Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos – PEOPLE Magazine

Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos
Best man José Eber (far left), Larry Fortensky and Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson (far right)
Herb Ritts

It was the eighth – and final – trip she would ever make down the aisle.

And now, for the first time, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has released photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky’s lavish 1991 wedding at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch exclusively to PEOPLE.

This inside look commemorates PEOPLE’s Oct. 21, 1991, cover story on the biggest and most media-saturated wedding in Hollywood history. (Remember, this was in the days before weddings like George and Amal Clooney’s and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s.)

In the photos, the blushing, bronzed bride is dressed in a pale yellow $25,000 Valentino gown (a gift from the designer). She is seen with her groom – her seventh (she married Richard Burton twice) – and with her close friend, Jackson, who hosted the wedding for 160 high profile guests on his 2,700-acre Santa Ynez Valley, California, estate.


Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos| Weddings, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Individual Class

Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor

Herb Ritts

As about a dozen helicopters hovered overhead, a brazen paparazzo even parachuted into the ceremony, landing 20 feet from the shocked bride and groom. (Despite the fact that the wedding was guarded by a former Israeli army officer and a 100-man security force.)

Taylor, then 59, is seen in the photographs sharing a laugh with an upbeat Jackson, and standing with her new hubby, then 39, under the gardenia-draped gazebo where they became husband and wife.

Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos| Weddings, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Individual Class

Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor

Herb Ritts

While Taylor’s ex-husband Eddie Fisher predicted that her marriage to Fortensky “should last [because it's] the first time Liz has married a regular guy,” it wasn’t to be. The couple divorced five years later.

Taylor died on March 23, 2011, of congestive heart failure at 79. Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Forensky, now 62, still lives in California and says he remained close friends with his ex-wife after they split, reportedly speaking for hours by phone a few times a month.

“I have wonderful memories of my time with Elizabeth and I will treasure her memory forever,” he said in a rare 2011 interview after her death.

Taylor met Fortensky, a twice-divorced construction worker with rugged looks, in 1988 when they were both battling drug and alcohol dependencies at the famed Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Inside the Big Day

At their much-anticipated wedding, the two couldn’t have been happier. As famous faces including Liza Minnelli, Eddie Murphy, Nancy Reagan (Taylor moved the wedding date to accommodate President Ronald Reagan, but he was still unable to attend), then-Twentieth Century Fox head Barry Diller and his date, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, Arsenio Hall, George Hamilton, Merv Griffin, Quincy Jones and Macaulay Culkin looked on, Taylor walked down the aisle, escorted by Jackson and her eldest son, Michael Wilding Jr., then 38.

Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos| Weddings, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Individual Class

Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor

Herb Ritts

Fortensky’s best man was Taylor’s hairdresser, José Eber (shown in the picture). Taylor’s longtime friend Norma Heyman was matron of honor.

Hollywood self-help guru Marianne Williamson presided over the nondenominational ceremony (Taylor was Jewish; Fortensky is Protestant), with the couple exchanging vows and rings. Wearing her pavé diamond-encrusted wedding ring for the first time, Taylor placed a loving hand on her new husband’s cheek after their first kiss as man and wife.

“You could just look in their eyes and tell Liz was very happy,” Von Furstenberg said at the time.

Under the massive tent where the glamorous reception was held, the bride and groom toasted each other and their host – who reportedly paid for much of the estimated $1.5 million wedding – with mineral water.

“You’ve been so generous, it makes me want to cry,” Taylor told Jackson. “I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

Jackson and his date, Brooke Shields, cut into the couple’s first dance as guests sipped Dom Perignon and chardonnay from a nearby winery and dined on platters of rolled salmon and five tiers of chocolate mousse cake.

At about 10:30 p.m., the newlyweds said their goodnights and retired to Jackson’s ranch house, where they spent several nights before a two-day tour to promote Taylor’s White Diamonds perfume, opting to honeymoon later. Syndicated newspaper columnist Liz Smith predicted that Taylor’s marriage to Fortensky “will be fun for her. Under the high gloss of her facade, she is really an ordinary woman who has led an extraordinary life.”

That life became even more extraordinary when Taylor began working tirelessly to battle HIV/AIDS, which became her legacy. Taylor used proceeds from her exclusive wedding pictures to start the ETAF in 1991, raising funds and awareness to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing assistance for those living with the virus.

