Music Industry Remembers Michael Jackson

"[A specific memory?] I've got a big one. Thursday morning, 12:30 a.m. He finishes the three-hour rehearsal [at Los Angeles' Staples Center], he goes over and does a group hug with Frank Dileo and Kenny Ortega, then he comes over to me, puts his arm around me and very softly in that voice of his says into my ear, ‘You got me here. I now know I can do this.'"
-- Randy Phillips, CEO, AEG Live

"Back in the 1980s, when my business partner and I were trying to acquire the ATV music catalogue, which [included] the Beatles catalogue, Michael promised the seller that he would perform a free concert for the seller's favorite charity in Perth, Australia. Needless to say, Michael won the bid -- neither my partner nor I could moonwalk."
-- Martin Bandier, chairman and CEO, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

“Three moments: In the late `90s, five minutes before he went on at Wembley Stadium, seeing him in a small sidestage dressing room, in front of a mirror with light bulbs round it. It was a classic vaudeville image, which was poignant as Michael was the ultimate 'entertainer'! Then, sitting next to him when he played us backing tracks from the "HIStory" album at a meeting in L.A.. We were expecting to hear vocals on the tracks but he sung along instead! [Lastly], seeing him in February this year in L.A. at an intimate disc presentation where he seemed happy and was singing along to ‘Single Ladies!'"
-- Rob Stringer, chairman, Columbia Epic Label Group

"Late last year, I was invited to the now sadly famous house in Bel Air to meet with Michael, as I was aware of plans for his return to live performance and discussions about the tour, as well as potential new recordings. We both wanted to explore the possibilities of presenting Michael's first live appearance in many years on the Grammy stage - a unique and unequalled platform for one of the true musical geniuses of our time and an appropriate setting for such a historic event.

"As our meeting was so recent, I can vividly remember his warmth and welcoming demeanor, his razor-like focus and attention to what was clearly an important topic and agenda for all of us, and his engaging yet serious analysis of the pros and cons of the opportunities.

"While at the time, and in subsequent discussions, we mutually determined that the 51st Grammy Awards telecast was not the right moment for such a performance, he could not have been more gracious or generous with his time and interest.

"And of special note was the joy and enthusiasm with which he talked about his children - clearly his favorite and most heartfelt subject."
-- Neil Portnow, president, NARAS

"Michael performed a medley of "Man In The Mirror" and "The Way You Make Me Feel" at the 30th Grammy Awards at Radio City in New York in 1988. Following his rehearsal, he called me and asked if I would bring Walter Miller, our director, over to his hotel to go over `a few shots' from the tape I had given him. It was the night before the show but after our last rehearsal, we went over to the Helmsley Palace and found ourselves in this amazing duplex suite with views of all of lower Manhattan, alone with Michael and his choreographer, Vince Patterson.

"Michael had only a few shot changes and, after some small talk about having a great performance the next night on the show, Walter and I left with Vince.

"But just before Vince left, Michael whispered something to him and I saw Vince give him something.

"On the way down in the elevator, I asked Vince what Michael had said. Vince told us that he had given him this wooden microphone that Michael liked to rehearse with, and that Michael would probably stand in front of the full-length mirror that he had propped up against one window in the corner of the suite and rehearse most of the night, fine tuning his steps.

"The thought of this man, nominated for several Grammys, alone against the skyline of the city, rehearsing on a night when most of his fellow nominees were out celebrating, has never left me over the number of times we've worked together. Getting it right, getting it perfect, was more important than anything else."
-- Ken Ehrlich, executive producer, Grammy Awards

"BMI in 1990 had a special Michael Jackson award event, celebrating him for his outstanding accomplishments. It was held after "Bad" came out. He was at his peak. I remember he wanted to take individual portraits with everyone on our executive staff. He was dressed in his full regalia, the Michael Military, He was very cordial and sweet. We had the biggest stars there like Elton John and Milton Berle, whom Michael loved. He was thrilled to meet Little Richard, and he was thrilled that Holland-Dozier-Holland were there. We walked him around, he was just charming and very gracious."
-- Del Bryant, CEO and president, BMI

"He came to my house in Woodbury, N.Y. with his whole family to meet my family in 1976. He was 16, and my kids got to spend time with him all day. Michael and I sat and watched `Lady Sings the Blues' together and talked about what he wanted to accomplish. He always had the Jacksons in mind and he cared for his brothers and sisters, but he wanted to be an artist on his own. He was starting to become independent."
-- Ron Alexenburg, former president of Epic Records, who signed Jackson to the label

"I remember the press conference we had at Epic the day the Jacksons signed with us. Everyone thought Ron Alexenburg [then president of Epic Records] was crazy to sign them because people considered them to be kind of over. But Ron knew that they, especially Michael, were about more than just singles and could make hit albums. Michael was like a kid, but he was so determined. He knew when the Osmonds were getting magazine covers and he wasn't. And he hated it."
-- Susan Blond, president, Susan Blond Inc. and former VP of publicity at Epic Records

"I got a phone call from L.A. at 4 in the afternoon in the spring of 1984 saying `You've got to be out here by 11 tonight because Michael is canceling the 'Victory' tour and you're the only one he'll listen to. There had been an incredible amount of skepticism and negative publicity surrounding the tour, and Michael explained that he was actually postponing it because his brother Jackie had a bone chip in his knee, and Jackie was the best dancer and choreographer he'd ever seen in his life.

"But Michael had a quality of wonder and amazement beyond any human being I've ever met and he wanted to give his audience the same gift of surprise and astonishment-and it wouldn't be there without Brother Jackie.

"I had to tell him that postponing the tour would destroy his ability to share that gift. Because his life was dedicated to doing things for his audience: That's what he lived for. He thought of them first, and they were everything for him."
-- Howard Bloom, Victory Tour publicist and co-founder of the Howard Bloom Organization

"During the marketing of the "Bad" album, Epic and MTV created a contest whereby the winners would visit a `set' in the desert near Palm Springs which included many of Michael's animals from Neverland [Ranch]. I took my daughter Nicole, then 4, to that wild, crazy set. Sitting in a big tent with many tables, Michael asked me to bring her over to him. He sat with her for some time, talked and laughed with her and then gave her a fluffy pink toy bunny rabbit. She loved that rabbit and was Michael's great fan from there on in. Michael was so very kind to her."
-- Don Grierson, music supervisor, former Senior VP, A&R, Epic Records

"I first met Michael when he was a child, at the Tokyo Music Festival. I'd joked about wanting his tux when he outgrew it. The last time we spoke [at a social occasion], he seemed to be isolated by his celebrity; he graciously listened as an endless stream of guests made their way to his table to display their love or satisfy their curiosity. He made me think of 'The Little Prince' and of Salvador Dali, a rare mix of gentle spirit and exotic flair."
-- Paul Williams, chairman, ASCAP

"I was at Record One studio in Sherman Oaks writing a song with Michael and Siedah Garrett. We called it "Keep The Faith", and it has a gospel strain to it. I played my best approximation of gospel piano and Michael and Siedah were improvising over either shoulder-Michael was dancing, stomping, jumping. It was exhilarating and in the spirit of the song-we were all feeling it. He had the capacity to lose himself in the music completely, dancer disappearing in the dance."
-- Glen Ballard, songwriter/producer

"I remember how he would snap his fingers while cutting background vocals. As we stacked the snaps, they were so tight it sounded like a gunshot. Unfortunately we had to take them out one by one as they would overpower the sound of the snare drum."
-- Harvey Mason, Jr., producer who worked on Jackson's "Invincible" album

"I remember first meeting Michael in the planning preceding his first European tour as a solo artist in 1988. The tour opened at the Olympic Stadium in Rome and there were nearly 1,000 press people there to cover the event.

Planning began in 1987 and in early 1988 I flew to St. Louis to meet with Michael and his manager Frank DiLeo, to run through plans for the event.

"While sitting in the lobby waiting for my meeting to begin, I recall looking across and seeing Bubbles sitting opposite me in an armchair. After a moment or so I couldn't help but reflect that the chimp was at least as well dressed as I was!

"On a completely different note, I recall working with Michael around his [1996] Brit Awards performance at Earl's Court arena where he performed "Earth Song." At the time, I was the chairman of the show on behalf of the BPI [the British Phonography Industry trade group].
"It was a massive production, as always with Michael. His professionalism and attention to detail were second to none. I recall that after the show, he was so concerned with how the footage would look that he was constantly on the phone to the director, David Mallet, in the edit suite with questions and comments.

At about 4 a.m., David finally said to Michael, `Why don't you just come to the edit suite, we've got a room you can use, and you can review the footage.' And of course, when I got to the edit suite at about 9 a.m. the next morning, Michael was still there checking every detail and camera angle."
-- Paul Burger, founder of the London-based management company Soho Artists, and former president of Sony Music Entertainment Europe

"I worked for CBS/Epic in London with The Jacksons and Michael Jackson from their signing to Epic in 1976 all the way through to "Invincible" in 2001.

From being The Jacksons - and Michael's - press officer in those days, I added many additional responsibilities over the years and spent much of my time with him on his tours around the world in 1988, 1992 and 1996/97.

"My boss Paul Russell [chairman, Sony Music U.K. and later president Sony Music Entertainment Europe] recognized the benefits and value of having a man on the ground to spend time with Michael-and he chose me!

"As a result I have so many memories that it's hard to distil it all down to one. Meeting Nelson Mandela with Michael in Cape Town was-is-a moment in my life that I will never forget. But, as a general abiding memory, the moments I spent in the photographer's pit during his shows, watching and witnessing the sheer physical and emotional power of a Michael Jackson concert, a few yards from the man himself, is unforgettable. The exuberance and emotion and drama which he put into his every performance is something that will live with me forever.
"Having Muscles, Michael's boa-constrictor wrapping himself around me is also something I can't forget-but would probably rather!"
-- Jonathan Morrish, director of corporate communication for the collecting society PPL and former VP of communications for Sony Music Entertainment Europe

"During my 27 years in the music business, I often experienced that even successful stars hardly ever rehearsed for TV performances or were unwilling to do so. But Michael was completely different. For the German TV show Wetten Dass...?" [in 1995] he had to perform two songs-a very impressively-choreographed "Scream" with 15 dancers then "Earthsong" with a German choir. He rehearsed for two-and-a-half hours and after each take, he discussed the results with the director then continued with the rehearsal.

"In the evening, at the end of the rehearsal, the director asked: `Michael, do you want another rehearsal tomorrow?' Michael smiled and answered: `We ALL should have another rehearsal!'"
-- Jochen Leuschner, music business consultant, and former CEO of CBS Germany

"After his successful [1995] appearance on the German TV show "Wetten Dass...?" he spontaneously invited all the Sony Music employees present for a visit with their children to the leisure park `Phantasialand' in Brühl, near Cologne. He wanted to thank us for the great job we had done."
-- Mike Heisel, chairman of the Music Producers Assn. of Germany and former product manager for Michael Jackson at CBS Records in Frankfurt

"For the announcement of his first European tour, concert promoter Marcel Avram organized a live-satellite transmission to Munich. After a few technical problems Michael appeared on screen, larger than life, to speak about the upcoming tour and to answer one or two questions each from all the connected countries. Everybody could feel that this project introduced a new dimension in a new era-and that we had a new megastar."
-- Heinz Canibol owner/CEO of the 105 Music label in Hamburg, Germany and former marketing director of CBS Records in Frankfurt

