Did you know that Michael Jackson versioned one of his songs in Spanish and French? Yes, he did! But why? In order to give an answer to that question, in this article (the second one we write on the blog about the King of Pop) we’re going to explain every detail about such an unusual fact.
After a five-year gap without any solo song from Michael Jackson (to be more precise since the release of ‘Thriller’ in 1982), the most popular and expected artist at the time came back to the spotlight in 1987 with a lead single for his upcoming album ‘Bad’ (1987), entitled ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’, a sweet duet ballad which reflects love and affection between a couple.
The song, initially intended to feature such important artists as Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin or Agnetha Fältskog (lead vocals of the Swedish band ABBA), finally counted, after their refusal, with the collaboration of the then unknown artist Siedah Garret, who was chosen unexpectedly by producer Quincy Jones. According to her:
…we had finished with the choir and everything and all the vocals for “Man in the Mirror,” and then a couple of days later we were back in the studio and I thought we were going to do more work on that song, but that wasn’t the song that was playing in the studio, so I just decided to sit back and chill. I was knitting, Quincy sort of talking to me over his shoulder, saying, do you like this song that’s playing? And I sort of look up towards the heavens, I go, yeah, yes, nice song. He said, well, can you sing it? I’m like, yeah.Bad 25 (documentary)
’I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ debuted at the 37th position on Billboard Hot 100 and ended up reaching the top after five weeks, going on to become one of the records from ‘Bad’ which scored the top alongside the homonymous song ‘Bad’, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Man In the Mirror’ and ‘Dirty Diana’. Another curious fact was that the original version of the track included, as can be seen in the following video, a spoken intro recorded by Michael Jackson while lying in bed, however, it was finally removed for the next editions of the album.
Later, Michael Jackson versioned the song with Siedah Garret in Spanish and French; he and Quincy Jones had been talking about doing that for many years, but they hadn’t been able to up until then. The Spanish version was named ‘Todo mi amor eres tú’ (you are all my love) and the lyrics were in charge of Panamanian artist Rubén Blades, author of ‘Pedro Navaja’ (1978). Originally intended to make the translation of three songs, Blades could only work on ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ because he didn’t have much time then, so he adapted (almost literally) its lyrics from English into Spanish and they both spent three days at the studio. During these three days, Blades helped Jackson to pronounce correctly the Spanish language and they recorded the song with Quincy Jones and Chilean producer Humberto Gatica. “He sang the song so well that when the draft would reach the label, they wouldn’t believe it was him singing”, declared Blades. Moreover, Rubén Blades said once that Michael Jackson wanted to record with his help an album entirely in Spanish, but the project (unfortunately or not) never came to take shape.
The French version of the song, titled ‘Je Ne Veux Pas La Fin De Nous’ (I don’t want the end of us), was translated by Belgian Christine Decroix, a close friend of Quincy Jones. Michael Jackson asked her to write the song in French after seeing a manuscript in that language from Decroix in a sheet of paper. Although not being convinced at the beginning because she didn’t know how to write a song, he accepted the proposal after the insistence and enthusiasm showed by Michael and Quincy Jones. Writing the whole song took her around day and a half (taking the original lyrics as a base) while the recording took a few hours.
Michael had the French phrases from the song and their English meaning, as well as a phonetic version. He often asked me how certain words were meant to be pronounced. Sometimes, he wouldn’t be able to pronounce them, so I had to adapt the lyrics even when we were already at the studio for him to be able to sing them. This explains the imperfections.Christine Decroix
Would you have liked listening to an album from Michael Jackson completely in Spanish? Do you think that it would’ve been better or worse for his musical career? Maybe ‘Dangerous’ (1991) would have never existed as we currently know it. We’ll never know…