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Garrett's Voice Turns Jackson's Head

August 23, 1987|CHARLES A. JOHNSON

Siedah who?

Superstar Michael Jackson could have probably convinced any singer in the world to sing with him on his long-awaited new single, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," so why did he choose Siedah (pronounced sigh-EE-da) Garrett, a relatively unknown 25-year-old session singer and songwriter?

Part of the answer is Quincy Jones, who produces Jackson's records and "discovered" Garrett four years ago while putting together a vocal quartet called Deco to record some music for the film "Fast Forward."

But it was also Garrett's songwriting (her "Taste" was recorded by the Pointer Sisters last year) that led her to Jackson.

While considering songs for Jackson's upcoming "Bad" album, Jones played a demo of Garrett's "Man in the Mirror" (co-written with Glen Ballard) a few months ago for the singer. Jackson not only liked the song, he also apparently was struck by Garrett's voice.

The two singers first met the night Jackson recorded "Man in the Mirror." Garrett joined gospel artists the Winans and Andrae Crouch in singing backing vocals for the track, which is also on the "Bad" album.

During the session, Jackson asked Garrett how she got the inspiration for the song. She told him she asked God for it, Garrett related during a recent interview.

The two seemed to get along well but Garrett didn't have any idea when Jackson later invited her back to the studio that he wanted her to sing with him on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You."

About the single, Garrett said, "It opens a lot of doors for me and gives me a wide audience--a 'Michael Jackson' audience as opposed to a 'new artist' audience."

That new audience will get a chance to sample more of Garrett shortly. Her first solo album--due in January from Jones' Qwest Records label--will be produced by Rod Temperton, who wrote songs for both Jackson's "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" LPs.

Siedah who?

Garrett is philosophical when the question is asked, even though she has been singing professionally for almost 10 years and has been featured as a back-up vocalist on four albums.

Even with the sudden onslaught of attention after the release of the Jackson single in late July, the North Hollywood resident seemed to be playful and down to earth during the interview.

She told about show-biz encounters with the endearing, wide-eyed dramatics of a Valley Girl, reporting in detail on everything except what everyone was eating.

Garrett, who says she grew up "all around L.A.," has had her eyes set on the music business since grade school. Her ambition grew out of seeing her mother and two aunts put together a vocal group, the Other Three, that was patterned after the Supremes.

The youngster joined a vocal group, Black Velvet & the Satin Souls, during junior high school, basing her style and repertoire on Chaka Khan. Though Garrett lists Khan as a vocal influence, she didn't want to simply duplicate Khan's vocal interpretations--a point of conflict with the others in the short-lived group.

Even today, Garrett doesn't show any signs of compromising her identity.

"No, that ain't me," she said, driving her point home by singing a line from "I've Got to Be Me" with the off-key overstatement of a lounge lizard.

After graduating from high school, Garrett put together a few credits (tours with Sergio Mendes, a quickly forgotten RCA album with a group called Plush), but she was mostly singing commercial jingles and playing small clubs around Los Angeles before being selected in 1983 from 800 hopefuls to be a member of Jones' Deco quartet. After that project, she continued to work with Jones with an eye toward her own solo album.

Will she be joining Jackson on his world tour to sing "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"?

"No, no one has mentioned tour possibilities," she said. Then she added coyly, "But then no one mentioned 'duet' either."

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