“My grandmother’s deep love and concern for people led her to create The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which focuses on the immediate needs of HIV+ people, by supporting access to medicine and health care, healthy food, needle exchanges, and safe places to live and be cared for,” Taylor’s granddaughter, Laela Wilding, tells PEOPLE. “She is a champion for us all, and her determination and love is a shining inspiration that we should all support those in need, support each other, despite any differences we have in gender, race, class, or HIV status.”

Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Jackson at Her Final Wedding: Never-Before-Seen Photos| Weddings, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky on the cover of PEOPLE

PEOPLE Magazine

Quincy Jones: ‘I told Michael Jackson he was weird’

The legendary Thriller producer on legalising drugs, dealing with Jacko’s snake … and why Hitler was on cocaine

Hi, Quincy. Good to talk to you, especially considering the time where you are (1.15am). You’re up late!

I always am, fella. All my life. It’s the only time the muse lets you loose, you know? I used to write from midnight to 10 in the morning.

You’ve got some incredible stories. Is it true you once had lunch with Leni Riefenstahl (1) in which she told you that most of the Third Reich leaders were addicted to cocaine?

Not most – all of them! Freud came up with the concept of cocaine (2). I used to work for pimps when I was little, and they used to take it all the time because it closes down any fear or problem with violence.

Did Hitler take cocaine?

Hell, yes, man! He was first in line. He had syphilis, all kinds of shit.

So cocaine doesn’t just ravage communities today, it is responsible for many of the horrors of the second world war?

Yes, and the stuff gets stronger. These kids today look at it like it’s cough medicine.

Are you into legalising drugs?

Yes, I am. I think marijuana should be legalised. I’ve been through all of that, where you have to be secretive and don’t want your parents to know. It’s a very interesting addiction. Any kind of dope is. You walk in the door at A, go to B, go to the 12th floor and it’s over.

Were drugs involved in any of your recordings?

No way. Never. Never, never, never. That’s where you step over the line, brother. No, no, no. Not even close. Not even alcohol. No way (3). Not the way we work, man.

Was there a serious atmosphere in the studio, then, during the making of Off the Wall and Thriller?

Hell, no, man – it was as loose as you can get! We’d be joking and having fun. Are you kidding? You gotta know how to party [laughs]. If you get uptight, the music’s going to sound like nothin’. I used to say, “Always leave a little room for God to walk in the room.”

Were you scared when Michael bought Muscles the snake into the studio?
Yes, I was, man. He wrapped himself around my leg.

So he was literally your trousersnake?

Yeah! He used to crawl across the console … I wasn’t very comfortable with that.

And didn’t Bubbles the chimp bite your daughter?

Yes, he did. You got a good memory, man.

Did you ever have to take Michael to one side and tell him he was being too weird?

Only when we first met, when he was 12.

When you were young, you and your brother saw a man hanging by the back of his coat on the first rung of a telephone pole, with an ice pick stuck through his neck. How did you survive your childhood?

You have to find out who you are. My mother went to Boston University – she was the smartest lady, she spoke 12 languages, and could type 140 words a minute. Then, when I was seven years old, they came and put her in a straitjacket (4) and took her away. So at seven years old, I didn’t know what “mother” meant. That affects your mind. You have a different sense of survival because mummy’s breast isn’t there anymore. That’s when I let music be my mother. And music has never let me down once.

Is it true you owned a pair of gloves worn by the legendary boxer, Joe Louis?

That’s right. My dad got me them. He used to work for the roughest gang in the history of Chicago, the Jones boys – black gangsters. It was 1941 and they made $110m dollars – that was the equivalent of a billion back then. Al Capone ran them out of Chicago and they went to Mexico. That’s what it was like back in the 30s.

Did you run errands for them as a kid?

No. Later on I did, for a couple of pimps. It was fun.

Out of all the people you’ve worked with, who has impressed you most?

Do you want me to run some of them off for you? It’s just a little list. Oscar Peterson, Charlie Mingus, Roland Kirk, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Kenny Clark, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Gene Krupa, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington, Andy Williams, Billy Eckstine, Charles Aznavour, Aretha Franklin … It’s ridiculous, man.

So you’re saying, you can’t choose?

Yes, it’s my long-winded way of saying that! You can’t compare Lesley Gore with Frank Sinatra, or Michael Jackson with Ray Charles. They’re too distinctive.

Which three most dramatically impacted on 20th-century popular culture?

