June 26th, 2009
02:45 PM ET

'Jackson did everything to the extreme'

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:

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/26/michael.jackson.album.sales/art.jpg]

Patti Austin

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.

Filed under: 360º Follow • Michael Jackson
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Chinue

    I am really surprised at how mean some of you are. Yes there are other things going on in the world but you still should remain respectful to the family if nothing else. You should show some compassion to his mother and father. It is so sad that we live in a world with people who do not care about the unforeseen death of someone so young and who gave so much to the world.

    June 28, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  2. Don

    Enough about Michael Jackson. You would think the King of the World died. There alot more important things going on than him.

    June 26, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  3. Michelle

    This is unbelievable. You can't find his music or videos.
    Everything is sold out and Jackson nearly brought down
    the internet. Hopefully, I can get the entire video collection
    someday on blu-ray and the HBO special that I am hearing
    so much about. Even on todays 106 & Park , it is the top 10
    Michael Jackson videos. The hosts are in their 20's so they
    and their audience mostly know Jackson through the videos
    he has left that will stand the test of time.

    June 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  4. Marjorie

    It is so sad that genius never stays in our midst for long. It is even sadder that we often do not have the strength to endure it while it lasts. He suffered because we could never give him all he needed to be happy and whole. I weep now because I feel guilty that we never had enough to help him find his happiness and his peace on earth. We loved him too much and we could not accept that fact. So like so many of the things we love, we destroyed him with little pecks, one at a time, ripping away pieces of his soul, until we no longer saw that one that we had loved. Only we did not know what we had done until it was too late. So now we mourn the loss of one we never really knew or understood and finally we can again hear all the words that his heart offered to us in his songs and see all the joy he seemed to desperately want, in his performances. So I will weep and I will mourn for what I feel I have lost and I will hurt that we, the people of this world, could not love him enough and endure our love enough to keep him strong. Like Liz Taylor said, he will always be in my heart. Forever Michael.

    June 26, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  5. Ashely

    This feels like a bad dream.......... Im angry with humanity because it took Michael Jackson's death for everyone to realize that he's a person, he's someone's son, someone's brother. It took this tragedy for everyone to finally show him some respect, and take notice of how truly great he was. He was not only the king of pop, he was a great humanitarian, who did so much for others. To all the people that are now screaming his praises, when they were the one's who call him a "weirdo" and "Jacko Wacko", you are the reason why the world is the way that it is, you make me sick. Yes, he had problems coming to terms with his identity, that was no reason to demean his character, and for that he died with a broken heart. Michael had a beautiful soul, I only wish the public took notice of that when he was alive

    June 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  6. mertz

    thanks for sharing pati. cnn did mention his family many times last night and i think the coverage was balanced...lots of good stories from many many many people from various viewpoints. anyone who loved michael would also aknowledge all sides of him. he wasn't a saint, even if he was a great gift to music, inspiration, and sharing his love with all of us. i hurt because he is dead and he was a part of my entire family's life from multiple generations, but i am also angry...angry at myself for buying into the culture that made him what he was, and angry at him for not healing himslef and moving on and building a path for himself for a better life. there's a lot of anger there, and i just think the whole thing is sad. i understand being a perfectionist, as i am one, but it is VERY stressful, and if i don't collapse from a heart attack, something else will having. being a perfectionist is both good and bad. it kinda sucks. RIP MJ. Love you and miss you already. was in shock all of yesterday.

    June 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  7. kal ajdini

    they say that the doctor may had something to do with it but its lies cause
    the car probly had licence plates and they could of found him easlilyyyyy so thats all bull crap

    June 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  8. Karese Taylor

    Michael was to the USA what Princess Diana was to the UK, what Bob Marley was o Jamaica and what Mother Theresa was to India. Together they touched lives in extra ordinary ways and have all became "international icons".
    Rest in peace Michael. You will be missed. Our prayers are with your children and family.

    June 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  9. liz

    I haven't felt such shock and grief since the death of Diana. Michael , rest in peace and thank you for sharing your many gifts with us.

    June 26, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  10. Robin

    I'm sure that this has already been suggested – The sponsor of Michael's final tour should use the arena for 2 or 3 dates and host a "Tribute to Michael". I am positive that several entertainers would be more than willing to participate – Celine, Donna Summer, Whiteney Houston, Quincy Jones, Steve Wonder to name a few. I think that would be ultimate tribute to someone that deserves it. People who purchased tickets would get some enjoyment of it as well. I'm sure this could be arranged.


    June 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  11. bohawk

    Others seem to be in such a rush to bring up the allocations before his family and fans have even had an opportunity to grasp the import of losing the man who provided the eloquent, relevant and thought-provoking "soundtrack of our lives"..Shout out for Wolf hanging in there, and not wanting to confirm his death, until absolutely certain...good call...He, as usual did an unbelievable job with on-the-air, live coverage...

    June 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  12. Buzz Busby

    There is a much conversation about Michael's life, the good, the bad and the ugly. I would urge people to judge the child within, Michael Joe Jackson, as a parent would. "A single cloud can block all of the sun", if we let it.

    June 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  13. Lindsay Koach

    Michael Jackson was a man of love, compassion, and generosity. As a true humanitarian, Michael wanted nothing more than to share his wealth and resources with those in need. He glorified the Earth through his songs such as Earth Song, and felt passionate about helping others. It saddens me to see comic strips and other media depicting him in the opposite way...that ignorance toward him may have lead to his final resting place too soon. God bless Michael and his family.

    June 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  14. Mary M

    It's so heartbreaking that all this talk is about his finances and the case that plagued him in the past, that no one has thought about the fact that Micheal has a Mother who is seriously mourning her son! A mothers loss is such an unspeakable pain, and my heart goes out to her, Money and anything he has done before means nothing compared to pain this woman is experiencing! His Mother has lost her child! Please remember her in all this! Please!

    June 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  15. Tee

    I think that the images that are being portrayed of the late GREAT Pop Star have been less than fair. We should allow his family to mourn without worrying about his money and the bad publiicty that surrounded him. I personally feel that on last evening CNN did a poor job with story. The main focus was on his money and how much he had and No one ever mentioned his family or showed any sympathy towards them...poorly done

    June 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm |