Classics: Michael Jackson – I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (Epic)
No matter what… The reactions of some of my collegues have regularly astonished me . And what they subsequently could write in the press from a decade to another. From those basing their stories on gossips. To those givin’ the feeling they had some proximity with the artists they happened to write about. Although they didn’t. Not to mention the ones going along with the wind… And God knows what all these people managed to say about Michael Jackson. Eventually standing like prosecutors at times, and the list goes on. With reviews makin’ no exception.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not saying I have anything against bad reviews. But as long as they find their justification. And don’t come up with the aim for their author to put him/herself to the forefront. Like it’s unfortunately too often the case at the end. Differently said, what would have they been writting for instance about ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ if it hadn’t been a Michael Jackson‘s cut???
I remember how I felt the first time I got to hear ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’. I just couldn’t help thinkin’ how it was another one of a kind moment Jacko had accustomed us with. Somehow findin’ a connection with ‘Liberian Girl’, a rather underrated song from the same album with Letta Mbulu delivering some Swahili chants.
Just like ‘Bad’, the album it’s taken from, ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ was meant to be a duet. Either with Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston. But both declined the invitation at the end. Like most of the artists Michael had thought of for a participation to his album, beginning with Prince…
‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ ended up as a duet though. But with Siedah Garrett, herself responsible for the co-writing of ‘Man In The Mirror’. Although she didn’t get the full credit for her vocal performance for some reason. A song she also happened to sing on its Spanish and French versions. In other words, ‘Todo mi amor eres tu’ and ‘Je ne veux pas la fin de nous’…
– Did ever Jackie, Tito and their mother realize their would give birth to one of the most exciting ventures in the history of music? This when they found themselves singin’ harmonies together at night after the family’s TV had broken down!?! They would later be joined by Marlon, Jermaine and Michael. With their mom leavin’ when father Joe officially formed The Little Jackson Brothers.
It wasn’t long before he turned their name into The Jackson Five Singing Group (upon suggestion), itself naturally shortened to The Jackson Five…
After they won a talent contest at the NY Apollo Theater during the Summer of 1967, Gladys Knight eventually sent a demo of thel to Motown. But the label rejected it, sendin’ it back to the boys’ hometown in Gary, IN. Soon after, while performing at Beckman Junior High in Gary, they came to the attention of Gordon Keith who signed them on his Steeltown label. Eventually producing their debut-single – ‘Big Boy’ – and releasing it by the end of January 1968. The Five givin’ it a follow-up – ‘We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 (to Fall in Love)’ – before switching to Motown.
There, they started working along with Bobby Taylor who’d brought them to the label. The latter comin’ to produce their debut hits. In other words, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘The Love You Save’. Meanwhile, ‘I’ll Be There’ co-written and produced by Hal Davis, became the group’s fourth #1 single. This makin’ of them the first recording act to have their first four singles reach the top of the Hot 100!
The heat was (definitely) on, and it wasn’t long before The Jackson 5 became Motown’s best-selling group and main marketing focus. Motown jumpin’ on the band’s success to launch both Michael and Jermaine‘s solo careers.
By 1973, with an ear/eye on the then emerging Disco scene, the band delivered ‘Get It Together’. An album that saw them collaborating with writers such as Norman Whitfield and Leon Ware. The title track of their album somehow markin’ an evolution of their sound towards funkier vibes. With the same applying to ‘Dancing Machine’.
Two years after though, most of the group members decided to stop recording for Motown. Therefore claiming for creative control and get a better royalty rate. Eventually signing with Epic in June 1975. To the exception of Jermaine who decided to stay with Motown, with Randy replacing him from then on. The group turnin’ their name from The Jackson 5 (which was owned by Motown) to The Jacksons. Eventually makin’ their debut for their new label via Philadelphia International Records. This most likely being how they came to embrace the Philly Sound such as one could hear on the outstanding although quite underrated ‘Style Of Life’ which saw the light as the B-side of ‘Enjoy Yourself’.
Like Jermaine, Michael, a singer, songwriter and producer, launched his solo activities while still a member of The Jackson Five. Releasing four albums for Motown between 1971 and 1975 before switching as well (as a solo artist) to Epic.
