4 Songs You Didn’t Know Michael Jackson Was a Guest on

By the time he was 21 years old, Michael Jackson was a bonafide solo star, and by 25 he was an international superstar. His singing and music became ubiquitous with the 1980s, and many of his videos are iconic. Given how in demand he was, the King of Pop didn’t need to be guesting on other people’s albums. Luckily, three of the tracks listed below came about before he became untouchable to most other musicians. Funnily enough, most of the vocal contributions on the following four songs emerged during the choruses. Can we also call him the King of Chorus Support?

Videos by American Songwriter

Dave Mason, “Save Me” (1980)

Dave Mason, a founding member of ’60s rock band Traffic, embarked on a solo career in 1970, and a decade later released Old Crest On A New Wave, his ninth studio album. Known for his “breezy, introspective, soulful style,” according to AllMusic, this album came as his popularity was waning a bit. But he hit No. 71 with the single “Save Me,” which featured a 21 year-old Jackson fresh off the release of the Platinum-selling Off the Wall album, which would go on to sell 9 million copies domestically. Jackson brightens this upbeat track with his ebullient singing during the choruses. 

Diana Ross, “Muscles” (1982)

This is an unusual entry here. Jackson wrote and produced this sexy, funky slow jam for one of his idols, Diana Ross. The message was simple: I don’t care if he’s young or old / Just make him beautiful / I just want someone I can hold on to / I want muscles. During the richly stacked choruses, Jackson appears as background vocalist alongside the more prominent Patti Austin and session singers Maxine and Julia Waters. This Top-10 track emerged on her 13th album Silk Electric, which sold a half million copies and itself broke the Top 30. The song also earned Ross her 12th Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me” (1984)

The story behind the making of this song from the album of the same name is rather epic. Short version: Rockwell (aka Kennedy William Gordy) was estranged from his father, Motown Records CEO Berry Gordy, and managed through his own talent to land a deal with the label under the name Rockwell. He then recorded the mock paranoid “Somebody’s Watching Me” with his friend Michael Jackson singing the choruses and Jermaine Jackson providing backing vocals. The single hit No. 2 in America, went Top 10 in 13 other countries, and sold half a million copies, as did the album. The reissued single from 2009 sold an additional half a million copies. It is Rockwell’s one big hit and an iconic ’80s tune. Jackson’s contributions certainly helped to enliven the song, although Rockwell’s quirky vocal stylings already stand out. They made a good vocal combo here.

Brandy, “It’s Not Worth It” (2002)

After the former Moesha star sang background vocals on “Unbreakable” from Jackson’s last studio album Invincible (2001), that session also produced his appearance on the track “It’s Not Worth It” from Brandy’s third album Full Moon. Brandy had already drawn praise from Thriller producer Quincy Jones for the way his stacked vocals sounded in the studio, and perhaps this is why Jackson provided sampled, ad-libbed “vocal assistance” in select spots for “It’s Not Worth It,” which blended in smoothly with her sound. The song was never released as a single, but fans in the know certainly appreciate this unusual “duet.” See if you can spot his singing.

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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