52nd GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Jackson
[Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com]
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By Quincy Jones
Every decade in the music business you have a phenomenon. In the ’40s you had Sinatra, in the ’50s Elvis, in the ’60s the Beatles, and in the ’70s the innovation of Dolby coupled with the brilliant work of Stevie, Elton and Marvin.
In the ’80s, you had Michael Jackson. For everyone from 8 to 80, Michael Jackson was the biggest entertainer on the planet. Together, along with my dream team of Rod Temperton, Bruce Swedien, Jerry Hey, Greg Phillinganes, Siedah Garrett, “JR” Robinson, Louis Johnson, Undugu and all the other brilliant members of our gifted family, we shared the decade and achieved heights that I can humbly say may never be reached again, reshaping the music business forever.
I simply loved working with Michael Jackson. This blessed artist, who commanded the stage with the grace of an antelope, shattered recording industry records and broke down cultural boundaries around the world, yet remained the gentlest and most complex of souls. Michael Jackson was a different kind of entertainer. A man-child in many ways, he was beyond professional and dedicated. Evoking Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jackie Wilson, Sammy Davis Jr., and James Brown all at once, he’d work for hours perfecting every kick, gesture and movement so that they came together precisely the way he intended them.
Divinity brought our souls together on The Wiz when I was searching for his missing solo song “You Can’t Win,” and allowed us to do all that we were able to throughout the ’80s. To this day, the music we created on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad — as well as the E.T. Storybook and the collective that was “We Are The World” — is played in every corner of the world, and the reason for that is because he had it all: talent, grace, professionalism, and dedication. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever.
It is hard for me to acknowledge that Michael is gone. I lost part of my soul when he passed away, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. We all made incredible music together and in doing so made history. The fact that in the wake of his passing Michael Jackson once again dominated album and download sales around the world for an entire summer is a testament to the deep impact that he had on millions of souls throughout his entire career.
I have a sense that Michael still had much more to contribute as an artist; sadly we’ll never know. But I promise you in 50, 75, 100 years, what will be remembered is the music. It’s no accident that almost three decades later — no matter where I go in the world, in every club and karaoke bar — like clockwork at the witching hour I hear “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Starting Somethin’,” “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” “Rock With You,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Thriller,” “Man In The Mirror,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Human Nature,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” In every language, from prison yards in the Philippines to the tribute site Thrilltheworld.com, that is the incredible legacy that he leaves behind, and that’s the only thing that matters. Anything other than that is simply noise.
AllMusic.com calls Quincy Jones the renaissance man of American Music. His career stretches from stints in the bands of Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie in the ’50s to the present day, and has included roles as a music, film and TV producer, publisher, and as an unspoken ambassador for music worldwide. He has a record 79 GRAMMY nominations and has won 27 GRAMMYs, including awards with Michael Jackson for Album and Record Of the Year.