Quincy Jones explains how Prince walked away from a duet with Michael Jackson
It would have been one of the defining moments in musical history – a duet between pop royals Michael Jackson and Prince.
But such a dream collaboration may have been closer to becoming a reality than many realise.
Prince visited Michael Jackson’s home to plan an all-star duet with the King of Pop, but left dissatisfied with the project, Quincy Jones has newly revealed.
And it looks like it was a simple case of ego which thwarted this historic union – “[Prince] was always competing with Michael”, said the super-producer repeatedly, during an exclusive fresh interview with The National.
The Purple One was set to join Jackson on the 1987 hit single Bad, released at the peak of both stars’s fame.
Now Jones – who also produced Jackson’s bestselling albums Thriller and Off the Wall – has opened up for the first time about how Prince turned down the collaboration, following a secret meeting at Jackson’s private mansion.
“We invited [Prince] out to Michael’s house to sing on Bad, and he was very intelligent about it,” says Jones, 83.
“Prince was always competing with Michael. So I told Michael, ‘you sit there and Prince sits there, so it won’t look like we’re ganging up on him to do the record’.
“It was a beautiful meeting, a funny meeting, and [Prince] said ‘you don’t need me on this, it’s going to be a number one anyway’ – which it was.”
Prince did not leave without handing “a lot of funny presents” for Jackson, cryptically addressed to “Camille”, added Jones.
Prince’s rivalry with Jackson has been well documented. In 1985, Prince lost face after allegedly bailing on his planned contribution to all-star charity single We Are the World, produced by Jones and co-written by Jackson and Lionel Richie.
In another world, the two superstars might have had much to bond over. Both were reclusive, elusive 1980s icons, living in grandiose fantasy estates – Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and Prince’s Paisley Park.
According to Jones – who was a good friend of Prince’s father, the jazz musician John L Nelson – the rivalry dates back to the very beginning of Prince’s career, first surfacing during the recording of former child-star Jackson’s first hit solo album.
“[Prince] came by the studio when we were doing Off the Wall in 1979,” says Jones. “Prince looked like a deer in the headlight – clothes and shirt off – but he was always competing with Michael.”
In 2002 Jackson named his youngest son Prince Michael Jackson II. Jackson died seven years later, while Prince passed away in April 2016.
A recently uncovered Prince interview with Chris Rock revealed that it was the idea of Jackson singing Bad’s opening line, “Your Butt is Mine”, that put Prince off the duet.
“Now, who is going to sing that to whom? Cause [he] sure ain’t singing that to me, and I sure ain’t singing it to [him],” Prince told Rock.
For the first time, Jones confirmed the swipe may have been deliberate.
“‘Your butt is mine’ – that was designed for [Prince],” added the producer.
Just think, with a subtly edited lyric, the duet might have gone ahead – and an otherwise unimaginable musical moment would have been documented forever.
“That’s why I wanted to do it,” adds Jones with a smile.
Read our full interview with Quincy Jones here. Q’s Bar & Lounge is at the Palazzo Versace Dubai, open Monday to Friday, live music from 8.30pm to 12.30am.
Updated: January 4, 2017 04:00 AM