The Songs Michael Didn't Write…That He SHOULD Have

Michael and Siedah Garrett. He Reportedly Wasn't Happy With "Man in the Mirror"'s Bridge...
Michael and Siedah Garrett. He Reportedly Wasn’t Happy With “Man in the Mirror”‘s Bridge…

Michael Jackson can certainly be counted among pop music’s greatest songwriters. We know that many of his classic and most iconic hits were songs he penned himself, from “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” to “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Bad,” “Black or White,” “Earth Song” and, well I could go on and on. You get the idea.

...But They Worked It Out.
…But They Worked It Out.

But that still leaves an amazing number of songs that Michael recorded and performed that were nevertheless written by others. To make the clarification, I am not referring to songs he merely covered. If we counted all of the songs that Michael covered throughout the span of a forty-five year career, including his Jackson 5 and childhood solo career, that would be a mind boggling number indeed. No, this is about something else. This is about those songs that have become so indelibly and inextricably identified with Michael Jackson that casual fans are often shocked to discover he didn’t write them; those songs that seem so reflective of Michael’s own personal values (and for which he made us connect with them so strongly in his performances) that it seems almost inconceivable to believe he was only their interpreter, and not their writer. On the other hand, we can also include songs that were not necessarily huge hits but that. nevertheless, seemed to define in some way who Michael was.

This is not to any way impugn the credit that these songwriters deserve. When I call these the songs that Michael should have written, what I mean is that these are songs that are so iconically identified with who he was and the values he represented that it is almost impossible to disconnect the song from the performer.

The reality is that many of Michael’s most iconic songs didn’t necessarily originate with him. But all the same, we know that something must have drawn him to “connect” with these particular songs.  In some cases, such as “Man in the Mirror” we at least know that those songs were written specifically for him to cover.  And in at least some cases we know  that he did have a major hand in shaping the eventual, finished product even if he didn’t necessarily receive a co-writing credit.

Below is my personal pick of the Top Ten songs Michael Jackson didn’t write but “should” have.

10. When We Grow Up

Michael was only fifteen when he recorded this duet with Roberta Flack in 1974. The song’s message about hanging onto the innocence and fun of childhood-about never changing even when “we grow tall”-conveys the same whimsical, Peter Pan ideals that would become a stalwart fixture of Michael’s adult ethos. It really begs the question: Is it possible that the songs Michael sang in his youth helped influence and shape his adult aesthetics? With lyrics like “we don’t have to change at all” (i.e., we don’t have to become corrupted by adulthood) this song certainly seems like a page torn straight from Michael’s adult solo career.

9. Rock With You 

This isn’t the first time we’ll be visiting Rod Temperton on this list. Off the Wall, of course, was Michael’s huge breakthrough album that launched his adult solo career. and it also launched his songwriting career. He wrote two of the album’s tracks, including its monster breakout hit “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” and co-wrote a third. However, this number-one of the album’s hugest hits, and easily one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs-was not one of them. Temperton wrote quite a number of tracks that Michael eventually recorded (as well as having previously written songs for Heatwave and many others). What makes this song so uniquely Michael, however, is the interpretation and the vocal. It is arguably, in fact, probably his strongest vocal performance (just listen to his enunciation of “I wanna ROCK with you” and try to argue that any other singer could have pulled that off!). This is the kind of song that would become most identifiable with Michael’s post-Jacksons, pre-Thriller era, an airy, romantic, mid tempo dance number with soaring, clear vocals (this was the era before Michael added all of the grit) and lots of bling. Moreover, lyrics like “And when the groove is dead and gone/You know that love survives” will prove to be influential in Michael’s own romantic songwriting down the road.

8. She’s Out of My Life

By the time Michael was twenty-one, he had already written songs about global causes (Can You Feel It) and even a pretty angry relationship song (“Working Day and Night”) but the one thing he really hadn’t penned yet was a tender love ballad. They would come in time-“Liberian Girl,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Speechless,”etc.  But if there is one love song that most people readily identify with Michael, it’s this Off the Wall track written by Tom Bahler. There’s just something about that sensitivity Michael brings to this number that is oh so very Michael! It is also an early example (well, an early adult example, anyway) of Michael’s trademark ability to emote. No one could make us feel a song quite like Michael, and that was due to the innate ability he had to connect with a song’s emotions. There is a well known story told by Quincy Jones of how every single time Michael recorded this song, he broke down. Take after take. At some point they just gave up trying to get a sob-free track, and went with it. The result is brilliant. That little quiver at the end is so real we just knew Michael had to have lived it.

