His earliest solo releases on Motown were very much based in the psychedelic soul/funk of 70's Motown as well as the James Brown music he grew up on. It was pure serendipity that he became part of the Motown legacy that had been part of what drove him all along. When he relaunched his solo career in the late 1970's,his influences had moved from Motown and James Brown to Barry White's late 70's music. Disco-dance music mix of orchestration with afro-latin rhythms was an enormous part of that. As the 80's came on,dance music became more stripped down. Part of this was boogie funk,a genre where string orchestrations were largely replaced with electronic ones. On his breakout release 'Thriller' that showcased this more with it's mixture of live instrumentation,such as horns and percussion were mixed with symphonic electronic orchestrations.
As the 80's transitioned into the 90's Mike's music became less orchestrated and reflected hip-hop's influence more,with Mike using his talent for multi tracked beat boxing as percussion tracks often. This was some of the best music of his career. Sadly a lot of it was increasingly ignored as his personal behavior gained more press than his creative accomplishments. Following his passing,more and more knowledge came into the public about a great deal of unreleased music he'd made over the years,much of it far more innovative and even hit worthy than what he had offered in his lifetime. Unreleased or not what I've discussed here represents the musical legacy of this man. A man who received such colossal adulation that his larger than life persona underscored the creativity and humanity in his art to some people.
I am concluding this blog with examples of his music,both released and unreleased that showcase the influences Mike had during the height of his career and how he himself often expanded these sometimes often less known songs out into the public due to his visibility.
Barry White's "Look At Her" from 1978
matched up with
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough",released less than a year later
Stevie Wonder's "That Girl",recorded in 1981
matched up with
"PYT (Pretty Young Thing)",an early demo with different arrangement and harmony recorded the same time as Stevie's aforementioned hit
Those are the two best examples of the cross influential nature of Mike's music when it was at it's most vital and potent.