Siedah Garrett on MJ’s ‘Bad’ — 25 years later

Songwriter Siedah Garrett. /Photo by Bucci/PictureGroup/ via AP
Songwriter Siedah Garrett. /Photo by Bucci/PictureGroup/ via AP

By// Mariah Craddick

Persistence pays off. That’s what singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett learned after she wrote the now iconic song Man in the Mirror for Michael Jackson’s Bad album. After getting the inspiration from a note she jotted down in her notebook years ago, Garrett, along with composer Glen Ballard, finished the song and pleaded with music partner Quincy Jones to have a listen.

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“I literally begged him to let me drop this cassette off. And he’s like ‘I’m in a meeting, I can’t.’ I said, ‘Quincy, please!’ and he said, ‘Oh, alright!’” she told JET about that fateful day. “Two or three hours later he calls me and says, ‘Sid, this is the best song I’ve heard in 10 years.’”

The rest is history. Jackson recorded that song and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You with Garrett, both going on to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Garrett, who’s also been twice nominated for an Oscar, spoke with JET about the album’s 25th anniversary and working with the “man in the mirror.”

How do you feel about the re-release of the Bad album?

I’m ecstatic! I’m really happy. That album has stood the test of time. Twenty-five years later and our duet I Just Can’t Stop Loving You is No. 1 again. That’s crazy!

Do you ever get emotional hearing those old songs?

It’s very nostalgic. When his passing was fresh, every time I would hear his music it would strike an emotional chord. His music, and his energy and his legacy is so pervasive in my every day life. I didn’t even realize it until his death.

Siedah Garrett and Michael Jackson.

Siedah Garrett and Michael Jackson.

What was Michael Jackson like in person?

He was cool as hell! Cool as hell. There was no, “I’m the King of Pop, and you are?” There was none of that. In fact, I think the most beautiful thing about Michael, other than his tremendous talent, is the fact that when he respects your talent, he makes you feel like he has as much to learn from you as you do from him. And that’s just really rare.

In your new song Keep On Lovin’ You, you speak a little bit about the first time you met Michael. Aside from his “cool factor,” what else surprised you about him that might surprise others, too?

He had an amazing sense of humor. He had every reason to be the most stuck-up, self-centered, “I’m the King of Pop” … kind of attitude. But he was the complete antithesis of that.

Man in the Mirror has become somewhat of an anthem for his life. How does it feel to have written a song that impactful?

I feel less a responsibility and more the ultimate blessing. I mean, as a songwriter that’s it. That’s the creme dela creme.

You also had the opportunity to tour with him on the Dangerous tour. Do you have a favorite memory from that experience?

There were some nights where the band, the singers and dancers were onstage clapping for him. He was just that kind of incredible talent. And touring with Michael Jackson was like touring with Jesus, OK! His fans were religious in their love for him. It was like hanging with Jesus, I swear to God.

People tend to speculate romance between Michael and any female he’s associated with. Was it ever romantic or —

Yes! We were lovers… creatively speaking. Ha-ha! He even sang the song I Just Can’t Stop Loving You. So I wrote an answer to his love song to me with Keep On Lovin’ You.

You’ve worked with nearly every big name in the industry, from Madonna and Stevie Wonder to Jessica Simpson and RuPaul. Is there anybody you haven’t worked with yet that you’re dying to work with?

PRINCE! Prince. Prince. Prince.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Oh God, yes and it was horrible. It was called Best Boyfriend. All I remember is “’Cause he’s the best boyfriend for me!” It was just really corny and sappy and I don’t know.

What’s it like working with Quincy Jones? Is he tough?

He’s great because when you’re working with Quincy, he works with the best. So the best will always give you the best of what they do.

Any other projects you’re working on currently?

I wrote a song [L.O.V.E. (Let One Voice Emerge)] with Patti Austin, Brenda Russell and Mervyn Warren in an effort to try to get women to register to vote. We discovered that women 18 to 35 have the largest voting bloc in the U.S. and they don’t vote. They don’t register. So we wrote this song and made this video: