It’s been going on seven years since the death of Michael Jackson and the stories about “The King of Pop” just keep rolling in. In a new memoir from iconic record producer L.A. Reid, entitled Sing to Me, he reveals a darker side to Michael Jackson as opposed to the fun-loving persona that the world knew. Reid, the current chairman and CEO of Epic Records, has produced albums for Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, and many other multi-platinum artists. The book is certain to be filled with amazing stories of his time in the music business, but it’s his stories about Jackson taking pleasure in the small misfortunes of his longtime rival, Prince, and the treatment of his very own brother, Jermaine Jackson, that are the early standouts of the book.
Sing to Me is scheduled to be released on February 2, but excerpts that appeared in the New York Post have given the public a little teaser on what to expect, including an amazing tale involving James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Jermaine Jackson. That lineup would get anyone’s attention. Here’s how things went down.
Sometime in the early 90’s, Reid and his partner at LaFace Records, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, received a call from Michael Jackson’s manager about the possibility of the two writing songs for Michael for a future album. Ironically, Reid was in the process of co-producing an album for Jermaine. However, you just don’t dismiss a request from Michael Jackson. They told Jermaine that they were making a quick trip to Los Angeles, but did not tell him why. They were flown to Jackson’s estate, Neverland Ranch, and in another revelation, Reid says that they were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before meeting with Michael.
“Nobody got to see Michael without signing one.”
After discussing some business and taking a tour of the estate, that’s when things got strange. A strange encounter with Michael Jackson? Who knew, right? Reid and Edmonds were invited to the screening room and Jackson proceeded to randomly show video footage of a 1983 James Brown concert that he attended. Brown invited Michael on stage, he “danced a few steps” and then told “The Godfather of Soul” that Prince was in the crowd as well. As Reid explains, Prince’s performance did not go smoothly and Jackson just loved that.
“Prince [couldn’t] make his guitar work, frantically stripping off his shirt and trying tricks with the microphone stand and making all these poses. After Michael’s dazzling star turn, Prince fell as flat as he could, and Michael enjoyed laughing at the video.”
However, Jackson wasn’t done having a few laughs at the expense of his rival.
“After that, he put on a scene from Prince’s movie ‘Under The Cherry Moon,’ the artsy black-and-white bomb he made after ‘Purple Rain,’ and he laughed some more at Prince.”
After a lunch that included some Disney-shaped pasta, Reid and Edmonds agreed to come out and write with Michael for three weeks, a decision that would not sit well with Jermaine. He demanded to be released from LaFace Records and when told about it, Michael simply replied, “He’ll get over it.” Reid explained to Michael that Jermaine was under contract, to which Michael told him that Jermaine would “have to live with it because those are the rules.”
“That Michael Jackson was one shrewd man. He was not wrong, but you didn’t expect that from Peter Pan. You expect a little compassion or something. No. Cold as ice.”
Jermaine seemed to have felt the same way about his brother.
“I want to make a song about my brother. I want to talk about how he’s treated me through the years, like how every time I find producers like you guys, he takes my producers. He doesn’t care about his family or anybody but himself.”
Reid and Edmonds had no choice but to serve their artist and recorded “Word to the Badd!” with Jermaine and released it to radio outlets all over the United States. Michael would hear the song, called Reid and told him that the song needed to be taken off the air immediately. After a meeting between the two brothers in an attempt to clear the air, Jermaine told his producers that the song should continue to play despite Michael’s request. Reid says that Michael called him yet again to remove the track from all stations. It was two days later that Reid says the song simply vanished.
“The record disappeared off the air, as if it had never been there in the first place. I don’t know what Michael did. I don’t know if Michael did anything, but it went away in a flash.”
That’s the power of being Michael Jackson.
[Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images]