Michael Jackson confirmed as Sonic 3 composer

sonic3A few months after Michael Jackson’s death, and he’s still making headlines, even in the gaming press. For years, the singer was the subject of one of the industry’s favourite urban myths, with many gamers believing he was the composer behind the music from classic platformer Sonic 3.

Now, news has come to light in the latest issue of French magazine, Black & White, with Jackson’s former colleague Brad Buxer admitting that yes, he and Michael worked together on the project, and that the artist felt stifled by the technology available to him in 1993.

From the interview with Black & White:

B&W: Can you clarify the rumor that Michael had in 1993 composed the music for Sonic 3 video game, for which you have been credited?

Buxer: I’ve never played the game so I do not know what tracks on which Michael and I have worked the developers have kept, but we did compose music for the game. Michael called me at the time for help on this project, and that’s what I did.
And if he is not credited for composing the music, it’s because he was not happy with the result sound coming out of the console. At the time, game consoles did not allow an optimal sound reproduction, and Michael found it frustrating. He did not want to be associated with a product that devalued his music…

The interview, which is excerpted on the VGMdb Forums also explains that chords composed specifically for the ending of Sonic 3 later found their way into the Jackson tune Stranger in Moscow, confirming further suspicions from Sonic fans.

The claim backs up Sonic producer Cirocco, who last year went on record claiming to have what seems to be a soundtrack to the game:

“I actually have “ALL” of the tracks… from the original humming of Michael calling in the middle of the night leaving messages, to his ideas at Record One with Matt and Bruce. – BUT, I don’t think I can let any of that out to the public without permission.”

Michael Jackson, as he appeared on <i>The Simpsons</i>

Michael Jackson, as he appeared on The Simpsons

If true, this isn’t the first time Jackson’s contributed to an entertainment project without attaching his name: Remember the episode of The Simpsons where Homer befriends a mental patient who claims to be the King of Pop? The credits list a “John Jay Smith” as providing the voice of the new character, Leon Kompowsky. However, it didn’t take long for news to trickle out that Jackson – a long-time fan of the show – had contacted creator Matt Groening offering his talents for the animated series (mind you, he only spoke the character’s lines – the actual singing was performed by soundalike Kipp Lennon). Legal reasons saw the producers prevented from confirming the guest star position at the time.

Hopefully this Sonic confession will lay to rest the slightly murky elements that the myth had Chinese-whispered into existence: Michael Jackson was not dropped by the game’s publisher due to child molestation charges, and it doesn’t appear to be a case of one party demanding too much of the other.

Sonic The Hedgehog and his composer

Sonic The Hedgehog and his composer

While we haven’t managed to find the original (French) source for the news, it does seem that the November 2009 issue of Black & White Magazine is available around the place, and if you’d like to get your hands on a copy, eBay might be a good place to check if you’re not in close proximity to a French newsagent. On the other hand, if you’re prepared to check out some of the amazing conspiracy theory-esque detective work that’s been poured into the history of this deal, you’re invited into the SonicBasement.

To close – a comment from Sega that was issued shortly after Jackson’s passing in July.

We here at SEGA were very sad to hear about the passing of Michael Jackson. He was a true music legend whose songs touched each of us at some point in our lives. We are proud to have worked with him and included his music in some of our most well-remembered games and are sure that his genius will live on through his great body of work. We have no doubt that future generations will be moonwalking to all his greatest hits.

Greatest hits, it seems, which include the soundtrack to Sonic 3.

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