Siedah Garrett On Writing Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’: I Couldn’t Write An ‘Oh Baby Baby [Song]‘
Siedah Garrett, who wrote the lyrics for Michael Jackson's No. 1 hit "Man In The Mirror" and is a featured vocalist on the song, still remembers the day she penned the reflective record 25 years ago for the King Of Pop's Bad album that is being reissued as a special edition this week.
Garrett, who went on to record as a solo artist and write smashes for the likes of Tevin Campbell and Jennifer Hudson, said she immediately knew she had something great. "I called Quincy [Jones] and said, 'Dude, Glen [Ballard] and I have written a great song.' He said, 'Great, great. So turn it into the publishing office, and I'll hear it on Monday.' I said, 'Nope. No. Quincy. Let me just drop off the cassette [now]'," Garrett said during an interview with Yahoo! Music.
Within a week, Jackson, who preferred to write his own material, was in the studio recording the track that he would later use to close out his concert tours. When he died in 2009, his estate played the song at the conclusion of his memorial.
When Jones assigned a group of songwriters the task to write one last song for Bad, Garrett knew she needed to come up with something powerful. "I couldn't write a 'oh baby baby [song].' It couldn't be a run-of-the-mill idea," she said. "He had such a huge platform. He had the eyes and the ears and attention of the entire planet, so I wanted to offer him something to say to the world, not knowing if he would get it, not knowing if it would get past Quincy."
Jackson told Garrett that "Man In The Mirror" and John Lennon's "Imagine" were his favorite songs. His chemistry with Garrett was so strong that he invited her to duet with him on another Bad single, "I Just Can't Stop Lovin' You." Garrett pays homage to Jackson on her new song, "Keep On Loving You."
Garrett last saw Jackson a month before he died, during auditions for his London tour, This Is It, where she ironically sang, "Man In The Mirror."
Garrett said she misses the way he valued his colleagues. "Here's the essence of his genius," she said. "Whenever he found someone whose artistry he respected, he studied that person and would take the good of what they do and internalize and tweak, twist and flip it, and make it his own. So whenever you were in his presence, and he respected you as a talent, he made you feel as if he had as much to learn from you as you did from him. Oh my God. That was the biggest lessen that I learned from him."
Camera and editing: Robert Gardner