Updated: Oct 27, 2021
A few months ago, I watched a live interview of Michael's Music Director, Greg Phillinganes—and I loved it. If you haven't had a chance to watch this interview, please do so. As a MJ fan for 30+ years, one of my favorite things to do is learn more about Michael's creative process from people who worked with him for many years.
Not only was Greg Philliganes Michael's music director (he worked on all of MJs solo albums), but he had been knowing and working with Michael and the Jackson's since the Jackson's "Destiny" Album—in which he made the musical arrangements.
Greg is very close with the Jackson family and refers to Katherine Jackson as "mom." And as stated in the interview's title, he was the musical director of Michael's "Bad" and "Dangerous" concert tours—and the "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special."
(Please note, he was the music director for only part of the Dangerous tour.)
In addition to working with the 'King of Pop,' Greg has also worked with many award-winning artists such as Stevie Wonder—who discovered him after Ricky Lawson (a fantastic drummer, also a band member of Michael's) passed him a cassette of instrumental music of his own songs done by Phillinganes. Greg then auditioned for Stevie Wonders band, 'Wonderlove,' and then played with them for six years. Greg is a fantastic keyboardist, songwriter, and musical director to this day. One of the things I loved about this interview was hearing Greg tell stories as he played classic MJ jams on his keyboard.
And what some may or may not know, Greg also released his own version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Behind the mask,' which was recorded by artists including Yellow Magic Orchestra, Michael Jackson, and Eric Clapton. In the early 80s, Quincy Jones bought the song to Michael, who contributed more lyrics and an accompanying melody. Michael was to release his version of the song on his "Thriller" album but it ultimately was left off due to a song credit dispute. However, later on, Greg, Eric Clapton, and Sakamoto (as a solo artist) have recorded "Behind The Mask" based on Michael's version of the song. Michael's rendition of the song was finally released in 2010.
Peep the full interview at the following link: https://youtu.be/2y6N5GBUBks
Here are some tidbits of the interview I loved hearing more about. Although one is sad, it touched my heart. And of course, there are loads more I found interesting, but this was from my notes at the time.
• Michael played drums (which I'm sure many have heard, but it's excellent hearing that information confirmed.)
• When Michael was alone and more comfortable, his voice became a little deeper.
• Michael studied the movements of animals to incorporate into his dancing.
• "I Can't Help It," originally had more of a 'Latin' music vibe. (Quincy Jones asked Greg to do a new production of it.) However, upon hearing the Latin sound, Quincy wanted a sexy, slowed-down version to establish Michael as a grown, sexy man. Therefore, Greg redid the song! The new version gave a unique personality to it, and that's why the song works (per Greg in the interview.) By the way, if you never heard it, here's the demo version of "I Can't Help It." https://youtu.be/EXTjOKMAlmk
• Greg played piano as people walked up the hill to Michael's "Homegoing Service."