Michael Jackson began performing at the age of 11, with the Jackson 5. His first non-Motown solo album, Off the Wall, was released in 1979.
Lee: I followed Michael Jackson since he was the young kid with the Jackson 5. I was born in ’57 and he was born in ’58, so we’re literally the same generation.
Afrojack: I turn 25 in September. My mom used to own her own dancing school and she did a lot of choreography of the Michael Jackson songs. I used to be a little bit of a dancer myself, but just for fun. That’s when I first heard of it, through my baby years.
Phillinganes: Back in ’77, I believe, a friend of mine named Bobby Colomby, who was an executive at CBS at the time, was urging me to get more involved in arranging. He said, “You’re going to do more arranging and here’s who you’re going to do it with.” Next thing I know I’m in a room with Michael and his brothers, and I ended up doing the rhythm section arrangement for [the Jackson 5’s] Destiny and Triumph albums. It was obviously a great feel for me to be in the same room as guys that I idolized in junior high school.
Forger: The first time I met Michael was on a Quincy Jones session. I was working with Quincy Jones and we were doing the Donna Summer album and we had to take a break in the middle of doing the record because that was the only time Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney were able to schedule free time to be in the studio. That was for the recording of the song “The Girl is Mine,” which was the first song for the Thriller album.
Branca: Michael and I first met in January of 1980. He was looking to have his own team. I think he was 21 at the time; I became his lawyer. He had just released Off the Wall so during that period I renegotiated his recording agreement and then he started to work on Thriller. It can be difficult at times to delineate creative from business and this was certainly true during the Thriller period. I wasn’t involved in the creative process but I was there helping to make the deals that made it possible the get the Thriller video made.
Forger: At that time he was reserved, he was rather quiet, but at the same time extremely focused. He knew everything that had to happen in a song. He was very directed, very in tune with where all the parts musically needed to be. He was very professional, very well-prepared.
Phillinganes: By the time we were working on Bad, Mike’s ideas became stronger and clear.