Editor's Note: Patti Austin is a Grammy-winning singer, who worked with Michael Jackson on several albums, including “Off the Wall.” She called in to the CNN newsroom this afternoon to share her memories of Jackson. Here’s what she had to say:
I’m very, very sad about Michael. I wish I could say that it was unexpected. For those of us that knew him for anytime in his adult life, there was always a suspicion that there would never be an old Michael Jackson. But, it’s still shocking…It’s a shocking departure.
Part of it, for me, was connected to the mystique of genius. There seems to be a thing where poeple who are geniuses don'et seem to– Michael was tremendously type A personality wise, perfectionist. Being close to Michael…the first time I worked with him was on “The Whiz”, then we picked up again when we did “The Dude” and then “Off the Wall” and it become apparent that Michael did not take care of himself very well. He went through a short period when he hired a chef to try to eat a balanced diet. He very seldom did that.
He didn’t work out, he just worked and like a demon. He did everything to the extreme. We would get ready to go on stage to perform and he would stand in the wings, kinda like the Warner’s Brother’s frog, and then the lights would go up and he would become this demon on stage. And then he would finish and curl right back up into a ball again. Everything was done to the extreme. When you live your life at that level, you’re like a hummingbird, you don’t have a terribly very long life span. I think that had a lot to do with it.
I also think Michael internalized a lot of his grief. He was a very troubled spirit. You combine all of those elements and you burn out quickly.
I’m hearing so many people talk about Michael at this point, obviously, and his music. I was very, very, very lucky to be there during what I would call the golden years of his career. I think the stuff that he killed the most was the stuff that was created for him, and I don’t just say it because Quincy was my Godfather, but the stuff that was created for him by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton and Bruce Swedien, who was…that was kinda like the holy trilogy for Michael Jackson. And anything he did with them was brilliant because everything they did with him was tailored for him and his voice and his personality.
That’s really the stuff that put Michael on the map. And he was able to keep himself there because he was a genius. And an absolutely brilliant performer and had that leg up that I was fortunate to have in my career, which was to come up in the industry in the time when all of the innovators were still around.
Read more about Patti Austin at her website.
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