Michael Jackson – Man in the mirror
On February 6, 1988 a beautiful song was released as a single. A sweet but very strong song. One of those songs that you hear them a thousand times, then you stop once to watch the video after a long time, and in short, it makes you think. He was the King of the 80s, with a capital K, Michael Jackson. The song, from the album Bad, was Man in the Mirror. From the same album, three fabulous singles had already been released such as I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Bad and The Way You Make Me Feel. Some say the title of Man in the Mirror referred to the changes that Jackson himself was going through both physically and in life’s phases and vicissitudes; honestly it seems quite wrong to me. And, the song wasn’t even written by Michael Jackson, and although it was written for him, it certainly wasn’t a song about him.
Behind this beautiful song there are two important authors, Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett: Glen and Siedah were part of an artistic group coordinated by Quincy Jones, producer of Michael Jackson, who had just gathered his collaborators just to provide more material to Jackson for his Bad album.
The key person in this story Siedah Garrett, a girl not yet very famous, but who had already been a backing vocalist for Madonna in songs from the album True Blue such as La Isla Bonita, and had even sang in duet with Michael Jackson in I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.
And so Siedah was now in this meeting with the purpose to write something for Michael Jackson. Or in other words, give Michael something that he feels he wants to say to the world. Siedah remembered that she always had a notebook with her in which she wrote down the phrases that came to mind during her daily tasks. In fact, since her most creative inspirations came at the most unexpected moments, perhaps while she was doing other things, she had got into the habit of always having this notebook with her in order to be able to take notes at any time.
And one of these phrases seems to have been “man in the mirror”, the phrase around which Siedah and Glen then built the entire song. Quincy Jones was thrilled and decided to submit it to Michael Jackson, who actually wasn’t that used to singing songs written by others.
Michael liked the song and suggested some changes or proposals to Quincy Jones. Quincy listened to them, reported them to Siedah, she worked on it and sent the new proposal to Quincy, who reported it to Michael Jackson.
But one night Michael Jackson said to Quincy… put her through, and so Siedah found herself talking on the phone directly to Michael Jackson. The scene apparently was incredible: Siedah was cooking dinner while talking to Quincy Jones, and suddenly finds herself talking to Michael Jackson, trying to maintain a demeanor and a semblance of seriousness, but most likely with her heart beating like crazy.
Eventually, Michael Jackson accepted the song and decided to include it in Bad. Moreover, even in this song the great Siedah acted as backup singer. The song has a planetary, universal breath, and speaks of change, of the impact of our actions, with a motivational and positive message that has certainly inspired the king of pop.
The Man In the Mirror video is gorgeous, simple yet of devastating emotional impact: after a world offended by wars, weapons, discrimination, famine, we can build a world made up of small but important gestures, a world of simple smiles, a new world. W can then see images of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, quotes from Usa for Africa and Bob Geldof, because even music with its strength can and must play its part. Michael Jackson, paradoxically, in this video which is certainly among the most touching, stands aside. He appears only in one scene, a red dot in the midst of a flood of yellow hats, and you can hardly even see him. Because the man in the mirror is not Michael, it is each of us who watch this video. This too was the greatness of the Michael Jackson man, despite all the hard and weird periods of his life.
And the 80s weren’t such a superficial period.
Michael Jackson on Wikipedia