“Man In The Mirror”

“Man In The Mirror”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Siedah Garrett
“Man In The Mirror”

Written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
Recorded by Michael Jackson

Two years before I walked into Glen Ballard’s home studio, I was in a writing session with John Beasley. He got a phone call and I was rolling my eyes, waiting for him to return to our writing session. I heard him say, “The man? What man? Oh, the man in the mirror…” I thought it might be good for a song and wrote it down and continued to seethe that he was still on the phone.

When Quincy Jones was working on Michael Jackson’s album Bad, he invited eight of us, songwriters, to his house. I was late and when I walked in, he stopped everything to point out my tardiness. Everyone was already seated and Quincy had begun to tell them that he needed one more song for the record. He was looking for an up tempo, kind of dance song like “Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake Your Booty.”

Glen and I were doing a lot of writing together and I went to his house and told him what Quincy was looking for and he laughed. I had a pencil, pad and my lyric book and he went to the keyboard and started playing chords. I was looking through my book and the phrase “man in the mirror” popped out at me. I started singing the beginning of the first verse and couldn’t write fast enough. Writing the lyrics slowed me down, although I was writing like I was in a frenzied trance. By the end of that afternoon, we had a verse and a chorus. I knew this was an opportunity to say something important to the world because everyone would listen to Michael. I went home and finished the chorus and wrote another verse. That was Wednesday. On Thursday we knew we had it. On Friday we did a demo of the song. I couldn’t wait until Monday to let Quincy hear it, so I called him and begged him to let me drop it off at his house over the weekend. I finally convinced him and went over there. I knocked on the front door and when he opened it, I saw twelve “suits” sitting there who looked extremely exasperated as if to say, “You are so interrupting us!” I handed Quincy the cassette and left quickly.

He called me two hours later and said it was the best song he’d heard in ten years. However, he went on to say that Michael had yet to record any songs he didn’t write, but Quincy liked it so much that he said if Michael didn’t record it, he would get someone else to use it.

A week or so later, he called to tell me that Michael really liked it (I heard whispering in the background) and that they will be recording it (I heard more whispering in the background) but that Michael said the bridge should be longer. I heard whispering in the background again and then he handed the phone to Michael. When he started talking, I was screaming in my head, “Oh my God! I’m speaking to Michael Jackson!!” but I kept a good cover and finished the conversation. I got what he was saying and I loved him, but I didn’t want Michael to be a writer on the song, so I wrote six bridges for him to pick from and he found one he liked. The planets were in the right alignment, that’s all I have to say.

We were in the studio and they were recording the choir with Andraé Crouch. By the third day they still hadn’t finished. I was sitting on the other side of the room knitting or crocheting. Quincy had me go into the recording booth and Michael was there on one side in front of a mic stand and I was positioned facing him with my own mic. Again, my mind went to, “Oh my God — I’m doing a duet with him!” When I looked at the sheet music I realized that the lyrics were for “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and were already noted with Michael / Siedah; Michael / Siedah.… Clearly this was not impromptu. As a result, I toured all over the world with him for the next year and a half.

I was also asked to sing in the choir for “Man In The Mirror.” I also did all of the harmony with Michael. That’s me above Michael singing the melody. I also sang harmony on the duet with Michael in that song. When it was finished, we listened to it over and over again and were surprised each time because we kept hearing new things.

The album was released very soon after the recording was finished. “Man In The Mirror” was the fifth single from that record and was released too late in the year to be considered for a Grammy but it’s certainly been my most successful song to date.

“Man In The Mirror”

Gonna make a change for once in my life, It’s gonna feel real good,

Gonna make a difference, Gonna make it right

As I, turn up the collar on, my favorite winter coat

This wind is blowing my mind

I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat

Who am I to be blind, Pretending not to see their needs?

A summer’s disregard, a broken bottle top and a one man’s soul

They follow each other on the wind, ya’ know

’Cause they’ve got nowhere to go, That’s why I want you to know…

I’m starting with the man in the mirror,

I’m asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

Na-na-na, na-na-na, na-NAH, na-nah

I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love. It’s time that I realize

there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan.

Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart

And a washed-out dream (Washed-out dream)

They follow the pattern of the wind, ya’ see

’Cause they’ve got no place to be, that’s why I’m starting with me.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror (Who)

I’m asking him to change his ways (Who)

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror (Who)

I’m asking him to change his ways (Who)

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make that… Change.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror

(Man in the mirror — Oh, yeah)

I’m asking him to change his ways (Better change, Who-who)

No message could have been any clearer

(If you wanna make the world a better place)

(Take a look at yourself and then make a change)

(You’ve gotta get it right, while you got the time)

(’Cause when you close your heart)

You can’t close your, your mind

(Then you close your mind).

That man, that man, that man, that man

Starting with the man in the mirror

(Man in the mirror — oh, yeah)

That man, that man, that man, I’m asking him to change his ways

(Better change)

You know, that man

No message could have been any clearer,

(If you wanna make the world a better place)

(Take a look at yourself and then make that change)

Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo. Hoo

Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah (oh, Yeah)

Na-na-na, na-na-na, na-nah, na-nah.

Words and Music by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett. © 1987 UNIVERSAL MUSIC CORP., AEROSTATION CORPORATION and YELLOWBRICK ROAD MUSIC. All Rights for AEROSTATION COPORATION Controlled and Administered by UNIVERSAL MUSIC CORP. Worldwide Rights for YELLOWBRICK ROAD MUSIC Administered by CHERRY LANE MUSIC PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission

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