"I was heavily involved in the "Bad" tour in 1987, and the "HIStory" tour in 1996. On the "HIStory tour," we floated one of those statues [of Michael] down the Sydney Harbor and had a big outdoor event at the Sydney Opera House in front of 20,000 people. We had such a great adventure, and loved every minute of it."
-- Denis Handlin, chairman/CEO, Sony Music Australia

(Fox Music president Robert Kraft recalls two encounters with Jackson, one with director Terrence Malick in 1998 and the other with director Baz Lurhman in 2000).
"With all due to respect to Terrence Malick -- he is one of my favorite directors -- he is quiet and almost shy. As is Michael. So [the day in 1998 they met at the Fox studio] I stood with the two of them trying to have them make conversation with each other, the fabulous director and the global super star. Both were slightly awkward and I was kind of `Hey, how about the Dodgers!' trying to get a conversation going."

"The most memorable part of that afternoon [when Lurham met Jackson and his youngest son, Prince, at the Beverly Hills Hotel] was, at one point, Prince sneezed. And Michael turned to Prince and said to him very beautifully and paternally `We cover our noses when we sneeze.' And you know, in any other meeting it would be something you forget, but when it's Michael Jackson and the 2-and-a-half or 3-year-old Prince and Baz Luhrmann, I just say I was so glad to be a fly on the wall. They are just two tiny intersections with one of the biggest stars in the world."
-- Robert Kraft, president, Fox Music

"I produced "One Day in Your Life," his first number 1 hit in the U.K. He sang it a certain way and I wanted it a different way. And we went back and forth a few times on it. I said, `Sing it the way I want you to sing it, and then we'll do another recording with your way.' And he said, ‘You're gonna like my way better.' So I had it in the car listening to it, and before I got home, I realized he was right. I called him up and said, "Hey Mike, it's Samm...," and before I said anything, he goes "I told you you'd like mine better."
-- Samm Brown, producer, songwriter

"[I was] standing in the photographer's pit in the front of the stage at his final concert in Durban, which has now turned out to be the last ever show he did in support of a studio album. The pit had been cleared of photographers after the first few songs and was completely empty aside from a colleague and I. Watching Michael do his dance routine from that distance utterly blew me away. You work with the albums and the songs but to see him as a performer, up-close, was staggering and I have never seen anything like it before or after."
-- Duncan Gibbon, strategic marketing director, Sony Music Entertainment Africa

"I was blessed with the opportunity to speak to Michael on the phone and have a creative conversation with him about music and things he wanted from me. All I could tell him was how honored I was to have this conversation. And he just kept telling me, `Bless you, bless you.' It just showed me no matter what, always be humble and be grateful of someone's praises to you."
-- Nate "Danja" Hills, producer

Promoter Phil Rodriguez presented the Jackson 5 in Venezuela
"I remember he was super professional. He would always sing like he was on `Idol.' It was like when you put your car in neutral, and then the minute he went onstage it went on. All artists have that, but I've never seen that transformation to that degree. It was truly unbelievable. He was very friendly, very sweet, very professional. They were already huge, but he still hadn't drawn into his Michael Jackson persona. I was 25 at the time and he was 19, and I remember he even taught me a dance step. We were shooting a TV show in and he did this step and I said, 'How in the hell did you do that!' And he said, 'Let me show you.' And in fact, after working that show, I decided to quit law school and continue in this business."
-- Phil Rodgriguez, founder, Evenpro/Waterbrother

Promoter Dodi Sirena presented Jackson in concert in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
"I remember him as an extraordinary professional who was a musical genius, but who had tremendous sensibility and generosity. He showed concern for what happened in the country, with the poverty, the children in the street. He was someone who was conscious of the people. I was struck by the way he behaved the two weeks he spent here and by how happy he was. For example, he requested a camping tent to be placed in his suite. We visited a toy factory once. And one of his fans got hit by a car. The next day, he insisted on going to the hospital to see how this person was doing."
-- Dodi Sirena, president, Dcete Promotions

