Remembering Michael Jackson (Part 2): Beatboxing and Songwriting

Since Michael beatboxed us out of the previous post, we might as well continue on that note. I didn’t know what beatboxing was until Michael blew me away with it during his interview with Oprah Winfrey. There are more impressive beatboxers around, obviously, but for Michael, beatboxing wasn’t part of his performances, it was part of his composition process. He didn’t read or write music, so beatboxing into a tape recorder was his method of assembling the complex rhythms he heard in his head.

Here’s a handy compilation of clips of Michael beatboxing (how much do I love Youtube?). Some are from interviews, and others are from depositions he gave in various lawsuits where other people had accused him of copyright infringement. As part of the depositions he’d describe exactly how he wrote the songs, playing back the demos from the time or demonstrating the beatboxing then and there. He won all the lawsuits.

For anyone who’s interested in hearing more of the depositions, there are longer audio clips available (the exact videos come and go on Youtube but searching “Michael Jackson mexico deposition” will get you what you need) where he goes step by step through the demo of The Girl Is Mine and explains exactly what’s happening in each stage of the creative process. I find it utterly fascinating – you get to hear him imitating a Moog bass and singing melody lines for each other instrument he wants to use, singing bits that never made it into the album version, and I particularly like how he explains what the “bridge” of a song is:

What a bridge is, is to take you from A to B…is to take you from the verse to another part. It is escapism from hearing the same mundane, trivial, ordinary thing that you’ve been hearing all the time ‘cause the ear gets tired of hearing the same sounds. So what a bridge does, it takes you away from all of that. Then when it finally comes back to what you were doing before, it’s stronger. It’s much stronger.


  1. Man, youtube rocks!!! I remember the days where we had to order these rare, unauthorized tapes from some other country, pay ridiculous shipping rates, and deal with the SG censorship (yes, folks, Singapore randomly confiscate tapes and make you pay them to go through your tapes to censor them before you can collect them)….behold the power of Youtube!!!

    I remember all these clips so well…..

  2. Wow, that is awesome, I never knew what an amazing beatboxer he was. And the fact that he assembled his songs through beatboxing is so cool! Thanks for the clips.

  3. Well I for one am very glad Tessa learnt something she didn’t previously know about Michael. Or else why the hell am I writing all these posts just to tell MJ maniacs like Kelly stuff they already know??! :P

  4. Mich, at this point the shared history you never knew we had starts to unravel itself because I WAS ALSO ZZZOMG AT MJ BEATBOXING WHO IZZIT DURING THE OPRAH INTERVIEW!!!

    I remember I was so impressed when he did it that I immediately tried to do it myself, and eventually came up with a line that I always transliterated as “BOM-cheke-AEEH-zhepuk-zhepuk-AEEH” and I kept doing it at home, in school, for days. It was so enjoyable and hypnotic, feeling the sounds in my mouth, that after a certain point I thought I was going nuts. I also thought I had nailed the rhythm but years later I realised I was completely off.

    I remembered the beatboxing bit and searched for it while randomly youtubing MJ vids in the last week and came across it and it brought a silly grin to my face! The Oprah interview was back in the day when a telecast like that was a family event, and everyone made time to sit down in front of the TV to watch it! Damn, I don’t even watch TV anymore, leave alone do anything with my parents now!

  5. Don: You are beginning to scare me! Next you’ll be telling me that you too said in Mandarin on national television that you wanted to have his children!


    Where was I? Oh yes, I was facepalming.

  6. Hello everyone! I would really like to watch the 3extra videos where MJ explains how he wrote the Girl Is mine, but apparently they’re not available anymore? Do you know if there’s a way I can have access to them?
    Many thanks to all

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