The year was 1988. By then, Michael Jackson had crystallized his title of Prince of Pop and there seemed few feats left that he didn't already have under his belt.
Plotting his follow-up to Thriller, Jackson recruited close collaborator and producer Quincy Jones once more but he took a different route alongside Jones by cutting a song Jackson didn't write himself. "It was," as Jones recalled, "the first outside song Michael had accepted in two years."
Written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, the gospel-tinged "Man In the Mirror," sharing an uplifting message of self-betterment, instantly touched Jackson, and he rang Garrett on the phone to convey his praises of the song.
“He called me back a couple hours later like, ‘This is the best song I’ve heard in, like, 10 years,'” Garrett said, explaining how Jackson called her soon after she delivered the demo to Jones' house. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘I love this song.’ The next thing he said to me was, ‘I love your voice.'”
True to his word, Jackson enlisted Garrett to duet with him in "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." He went to work on "Man in the Mirror," sprinkling his signature "oohs" and irresistible "sch-mon," and bringing in San Francisco's Andrae Crouch choir before releasing the song in January 1988.
"I did ask God’s help," Garrett recalled of the song's inspiration. "It’s God’s honest truth! I said, 'I want to write a song for Michael Jackson.' Since I wanted Michael to know who I was, I was thinking, 'What can I say to him that he wouldn’t be afraid to say to the rest of the world?' And this song came through. And that is the truth.”
The track became the fourth consecutive single from the Jackson's hit 1987 album Bad to top the Billboard Hot 100, reigning on the Number One spot for two weeks.