Michael Jackson’s best songs were alive, and they made the listener feel the same way. They had heart and soul, blood, sweat and even some tears — they were living things, expertly crafted by some of the best scientists in the business (Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, etc.). Jackson’s voice — sometimes lithe and tender, other times pained and downright dangerous — was always the lifeblood, the stuff that primed the pump. The musical flourishes (the disco rushes, the rock-hard guitar solos, the cinematic orchestral sweeps) were the DNA. The beat was the backbone.
Those building blocks were used to create some of the most undeniable music of the past quarter-century, massive hits that still fill dance floors and bring tears to the eyes of the faithful. They are the reason we remember the man. And they’re still potent, still being employed by producers and musicians today — a testament to the genius of Jackson and his team of musical creators.
Some of the biggest acts in music today have built hits around MJ samples. [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] and T-Pain lifted “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” for their 2007 hit “Good Life.” [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna’s[/artist] “Don’t Stop the Music” took the beat from “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” (which Jackson actually sampled from Cameroonian singer Manu Dibango’s 1975 song “Soul Makossa”) and MJ’s famed whoops. [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z’s[/artist] “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” samples the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back.” And we’re just getting started.
Public Enemy sampled Vincent Price’s famous “Thriller” cackle on their seminal “911 (Is a Joke).” [artist id="1000"]Nas’[/artist] “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” sampled “Human Nature.” Tupac’s “Letter 2 My Unborn” samples “Liberian Girl.” [artist id="1244169"]Diddy[/artist] sampled the J5′s “Walk On” on his “All About the Benjamins” remix. Big Pun, Ghostface, Redman, Ludacris and [artist id="508574"]Jennifer Lopez[/artist] — all sampled at the altar of the King of Pop.
Electronic artists like Moby and the Prodigy got in on the act too. And the list goes on and on … artists well-known and obscure, legendary and fleeting: They’ve all sampled Michael Jackson’s songs. In fact, his musical DNA is so widespread that it necessitates sites like this and this just to document it. Jackson the man may be gone , but we’re willing to bet that his music will live on — continuing to influence and inspire and build the songs of the 21st century.
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends.
Share your Michael Jackson memories by uploading video and comments to Your.MTV.com or joining the discussion below.