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Producers reveal stories behind Michael Jackson hits and more

Producers reveal stories behind Michael Jackson hits and more

If it weren’t for a certain “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty,” über producers James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis might have released their first album way back in the ’80s.

“The process started 35 years ago,” Harris, 62, told The Post about their long-awaited debut, “Jam & Lewis Vol. 1,” which drops Friday. “And then the opportunity to do the ‘Control’ album with Janet [Jackson] came up. And at the end of doing ‘Control,’ John McClain — who was the A&R person on the record — came up to listen to what we had done, and he goes, ‘I just need one more [song]!’ So Terry pops a cassette in and says, ‘John, this is some stuff for our album.’ And about the third song in, John goes, ‘Wait! That’s the one I need for Janet.’ That song became ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately.’ So it started her career and basically ended our album — or at least postponed it for 35 years.”

After Jackson’s “Control,” Jam & Lewis began taking charge behind the boards for everyone from Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey to Boyz II Men and Usher — all of whom show up for the Grammy-winning producers on their new album.

Terry Lewis and James "Jimmy Jam" Harris
Terry Lewis and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris were on their way to making their debut album in the ’80s before Janet Jackson’s “Control” came along.
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“These are our friends, who we happen to work with,” said Lewis, 64. “Spending time with them was so precious, especially … doing the finishing [touches] during the pandemic. We were always still connected to the artists.”

As they release new music — including “Babylove” with their former bandmates in the Time — Jam & Lewis look back on some of their biggest hits.

Janet Jackson, “Nasty”

Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson and James "Jimmy Jam" Harris
Janet Jackson joined Terry Lewis and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris at the opening of the Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis, where they made music magic happen, in 1989.
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“Before we went into the studio to record with her in Minneapolis … we were at a club, and some guys came up to Janet and kinda started talking to her in kind of a nasty way,” said Harris. “And we were watching it happen, but we weren’t intervening at that point … And so finally Janet comes over to us, and she goes, ‘Did you see those guys over there? They were so nasty. Why didn’t you come help me?’ And we were like, ‘Welp, you must be OK, [because] you’re over here talking to us.’ But it was those kinds of moments … where if you’ve always lived a life where you’ve had bodyguards or you’ve had people getting you out of things, you never realized that you could get out of them yourself. And so much of the ‘Control’ album was about that — a young woman finding herself — and those experiences all went into the record.”

Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson, “Scream”

Jam & Lewis worked with another iconic Jackson — Michael — for the first time when the superstar siblings teamed up for their one and only duet in 1995. “That studio experience was the most mind-blowing of all the studio experiences we’ve ever had,” said Harris of the King of Pop recording his vocal at the Hit Factory in New York. “Michael walked in very quiet, very calm. And then as soon as [the track] came on, he starts dancing around and like goes into a performance. And we were like little girls — we lost our minds. So Janet was sitting behind us as this was all going down. She’s supposed to do her vocal right after Michael. And Janet leans in to us and whispers in our ears, ‘I’ll do my vocal in Minneapolis.’ She wanted no part of it anymore.”

Mary J. Blige, “No More Drama”

Mary J Blige and Jimmy Jam in 2007.
Mary J. Blige and Jimmy Jam in 2007.
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Jam & Lewis had worked with Blige on songs such as “Everything” and “Love Is All We Need” before producing the 2001 anthem that would release her from the pain she had been enduring in her life — and in her music. “As we worked with Mary over the years, we became friends, and we would watch her in her life” said Lewis. “And the concept of that song was so appropriate for her. So when we played it for her, her [reaction] was, ‘Have you guys been sending a private detective to watch me?’ ”

And it was Jimmy Jam who had the stroke of genius to sample the piano part from “Nadia’s Theme,” which is best known as the theme of “The Young and the Restless.” “That was me,” said Harris, “because I’m a soap-opera watcher.”

George Michael, “Monkey”

George Michael in 1987
George Michael in 1987.
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Inspired by the “Cool Summer” mixes of “Nasty” and “Diamonds” (by Herb Alpert featuring Janet Jackson) that Jam & Lewis had done, Michael sought out the duo to work that same beat-making magic on “Monkey,” a No. 1 hit off of his 1987 blockbuster “Faith.” “So we [meet in] LA, we go to the studio, we start working on the track and he sings it a couple times,” said Harris. “He was always in and out — like a half-hour, maybe an hour. But it gave us everything that we needed.”

Still, they had another session with Michael booked for the next day. “And he didn’t show up,” said Harris. “But there was a friend of Terry’s who was coming to check him out, and she brought her friend, who is now my wife [of 27 years, Lisa Padilla]. So we met over the George Michael sessions.”

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Julia Mangels

Julia has handled various businesses throughout her career and has a deep domain knowledge. She founded Stock Market Pioneer in an attempt to bring the latest news to its readers. She is glued to the stock market most of the times and just loves being in touch with the developments in the business world.

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