Story of the Song: Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson 1987
Friday 10 December 2010
It was an indication of how commercially viable Michael Jackson had become by the late Eighties that out of the 11 tracks on his album Bad, ten were issued as singles in various territories.
Released on seven-inch in January 1988, "Man in the Mirror" was a lucky break for its lyricist, Siedah Garrett. Garrett had never written a song before until she was coerced into it as part of the Quincy Jones-produced five-piece, Deco. In 1986 Jones invited her along to a meeting with other songwriters at the producer's home, as Garrett explained to author Adam White. The brief was to come up with material for Jackson's next album and the appointment was for 11am: Garrett arrived an hour late. "I got lost," she said. Jones told the assembled company that he needed something extraordinary for Jackson. "He said: 'I just want hits, that's all I want'," Garrett recalled.
Garrett took the commission to her writing partner, Glen Ballard. "I sat down and started playing a figure on the keyboard and Siedah opened up her notebook," Ballard told SongTalk magazine. Garrett caught Ballard's attention with some lyrics about a man looking in the mirror, a line she had carried around for a year or so. By the end of the week they had completed a demo, with Garrett's soulful guide vocal. Garrett called Jones straight away and told him that he shouldn't wait until Monday to hear their song. Sensing the anticipation, Jones asked her over immediately. Garrett delivered the tape and waited.
Four hours later Jones was back on the phone. "He said, 'Baby, the song is great. It's really good'," recalled Garrett. At Jackson's request Garrett and Ballard obliged with a longer middle eight and some modifications to the lyrics, and Jones brought the Andraé Crouch Choir into the studio for some additional gospel padding. The Grammy-nominated song peaked at No.21 in the UK and was the first of a dozen Jacko hits to re-enter the charts following his death in 2009, landing just short of the No.1 spot.
It has been performed, mostly as a tribute to Jackson, by several artists, including Whitney Houston, Chris Brown and Garrett herself. James Morrison's 2009 dinner-party-friendly cover ditches Jones's original abrasive, synth-heavy production in favour of a more raw, rootsy delivery.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures