I belong to the MTV Generation. My sisters and I grew up listening to his music and watching his videos. When I was a kid during the early 80's, music videos were a new art form, and I vaguely remember the first time I saw MJ's early music videos (in particular, Billie Jean & Thriller). We all know now how MJ revolutionized music videos. And somehow, our generation witnessed and followed its evolution. From mini-movies to mega-budget masterpieces, plus his showcase of unbelievable dance moves and unique vocal abilities, I was an instant fan.
I grew older, and I became a musician. Later on in my career, when I became the drummer of K24/7, that's when I began further appreciating the music of MJ, his contributions to modern music, and his genius as a musician, a dancer, and a performer. One cool thing about MJ is the fact that he worked with some of the most brilliant musicians, songwriters, and producers of our time.
Here's a list of some of my favorite MJ tracks, plus my thoughts on its relevance to me as a drummer, as a musician, and as a person.
Got To Be There (from Got To Be There, 1972) - This sweet number is another favorite of mine from MJ's childhood era. The singing skills, dynamics, and interpretation of then-13-year old MJ is convincing.
Wanna Be Startin' Something (from Thriller, 1982) - Let's face it... Everytime we hear the intro to this song, with its tight bass lines, quirky beats & brasses, it just instantly makes us wanna groove and dance with it. This should be a fun song to play live. My bandmates and I jam on this tune during soundchecks.
The Girl Is Mine (from Thriller, 1982) - I once played-along to this song at a drumming event, citing it as a drumming reference for great feel, taste, simplicity, sensitivity and musicality. I love Jeff Porcaro's drumming in this song. Beautifully done! Jeff Porcaro was probably MJ's favorite drummer. Thank you God for these two wonderful souls. May they rest in peace.
Billie Jean (from Thriller, 1982) - Whenever I hear this song, one thing runs in my imagination - the moonwalk. How in the world did MJ thought of that? Genius. This song is a staple for drummers who need to learn how to play straight-ahead grooves while making it feel good. No big fills and fancy licks here; just pure, solid groove in respect to the music.
Human Nature (from Thriller, 1982) - It's remarkable that Toto members were keys in making this song a part of the Thriller album. Steve Porcaro wrote it (together with John Bettis); David Paich handed the demo to producer Quincy Jones; and Steve Porcaro, David Paich, Steve Lukather, and Jeff Porcaro played on the recording. What a beautifully crafted song! My band and I cover this song. Admittedly, this is a tough song to nail down. It's so smooth, moody and dynamic, so I need to focus on making the groove feel right. The drum parts need to be in good taste, and I can't dare overplay, for I feel like I'll be disrespecting this MJ classic if I do. I focus mostly on the guitar and vocal parts whenever we play this. This is one of my favorite MJ songs.
Pretty Young Thing (PYT) (from Thriller, 1982) - PYT is one of the songs included in my band's Old School Medley (an upbeat medley which features songs from MJ and Earth, Wind & Fire), and it's my favorite part of the medley. It's a gorgeously groovy tune. And what's cool about it are the behind-the-scene credits - keyboardist Greg Phillinganes co-wrote the original demo version with MJ, James Ingram and Quincy Jones re-wrote the song from its slower demo version, and two of its several back-up singers were MJ's sisters Janet and LaToya.
Man In The Mirror (from Bad, 1987) - Hands down, this is my favorite MJ song. The message is crystal clear, and the music is well-done. I would often get teary-eyed, listening to this classic. I love playing this song with my band.
I Just Can't Stop Loving You (from Bad, 1987) - One of my favorite MJ ballads. Sweet.
Eddie Murphy, NBA legend Magic Johnson, model Iman, and actor Tom "Tiny" Lister, Jr.).
Black or White (from Dangerous, 1991) - This is another song from Dangerous where in its music video brought me a lasting impression. During that time, I was crazy with Guns N' Roses, so I was thrilled when I learned that lead guitarist Slash played in this track.
Gone Too Soon (from Dangerous, 1991) - This is another beautiful MJ song that occasionally makes me cry whenever I hear it; one of my favorite MJ songs.
Just like many modern-day artists and musicians, Michael Jackson has influenced me in certain ways. And just like many good people around the world, he has touched my life. Thank you very much, King of Pop. You will never be forgotten.