7. Smile

Another masterful Michael Jackson interpretation, the Charlie Chaplin penned “Smile” was covered on Michael’s 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present, and Future. Its beautiful blend of pathos and theme of finding strength in times of adversity was perfectly suited for an album that had chronicled much of Michael’s dark, turbulent years in the mid 1990’s-and a fitting closure, bringing the album’s arc to its beautiful but heartbreaking finish (the poignancy being born out of the fact that the narrator has not actually overcome his troubles; he has simply learned how to swallow the tears and fake it pretty well!). Throughout his career, Michael had maintained a deep aesthetic connection with Chaplin, and often cited “Smile” as his favorite song. So deep was his connection to this song that it was sung at his memorial service, and few songs can better sum up the pathos of Michael’s last years, when adversity after adversity must have indeed made it hard to put on that brave front to the world.

6. You Are Not Alone

The second love ballad on our list, “You Are Not Alone” is one of those love songs so closely identified with Michael Jackson that it still seems a bit jarring to realize he didn’t write it (and apparently even R. Kelly’s authorship was successfully contested, at least in the Belgian courts). However, Michael did put many of the finishing touches on the song, including the modulation and choir climax at the end; in short, shaping much of the song’s final structure. All of those little things that make the song so uniquely “Michael,” were, in fact, due to Michael’s direct input, so maybe we can feel good about saying “You Are Not Alone” was, at the very least, a Jackson collaboration. After the 1995 video featuring Michael and Lisa Marie Presley, the song became forever cemented as being synonymous with their relationship. It even inspired its own anagram, YANA girls, to describe the random girls chosen to come onstage when Michael performed it during the HIStory tour.

5. I’ll Be There

Who would’ve thought that the early Motown writing team of Hal Davis, Willie Hutch, and Bob West would have written a song when Michael was only eleven years old that would sum up the entire altruistic philosophy of Michael’s adult career? Yes, it’s supposed to be a simple love ballad, but looking back on it in hindsight, from the moment little Michael sings the words “You and I must make a pact/We must bring salvation back/Wherever there’s love/I’ll be there” it’s virtually impossible to think of this performance as apart from the same artist who, twenty-one years later, would bring us “Heal the World” and would advocate the healing power of love; who, in fact, would always tell us, “I love you more.” Years later, the song remained a staple of Michael’s adult repertoire, the only Jackson 5 song usually performed in its entirety during his concerts. Clearly, Michael never lost his connection to this song.

4. Ben

Could there have been any song better suited for Michael Jackson to sing than a song about a boy whose best friend is a rat? Only Michael could have possibly made such a “love” song not only believable, but downright heartbreaking. And in one of those weird twists of fate, this song seemed to actually prophesize Michael’s adult life, in which his favorite animals often filled the void of loneliness and replaced relationships with people he couldn’t trust. Somehow it doesn’t seem a stretch to believe that the same little boy who sang “Ben” would one day own a fantastical kingdom filled with exotic animals.

3. Human Nature

Speaking of all the interpretations that only Michael could bring to a song, how’s this? Only Michael Jackson could make a song about cheating and going on the prowl for one-night stands seem, well, like a positively religious experience! Perhaps that isn’t entirely coincidental, given that “Human Nature” is a phrase often used in Christian indoctrination, usually to describe the fall from Paradise and the natural human inclination to sin. A famous sermon from William Ellery Channing, delivered sometime in the 1830’s or early 1840’s, and later published in 1872, was devoted to what Channing called “The Religious Principle in Human Nature.” In its most exalted form, according to Channing, “Human Nature” is that which imbues the human spirit with the desire to seek something greater than ourselves; i.e, a “higher power” or more perfect version of ourselves. The drive for “Truth” and “Purity” are only polar opposites of the same drive that compels us to seek earthly or fleshly gratification. “Human Nature,” the song, was first composed by Steve Porcaro of Toto. Since Porcaro presented the original demo to Quincy Jones, it may be presumed that Porcaro had always intended that Michael Jackson would sing it. The song’s lyrics were actually completed by John Bettis (and by this point there was no doubt that this was going to be a possible track for the Thriller album). Even if Michael didn’t write the lyrics, he was clearly attuned with the song’s spiritual undertones. UPDATE: For more interesting background info on “Human Nature,” be sure to check out the comments!

2. Thriller

Given Michael’s legendary love of horror films, An American Werewolf in London, “The Twilight Zone,” and sci-fi themes, it seems almost mind boggling to realize that he actually did not write “Thriller.” Good gracious, could any song have been more tailor made for Michael Jackson? Did any song  ever sound more like it just had to have come from straight  out of his fertile and out-of-the-box imagination? Well, for sure, Michael did have a big hand in the overall concept of the video and some of those iconic images we so associate with “Thriller.” But the song itself was actually a Rod Temperton demo first titled “Starlight.”

