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Dallas Austin on Michael Jackson's Lesser-Known Work: His Paintings

August 21, 2009 4:16 PM ET

Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite will be available digitally on September 1st, a month before the album — featuring reworked versions of the King of Pop's songs by the Neptunes, Stargate and more — hits stores on October 27th. Producer Dallas Austin tells Rolling Stone he recently finished up work on his contribution to the LP, "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and the experience was priceless: "To hear some of his vocals that didn't make the cut or to hear some of the instruments and stuff on there that wasn't before, it's pretty chillin' right now, you know?"

Austin, who worked with Jackson on History, adds "And I had the pleasure of doing a song with him and Biggie, which was a trip." Being in the studio with Michael was "a lot of fun," Austin remembers, noting that Jackson was also a serious artist of another kind. "People didn't know how much of a painter he was. He would draw a lot of stuff inside his album. If you look inside of the History album, like 'Have You Seen My Childhood,' there's a little kid sitting in the corner which is one of the sketches that he did while we were actually sitting in the studio. And that's when I was like, 'Man, do you paint and draw?' and he just started showing us all these paintings and drawings that he had like at his house. The stuff was amazing."

And in the setting the record straight department, Austin tells RS he never intended for his role on The Real Housewives of Atlanta to get blown out of proportion (he made a memorable appearance in the studio with Kim last season as she tried to launch an ill-fated country singing career).

"I just did it as a favor to Bravo because they were trying to show broken dreams, how hard it was to be a country singer," says Austin, whose solo LP Eight Days A Weekend, came out last month. "When she started trying to elaborate on how much she knew me and how I was friends with this person [Big Poppa] I was like, 'This woman's crazy, she's a habitual liar.' It's funny, it turns into a fucking mess because rumors just spread like wildfire." Austin pops up again this season because he's actually friends with new housewife Kandi Burruss, who's the Grammy-winning songwriter behind TLC's "Scrubs." "Kandi was in there recording and I happened to walk in the room and it was like, 'oh here's the camera, I'm on the Housewives again!"

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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