Let’s see, we’ve got bebop, doo wop and hip-hop. That’s a hell of a relationship, and they don’t even know each other. It’s sociological, man. What was the question again?

Which three changed the world?

It’s a wide range of influences. I was lucky enough to get the Fender bass, when I was in Lionel Hampton’s band. I was like, “What the hell is that?” Without that Fender bass, there would be no rock’n’roll, no Motown – nothin’. Trust me. The electric guitar came in in 1939, but it didn’t have any chutzpah without the electric bottom.

Frank Sinatra called you Q. What did you call him?

Francis, or FS.

Were you nervous of him?

Nervous? Not even close, man! I was living in France, studying with Nadia Boulanger [tutor to Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland]. And I come in one day, they say, “Grace Kelly called, Mr Sinatra wants you to bring your house band” – I had the best house band in the world. So we played with Frank, and he said five words to me: “Good job, kid. Koo-koo.” I never saw anything like him on a stage. He was like a magician, from another planet. He had it down. The most magical thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Frank was bipolar, and one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have. I have his ring on, with his family crest, from Sicily. I’ve never taken it off.

Bono thinks you’re the coolest man he ever met.

Oh, that’s my little brother, man. I love him. He started Live Aid, and we probably wouldn’t have done We Are the World (5) if it wasn’t for that. I introduced him to all the heads of state in the world that I know, and he did the same for me.

U2 recently gave Apple users a free copy of their new album. Wasn’t that your idea (6)?

I know, 500 million! Maybe so, I don’t know.

Quite a few people are cross about that U2 album arriving unwanted on to their mobile phones, aren’t they?

[Ignoring the question] I’m just sad to know we don’t have a record business anymore. It freaks me out, man. It’s over: 98% piracy everywhere on the planet.

Do you see a solution?

We’re working on it, with China, believe it or not. It’s astounding.

Is it going to save the music industry?

Hell to the yeah! We’ve got three and a half billion people here. They’ve got four times our population. If they come to the table – I can see it so clearly, it scares me, man. We’re going to be dealing with China Unicom, and China Unicom has 880 million cellphones. So we’re really on the right path, you know?

Do you have every celebrity’s number on your cellphone?

No way. I got 19 of them [mobile phones]. I don’t carry one with me. My security guy handles that. Every minute those suckers go off. It’s the age of cocoonism.

What’s that?

Where everybody on the fuckin’ planet is sitting at home fiddling with their goddam phones.

So you won’t be buying an iPhone 6?

They send them to me – I don’t want them. I don’t want to be reached all day.

Apparently you’re a direct descendant of Edward I of England?

Yes. Edward Longshanks. I’m telling you, I’ve got the whole thing laid out in my kitchen. I also found out that Jane Fonda was my third cousin.


Yes, sir. My family is part-African, Huguenot-French and Cherokee Indian. And Welsh on my father’s side. I’ve got a doctorate from Cardiff(7). That was really sweet.

And you’re the exact same age as Michael Caine – not a lot of people know that.

Same year, month, day and hour – 3:40 Chicago time.

Is he the person you’re most likely to call for a chat at 1am?

The irony is, we’re all so goddam busy. He likes to do five movies a year. I love that. That’s what makes him Michael Caine.

Who would play you in a movie?

Terrence Howard. Clint [Eastwood] wants to do it – we’ve already talked about it. But I’m not sure.

Would you have to tone some of it down otherwise audiences would be too shocked? (8)

I don’t think about it. I’m too busy. I’ve got stuff going on that’s mind-shattering.

Do you personify the American Dream?

I don’t know, man. I just know we had the biggest-selling record in the history of music. That’s a good feeling. You should go with your feelings, because your feelings work.

An Evening with Quincy Jones is at Britten Theatre, The Royal College of Music, London SW7 , on Sunday 28 September 2014 at 7.30pm Tickets: www.seatlive.com


(1) The Nazi film-maker who directed Triumph of the Will.

(2) The Austrian psychoanalyst was an early proponent of the drug.

(3) Er, Quincy has spoken about “smoking” during the recording of Thriller.

(4) She suffered from schizophrenia.

(5) The 20m-selling 1985 charity single. Though Quincy may be confusing Bono with Bob Geldof with regards to Band Aid.

(6) Quincy’s 2010 album Soul Bossa Nostra was released on 700m mobile phones in China.

(7) In 2009, Jones was made a Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama at an award ceremony in Cardiff, citing his lifetime musical accomplishments and Welsh family roots.