1. Man in the Mirror

 

Michael Jackson became known for his great, altruistic anthems. But ironically, perhaps the one that is most associated with him-certainly his most commercially successful anthem-was a song written by Siedah Garrett (who couldn’t even look at the “man in the mirror” since she was a “she”). However, Garrett was actually commissioned by Quincy Jones to write this ballad specifically for Michael’s Bad album, so just as with a few of the other songs on this list, it was always understood from the very beginning that this was going to be a Michael Jackson song. And for those who may be a bit disappointed to learn that Michael didn’t actually write the words that so many have since associated with him, like looking at “the man in the mirror” and “make that change”-take heart. Garrett has revealed in later interviews and talks that the song as we came to know it was very much a collaborative effort between her and Michael. Just as with “You Are Not Alone,” Michael initially liked the song but wasn’t happy with certain parts. He kept pushing Garrett to come up with a stronger bridge, and would not record the song until the bridge had been brought up to his specifications. And, as with “You Are Not Alone,” he added the modulation and choir-all those little finishing touches that, of course, made the entire difference. Lastly, his famous 1988 Grammy’s performance proved once and for all that he was, indeed, the master of interpretation.

Let me know if you agree with my list!

44 thoughts on “The Songs Michael Didn't Write…That He SHOULD Have”

  1. I thought for SURE that CRY would be on the list!! It ABSOLUTELY embodies Michael’s beliefs and worries and pain. Written by R. KELLY, it is a masterpiece anthem that somehow, like Man in the Mirror, God gave to Michael through another. <3

    1. “Cry” is definitely a good choice for the list. I was trying to keep it narrowed down to ten tracks, but in hindsight, “Cry” might have been even more deserving than “You Are Not Alone.” Michael seemed to have a great artistic rapport with R. Kelly.

      1. Absolutely…

        Of course, some songs that MJ didn’t write were written FOR him… with his mindset in mind when writing the song… which was the case with “Cry”.
        Such a beautiful MJ-esque song.

        I will never forget singing this song with a hundred or so other fans in the driveway of the Hayvenhurst home on June 25th, 2010… under a full moon no less. <3

        1. Those kinds of experiences are always special, aren’t they? The communal healing nature of Michael’s music is a topic that has been addressed here before, but still deserves more discussion. I had a similar experience with singing “Heal the World” in Gary with the crowd in front of the Jackson’s childhood home. People were setting off these lovely Chinese lanterns during the song, and Paris (from behind the gate) was leading the crowd like a conductor. It is ranked up there as one of my most priceless memories.

  2. A sidebar: why do you think Human Nature is a song about cheating? According to songwriter Steve Pocaro, he told us at the In the Studio with MJ seminar in LA in 2014, that he wrote the song originally for his young daughter, who was being bullied at school, explaining that it’s human nature for people to hurt each other… Later, he used the same tape to record other songs he had been asked to submit to Michael and Quincy for possible inclusion on Thriller.As both Quincy and Steve tell it, MJ heard the forgotten ditty at the enf of thr tspr and loved it… Lyrics were indeed changed, but to me, it’s a song about longing to be free to venture into the night and enjoy New York City and all its excitement, but being emprisoned by fame, four (hotel) walls holding him, electric eyes (cameras) everywhere…

    1. Hi Shirley. That interpretation comes from the lyrics of the chorus:

      If They Say –
      Why, Why, Tell ‘Em That Is Human Nature
      Why, Why, Does He Do Me That Way
      If They Say –
      Why, Why, Tell ‘Em That Is Human Nature
      Why, Why, Does He Do Me That Way

      However, I didn’t know the story about Pocaro’s daughter, and that certainly provides a whole different way to interpret those lyrics. I had been listening to that song for some thirty years and had always interpreted those lines to be about someone cheating in a relationship. I suppose that could still be one possible way to interpret it, but basically the chorus seems to be questioning why we do cruel things to each other (all due to human nature).

      1. “Everyone is of course curious about the songs Porcaro wrote for Michael and how they came to be, so we move on to discussing “Human Nature.” Steve shares with us the story of the song creation. He actually wrote “Human Nature” about his daughter. His little girl once came back from school crying because a boy there was bullying her. “Why does he do it to me?” she couldn’t understand. Porcaro tried to explain to her that it must have been the boy’s way to show his interest, that it’s the way guys sometimes do it. Shortly after that, a melody came to him. Originally, the lyrics went,

        I’ll tell her that it’s human nature
        When she asks, “Why, why
        Does he do it that way?”

        He wrote verses in the same vein, recorded the demo on a cassette and presented the song to his band, Toto. But the band passed on the mid-tempo ballad. “We need more rock songs, songs that would play well on a stadium,” they told Steve. (The irony wasn’t lost on them when later, during the Victory tour, Michael used “Human Nature” as a promo-piece, and every TV channel broadcasted the song being performed on stadiums across America to the great delight and hysteria of the audience.)

