22. "Off the Wall"
Off the Wall, 1979
"In the studio, Michael was silly and fun-loving," recalled Rod Temperton, who began working with Jackson during the late Seventies. "He never swore. He didn't even say the word 'funky,' he said 'smelly.' So that was Quincy's nickname for him: Smelly." His loose, playful side is on display during the title track, written by Temperton. "Off the Wall" was an ode to "party people night and day." It invited listeners to "hide your inhibitions/Gotta let that fool loose deep inside your soul" by hitting the dance clubs and "livin' crazy, that's the only way." But its succulent groove, swathed in Jackson's sumptuous overdubbed harmonies, was as smoothly seductive as the vision of dance music in his head. Temperton, who arranged the rhythm and vocal tracks, re-created the dance-floor vibe of his disco band Heatwave, and the song's growling funk synths were partly played by jazz and fusion keyboardist George Duke. The song was also strangely prophetic: In the decades after its release, the world saw how truly off the wall Jackson's life could become.