He spent most of the second half of the 70’s along with his brothers. Delivering one of his most vibrant performances back in 1976 on the underrated ‘Style Of Life’. And writing some of the band’s hits such as ‘Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)’ in 1978. But also ‘Can You Feel It’, Heartbreak Hotel’, Walk Right Now’ and ‘State Of Shock’, later on…
As a result, it wasn’t before 1979 that Michael‘s awaited debut-album for Epic hit the streets. Seeing him starting a long time collaboration with super producer Quincy Jones. And gathering an impressive cast of luminaries. From Greg Phillinganes to Louis Johnson, Paulinho Da Costa and Sheila E. But also The Seawind Horns, Randy Jackson and William Reichenbach among others. ‘Off The Wall’ pretty much opening the era of the superproduction for Jacko. Meanwhile standing as the first solo album to generate four top 10 hits Stateside. This by the likes of ‘She’s Out of My Life’, ‘Rock With You’ and ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ in addition to its title track.
More success would come three years after. This with the release of ‘Thriller’. With the latter opening the era of superlatives for Michael. Proudly standing as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, it has been rumored to have saved Epic from a possible bankrupt. It was the first album to have 7 Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles. In other words, ‘The Girl Is Mine’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, ‘Human Nature’, ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’ and ‘Thriller’. Meanwhile, he found time to write and produce ‘Muscles’ for long time friend Diana Ross.
‘Bad’ saw the light almost 5 years after ‘Thriller’. A period that saw Michael duetting with his brother Jermaine on ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good to Be True)’. Both of them providing guest vocals on Rockwell‘s memorable ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’. Then contributing to The Jacksons‘ ‘Victory’ album and its following tour.
Michael who’d sold 20 million copies of ‘Off The Wall’, then 66 million of ‘Thriller’ wanted to do even better. And eventually selling 100 million, with ‘Bad’ being initially intended to be a duet album with… Prince! The latter didn’t respond to the invite. No more than Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston who’d also been thought to contribute.
‘Bad’ only did 35 at the end! And, like its predecessors, it made its impact, spanning extra gems in the charts. From ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ to its title track. But also ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Man In The Mirror’ and ‘Dirty Diana’. If not ‘Another Part Of Me’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ to a lesser extend. Meanwhile ‘Liberian Girl’ along with Letta Mbulu failed to chart.
‘Dangerous’ marked quite a change as the first album to not be produced by Quincy Jones since his 1975 ‘Forever, Michael One’. It therefore saw Jacko collaborating with New Jack Swing guru Teddy Riley in addition to Bruce Swedien and Bill Bottrell.
‘Dangerous’ sold 32 million copies. With thanks to extra hit singles such as ‘Black Or White’ and ‘Remember The Time’. Meanwhile Epic postponed the single release of its firing title track due to hit the street in January 1994. This after allegations of child sexual abuse which were made against Jackson in August 1993. His health concerns, and the failure of the previous single, ‘Gone Too Soon’.
By the middle of 1995 came ‘HIStory’. A double-album concept with one half standing as a greatest hits compilation. And the other as a collection of new material including the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced ‘Scream’ that saw him duetting with Janet. But also ‘This Time Around’ along with The Notorious B.I.G.. Not to mention ‘You Are Not Alone’ co-produced with R. Kelly and ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.
Jacko entered the 2000 whilst in the middle of a big dispute with his record label. He nevertheless released the ironically titled ‘Invincible’. An album that would be the last collection of original material he released in his lifetime. It sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. Way to low for an artist of this caliber though. Most likely because the record label dispute and the lack of promotion or tour. And also its release at an already bad time for the record industry, with the ongoing development of the illegal download at the time.
By July 2002, Jackson alledged that the then Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a “devil” and “racist” who did not support his African-American artists. Using them merely for his own gain. Soon after Sony Music refused to renew his contract. Claiming that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because the artist refused to tour in America.
From then on the 2000’s would see Jacko taken into like a whirlwind of tragedies. The announce of his passing, on June 25, 2009, havin’ the effect of an earthquake.
His first posthumous song released entirely by his estate was ‘This Is It’, which he had co-written with Paul Anka in the 80’s. His surviving brothers reunited in the studio for the first time since 1989 to record backing vocals. It accompanied the 2009 concert documentary ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It’. The latter standing as the highest-grossing documentary or concert film of all time. This with earnings of more than $260 million worldwide.
