That’s pretty unique that you’ve had opportunities to work with both Prince and Michael Jackson.
It was great too, working with Prince and working with Michael, they were polar opposites in the way they worked. Prince would walk in the studio at the beginning of the day and he’d walk out with “1999,” done. Michael, we’d spend a day just on the volume of the hand claps. I mean, literally. And we’d turn them up and he’d say, “Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll listen to it again.” We come back the next day, and he’d go, “Can we turn that up just a little more?” Yes, we turn it up. “Okay, make me a tape.” Okay. “I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll listen again.” I mean, it was literally like that. But that was [from] learning from people like Quincy Jones, people who were very meticulous about what they did.
What was Michael like on a personal level?
Michael was married to Lisa Marie Presley at the time we were working with him. And I remember my wife asking Lisa what attracted her to Michael. She looked at my wife and just said, “He’s the kindest man I’ve ever known.” And I remember thinking the same thing after working with him. Just a nice dude. That reminds me, we used to get into these big, long conversations. And Michael would pick my brain about stuff, always curious about everything. He said to me, “Jimmy, how do you want to be remembered?” I asked him what he meant. “When people talk about you after you’re gone, how do you want to be remembered?” And I said, “I want to be remembered as a nice guy.” Michael goes, “No, I mean, as a producer, how many number one songs,” you know, whatever, whatever. I just said, “Michael, those are statistics. I don’t want someone to say ‘Oh yeah, that Jimmy Jam, he had a bunch of number one hits.’ I just want them to say, ‘Jimmy Jam, he was a nice guy.’”
Fast forward about a year later. We needed to get a sample cleared and he was the only one who could clear it. I ended up having to call him directly. I said, “Michael, how are you?” He said, “I’m good. I know you wanted to ask me something, but before that, can I just tell you something?” I said sure. He said, “Remember what you said about how you want to be remembered?” I said yes. “Well, every time someone asks me about you, I just say, ‘Jimmy Jam, he’s the nicest guy.’” And I said, “Great! You get it now, Michael?” And he said, “I totally get it.”
At the end of the day, after all the talent and all the groundbreaking stuff he did, he was just simply a nice guy. He was one of the nicest people I’ve met and worked with ever.