(8) He told GQ in 2012 that, once when he visited his mother in an asylum, she squatted down, defecated into her hand and proceeded to eat it.

The Guardian

Not Bad at all! Michael Jackson once again tops Forbes list of ‘highest-earning dead celebrities’ …thanks to $140 million haul

It seems the Prince Of Pop has well and truly usurped the King Of Rock And Roll.

For Michael Jackson once again raked in more than Elvis Presley to become the world’s top earning dead celebrity of 2014.

The music legend’s estate continued to earn more than most celebrities in the land of the living with an altogether not Bad at all haul of $140m.  

Scroll down for video 

Sitting on the throne: Prince of Pop Michael Jackson beat off Elvis Presley to be the world's top earning dead celebrity of 2014

According to Forbes, he made almost three times as much as perennial list topper Elvis Presley, who made a relatively paltry $55 million in earnings over the same 12-month period.

Jackson’s estate made a fortune on the back of his second posthumous album release Xscape, which went straight in at number two in the charts.

His profile was further bolstered by an holographic performance on stage at the Billboard Music Awards.

His controversial appearance will no doubt pave the way for other dead celebrities as the technology advances to the point where we won’t be able to tell the difference.

This isn't it: Michael, seen here at the press conference for his fateful final tour, continues to rake it in

Michael Jackson made $700m since his death five years ago

The star in ninth place Bettie Page, who made $9 million in earnings, is also to get the same treatment in a show about the her life which is set to open in Vegas next year, and will feature a hologram of one of her striptease acts.

One person who will not be following in his footsteps will be Elvis, as he already had his own concert tour using the technology back in 2012.

His rights were bought by Authentic Brands Group last year for $125 million, and his estate raked in a fortune due to Graceland tourism and his music library.

Earning a King's ransom: Elvis Presley still made a more than respectable $55 million in the last year

However ABG plans is hoping to squeeze even more cash out of his franchise with a hologram show that could be up and running in Vegas early next year which could even seem him perform with a virtual Michael Jackson.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz certainly did not make Peanuts, coming in at third with $40 million thanks to his popular characters, which include Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

With money continuing to pour in from his comic strip, merchandising and MetLife MET -2.41% adverts, the franchise will get a further boost thanks to an upcoming 3-D movie from Fox studios. set to hit cinemas next year.

We love money: Cartoonist Charles Schulz creations Charlie Brown and Snoopy helped his estate to third spot

Smelling of roses: English sexpot Elizabeth Taylor earned $25m thanks to her best-selling perfume

English sexpot Elizabeth Taylor came in at fourth with $25 million, mainly due to a best-selling perfume and her old movies.

While her estate is vastly profitable, experts predict companies will be eager to cash in on her status as a symbol of old Hollywood glamour, with more merchandise opportunities sure to be explored.

Raggae favourite Bob Marley came in at fifth with an estimated $20 million in earnings thanks to his bonce featuring on bags, T-shirts and even a line of fruit-flavored drinks.

Forbes compiled the list in conjunction with estate managers, agents, music publishers and other insiders, coming up with estimates of what each estate brought in between October 2013 and October 2014.

That's not gnarly Marley: Bob's estate does not have to worry about a thing as he earned a whopping $20m

IRS: We Made A Mistake Valuing Michael Jackson’s Estate

The Internal Revenue Service says it made a mistake in valuing Michael Jackson’s estate. Nope, the IRS hasn’t abandoned its much discussed claim for $702 million in extra taxes and penalties—a bill Jackson’s estate is fighting in U.S. Tax Court. Instead, the tax agency is upping its demand by $29 million to nearly $731 million.

In a previously unreported court filing, the government says that IRS auditors originally thought the King of Pop owned only 50% of certain master recordings at his death in June 2009, when he really owned 100% of them. That 100% interest was worth $91 million by the IRS’ figuring, compared to the $11 million reported on the Jackson estate tax return.

The change brings the IRS’ valuation of Jackson’s estate and lifetime taxable gifts up to $1.178 billion, compared to the $7 million the estate reported. The IRS now wants a total of $525.6 million in tax and $205.1 million in gross valuation misstatement and negligence penalties. (Any interest owed will be on top of that.) Of course both the IRS and the estate’s values are best regarded as opening bids in what could be a long negotiation. A trial, if there is one, is far off.

