Today’s publication is very special to me, since I am going to talk about the greatest entertainer that ever lived. The idea behind the publication came to me this morning when I was simply listening to the playlist I have on my phone and suddenly it played “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. As we all know, the song features Eddie Van Halen’s instantly recognizable and brilliant guitar riffs. This made me think about other famous and everlasting collaborations and duets he did throughout the years. I don’t think right now I will have the time to actually list all of them – they are that many. However, I wanted to present and cover at least five of my ultimate favorites and of course provide some background information about the projects.
It was very difficult to decide what to begin with actually, since we are talking about the King of the Kings – the person who did so much for the music industry – not only he broke the racial barrier on TV but he was also one of the greatest philanthropists. He gave the world something much more than music. Personally, I don’t think anyone can match his success or stage persona – he was that good. I was so lucky to be probably the last generation to be influenced by his music on such high levels. It is such a shame that we lost him…
Back to the publication, I don’t really think there were, are, or will be, any entertainers greater than him. However, he was a humble and gentle soul, everybody admired him and he had numerous friends in the industry. Throughout his career he made some unforgettable collaborations and duets with other artists. We grew up listening to those songs and we are still doing it – who can forget “USA for Africa” or “Beat It”? – No one.
I chose to talk about 5 songs in particular – my personal five I would say. In the future, I would most certainly plan on publishing a “part 2” so stay tuned for more. The following list of songs are not numbered chronologically or based on commercial success, popularity or any other recognition. The list simply reflects my preferences.
“Beat It” (featuring Eddie Van Halen)
ROCK meets POP
I won’t lie – the reason why I love this song so much is because of Eddie’s distinctive and powerful guitar riffs. Everyone who knows me is well aware of how much I love Van Halen, so it was only natural to begin with this song. Another reason why I chose to start with “Beat It” was because of its background story. The song itself was the third single from the singer’s sixth solo album, Thriller and it was released on February 3, 1983. It ultimately topped all the charts, including US R&B singles chart, US Billboard Top Tracks chart and Billboard Hot 100. Many music critics claim that this song was the best song of the album. I would agree for sure. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Thriller and Billie Jean and pretty much every song from the album. However, “Beat it” did it perfectly to me. It is a perfect fusion of rock and pop and what a fusion that was!! “I wanted to write a song, the type of song that I would buy if I were to buy a rock song… That is how I approached it and I wanted the children to really enjoy it—the school children as well as the college students,” – He said. The story of how Eddie Van Halen ended up in the song is also pretty interesting. When he was first contacted by Quincy Jones, Eddie thought it was a prank call – really? However, once he realized that Michael really wanted to collaborate with him for a rock song, Eddie quickly agreed. What I love about this story is the fact that Eddie didn’t even ask for money – he simply did it for free. “I did it as a favour…I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager and everyone else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing – I don’t do something unless I want to do it,” – Eddie said. His guitar riffs were a bit too much though, so the producers had to reduce the distorted guitar a little. Another interesting fact is that when they were recording his solo, a monitor speaker in the control room actually caught on fire – imagine the power coming out of the guitar! Unfortunately, Eddie was not allowed to be in the music video of the song (Shame!) however he did appear on stage with Michael during Jackson brothers “Victory Tour”. Bottom line is – they were both phenomenal! Eddie was ripping through those notes with the speed of light! He wrote his own guitar solo, of course. However I should mention that the song itself was composed, arranged and written by Michael – and what a song that is!
“You have to show them that you’re really not scared
You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no truth or dare
They’ll kick you, then they beat you,
Then they’ll tell you it’s fair…”
“Say, Say, Say” (featuring Paul McCartney)
Legend vs Legend
Two music geniuses coming together and creating such an amazing, catchy and everlasting song with probably one of the most memorable music videos ever! The song doesn’t need introduction. In my opinion it is Michael’s most successful collaboration with another artist ever! In terms of commercial success and popularity it is indeed one of the greatest duet songs ever. However, in my opinion the vocal delivery of both Paul and Michael is not as impressive as I would like it to be.
“Say, Say, Say” was released in 1983 and was produced by George Martin for Paul McCartney’s album, Pipes of Peace. It quickly hit number one in charts all over the USA and Europe. It was also certified as gold by the RIAA for sales of more than one million copies in 1983.
During the recording sessions, Michael actually stayed and lived with Linda and Paul with whom eventually he became good friends. The majority of the song lyrics were written by Michael and the song itself was produced by George Martin who worked with The Beatles before. I am sure most of you guys know the story behind the feud between those two but I really think it is hilarious – so I would like to share it once more. During Michael’s stay in Paul and Linda’s house, Paul shared with him how much money he makes from all the publishing rights he bought to hit songs. That is indeed through because if you own the publishing rights, every time someone covers the song or plays it on the radio – you get money. Michael got inspired and eventually bought the company that owned most of the Fab Four’s music catalog – such an irony, right! “…to be someone’s friend and then buy the rug they’re standing on…,” – Paul said.