– Working on completing the updating of our data basis has never been synonymous with remaining away from what’s goin’ on. With the news of an upcoming Netflix documentary on the life of Quincy Jones sufficing enough to tickle our curiosity at the time. And eventually break the period of silence which we’ve gone thru to give it a warm welcome. This in addition to the release of a new single – ‘Keep Reachin’ – along with Mark Ronson and Chaka Khan.
Mind you, we’re speakin’ of one of the most influential artists/producers/entrepreneurs of all times. A character who, despite the countless challenges he had to go thru, has managed to… keep reachin’ against all odds.
A talented trumpeter who’s managed to become the sideman of countless stars. From Miles Davis to Dizzie Gillespie among countless others. But also collaborating with Frank Sinatra for the very first time back in 1958. And from then becoming the arranger of some of his albums. Meanwhile establishin’ a strong friendship with him. Eventually admitting Sinatra took him to a whole new planet. “I worked with him until he passed away in 1998”, he said. “He left me his ring. I never take it off. Now, when I go to Sicily, I don’t need a passport. I just flash my ring…”
An Oscar winning soundtrack composer… Remember the seminal ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ or ‘The Color Purple’ among others. And also an entertainment-industry mogul… Remember ‘Vibe’, the magazine he launched back in 1993. And most definitely a hit-maker Pop producer… Remember The ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ albums which he produced for Michael Jackson… As many roles he most definitely assumed meanwhile settin’ the gold standard for each.
All in all, Jones, 85, has achieved an unprecedented 79 Grammy Award nominations. And he has won 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award back in 1991. This in addition to a staggering six decades of entertaining commitment. Enough reasons to honor him and his legacy in a documentary. And who better than Rashida Jones (one of his daughters) could do it? This along with Al Hicks, an Australian musician-turned-filmmaker…
Producers describe the film as awarding “an intimate look into the life of icon Quincy Jones”. And Jones as having “transcended racial and cultural boundaries”. With his story “inextricably woven into the fabric of America.” The Dude eventually writing on Facebook that “it makes my soul SMILE to have such a dream team share my story.”
The trailer for Quincy features the likes of Barack Obama, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg,Kendrick Lamar, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey who all credit Jones as a true inspiration for their careers.
View Trailer – Quincy: A Life Beyond Measure
View on Netflix
– A native of Chicago, IL, Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. happened to be one of a ten children family. By 1943, he and his family relocated to Bremerton, WA, where his dad got a wartime job. Then after the war, everybody moved to Seattle where Jones attended Garfield High School next to his home. Eventually developing his skills as a trumpeter and arranger at the time.
Quincy started playing with classmate Charles Taylor. And, by the age of 14, he introduced himself to a then 16 years old Ray Charles, quoting him as an early inspiration for his own music career. In 1951, he earned a scholarship to Seattle University. This with a young Clint Eastwood – also a music major there – watching him play in the college band. Then, after one semester, Jones transferred to what is now known as the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, MA.
He would soon after be given his first big break after receiving an offer to tour as a trumpeter, arranger, and pianist with bandleader Lionel Hampton.
In 1953, Jones travelled with Hampton to Europe where fellow members of the group did various recordings for labels such as Vogue in France and Metronome in Sweden. Thus helping to set up Jones’ reputation as a writer and arranger. He finally left Hampton and relocated to New York where he worked as a staff arranger for CBS Records. And in 1956, he became musician, arranger and musical director for the Dizzie Gillespie band on a major tour. He also began considering production seriously. Eventually collaborating with Dinah Washington that same year.
Jones moved next to Paris where he worked as a staff arranger for the Disques Barclay label. Studying composition and theory during his time off with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, he recorded with Sarah Vaughan and many French artists. Then he returned to America in 1959 where he produced an album for Count Basie. He then came to sign as an artist to Mercury Records in 1961 then became the Vice-President of the label three years later. This bringin’ him to work with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan. Meanwhile he delivered various recordings on his own. Beginning with the memorable ‘Bossa Nova’ back in 1963. An album which spanned the classic ‘Soul Bossa Nova’ which Canadian Hip-Hop twosome Dream Warriors sampled eighteen years after on their classic ‘My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style’.
Jones also arranged ‘Sinatra Live In Las Vegas At The Sands’ with the Count Basie Orchestra. And by 1963, he relocated to Hollywood, CA. Becoming the first Black Jazz musician to penetrate the American film score. His film credits including ‘The Deadly Affair’, ‘In Cold Blood’ and ‘In The Heat Of The Night’. But also ‘Cactus Flower’, ‘The Anderson Tapes’ and ‘The Getaway’. Not to mention ‘The Color Purple’ years after (in 1985).
As a recording artist, Jones signed to A&M Records. There, he delivered various albums between 1970 and 1981. Including ‘Body Heat’ in 1974, itself featuring Minnie Riperton on ‘If Ever I Lose This Heaven’. But also its follow-up – ‘Mellow Madness’ – that saw him collaborating with The Brothers Johnson the year after. Not to mention ‘Sounds… And Stuff Like That’ which spanned the classic ‘Stuff Like That’ in 1978. Then the multi-Grammy Award winning ‘The Dude’ three years later. An album that saw him sharing the duties along with Patti Austin on both ‘Razzmatazz’ and ‘Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me’. This in addition to the ‘Every Home Should Have One’ album which he produced for her on his Qwest Reecords label. An effort most likely remembered for the classic ‘Baby Come To Me’ that saw her duetting with James Ingram.
In 1975, Jones founded Qwest Productions, for which he arranged and produced hugely successful albums by Frank Sinatra and other major Pop figures. And three years later, he produced the soundtrack for ‘The Wiz’, the musical adaptation of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, whose feature film version starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
The end of the 70’s, early 80’s saw him crafting countless classics for many artists who eventually became regular collaborators on his productions. Of course, how not to think of Michael Jackson first? This with the ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ albums which he produced for him between 1979 and 1987. The latter resulting in an impressive amount of classics. From ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ to ‘Rock With You’. Then ‘Thriller’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’ or ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. And ‘Bad’ and other ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. This in addition to ‘I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’ featuring an uncredited Siedah Garrett. But Jones also happened to produce other artists like The Brothers Johnson. Thus givin’ birth to extra classics such as ‘I’ll Be Good To You’ (1976), ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ (1977) and ‘Ain’t We Funkin’ Now’ (1978). Not to mention ‘Stomp!’ in 1980.
An ultra in-demand producer, Jones also came to work with Rufus & Chaka Khan on their 1979 ‘Masterjam’ album. An effort which you might remember for the firing ‘Do You Love What You Feel’. With the same applying to George Benson with his 1980 album and cuts such as ‘Love X Love’, the mellow ‘What’s On Your Mind’ and its title cut. In other words, ‘Give Me The Night’. Meanwhile, I guess it’s fair to say that James Ingram partly owes him a part of his recognition. This, among others with the classic ‘Yah Mo B There’ along with Michael McDonald. With the list to be incomplete without a mention of his production of Donna Summer‘s eponymous album in 1982. The latter including the memorable ‘State Of Independence’.
Then how not to think of the memorable ‘We Are The World’?!? A project and a song in the meantime which he put together back in 1985 with the aim to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia’s famine. This with the contribution of United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa. In other words a cohort of luminaries from Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie who co-wrote the song. To Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Diana Ross and Tina Turner among countless others.
By 1989, Jones made quite a sensation while teaming up with Ray Charles and Chaka Khan on a cover version of The Brothers Johnson‘s ‘I’ll Be Good To You’. But also launching the career of a then 23 years old Tevin Campbell, this while introducing him on ‘Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)’. And pretty much boosting Al B. Sure!‘s profile as well when choosing him to sing along with Barry White, El DeBarge and James Ingram on the smooth soul suite ‘The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)’. With all these gems comin’ as a part of his ‘Back On The Block’ album with its title track featuring rappers Big Daddy Kane, Ice-T, Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel among others.
Jones would eventually gather another cohort of luminaries six years later on his ‘Q’s Jook Joint’ album in a blend of classics and new tunes. This two years after havin’ launched his own magazine by the likes of Vibe.
More recently (in 2017), Jones and French producer Reza Ackbaraly launched Qwest TV, the world’s first subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service for Jazz and eclectic music from around the world. The platform features a handpicked selection of ad-free concerts, interviews, documentaries, and exclusive, original content, all in HD or 4K.