Indeed, in a joint status report filed with the Tax Court last month, lawyers for the government and the estate say that while they’re close to settling four relatively small issues and have dueling appraisers discussing the value of Jackson’s personal tangible property, they don’t expect a speedy resolution of the big dollar issues in the case. Those involve the value of Jackson’s intangible and intellectual property (his name, likeness and his interests in music he wrote or performed) as well as the value of two trusts he apparently set up to borrow against his assets and to transfer assets to his heirs at minimal tax cost during his life.

The two trusts hold Jackson’s music publishing rights as well as his 50% interest in a joint music publishing venture with Sony Corp. Known as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the venture is the largest music publishing company in the world and owns or administers millions of songs, including Beatles songs Jackson bought back in the 1980s. The estate placed the value of the assets transferred through the two trusts at just $2.2 million, whereas the IRS says the taxable value was $527.5 million.

Forbes senior editor Zack O’Malley Greenburg, who wrote a recent book on the Jackson business empire, estimates the Jackson estate has earned more than $700 million since the singer’s death, as his music has had a resurgence, with new releases, two Cirque du Soleil shows based on his work , the concert film This Is It and even an endorsement deal with PepsiCo PEP +0.99%. But at the time of his death, the economy was in the dumps and Jackson’s image was considerably less golden, in part due to allegations of child molestation. It’s the value of his image at death that matters for estate taxes.

The estate valued Jackson’s name and likeness at a trifling $2,105, whereas the IRS contends they were worth $434 million. Despite the unique circumstances surrounding Jackson, the resolution could well affect how other celebrity estates are taxed in the future.

The value of a celebrity’s image was also at issue in two recent U.S. Tax Court decisions involving the income taxation of endorsement and appearance fees paid to professional golfers Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen and is an issue in an ongoing Tax Court case involving best selling crime writer Karin Slaughter. Ironically, in those cases, the IRS has tried to maximize Uncle Sam’s tax take by minimizing the value of such intellectual property, while taxpayers have argued (and Tax Judges have agreed) that a celebrity’s image has substantial value.


The most-tweeted Michael Jackson songs around the world


The King of Pop may have passed away in 2009 while Twitter was still in its infancy, but that hasn’t stopped his legions of fans from telling everyone about their favorite MJ songs.

Michael Jackson’s sudden overdose death in 2009 while rehearsing for new shows shocked the world. Fans grieved him on Facebook and Twitter, but the above map shows which songs are most-likes in each country.

This fascinating chart was assembled by Twitter as it was revealed a long-lost duet between Jackson and former Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury would be released this fall, 30-years after it was originally recorded.




The 8 worst Michael Jackson duets

The King of Pop was never very good at sharing his throne.

For all the magic that Michael Jackson produced as a solo artist, his track record as a duetting artist is pretty poor — and it wasn’t helped last week by the newly unveiled Freddie Mercury collaboration “There Must Be More to Life Than This.” The sappy ballad, which originated from a demo dating back to the early 1980s, was finished off by the remaining members of Queen and producer William Orbit.

Sure, Michael’s duet with sister Janet on 1995’s “Scream” had some bite, and the dramatic “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with Siedah Garrett was a standout track from his 1987 “Bad” album — but for the most part, Jackson’s solo career was peppered with bad collaborations. Here are eight of the worst.

‘The Girl Is Mine’ (with Paul McCartney, 1982)

Just as Jackson was reaching the peak of his career, he became best buds with Paul McCartney, but in the recording studio, they managed to bring the worst out of each other, starting with this soft-rock single from “Thriller.”

It was an embarrassment from start to finish, and the section in which they try to talk smack at each other was particularly unbearable.

‘Say Say Say’ (with Paul McCartney, 1983)

The match made in hell continued when Jacko returned the favor by duetting with Macca on his “Pipes of Peace” album, which contained this spineless piece of R&B.

‘The Man’ (with Paul McCartney, 1983)

A trio of awful tracks was completed by “Pipes of Peace” cut “The Man” — another slab of limp balladry. This one was not released as a single, so we should all be thankful for small mercies.

‘State of Shock’ (with Mick Jagger, 1984)

This single actually stemmed from the same Jackson/Freddie Mercury writing sessions that spawned Friday’s “There Must Be More to Life Than This.” But Michael must have known it was a stinker: He wisely recorded it with the Jacksons as a group (for their album “Victory”), enlisting Jagger — hungry for Jackson-esque success — to collaborate.

