Michael Jackson's Duet Partner Siedah Garrett Talks 'Bad25'
There's a moment in Spike Lee's new Michael Jackson documentary "Bad25" that Siedah Garrett - co-writer of "Man in the Mirror" and the late Jackson's duet partner on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" - particularly favors.
"When Michael said he wanted to record 'Man in the Mirror,' the demo was in a key that was comfortable for me and one step too high for Michael," Garrett tells Billboard. "So he wanted me to re-sing the demo in the new key, and when I went into the studio to do it in the new key Michael followed me with a video camera. I said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I want to record you performing the song… because I want to sing it like you.' And I'm like, 'Great, Mike; all my friends are really gonna believe me when I tell them, 'Oh, Michael Jackson wanted to sound like me.' And I'm cracking up and he's cracking up, but he's still recording. And it's in ('Bad25'). I never thought I would see it because it's Michael's personal footage. It's amazing."
Adding to the amazement; "You can see a little bit of him in a reflection in the mirror in the studio. You can see him videotaping me singing the song in the new key, and it's like HE'S the man in the mirror."
"Bad25," which airs at 9:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day on ABC and is also for sale on DVD and Blu-ray, includes many such behind-the-scenes moments in the making of the 1987 album, which ranks as the fifth best-selling album all-time with estimates of up to 45 million copies sold worldwide. It's also the first album to unleash five consecutive No. 1 singles, including "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and "Man in the Mirror."
It's notable that "Bad" got a documentary for its silver anniversary while its predecessor, the more impactful "Thriller," did not, but Garrett has her own theory about why "Bad" resonates so significantly right now.
"'Bad25' is such a stellar marker in time because (Jackson) was still alive when 'Thriller' was 25 years old," Garrett notes. "He was still alive and getting ready to tour, so there was a different kind of vibe going on. I think the fact he's passed now is what makes 'Bad' more special. I did notice that when he passed away, all the news footage and all the specials about his life, it wasn't 'Michael Jackson The Thriller' or 'Michael Jackson Beat It;' it was 'Michael Jackson Man In the Mirror.' That just spoke volumes to me."
"I Just Can't Stop Loving You," meanwhile, had its own behind-the-scenes drama that "Bad25" captures. Jackson and producer Quincy Jones originally considered big-name partners such as Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and others. Unable to snag one, they chose Garrett, then working as one of Jones' staff songwriters. But they neglected to mention it to her until it was time to record the song.
"Quincy called me back and I thought we were still finishing 'Man in the Mirror,' 'cause we had been working on that a few days earlier and I knew we hadn't finished it," Garrett remembers. "There was another song being played, so I thought maybe they were running behind. I just made myself comfortable sitting behind Quincy and knitting, and then he says over his shoulder, 'Do you think this song?' I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah.' Then he said, 'Can you sing it?' 'Yeah.' He said, 'Go in there and sing it. Michael, go in there,' and as we're walking through the door it hit me I was gonna sing this song with Michael - who, Garrett adds, spent the whole take throwing popcorn at her while she was singing her parts.
Garrett has recently released a tribute song called "Keep on Loving You" that she calls "an answer to our duet. I never got to express to him how much what he did for me - introducing me to the world as a singer and a songwriter - meant to me. So I wrote it down in a song, just my sentiments about how I was feeling the day I met him and how surprised I was to find out he was as cool as he was. It's just a love song, a basic love song."