        So how did the song find its way to Michael Jackson? According to Steve, by mere coincidence. Quincy Jones tended to compartmentalize people’s roles in the studio. If you were an engineer, you weren’t a musician, and if you were a musician, you weren’t a songwriter. Steve Porcaro was, in his mind, a musician, so Quincy never asked him to write songs for Michael. The “songwriter” of Toto was David Page, and it was he who received an offer to submit material for Michael Jackson. David wrote a few grooves, but when it was time to send them to Quincy, he didn’t have an empty cassette at hand. So he took the cassette with Porcaro’s demos, including “Human Nature,” recorded his grooves on the other side of it, marked it as A side, and sent off to Quincy. The rest of the story is well-known: for whatever reason, Quincy left the cassette playing to its reverse side, heard the song and fell in love with it. Steve says that he likes to write songs with special, unusual atmosphere, and it was that atmosphere of “Human Nature” that won over Quincy.

        Quincy didn’t dig the lyrics though. He gave the song to lyricist John Bettis who wrote new verses for it, and Porcaro admits that the result blew him away. Then Michael recorded it. According to Porcaro, it only took them a few takes. Steve was showing Michael how the phrasing should go, and Michael was repeating after him. He says, Michael sang the whole song from start to finish maybe just a couple of times.

        Did the song undergo many changes from the demo to the finished version? Porcaro says, not a lot. Quincy liked the song as it was, and at one point Bruce Swedien even called Steve in the studio seeking help with the right accents on “why, why,” because they wanted to reproduce them exactly like in the demo. Porcaro remembers though that they did add a rhythm guitar part that he despised in the beginning. “Hated it. I thought it didn’t fit the song. Of course, 40 million records later I came to love it,” he jokes. “Now I think it’s the most brilliant guitar part ever written.”

        Porcaro points out an interesting detail in the song – a barely noticeable background line where you can hear the word “around” (3:05-3:08 in the album track). He says the lyrics Michael’s singing are “she’s keeping him by keeping him around,” and it comes from his original demo.”

        Source: http://en.michaeljackson.ru/steve-porcaro-chicago-1945/

        1. Great info; thanks so much for sharing. I added a note in the post for readers to check out the story. It sounds like Porcaro and Bettis had somewhat different visions for the song lyrically, although it all came together beautifully in the end.

  3. My top 10 in this category:

    1. Man In The Mirror (written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard)
    2. Human Nature (written by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis)
    3. I Can’t Help It (written by Stevie Wonder)
    4. Off The Wall (written by Rod Temperton)
    5. Get It Together (written by Hal Davis, Don Fletcher, Berry Gordy, Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino)
    6. The Lady in My Life (written by Rod Temperton)
    7. Time Waits for No One (written by Jackie Jackson and Randy Jackson)
    8. Someone in the Dark (written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and Rod Temperton)
    9. P.Y.T. (written by James Ingram and Quincy Jones)
    10. Music and Me (written by Jerry Marcellino, Mel Larson, Don Fenceton and Mike Cannon)

    1. That is a good list. I especially love the choices of “Someone in the Dark” and “Music and Me.” “Music and Me” is really the story of Michael’s entire life, isn’t it? And “Someone in the Dark” perfectly captures that whimsical and magical element of Michael’s personality.

      I am really starting to see that this needed to have been a much longer list!

      1. In terms of suiting MJ’s personality it is really surprising that he did NOT write Why You Wanna Trip On Me, isn’t it?

    1. True, but I was also looking at the criteria of how well the song suited his personal values. This was a cover that he definitely made his own imo. Of course, that cover had been on my mind a lot lately due to the fact that I had just wrapped up an extensive proposal on HIStory, so I guess you could say it was still on my front burner, so to speak. It’s just a beautiful performance that so perfectly captures the pathos of Michael’s life.

  4. ‘Shake Your Body(Down To The Ground) has an incredible beat and rhythm and was written by Randy Jackson and Michael when he was only 17, so not just by him.

    1. There are many songs in his catalog that he wrote with co-writers, but he co-wrote them nevertheless. This article is about songs he did not write.

    2. Yes, it’s a great song although he did have a co-writing credit for that one. I was trying to limit it only to those songs where he didn’t have a writing credit.

      1. OK. Sorry, but I’ll add ‘For All Time’ that I listened to recently. It was so beautiful and Michael singing it really stirred me, deeply, and it was written by Sherwood, Michael Wynn/Porcaro, Steven M. I keep hearing Michael’s voice singing it in my head. As you said he has a brilliant way of interpreting a song and its lyrics. There are most likely many others, but that will do for today! Anyway I’d like to focus on ones he wrote himself more, but then again I agree the ones he sang so well seem as if he actually did.