‘Just Good Friends’ (with Stevie Wonder, 1987)

It should have been a titanic meeting of talent, but in the end, hearing Jacko and Stevie team up on “Just Good Friends” didn’t quite live up to the billing. At best, it was a passable song among the otherwise excellent material on the “Bad” album.

‘Whatzupwitu?’ (with Eddie Murphy, 1993)

Eddie Murphy has made some embarrassing films throughout his career (“Norbit,” anyone?), but this early ’90s track ranked higher than any of his movie calamities.

Jackson at least sang his vocal part with some verve, but the vague environmental preaching of “Whatzupwitu?” was so astonishingly bad that not even he could save it. And that video . . . wow.

‘Why?’ (with 3T, 1996)

Although ’90s R&B is now treated as a golden age of the genre, it wasn’t all so memorable. 3T comprises Tito Jackson’s sons, and for a while, their brand of drippy harmonizing was mildly popular, especially in the UK.

Uncle Michael also lent a hand on this nauseating ballad — and frankly, made them sound even worse by asking laughably redundant questions such as, “Why does Monday come before Tuesday?”

‘Love Never Felt So Good’ (with Justin Timberlake, 2014)

The wholesale raiding of Michael Jackson’s archive material began this year with the release of “Xscape,” which offered spruced-up versions of tracks the singer had shelved — and usually for good reason.

This lightweight disco “collaboration” with Justin Timberlake was the first single, but Jackson can’t take any blame for this one: After all, he didn’t know anything about it.


Long lost Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson duet released

The voices of Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury together will be heard for the first time this year as Queen trawl through their back catalogue and unreleased studio tapes.

The song There Must Be More To Life Than This, with vocals by Mercury and Jackson, will be released on a Queen hits and rarities collection in a version which mixes original recordings with modern production (by noted studio wizard William Orbit), much in the manner of the recent Michael Jackson release Xscape. The Jackson/Mercury duet is one of three Mercury songs in the collection.

That Jackson album had songs which were partially recorded through the 1980s and 1990s and given contemporary sound treatments by a number of producers. It was controversial for its appropriation of material which, in theory, Jackson had not considered good enough to release at the time.

Unfinished business: Freddie Mercury's song There Must be More to Life Than This was recorded between 1981 and 1984.Unfinished business: Freddie Mercury’s song There Must be More to Life Than This was recorded between 1981 and 1984.

There Must Be More To Life Than This was recorded between 1981 and 1984, but never completed. Begun as a Queen track (written by Mercury for the 1981 album Hot Space) the song didn’t have a completed vocal initially and Mercury took the instrumental version to Jackson’s home studio in Los Angeles and recorded his vocals.

The song remained unfinished three years later when Queen were preparing their album, The Works, though Mercury put out his own version on his 1985 solo debut Mr Bad Guy.

No more was heard of the track in the next three decades, during which both Mercury and Jackson died and Queen for a while became better known for the jukebox musical based on their songs, We Will Rock You.

Michael Jackson: Vocals recorded at his home studio.Michael Jackson: Vocals recorded at his home studio.

However, the remaining active members of Queen, Roger Taylor and Brian May – who have been touring, including in Australia this year, without bassist John Deacon but with Adam Lambert filling in for Mercury – asked Orbit to fashion a final version of the Mercury/Jackson song.

Early reactions from fans of both artists seem positive, with declarations of “too much awesome in one place”, “heart skips a beat” and “OMG” on Twitter. Critical reaction is slower to come but may not be quite as positive for what could be described as an undercooked ballad whose lack of spark might explain its languishing in the vaults for 30 years.

The song is one of three rarities on a new compilation, called Queen Forever, which also has a previously unfinished song from the same The Works sessions, Let Me in Your Heart Again (written by May and sung by Mercury), and a ballad version of a solo hit Mercury recorded with Giorgio Moroder, Love Kills, which originally was played in the studio by Queen.

On both tracks May and Taylor have recorded some new instrumental and vocal sections, augmenting the original recordings. None of the new recordings will be released as singles or separate tracks and will be available only on Queen Forever, which is out November 7.

Michael Jackson on Godliness

My singing… I’ll just say it simple as possible: it’s just godly.