"I worked at the famous Tower Records on the Sunset Strip when I was a teenager circa 1987, the year 'Bad' was released. Michael used to come through all the time. The store's management would allow him in after hours so he could shop freely without getting mauled. One time Michael showed up about half an hour before closing. He arrived in disguise, one that consisted of a grubby flannel shirt, corduroy pants that came up to his calves, a bad wig and glasses with a fake rubber nose attached (think Groucho Marx novelty glasses). Michael also had Emmanuel Lewis in tow (aka 'Webster'). Needless to say, this wasn't a very good disguise. Several customers recognized Michael instantly and a few of us store employees had to run interference in order to avoid a mob scene. When the store did finally close, Michael was kind enough to sign albums for all of us. He was incredibly nice and completely selfless with his personal time. That said, Michael never took his disguise off, which made the entire experience all that much more surreal. Michael set the bar for pop stardom, one that's likely to remain for all time. And yet, his connection with his fans was deeply personal."
-- PJ Bloom, music supervisor

"I was fortunate enough to work with Michael early in my career. He was an incredible artist. Talented beyond your wildest dreams. Extremely generous, and a hard worker. I actually went from a staff assistant at the Hit Factory in New York City to freelance engineer under [Bruce] Swedien. One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. "Here's the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here's the second chord first note, second note, third note," etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57.

"I was in the room with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis while they recorded the background vocals for "Scream" with MJ and Janet. The two of them singing together was amazing. Super tight, no bad notes. One part after another. When they took a break they sang the show tunes they used to sing as kids. Again, perfect harmony. MJ refused to sing the "stop f*ckin' with me part" because he would NOT curse.
"One day we just all sat in the studio listening to his catalog with him for inspiration. He loved the process, he loved the work."
-- Rob Hoffman, audio engineer

"In 1980 I was the musical director for the Diana Ross CBS TV special. Michael was one of the guests and we met to discuss the songs he would be performing. One of them was "Rock With Me" from the "Off The Wall Album." I remember Quincy Jones telling me at the time that the next album "Thriller" was going to be even bigger. He wasn't kidding. I met Michael again in 1984 at the MGM in Las Vegas where he had come to see Lynda Carter perform. I was her music director at the time. On all these occasions I found him to be a quite and gentle person and a delight to work with.
I will miss him very much."
-- Johnny Harris, composer, music director

"I am a former writer, producer, engineer for Motown Records. I had the honor of working with Michael and Jermaine Jackson while they were contracted to the label during the early 70's both in Detroit and Los Angeles. I wrote and produced a song on Michael alone entitled `Label Me Love' and to my knowledge it has never been released to date.

"Michael himself was an enormous talent as a kid not yet in his teens, and I say this because the song I recorded with him I found to be in a tad too high a key. Initially, Mike had a problem adjusting his voice to the track [but he] figured a way to sing the lead without any changes to the key or the overall track. I was amazed at his natural ability to make it work, regardless of the circumstance.

"The last time I had any contact with Mike was when my daughter Nicci got an offer from his MJJ Records label to do a record deal. When she called to tell me about Mike's offer I felt she would get a real opportunity at getting a shot and I approved her decision to sign the girl group she called Brownstone to MJJ Records. Nicci was the lead singer and in the first group Mike signed to his label. With the grace of God, they received a platinum album on their first album release and gold Record on the 2nd and final release.

"He was here on earth for many reasons and we should appreciate all he gave us before he was called home to complete his greatest performance."
-- Clay McMurray, former producer, Motown Records

Quotes compiled by: Ayala Ben-Yehuda, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Diane Coetzer, Mariel Concepcion, Ann Donahue, Tom Ferguson, Gary Graff, Rachel Helman, Monica Herrera, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Andre Paine, Mitch Peters, Craig Rosen, Wolfgang Spahr, Mark Sutherland and Mark Worden.