to be on the road for two years, with an extension of may 3-5 which is what MJ wanted, you’d better like the people that you’re going to be around and so that’s how we chose them. I asked him “How did you choose Foot” and he said “Well, when Jonathan plays, he makes me want to dance.” Anytime a dancer says that to you, that’s the highest endorsement ever. So he was put there. My bassist, Alex Al, was also put there. We had worked with Michael on the 30th anniversary at the Garden right before 9/11 so he really liked Alex. He pretty much trusted me and let me put the band together but he wanted a guitarist. He wanted a female. He wanted her to be blonde. I put the feelers out and her name came back five times so I actually went on MySpace, sent her a note – “I am Michael Jackson’s musical director” – this is true. And, of course, she did not believe it. Her manager called me and he was not – her former manager (laughs) – he was sort of rude. So I said, “You know what? You’re going to blow an opportunity for your client. Just give me her personal number. I will call her.” I called her personally and then I said, “Come down. I’ll let you meet Michael.” She met Michael. Of course, she knew it was real then. She just couldn’t believe she was found on MySpace. And then the rest…our other guitarist, Tommy Organ, he was the only one that auditioned. He came in and he just blew Michael away. Michael’s regular guitarist, David Williams, the great Davey Williams, had passed away maybe about a month before we were going to start. So we needed somebody to get that kind of flavor and Tommy came in and just did his thing. MJ handpicked everybody and blessed what I brought in and that was that. He was hands on in everything he did. There was not one thing that he didn’t touch – wardrobe, lighting. He even designed the ticket for the show. We were there when he did it. He was amazing. I don’t see how he did it. There was just so much going on.

Q: Was he specific about why he wanted a woman in the band?

MB: He always had one and he just liked that energy on guitar. It’s not that traditional. His prerequisite was “She’s got to really be able to shred. She’s got to really be able to play.” He didn’t just want a woman there. He wanted somebody that could really play. And Ori can really play. She’s an artist on Geffen (Records) now and her career’s about to launch. I’ve seen videos of her and her record and she’s amazing. You will be hearing about her. He just liked that energy. That’s all.

Q: Are you on his album? Someone mentioned that he was working on an album at the same time as the concert. Was it going to be separate?

MB: We were working on an album and it was definitely going to be separate. He was working on an album, new material, all of that.

Q: And that’s going to be released at some point?

MB: I don’t know. Will.i.am was going to do some things. There were a lot of new producers too. MJ never sang anything. He just had it in his head so I don’t know. We never got that far.

Q: Are you planning a tribute concert tour? There was an idea for one but it was cancelled a couple months ago.

MB: Well that particular one was something that Jermaine (Jackson) was trying to do on his own and that wasn’t really sanctioned by all of us so we had nothing to do with that. Hopefully, sometime next year around his birthday we’ll do something but it’s not definitive.

Q: From your perspective, what is Michael’s legacy?

MB: Michael’s legacy from my perspective is love. That’s what he wanted the world to have. He said we need more of it in the film. That’s what we were able to do with this honor project that his children will be able to see in perpetuity. They will love it. They will appreciate what daddy did which is why he wanted to do it. He said he wanted to do it while he was still young enough to do it and his children were old enough to appreciate it. And his legacy is secure. He loved his fans and he loved the world and he wanted to put more love in it

Thanks loveforever for this.
Love this interview with Michael Bearden.