- As told to John Pidgeon in Los Angeles, January 1980. The story…

Animated Transcript

Michael Jackson: I hate labels because it should be just music. I don’t see anything wrong with disco. You can’t dance to [imitates guitar thrashing sound] or… Call it disco. Call it anything. It’s music. Would you call “She’s Out of My Life” disco? “Off The Wall”, “Rock With You”… I don’t know. It’s music to me. It’s like you hear a bird chirping. You don’t say: “That’s a bluejay. This one is a crow.” It’s a beautiful sound. That’s all that counts. Listen to it. You watch them soar in the skies. It’s just beautiful.

[Music: Michael Jackson “Rock With You”]

John Pidgeon: Does he work very hard on his dancing?

Janet Jackson: He just… oh the question. Do you work very hard on your dancing? [laughs]

Michael Jackson: I should but I don’t. [laughs] I just… whatever you see me do is spontaneous reactions on stage. It’s nothing planned. It’s nothing that I got in the room and tried to think of hard. It just happens through feeling.

John Pidgeon: Does he actually find it hard to keep from dancing when he’s in the studio?

Janet Jackson: [laughs] Yeah, I think so.

Michael Jackson: [laughs] Yeah that isn’t my problem. I’m just dancing around…

Janet Jackson: Can’t keep still…

Michael Jackson: Yeah, hard to keep still. Moving around from the mic. [laughs]

[Music: The Jackson Five “The Love You Save”]

Michael Jackson: My singing it’s just.. I’ll just say it simple as possible: it’s just godly. Really it’s just… When I was small I didn’t really know what i was doing. I just sang and it came out sounding pretty good. I just do it and it happens. It’s… I can’t explain it or… It’s no real personal experience or anything that makes it come across. Just a feeling and God, I’ll say. Mainly God.

Michael Jackson: You hear us talk about the peacock a lot because the peacock is the only bird of all the bird family that integrates every color into one. That’s our main goal in music. When you go to our concerts and you see every race out there and they’re all waving hands and they’re holding hands and they’re smiling and dancing. All colors. That’s what great. That’s what keeps me going. [laughs]

Michael Jackson: I do believe deeply in perfection. I’m never satisfied. I’ll cut a track or something and I come home and I say: “no, that’s not right. We gotta to do it over it’s not right.” And then go back and back and back. Then when it’s finally out, you say: “darn it. I should have done this.” It’s number one on the charts you’re still screaming about what you should have done. If you’re satisfied with everything you’re just going to stay at one level and the world will move ahead. [laughs] That’s not good either.
John Pidgeon: When Michael’s in the studio, is it important for him to go for a vocal straight away or does he kind of build up to doing the one?

Janet Jackson: When you’re in the studio does it… Do you, ah… do you have to go for a vocal straight away or do you have to build up to it?

Michael Jackson: No I do vocals pretty quick. But for instance “Ben” I did in one take. I went right in and cut it. I said: “want to do another one?” The guy said: “no, no, it was great.” I said “was it?” That was at Motown. I’ll never forget that little apple box I stood on because I couldn’t reach the microphone. My name was written on it and it’s sitting at Diana Ross’s house now. She has all my little doodling papers I would draw and write.


Michael Jackson: A lot of people have been overexposed. It’s true. Where people are fed up. I pray that that never happens with me. I just don’t like being on a lot of different things or being everywhere because I get kind of embarrassed. But I think secretly and privately there is… I mean really deep within there is a destiny for me and just for me to stay on that track and follow it. I really believe and feel I am here for a reason and that’s my job, you know, to perform for the people and if they accept it that I am rewarded. If they want to put me up on that pedestal I feel even better.

[Music: Michael Jackson “Off The Wall”]

John Pidgeon: Was it through the Wiz that Michael Jackson got to work with Quincy Jones?

Janet Jackson: Was it to do with The Wiz that you got to work with Quincy?

Michael Jackson: Yes. That was… I met Quincy before at Sammy Davis’s house a long time ago. But the real meeting with Quincy, the real marriage, was the Wiz project. We really got to know one another. We worked beautifully together. Ah, so well. And, ah, I called Quincy up one day and said: “Quincy, I’m ready to do an album, a solo album. But I want a real good producer to work with me.” I said: “can you recommend somebody?” I wasn’t trying to hint around at all. I wasn’t. I didn’t think about him. He said: “Smelly.” He calls me “Smelly.” He said: “Smelly: why don’t you let me do it?” I said: “ahhhh… that’s a great idea.” I started giggling and he said: “why don’t we start.” Next week we got together. We started planning and that’s how “Off The Wall” came about.