“What can I do
Girl to get through to you?
Cause I love you, baby
Standing here, baptisted in all my tears
Baby through the years
You know I’m crying…”
“Scream” (featuring Janet Jackson)
Brother vs. Sister
Phenomenal! Exceptional! Brilliant! I don’t even know what to say about this collaboration and this song! Not to mention the video which is indeed one of the craziest videos of the 90s – but that is Michael, after all – the king of the music videos! The song is very rough, wild and quite angry I think – it about how media misinterpret and misinform the society. (Quite sensitive and popular topic, especially after the 90s)… In the first half of the 90s, Michael Jackson was often the center figure of media backlash – so he decided that the best way to respond is through his music! Specifically, the song addresses the sexual child abasement claims that were made against Michael in 1993.
In my opinion, however, when we talk about this specific Janet and Michael collaboration, what made it so famous is the music video, rather than the song itself. Don’t get me wrong – it is a song to die for. However, the MV was why it stood out and made such a buzz – both of them took on a much darker and wild persona and took off to space to get away from all the media hustle and bustle. One other thing I wanted to point out is that they both sounded very different from their usual selves, especially Michael. With this song and his vocal delivery, you could tell how frustrated and angry he was – and most certainly was not hiding it.
The single was released on May 31, 1995.
“Tired of injustice
Tired of the schemes
The lies are disgusting
So what does it mean
Kicking me down
I got to get up
As jacked as it sounds
The whole system sucks”
“State Of Shock” (featuring Mick Jagger)
Fun, Crazy, Pure Rock’n’Roll….
I love this song! This song and “Beat It” are probably my top favorite Michael Jackson collaborations of all time! Mick Jagger – do I need to say more? Mick brought so much energy, so much passion and so much fun to the song! It was written by Jackson and guitarist Randy Hansen and it reached number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (huh? It deserved number 1)… It was originally supposed to be a song featuring only Jackson’s guitarist Randy, but then they came up with the idea of inviting a rockstar.
Interesting fact, the song was originally supposed to be a duet between Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury, however their schedules were so different, that Michael eventually recorded it with Jagger. Personally, I think they made the right decision. I don’t wish to compare Mick and Freddie since I adore them both on so many levels; however for this song in particular, Mick’s energetic vocal delivery did it for me!
“State Of Shock” was released in June 1984 “by The Jacksons and it was their last platinum effort.
“The lead singer of the Rolling Stones eyed the phenomenal success of Thriller with envy,” – said Christopher P. Andersen.
“Mick became obsessed with Michael Jackson” and explained it saying, “He wanted to know every detail about Jackson’s life, his contract with Columbia, how the Thriller singles were selling,…,” said Arthur Collins, then president of Rolling Stones Records.
“You gotta be mine
‘Cause you’re so fine
I like your style
It makes me wild
You take it to me good
Know you should
You get me on my knees
Well, please, baby, please…”
+ bonus – a live performance I absolutely adore – featuring my favorite female rockstar Tina Turner during LIVE AID in 1985
“Give Into Me” (featuring Slash)
Power, Power, Raw Power…
After the phenomenal success of “Beat It”, I think it was only natural for Michael to start making more and more projects with famous guitarists. This time, he chose Slash from Guns n Roses and what a perfect match!!! The song is often considered as a hard rock ballad and it was released on February 1993 as the tenth track on Michael Jackson’s 1991 studio album Dangerous.
Many people are sometimes confused when it comes to Slash and Michael Jackson’s collaborations because the guitarist is often associated with the song “Black or White”. However to set the records straight, the song’s main riff is not played by Slash.
“Give Into Me” on the other hand turned into this sensual, wild and rather aggressive heavy metal ballad tanks to Slash’s genius guitar skills. It was also written, composed, and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell. Slash also appeared on the music video, as well as other musicians such as Muzz Skillings (Living Color) and Gilby Clarke (Guns n Roses).
“You Always Knew Just How To Make Me Cry
And Never Did I Ask You Questions Why
It Seems You Get Your Kicks From Hurting Me
Don’t Try To Understand Me
Because Your Words Just Aren’t Enough”
This is it for now!
Those are my five most favorite Michael Jackson collaborations of all time!
He was indeed the greatest and whatever he was doing – he was doing it with class, love and a lot of hard work! That is why so many people loved him and wanted to work with him.
I hope I brought back some memories to you guys ~
Stay tuned for more!