During my years writing for Goldmine, I never did an interview with Michael Jackson or with the Jackson family, although I did meet Jackson's father Joe Jackson when the Jackson Five were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (not much of a meeting, more like a "hi, how are you" kind of thing).
But during the time I did write for the music collector's biweekly, I did interview several people who either worked with Jackson, were influenced by Jackson, or in some cases parodied Jackson's work.
Here's some quotes:
From my Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff article (Gamble and Huff were the top R&B producers of the 1970's, working with the O'Jay's, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees and the Intruders)
In 1976, Detroit and Philadelphia met as one when the Jacksons entered 309 South Broad Street for the first of two Gamble-Huff produced albums. "Epic (Records) asked us if we wanted to produce the Jacksons," said Gamble. "In reality, we were trying to sign the Jacksons ourselves to our own label. No question we were trying to do that. But CBS had deeper pockets than ours. Those songs were released on a combined label, that's the first time they ever did that. The house band, MFSB, that played on that first album. The Jacksons didn't play, they just sang on the album."In 1996, I put together an interview with the members of Earth Wind and Fire. Here's Verdine White's comments about the state of music video broadcast channels:
"I think Tito played on one thing," replied Huff, "maracas or something like that. He did play on a couple of the things they did for themselves. They did cut a couple of songs on that album."
"It was a whole new world for all of them. They came into our world, Philly International was a different environment for them. They were welcome to participate in the production, they produced a couple of songs on their albums, so they had a lot more freedom here. It was trying times for them too, because Jermaine had just left the group, they were going through just a little bit of controversy there. Me and Huff, we had the songs for them, and that's the easy part. Getting in the studio and getting the right songs. I enjoyed working with Michael, because he had his own ideas about how he wanted himself to sound."
"Michael made our job a little eaiser. He was very clever. Plus, he could sing."
In 1983, Earth Wind & Fire released the "Electric Universe" album. It was also their last release for four years. "The whole scene was changing," said Verdine. "There was an explosion of video artists. At that time, MTV wasn't playing black artists - the only black artists they played at that time were Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie and Prince. There was BET to play black videos, but they didn't have the same money behind MTV. It hurt a lot of those groups, because the audience didn't know who those groups were, and they only knew about groups that had the visibility. Rick James was the first black artist to really bitch about MTV, and he was right at the time. They were playing acts that hadn't had hit records, and he had hits at the time."And finally, here's some comments taken from a Goldmine cover story I wrote on "Weird Al" Yankovic:
By 1984, Yankovic and his band were working on a new album, Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D [Scotti Bros./Rock n' Roll 39221]. The last song recorded for that album was a parody of Michael Jackson's rock hit "Beat It" as an ode to omnivorism, "Eat It." Getting permission from the King of Pop to make fun ofone of his biggest hits wouldn't be easy, but Yankovic gave it a try. [Yankovic's manager] Jay Levey contacted Jackson's representatives, and told them what he wanted. A few days later, Levey received a call back - the representatives said Michael Jackson gave his permission, thinking Yankovic's idea was good for a laugh.
"Eat It" became Yankovic's first Top 40 hit, peaking at #12, and winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. The song's accompanying music video featured Al making fun of Michael Jackson's own video, turning Jackson's original "West Side Story" music video rumble into an all-out food fight (and eventually won an American Music Award trophy for Best Male Performance). Rick Derringer even added his own wacky take on Eddie Van Halen's "guest-starring" guitar solo. "If we are parodying this whole thing," said Derringer, "then my contribution as a soloist at that point would certainly be a parody of Eddie's. And that's what I tried to do, and that's why we blew up the guitar at the end of the video. Our version culminated in the guitar player whipping himself in such a frenzy that he exploded. Jim West did the solo in the video, but that's my guitar solo on the soundtrack."
By 1988, Yankovic adapted another King of Pop hit, rewriting Jackson's "Bad" into "Fat."
"I met Michael Jackson twice in person, and both times they were very brief. Once I went to a TV shoot that he was doing, and I got to talk to him briefly after that. He mentioned that he really enjoyed my movie UHF, and the fact that he would play it at his theater at the Neverland Ranch, and guests got a kick out ofit. And another time I was backstage at a Michael Jackson concert, and I presented him with a gold album for Even Worse (the album containing "Fat") and had my picture taken with him - and whoever took the picture had their camera stolen, so I never got that photo. In retrospect, I'm not sure that's the kind of thing that Michael Jackson really appreciated, another gold album for the pile."