Michael Jackson

From Sega Retro

Michael Jackson
Place of birth: Gary, Indiana, United States
Date of birth: 1958-08-29
Date of death: 2009-06-25 (age 50)
Role(s): Composer, Dancer, Actor

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Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, and one of the world’s most successful recording artists, Jackson collaborated with Sega on the production of several video games, most notably Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and Sonic the Hedgehog 3.


Sonic the Hedgehog

From his very inception, Sonic the Hedgehog was significantly inspired by Jackson’s celebrity. As one of the world’s biggest pop stars, and one whose fandom easily made it to Japan, Naoto Oshima borrowed Michael’s smooth “coolness” as an inspiration for building the mascot. Sonic’s famous red shoes were also directly inspired by Oshima’s viewing of the cover to Jackson’s 1987 album Bad.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Sega AS-1

In late 1992, while Jackson was in Japan for his Dangerous World Tour, he met with Sega of Japan and worked with developers Sega AM5 as a celebrity actor for the upcoming Sega AS-1. Shooting scenes for both of the hardware’s ride films, Jackson played a small role in Megalopolis: Tokyo City Battle and would star in the titular Michael Jackson in Scramble Training.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sometime around early 1993, Jackson became involved in the production of Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s soundtrack. Working through collaborator and keyboardist Brad Buxer, and bringing five other members of his associated sound team to the game, he submitted various beatboxes and vocal rhythms to the project (possibly through Sega Multimedia Studio). Upon hearing this music translated to the Sega Mega Drive’s FM sound hardware (perhaps specifically its crunchy sample playback), Jackson left the project, citing displeasure in hearing these original compositions in such a relatively-limited format.

Depsite Jackson removing his music from the project, members of his sound team would stay to compose some of the soundtrack, and either through tribute or inspiration, allusions to Jackson’s musical style would be incorporated into several songs. Much of the game’s new jack swing styling can be attributed to the influence of Michael Jackson and his sound team, and Carnival Night Zone would even directly sample the Jackson song Jam. The soundtrack also features motifs commonly associated with the artist, such as rhythms being punctuated with occasional “woo!”s.

Jackson’s presence in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is mostly limited to inspiration, but two of his original compositions are thought to have remained in the retail release. The chord progression from Staff Roll is said to be a direct remnant of Jackson’s work, and one that would later inspire similar chords in the song Stranger in Moscow. Additionally, the distinctive rolling drum beat of Knuckles’ Theme (and by extension, Sub-Boss Theme) is thought to have been composed by Jackson for the 1991 recording of Blood on the Dance Floor.

Both Stranger in Moscow and Blood on the Dance Floor appeared on 1997’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, a compilation of past and unreleased Jackson projects.

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing

Production history

Song credits

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

  • Knuckles Theme — Composed by (uncredited)
  • Mid Boss Theme — Co-composed by (uncredited)
  • Staff Roll — Co-composed by (uncredited)


Jackson’s December 1988 visit to Sega of Japan

During a break from his Bad world tour, Michael Jackson visited Sega of Japan to both tour their facilities and advise on the upcoming Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18). Photographs of Jackson’s tour through Sega of Japan’s headquarters were later published in a currently unknown source.[1]

Jackson’s December 1992 visit to Sega of Japan

During breaks from his Dangerous World Tour, Michael Jackson met with Sega president Hayao Nakayama to discuss upcoming games like Michael Jackson in Scramble Training. Photographs of Jackson’s tour through Sega of Japan’s headquarters were published in the February 1993 edition of Sega’s staff newsletter.[2]