Story of the Song: Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson 1987

Robert Webb
Friday 10 December 2010 01:00
Comments

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in