Now a month after he passed, the MJ hoopla continues.
Rolling Stone finally got around to shipping an issue with him on the cover, with a solid accompanying article tracking his whereabouts over the last two years. Still has its lurid bits – prosthetic nose and Latoya trolling through Neverland looking for bags of cash – but it’s more of a portrait than most of the continuing coverage.
The thing that gets me about all the coverage is that people still don’t seem to know all that much about Michael Jackson as a musician. Like anything else, it’s just an echo chamber of the same small handful of facts on spin cycle.
For example, “Man in the Mirror” – a fantastically constructed song that has leapfrogged all of his freaky-video hits to become his official theme and lament. So very Michael, right? Definitive?
It may have been definitive, but it was one of the few big hits of MJ’s solo career that he didn’t have a songwriting credit on. It was penned by Siedah Garrett – an 80s pop artist, songwriter, and killer backing vocalist (frequently with Madonna), and arranged with Glen Ballard, best know as the co-writer and producer of Jagged Little Pill (as well as the debut of Wilson Phillips).
Rolling Stone‘s fantastic Smoking Section just interviewed Ballard about how “Mirror” got onto Bad at the last second.
Siedah and I wrote it for him directly. It was near the end of the recording for Bad — it was the last weekend before they wrapped up Bad — and think I had written something for the album but it didn’t get accepted. Quincy [Jones, Bad‘s producer] called me and said, “Don’t you have anything else for us?” He thought we were idiots not to try again, and Siedah had an idea, and we got together on a Saturday night, met at my house in Encino, and we just wrote it on the spot. It was really simple, we just wrote it on a Fender Rhodes, and did a quick demo with Siedah singing. It felt really good, but you never know. And we didn’t have time to dress it up, so I didn’t feel like it had a chance.
As for Siedah, at a recent service she briefly eulogized Jackson and then delivered an unbelievable solo turn on the song, backed by the tremendous Agape International Choir.
I started working on my cover of “Man in the Mirror” sometime last fall, and it only started coming together a week or two before Michael died. I love playing it, but I might need to wait a few months before doing it at open mics feels something other than opportunistic.
I’m sorry that Michael Jackson coverage has reached a point of backlash. Honestly, I would listen to him all day and cry two months ago, so I don’t see why I can’t keep doing it now.