Of all the artists, producers, entertainers and celebrities who have paid tribute to [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] since his death on Thursday, perhaps the person who knows his music best is the man who launched his career as the King of Pop: [artist id="505960"]Quincy Jones[/artist].
Starting with Jackson's 1979 album, Off the Wall, Jones became the singer's longtime producer, and in a revealing, intimate blog post for the Los Angeles Times, Jones wrote about Jackson's dedication to his craft, their work in the studio and how an unlikely collaboration on the set of a big-screen musical led to one of the most successful creative partnerships in pop music history.
"In 1978, [director] Sidney Lumet pulled me kicking and screaming into doing the music for 'The Wiz,' and in hindsight I'm so glad he did," wrote Jones. "As the scarecrow, Michael dove into the filming of 'The Wiz' with everything that he had, not only learning his lines but those of everyone in the cast. Prior to filming, Michael and I were working at my home and he asked if I could help find him a producer to work with him on his first solo album from Epic."
Jones didn't volunteer his services until he saw Jackson on set struggling with a line — the correct pronunciation of "Socrates." "It was that wonderment that I saw in his eyes that locked me in," Jones wrote. "I knew that we could go into completely unexplored territory, a place that as a jazz musician gave me goose bumps."
And so Jones, Jackson and songwriter Rod Temperton began work on Off the Wall.
"[Michael] was so shy he'd sit down and sing behind the couch with his back to me while I sat there with my hands over my eyes with the lights off," wrote Jones.
Jackson may have been introverted in the studio, but after working with a vocal coach, the Off the Wall album ended up going platinum four times and scoring four top-10 hits. For the follow-up album, Jackson and Jones had four months to complete their work, but after quickly falling behind schedule, they found themselves with just two months to finish the record.
"I told Michael that we needed a black rock 'n' roll tune — a black 'My Sharona' — and a begging tune for the album," Jones wrote. "He came back with 'Beat It' and Rod came back with 'The Lady in My Life.' Rod also brought in 'Thriller' and Michael sang his heart out on it. At one point during the session the right speaker burst into flames, which none of us had ever seen before. How's that for a sign?"
They completed the album just hours before it was due. They gave it a final listen and were shocked to find that it sounded terrible. Jackson himself was in tears. The team took two days off, reshaped the album and shortened the intro to "Billie Jean." Thriller ended up going platinum 28 times, making it the biggest-selling non-compilation album in history.
"There will be a lot written about what came next in Michael's life, but for me all of that is just noise," Jones wrote in conclusion. "I promise you in 50, 75, 100 years, what will be remembered is the music. It's no accident that almost three decades later, no matter where I go in the world, in every club and karaoke bar, like clockwork, you hear 'Billie Jean,' 'Beat It,' 'Wanna Be Starting Something,' 'Rock With You' and 'Thriller.' "
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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