Quincy Jones: 20 Great Productions

From "It's My Party" to 'Thriller' and beyond, we survey an iconic career

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Michael Jackson, 'Thriller' (1982)

Thriller is an epic, and accordingly, it was exhausting. "When we were finishing 'Beat It,' we had three studios going," Jones told Rolling Stone. "We had Eddie Van Halen in one; Michael was in another, singing a part through a cardboard tube; and we were mixing in another. We were working five nights and five days, with no sleep. And at one point, the speakers overloaded and caught on fire!" Similarly, Thriller caught fire upon its release in 1982, becoming Jackson's greatest work and a cultural phenomenon. Everything Jones and Jackson had learned about production, arranging, composition, public taste and the music business throughout their respective careers came into exquisite focus: genres were mashed, barriers were crossed, and Jackson was reborn as the King of Pop. Aided by Jones and his longtime songwriting partner Rod Temperton, Jackson hacked pop's DNA, resulting in a record that still, and likely always will, sound fresh and electrifying. It wasn't all sunshine and smiles, though: In his recent interview with Vulture, Jones said, "I hate to get into this publicly, but Michael stole a lot of stuff. He stole a lot of songs," citing the similarity between the bass lines of Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Donna Summer's "State of Independence," produced by Jones and also released in 1982. "The notes don't lie, man," Jones continued. "He was as Machiavellian as they come." On the other hand, Jones asserted that his own intentions were entirely artistic: "I have never in my life made music for money or fame. Not even Thriller. No way. God walks out of the room when you're thinking about money." Nonetheless, it became and remains the bestselling album of all time.

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