Thread: Genesis of a 🌍 anthem and how #MichaelJackson managed to release #HealTheWorld by @JoeVogel1
Unlike “We Are the World” which was widely acclaimed for both its musical merit + its humanitarian mission, the song was met with widespread cynicism, particularly in USA. 1/x
2/x The NYT called #HealTheWorld “sticky-sweet and banal” while All Music Guide referred to it as “middle-class soft.” This response, however, seemed to reflect more about the changing cultural milieu (and the heightened hostility toward the artist) than about the song itself.
3/x #MichaelJackson certainly would have anticipated this. He was, after all, the same artist savvy enough to generate the songs. He knew the anthem wouldn’t be perceived as hip or edgy. But he did believe it could reach across borders of language, race, culture, country ..
4/x that it could offer hope to children growing up in a 🌎 of violence + pessimism; that it could endure the trends and backlash of the moment. ‘Heal the World’ is one of my favorite songs of anything I have ever recorded,” #MichaelJackson asserted in a 1996 interview ..
5/x “because it is a public awareness song. It is something that I think will live in the hearts of people for a long time.” #MichaelJackson began working on #HealTheWorld in 1989. He had the melody and arrangement mostly worked out before coming to the studio.
6/x #MichaelJackson had the melody and arrangement mostly worked out before coming to the studio. When he arrived at Westlake, he asked Brad Buxer, who had only been brought in weeks before as a tech, to come with him behind the control room where there was a grand piano.
7/x #MichaelJackson asked Buxer to play while he sang. “Michael then started singing a melody and I started coming up with chords for that melody,” recalled Buxer, “a process that in one form or another we would do for the next twenty years together. ..
8/x Once we had a verse that MJ liked, we put together the chorus. The entire song #HealTheWorld took about an hour and a half to complete.” (Vocally) #MichaelJackson wanted the song to have a simple message and melody. But he also wanted it to have “lift.”
9/x To get the size and impact of the song right, MJ took #HealTheWorld through an elaborate production process, eventually reaching out to members of Toto, including David Paich, Marty Paich, and Steve Porcaro, to help with the orchestral arrangement and synth programming.
10/x “We worked on #HealTheWorld perhaps longer than any other song I remember,” recalled recording engineer @InStudioWithMJ “It was finessed and massaged to a point of microscopic detail. Bruce mixed it and remixed it and remixed it, countless times.”
11/x This is when I learned that when #MichaelJackson falls in love with a demo, the finished record remains true to the original demo.” MJ tasked Matt Forger with recording the “playground girl” in the introduction
12/x Forger remembers interviewing 100s of kids, asking them questions about their hopes for the 🌎 . “I started asking questions and then she says this line ‘We have to think of our children..”Forger brought it to MJ, suggested he would edit it out. But: ‘No, no, leave it in.’
13/x The early ’90s was the era of grunge and hip-hop. You weren’t going to hear Nirvana singing or Tupac rapping about healing the world. In fairness, it was a bit jarring to hear #HealTheWorld right after the opening suite of collaborations with Teddy Riley.
14/x While #MichaelJackson was coming up with new material, the plan for the next album took time to come into focus. Originally, the concept was a greatest-hits collection with a handful of new songs, similar to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. The proposed title was „Decade“
15/x The 2-disc collection would contain all of MJ‘s major hits to that point + around 5-7 new songs. Among the songs under serious consideration were the Beatles cover “Come Together” “Black or White” “Man in Black” “Who Is It” “Gone Too Soon” “Heal the World” and rerecorded
16/x versions of the Jackson5 hits “I’ll Be There” + “Never Can Say Goodbye” MJ signed off on the idea in early 1989, test pressings were made by Sony, which now owned CBS/Epic Rec. It was originally scheduled for release in late 1989, but that date was pushed back several times
17/x The final drop-dead release date was set for November 1990 (the same month as Madonna’s album). Ultimately, the record never materialized. There were a number of reasons for this. For one, #MichaelJackson ‘s attention was being pulled in several directions at once.
18/x #MichaelJackson was preparing for a long-awaited movie role as Peter Pan, in a film that was supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg. He was spending time with Ryan White, who died tragically that April. MJ’s longtime friend and hero Sammy Davis Jr. also died that spring
19/x Meanwhile, most of the key executives + attorneys who had guided #MichaelJackson through the ’80s were dismissed. CBS head Walter Yetnikoff, arguably the most influential music executive of the previous decade, was forced out by new figures at Sony, which acquired CBS in ‘88
20/x Frank DiLeo was fired by #MichaelJackson in 1989, after MJ became concerned that DiLeo was mishandling his finances and was generally dissatisfied with his work during the Bad years (including the Moonwalker film).
21/x And longtime attorney John Branca was let go in 1990 as #MichaelJackson became enamored of rival Hollywood mogul #DavidGeffen whom MJ believed would finally help him realize his moviemaking dreams. These were consequential moves with long-term repercussions.
22/x More immediate, the accumulation of stress was adding up. In June 1990, with the deadline for ‘Decade‘ looming and dozens of other people, projects, and contracts competing for his time and attention #MichaelJackson collapsed while dancing in his home studio ..
23/x #MichaelJackson was rushed to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, where he was treated for chest pains and dehydration. The most probable cause was a panic attack due to stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. After four days in the hospital, MJ was released.
24/x Asked by the press when he would resume recording for Decade, spokesman Bob Jones responded that #MichaelJackson would need at least another 7 days off and was advised to take things easy for a while after that. Soon after, MJ decided to pull out of ‘Decade’ entirely.
25/x Sony was frustrated, but #MichaelJackson still had enough clout to keep their concerns at bay. He explained that the new material deserved its own album and would sell more copies as a stand-alone LP. He even had an idea for the title: #Dangerous
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