        1. “For All Time” is my absolute favorite of the “new” songs that were added to Thriller25 (though I have to confess, I kind of like Akon’s take on “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”; I like that he didn’t just do it as a straight cover, but reinterpreted it in a way that was interesting).

  5. Out of his early material, “With a child’s heart,” for sure. And I don’t think he could have written “Human Nature.” The imagery of that song is very much unlike anything in his own material.

    1. Another fantastic choice! It’s really amazing that so many of the songs Michael sang in childhood (none of which he wrote, of course) reflected those values he held onto in adulthood. Again, it has led me to wonder if some of these songs helped shape and define his adult ethos. It’s very possible; at the very least, an interesting theory.

  6. my three choices (already named): “music and me”, “with a child’s heart” and “someone in the dark”.
    suitable for him “as a glove” 😉 and of course, great, GREAT songs.
    greetings from argentina,
    r.

  7. I agree with your list but I would like to add PYT and Scared of the moon. SOTM we dont know for sure if he had some writing input or if it was all Buzz Kohans work. I love and hate it at the same time. Damien Shields wrote an interesting article about it.
    http://www.damienshields.com/scared-of-the-moon-the-little-song-that-could/

    It seems to me that Michael only chose material within his themes and that matched his vocals. I cannot think of a song that is out of character for him or that he struggles vocally. Except for a few rock ballads like Give in to me and Who is it , I prefer his suave vocals to the gritty one . My favorite ‘songs that he did not write’ are already mentioned. But because of his amazing vocals and what these songs mean to me, these are my all time favorites

    With a childs heart and Time waits for no one : they remind me of a his lost childhood and how he tried to cling to it only to find out that you cannot turn back the time. When I hear the song I see him , Marlon or Jermaine sleeping in the car, exhausted, chased by fans. A sad picture.
    Human nature: I love the ‘tear’ in his voice, the perfect timing ,how he plays with the tempo and the deeper voice. I have always thought of it as an ode to the freedom of the city where you can be anonymous but at the same time are being watched. It reminds me of Michael in NY -Studio 54.
    PYT : This used to be my favorite song when I first bought the LP(!). But from 2009 on it reminds me of when the news broke that Michael had died and the song was on.
    Rock with you and Off the wall : pure nostalgia, going to the disco for the first time with my new boyfriend who was a huge MJ fan . When he tragically died, long after we broke up, I got all his MJ albums from his family.
    Music and me : totally Michael , a song ony he could sing.

    1. Willa Stillwater and I also had a good discussion of Scared of the Moon awhile back on Dancing With the Elephant:

      https://dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/scared-of-the-moon/

      It seems true that Michael didn’t perform songs that were out of character for him, which is probably why most of his covers and interpretations of others’ songs still sound so uniquely like HIM. Of course, he also evolved a lot throughout his career. For example, a song like Morphine would have certainly been out of character for him in the early 1980’s.

      The song by which I heard the news of Michael’s death was also an upbeat one-Thriller. It seemed an odd but appropriate choice. People were remembering the joy of Michael’s music. That might just have to be a blog post of its own accord sometime-the song you associate with the news of Michael’s passing. It would be interesting, as I’m sure everyone would have a different answer, just like everyone has their own story of where they were and what they were doing.

      1. It is definetely true that there are themes that were not an issue at certain eras in his life but over time and with life experience made their way into his work, whether he wrote them or not.
        Thinking about it, if you look at the timeline of the themes , they say alot about what was going on in his life at a particular time, including starting a family ( Invincible!)
        Just the other day I made a comment on the DWTE blog that not only do I not believe Michael had anything to do with the Cascio tracks, I also believe that his mindset in the years prior to his passing was not on singing about the media(re Cascios Breaking news ). He wanted to leave that episode behind, worked hard to get his life on track and get a home for his children. The handwritten note he left behind with the tracks he was working on, tells about the kind of music he was interested in or working in the last days of his life . These are the titles I can decipher :
        Beautiful girl, Holywood Tonight, Silent Spring, Too late to turn back, Coco Butter, Shut up and dance, You were there, Hold my hand, Cant stop loving you, Dark Lady, a song by or with Barry Gibb, Rock tonight, Adore you. And a note saying “finish scared of the moon”.

        A blog about “the timeline of the themes and if/how they are related to his personal life”, or about ‘the songs he never released’ would be great and absolutely for next june ” the song you associate with the news of Michael’s passing’

        This month Michael would be 57 , time to celebrate .

        1. That’s an interesting observation. It may be that he had worked through a lot of that anger; gotten it out of his system, so to speak, and was returning to themes that had more to do with life and love. Invincible is actually a pretty upbeat album overall, with only two tracks harkening back to those themes (“Privacy” and “Threatened”). I think he was in a somewhat happier place by then. He had his children. Not that he wasn’t still having his militant phases (the anti-Sony campaign in 2002 comes to mind) but overall, he seemed to be mellowing out a lot in the last decade, and getting back to basics.

        2. I don’t know that I’d say that… that he had put the past behind him… No. If you read the bodyguards’ book, Remembering The Time, there was a lot of negative undercurrents in his life… The media never let up… the blood-suckers who wanted to control his empire never let up… the people calling him a pedophile never let up… I think he just retreated from the world and concentrated on his family, believing that the world didn’t want to hear from him any longer. 🙁 He didn’t want to be the butt of the joke anymore. Prior to the THIS IS IT concert press conference/tour announcement, he was so scared that people wouldn’t show up or that they would boo him! And once there, he was so happily surprised that he was shown the love he had thought had gone away forever! 🙂

          But he was a songwriter… and the songs just kept coming to him… so it is surely possible that he wrote a few angry songs if his life was still being invaded and his name ridiculed and his “product” abused… As we all know, he wrote MANY more songs than he ever recorded… so who knows how many angry songs he had actually written? While it’s true that the note on his armoire on June 25th didn’t have a single Cascio track on it, they may have simply not made the short list. And anyways, who knows what some of the titles ON the list were actually about? (Titles can sometimes be deceiving)

          (On a side note, the Cascio tracks piss me off only because the vocals aren’t all MJ, and no one has had the balls to admit that at SONY… but that is a whole other matter!)

          1. BTW, I have pics of two different Songlists found in Michael’s bedroom of June 25th: one a handwritten note, and one, typed and taped to his armoire.

            These are the titles I can decipher from the typed Songlist:

            Lady of Summer
            Hollywood Tonight
            Shut Up and Dance
            Rock Tonight
            Adore you
            Breathe
            I Am That One
            Everybody Wants to be a Movie Star
            Beautiful Girl
            MJ/Barry Gibb song
            Scared of Moon
            Thank Heaven
            Ghost of Another Lover
            Gloucestershire
            Throwing Your Life Away
            Leaving Today to Berlin
            Lonely Bird
            (?Director’s Chair??)
            (?Find F____?)
            Way You Love Me
            The Loser
            Best of Joy
            D.I.E.
            Is She Coming Back
            Dark Lady H2O
            Bottom of My Heart
            Remember What I Told You
            Can’t Stop Loving You
            Silent Spring
            You Were There
            Lady of Summer

            ********

            Handwritten Note says:

            The Loser
            Best of Joy
            Is She Coming Back
            Dark Lady H2O
            Bottom of My heart
            Hold My Hand
            Remember What I Told You
            Can’t Stop Loving You
            Silent Spring
            You Were There
            Hollywood Tonight
            Shut Up and Dance
            Rock Tonight
            Adore You
            Lady of Summer
            Beautiful Girl
            ? Really?
            Don’t Walk Away
            (?MJ + NI song?)
            Barry Gibb MJ song
            Coco Butter
            Finish>>> Scared of the Moon,
            >>>>>>>>Beautiful Girl,
            >>>>>>>>Cheater
            Too Late To Turn Back Now
            (? __________A Mother ________?)

          2. A real issue with the Cascio tracks is that not one shred of evidence has ever surfaced to prove that Michael did that recording session in their home (or any recording session at all). You would think there would be some video footage, or photos, or outtakes or something. When the Cascios made that appearance on Oprah to supposedly set the record straight, I thought sure they would unveil something that would solve the question for once and for all.

            I have tried comparing “Breaking News” to other tracks like “Xscape” where Michael uses a similar tone of voice, just to test the possibility that it could, in fact, be him, but even though the styling is similar, the tone of the voice is still different. I know that Michael was quite capable of changing his voice up, and on “Breaking News” (if it IS him)he is shifting personas, as he would often do in his songs. But that doesn’t explain why the other tracks sound off, as well. I like to believe that Michael at least wrote these songs and perhaps simply didn’t finish them, but then it’s odd that they don’t appear on any of his lists of songs in progress. If these were indeed his songs, I know he wouldn’t have been satisfied with the state they were left in, and would have had intentions to continue working on them. Michael would never release inferior product, but he also didn’t simply give up on songs he really liked, especially ones he had written himself.

  8. Excellently interesting article, Raven.

    Might I suggest,
    Baby Be Mine
    P.Y.T. (The Version that he wrote, rather than the James Ingram/QJ Final version)
    The Lady In My Life (Would’ve been fantastically different)
    Just Good Friends (The Duet with Stevie Wonder, of course)
    Gone Too Soon (Such a song, and yet it was merely a fantastic interpretation!)
    Come Together (So raw, and different, but again, just a cover)
    Butterflies (That song is so exceptional. It should be at the top.)
    Whatever Happens (Another undisputed classic.)
    One More Chance (As personal as you could possibly get.)
    Fall Again. (Being written by Robin Thicke, it is a classic, that should’ve been from his mind, and his alone.)
    Chicago (A.K.A. She Was Lovin Me) (What more needs to be said about this one?)
    Slave To The Rhythm (Even better. His bread and butter, but if he had done it, the chorus would’ve been even more undeniable than it already is!)

