Written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
Produced by Quincy Jones for Quincy Jones Productions
Co-Produced by Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc.
From the album Bad, released August 31, 1987
Released as a single January 16, 1988
THE SHORT FILM
Director: Don Wilson
Michael Jackson’s short film for “Man in the Mirror” was the third of nine short films produced for recordings from Bad, one of the best selling albums of all time. The “Man in the Mirror” single hit No. 1 in four countries in 1988, topping the charts in the United States, Italy, Belgium and Poland and reaching Top 5 in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. In the U.S., “Man in the Mirror” was the fourth of five consecutive No. 1 singles from one album on the Billboard Hot 100 — making Michael the first artist to achieve this milestone.
“Man in the Mirror,” written by Siedah Garrett (Michael’s duet partner on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”) and Glen Ballard, is one of only two songs on Bad not written by Michael Jackson and, even though it wasn’t a song he wrote himself, it was a message that was strongly identified with him and reflective of his own philosophies, as demonstrated through his actions and expressed in some of his own lyrics. “‘Man in the Mirror’ has a great message,” he wrote in his 1988 memoir Moonwalk. “I love that song. ..Start with yourself. Don’t be looking at all the other things. Start with you. That’s the truth.” A review of Bad in Rolling Stone in 1987 called the song “among the half dozen best things Jackson has done.”
In contrast to Michael’s other short films of the Bad era, “Man in the Mirror” tells a story not through performance, but through powerful images of oppression, homelessness, hunger, police brutality and other ills of the world, as well as events and leaders of the 20th century whose work is reflective of the song’s message to “make that change.” John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Willie Nelson and Bob Geldof are among those whose humanitarian work is showcased. Michael himself is only featured briefly in a crowd shot toward the end of the film.
Michael worked closely with director Don Wilson to create an impactful short film. The two met at the home of Michael’s manager, Frank DiLeo, on November 27, 1987, and drafted a list of images and stories to include. “Michael wasn’t the kind of guy who told you what to do,” Wilson remembered in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, “he would inspire you to go do it with his backing.” Working from roughly 200 hours of footage, mostly sourced from “news footage that people have already seen and they change the channel because it’s too hard to watch,” Wilson recalled Michael’s emotional reaction to the video: “He was just bawling. He walked out of there and just reached for me and hugged me.”
The “Man in the Mirror” short film was praised by Rolling Stone in 2014, who named it 16th on a list of Michael’s 20 greatest short films. “With raw footage of hunger, war, homelessness and racial violence – and just one shot of Michael – the video was a powerful statement to deliver to personality-driven MTV,” the magazine wrote. The short film also won a Soul Train Award for Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Music Video in 1989.