Demo of Beat It composed using only Michael Jackson’s voice
As Jackson couldn’t fluently play any instruments, he would sing and beatbox out how he wanted his songs to sound by himself on tape, layering the vocals, harmonies and rhythm before having instrumentalists come in to complete the songs.
One of his engineers Robmix on how Jackson worked: “One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. “here’s the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here’s the second chord first note, second note, third note”, etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57. He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills.”
Reasons why I laugh when people say he wasn’t a real musician.
Dang. Dude was good.
When I was in middle school, a friend’s dad was a dentist to a lawyer who was working for Michael Jackson on a copyright case. He had a tape of Michael Jackson demos just like this for Billie Jean, and it was incredible to listen to. Like this recording, it sounded raw and rough and strange compared to the polished perfection of the version on Thriller, but it was also intimate and personal. It was like being in the room as the idea was taking shape.
I’m always drawn to these sorts of things. I love to watch people draw or paint. I love that stage of an idea as it is tumbling out, loose and uncoordinated. This is like listening to Michael Jackson sketching, and it’s magical.
“Design is an essential part of any picture book. It is the first aspect of a book that a reader judges. It is the framework for the text and illustration. It is the subtle weave of words and pictures that allows both to tell one seamless tale.”—Jon Scieszka: Design Matters - The Horn Book