    I think that’s more than 10. That’s OK though, right?

    1. “Gone Too Soon” is especially a choice I like for this particular theme (darn, you guys keep coming up with such great choices, I may have to rethink my list-or do a Part Two, lol!). That song just sounds sooooo much like Michael, and of course, is forever associated in our minds with Michael’s friendship with Ryan White.

      And “Chicago” is very much in keeping with Michael’s femme fatale themes. Again, it’s the story of a protagonist dealing with the wages of sin and lust and the struggle with his moral consciousness (he’s not okay with the fact that he has slept with another man’s wife).

      1. Thank you Raven. You got most of the best choices already, this is just me thinking harder. Though I suppose there is also
        A Place With No Name, if Dr. Freeze apparently did write it all.
        And Girlfriend. And It’s The Falling In Love. Really, it’s true what he said, Michael never sang a song if he didn’t mean it. And he made it all sound so personal too.

        Also, I hope your book about HIStory makes it. HIStory is easily my favorite album. I love every single song on Disc 2. But at this point, I like all of his songs.

        1. I agree about A Place With No Name (and did seriously consider putting that one on the list). If anything, it is certainly a worthy honorable mention, although I believe that Michael did play a big hand in collaborating with Dr. Freeze on that one. He was still working on it as late as 2008, according to Damien Shields’s book.

          Thank you for the well wishes on my book! I certainly hope it makes the cut, too (lots of prayers and keeping fingers crossed!). There are at least two rounds of cuts before final selections are made, and this year they had 605 proposals! That is a lot, and I am sure I am up against some very good writers who have written lots of brilliant proposals. We’ll see what happens. The waiting is the hardest part right now (trying hard to remember that a watched pot never boils, lol!). The editors are saying it may take up to two months just to read all the proposals.

    1. I saw your comment on the 33 1/3 website; thanks so much! In general, a lot of the readership for that series tends toward the very indie and esoteric, so books about albums by commercial artists-especially a hugely successful pop artist-tend to not get a lot of support on their forums. However, the book that remains the biggest selling title in the series is a book on Celine Dion!

      A concern is that it may still be too soon on the heels of Susan Fast’s book. However, there are no steadfast rules “against” proposing a book about an artist who has been covered in the series before, as long as it’s a different album (and mine, even if it’s selected for the final cut, wouldn’t see light of day until 2017); in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the proposal and probably a pinch of luck too, depending on the quality of the competition and the moods of the editors at the time (for example, whether a proposal crosses their desk at just the right moment when the mood is ripe for a book on that particular album or artist).

      An unfortunate fact of having two different proposals on two different MJ albums in the same year is that one of us will automatically cancel the other one out, as it’s highly unlikely they would select two MJ books within the same year. Sigh. Such is the nature of competition, I suppose. And Off the Wall is going to get a pretty big promotional push this fall, what with the Spike Lee film and 35th anniversary edition, so that may tip the boat in favor of Off the Wall this go-round. Still, it’s exciting to see two MJ titles being proposed, and of course, I am praying that my hard work on the HIStory proposal pays off. It is still an album that I think is long overdue for serious critical attention.

  9. Hi Raven

    haven’t read this blog yet, but have been to UK for 5 weeks. Before I left I unsubscribed so as not to overload my Blackberry while away, and just tried to resubscribe but it keeps coming up with an error and “try again”. Had several tries so am now having a go this way to see if this works, as I do so enjoy your blog and want to be in touch again. Hope it works this time.

    1. I hope it works for you, too. WordPress has this annoying habit of automatically updating everything and then, when they do, they often eff stuff up. I’m not very tech savvy, as I am a writer and not a computer programmer, lol, so sometimes I can’t always figure out how to undo the damage they’ve done when something gets changed-or if I do, it may take me a long time and much trial and error. Some features get changed irrevocably when they do these updates. often for the better but not always. My husband is great at this stuff but he doesn’t have as much time these days to help me with the site as he used to, so I’m on my own with it a lot of the time. It is showing that a few have subscribed since I put the new widget up but it doesn’t tell me if that means they subscribed successfully, or only attempted. I guess we’ll find out when the next post goes up. Let me know if it does work for you, or doesn’t.

