The late King of Pop’s musical involvement in the soundtrack to Sonic The Hedgehog 3, has always been one of those tales in the industry that many have considered to be a myth. However, a closer analysis of the evidence, clearly points to Michael Jackson’s involvement in Sonic’s quest to recover the Chaos Emeralds. Although, you won’t find any mention of this in the game’s credits, with his name being conspicuously absent following Dr. Eggman’s last stand in the Launch Base Zone.
It’s not as though Michael Jackson’s interest in the video game industry in the late 80s and early 90s wasn’t already well established. In fact, by the time Sonic 3 was in development, Jackson had already made his gaming debut. This came in the form of the SEGA developed cult classic Moonwalker, which was released four years prior to Sonic 3, both in arcades, and on the Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis. Not only did this clearly prove Jackson’s deep interest in gaming, but it also shows evidence of Jackson’s pre-existing relationship with SEGA, something which continued over the years, including cameos within Space Channel 5 and its sequel, and in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2.
Additionally, Jackson was also known to be a long time fan of video games in general, even having a selection of arcade cabinets set to free play within his “Neverland” ranch. However, the King of Pop wanted to also be a part of the creation of video games. As such, after working alongside SEGA on Moonwalker, he once again approached the Japanese gaming powerhouse, in order to offer his services towards the latest instalment in one of gaming’s most iconic franchises. This is something that has subsequently been confirmed by various sources, despite remaining hidden for over a decade.
Roger Hector, former VP General Manager of the SEGA Technical Institute, previously revealed in an interview how Michael Jackson was a massive fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, and how he wanted to work on the soundtrack for the game. After numerous meetings with SEGA’s Technical Institute, Jackson had finished recording an entire soundtrack that covered all 6 zones, from the Angel Island to the Launch Base Zone, and that the soundtrack “fitted perfectly for the game and had a distinctive ‘Michael Jackson’ sound”. The rumours about Jackson’s long debated involvement have also been later confirmed by Brad Buxer, the American keyboardist and composer who extensively collaborated with the ‘King of Pop’ through the height of his career, even acting as Musical Director for many of his tours.
According to Buxer in an interview with Michael Jackson fan-magazine Black & White, both he and Jackson definitely did compose music for Sonic 3, and that elements of this can still be seen within the game today. He further revealed that similarities can even be seen between some of the tracks in the game, and Jackson’s own published work. This is most notably seen when comparing the theme that plays over the ending credits, with Stranger in Moscow, and is also observed within the Carnival Night Zone’s music, whereby elements of the track Jam can be seen. Buxer can further be quoted as saying;
”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 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.”
However, this version of why much of Jackson’s music was not featured in the final release, is seen to be at loggerheads with that of Roger Hector. In the same interview in which Hector confirmed Jackson’s involvement, he also stated that whilst the music “fitted perfectly”, and that SEGA had even begun incorporating it into the game, surfacing reports accusing Jackson of child molestation meant that SEGA felt it best to completely distance themselves from the collaboration. Suggesting that it was SEGA themselves who pulled the plug on the collaboration, rather than Michael Jackson.
Ultimately, this all meant that Howard Drossin had to step in to finish off the soundtrack for SEGA. This was done by carrying on from what Jackson and his team had submitted, before going on to subsequently compose the soundtrack for Sonic & Knuckles, which acted as “part two”, of the Sonic 3 project. What’s more, the composer for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, has also been seen to reaffirm the comments made by Roger Hector. These came within an interview conducted in the irc chat room of Sagexpo.org, whereby Drossin confirmed Jackson’s earlier involvement before he took over, alongside the notion that SEGA wanted to distance themselves from him following the sex scandals.
Nevertheless, despite all this, what they can all agree on is the the late ‘King of Pop’ did definitely have some hand in the creation of one of gaming’s most iconic soundtracks. Hopefully one day this original soundtrack will appear in its unedited form for the world to enjoy, or scrutinise. It wouldn’t be the first time that physical evidence of one of gaming’s greatest myths has been discovered would it. Though I wouldn’t expect this lost soundtrack to rise from the New Mexico desert like E.T..