  10. Fingers crossed your proposal makes it. If anyone has the credentials and should do it, it would be you. Your blog is an attest to that.
    Good that there are more proposals on MJ, maybe one will make it, but that is an impressive list to compete against.
    If you do not make it this round I hope you continue or find another way to publish , maybe through crowdfunding.
    I do not know how much time you have to finish the book, but to be honest I prefer you take your time and not write such a significant work under pressure of deadlines.
    Many consider History Michaels Magnum Opus. I trust that a well researched , indepth work that is published on the right time , will succeed to present its significance to a wide public .
    You can do it.

    1. They give 6 months to a year from the time the contract is signed to complete the book. Providing a firm delivery date was one of the requirements of the proposal, so I specified that I would need until the end of summer 2016. My teaching load is usually much lighter then, and I can focus on more intensive writing projects. Of course, if my proposal gets accepted, I would have to work on drafting the book all year long; I couldn’t wait until summer to get started. But I definitely know I would need the summer to really polish it.

      I’m not sure what route I might take if the proposal doesn’t get accepted. I would still like to do the book, and after having invested so much time in the proposal, it would seem a waste not to. I’m not sure if I would want to look for another publisher, or self publish it. Or revise and wait until the next 33 1/3 open call to try again. I guess that is a bridge I will just have to cross when I come to it.

      I was just thinking how it is probably even more frustrating for those writers who make the first and second cuts, only to get eliminated when it comes down to the final selection. That must really be a letdown, to get your hopes strung along that far and then not make the final eight or nine that get selected. The only thing one can really do during this stage is wait, hope for the best, keep lots of other irons hot on the fire, and try not to think too much about it, lol.

      But thank you very much for the vore of confidence; it is much appreciated!

  11. Best of luck, Raven. I know what you mean about making the first or second cut, and then…..! But in the event this opportunity doesn’t come through, I hope you’ll go through with developing and publishing the book anyway. I’d be happy to help any way I can.

  12. I totally agree with all of these! I remember learning that “Man in the Mirror” and “You Are Not Alone” were not written by Michael and being shocked – but then, of course, we find out that they were co-produced by him and sort of partly written by him, too, so there we have it. 🙂 Ones I thought of while reading this list were “Gone Too Soon”, “For All Time”, and “Why You Wanna Trip On Me” especially – I was really surprised to learn that Michael didn’t write that one!

    Anyway, thanks for this post, Raven! 🙂

    1. That’s true; he had quite a big hand in a lot of these (if not the original melody and lyrics, at the very least, the transition to final production) so it doesn’t surprise that there is a lot more of “Michael” in these tracks than might have otherwise been thought.

  13. I can’t even tell you guys how much surprised and at the same time disappointed I felt after discovering that Michael wasn’t technically involved with the songwriting of many of his successful hits.
    I already knew about “Human Nature” and “Man In The Mirror” but lately I’ve discovered that some masterpieces like “Rock With You”, “Off The Wall”, “The Lady In My Life”, “PYT”, “Thriller” and “Baby Be Mine” were not written by him.
    These are some of the most iconic songs by MJ and I’ve always been associating them with him, in every aspect, even the clothing.
    Also every other song from his early solo albums like “Got To be There”, “Ben”, “Music & Me” and “Forever, Michael”, contain songs that he didn’t wrote.
    But he wrote almost every song out of “Bad” and “Dangerous” and many from “HIStory” and “Invincible too”. Not mentioning huge hits from “Thriller” like “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and “The Girl Is Mine”.

    But the point is that he was so incredibly unique in both the vocals and the performances of these songs, that the lyrics don’t even matter.
    And he was very much involved with every song that made it to one of his albums, despite the fact that he didn’t personally write them.
    He often served as co-producer and used to direct and assists the songwriters / recording engineers to his liking even though he was never credited for this. So obviously those songs had his hand in them and he also made adjustments to these songs (like in the case of “You Are Not Alone”).
    He also used to record directions and beatboxings of how he wanted the arrangements to be on tape for the producers and songwriters to hear.
    The fact that he didn’t physically write every single word he sang doesn’t make him less of an amazing artist that he obviously was.
    Many other famous music stars don’t write most, if any, of their songs.
    For example: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Beyonce, Rihanna and even Elton John (who is often credited as co-writer).
    These are huge talents that perform songs they didn’t write.
    People simply don’t understand that singing and songwriting are two very different roles, even though in many cases artists do both.
    MJ was special because he was able to interpret all of his songs (whether he wrote them or not) in such a unique way that none else could’ve done. His voice, his clothes, his dance moves and so forth.
    And he was also a songwriter after all, he wrote many of his songs and he wrote some for other artists too. And even when it didn’t write them, he was still involved in the production process.

    My personal Top 10 list of songs MJ “should’ve written” is:

    1. Human Nature
    2. Man In The Mirror
    3. You Are Not Alone
    4. Thriller
    5. Baby Be Mine
    6. Rock With You
    7. Off The Wall
    8. The Lady In My Life
    9. P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)
    10. Ben

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