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Terry Lewis Reflects on Pre-Fame Prince & Crafting Janet Jackson's Early Hits

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http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/7832764/terry-lewis-interview-songwriters-hall-of-fame

 

You and Jimmy reunited with Janet Jackson for her current album Unbreakable. What was it like working together again after so many years?

We've always had just a great rapport with Janet, creatively and socially. She's like our sister. For so many years we did great records together, and then she grew to a point where she needed to go off and do some different things, as all artists do. During that period we really missed her and would always stay in contact and, you know, try to help her through whatever [she needed] because we knew the combination of how she liked to do things. The goal was always to help her win at all costs. But in doing the new album, it was an amazing thing just to get back together and spend time together again. It was almost like going back to the beginning because for all the other albums between Control [released in 1986] and now, everybody wanted to be involved, everybody had an opinion, and everyone wanted to stick their finger in and put their fingerprints on things. And in the early days of Control and Rhythm Nation, we didn't really have that or allow that. The only person involved would be [A&R exec] John McClain, and he'd bring keyboards and whatever, but everybody else stayed away. But after that, after she had two big hits, everybody wanted to have an opinion.

How did you manage all those cooks in the kitchen?

We managed it easily because at that point we had moved back to Minneapolis, and distance causes a great buffer. So if you wanted to work with her you had to come to Minneapolis. Janet was perfectly happy and comfortable being in Minneapolis, but a lot of people didn't want to come, especially in the winter. Nobody wants to come to Minneapolis in the winter, so it was definitely an advantage in that immediately we had our own identity in a sense. We were separated from all the trends and we were set into an area where we had to create our own, which was good. Our influences there were quite different than they would've been had we been on either coast or in the south.

Were there influences and elements you wanted to make sure were conveyed on Unbreakable, or was it just more a vibe of getting the band back together?

Unbreakable was definitely a "get the band back together" moment. It wasn't about what we created as a production team; it was about what we created as an overall team, with Janet. What I tend to do is always just lean on the artists to see what's in their brain and in their heart. One of the things we always say is, "What comes from the heart reaches the heart." We wanted her to have the concept of what she wanted to say, instead of us putting words in her mouth.

What projects are you working on now?

Lots of projects [laughs]; I'm not a one-trick pony. We just finished a full Peabo Bryson record, I don't know the last time Peabo Bryson had a record out. It sounds incredible. Peabo is just one of the great voices of our time. People forget how great he is; he just exudes class. It's something that's so needed. We need the bar to be set high, and you need people that can set the bar high so they have something to aspire to. This is our first opportunity to work with him.

And we're working on a Jam and Lewis album, which is a compilation project, and this will be volume one of many to come. We have music with all our friends we worked with over the years, and we have some new unreleased music and that is extraordinarily fun. It's some new material, some going back and pulling things out. All of the above. We have people like Janet, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Heather Headley, Alexander O'Neal, The Sounds of Blackness… you know, just people from our history. That is the fun part about it. If you can go back and find an old track and update it and make it relevant, that in itself is fun. It's stuff you remember and thought should have had a life at the time you created it, but it didn't. That's the way it works. Like "No More Drama" -- we created with Mary and it took maybe four years, five years before it actually came out and became a hit. She put it on the back burner and then it finally came out.

Can you take us back to the beginning, to creating some of your early hits?

"What Have You Done For Me Lately" [performed by Janet Jackson] -- this was back to the beginning. That song was actually supposed to be part of the first Jam & Lewis album for a group we had called The Secret. And we had put it aside, and we were kind of playing down some music for the A&R person at the time, his name was John McClain, and played some music we had created for Janet—pretty much the rest of the Control album, and then we started playing some stuff for what we were thinking at the time was going to The Secret album. And he said, "What's that?" And we said, "That's something from our album." And he said, "I need that on Janet's album." And we were like, "No man, this is for our album." We were going to be the artist behind it. So he said, "Alright, we'll play the song for Janet and see if she likes it." We went to the studio the next day and we had the song playing in the background. Janet popped her head in the door as soon as she heard it and said, "Who's that?" We said, "It's just a song?" "Who's it for?" And I said, "I guess it'll be for you if you like it." She said, "I like it."

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Jimmy & Terry are working on that compilation album again :lol: 

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:wub: I love to hear the creative process and what people thought of the music.  Didn't know about the WHYDFML song being for their album.  But Janet brought the song to life.

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:wub: I love to hear the creative process and what people thought of the music.  Didn't know about the WHYDFML song being for their album.  But Janet brought the song to life.

I can't imagine a male performer for that track. That track SCREAMS Women Anthem

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I can't imagine a male performer for that track. That track SCREAMS Women Anthem

Exactly.  Although I'm sure they changed the lyrics from Janet's point of view. :lol:

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I think Prince was initially supposed to sing WHYDFML & in that case it probably would have worked but he's the only one I can see pulling it off. 

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there is a wonderful interview with Jimmy on Pandora Questlove Supreme  radio station, it is in two parts probably about 2 hours and Jimmy talks about his beginnings and more in very deep detail....look it up if you get a chance folks great listening material

Edited by Bailey.
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Exactly.  Although I'm sure they changed the lyrics from Janet's point of view. :lol:

there were no lyrics, it was just the track

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I think Prince was initially supposed to sing WHYDFML & in that case it probably would have worked but he's the only one I can see pulling it off. 

prince was never supposed to have that track, he was jealous of jimmy and terry's success when that album came out. there is an interview jimmy did with questlove and he talks about it, he said prince actually rode past his house and threw a copy of control out the window of his car. whydfml wasa track they made for their own album for their group called 'the secret' , they never did release anything.

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prince was never supposed to have that track, he was jealous of jimmy and terry's success when that album came out. there is an interview jimmy did with questlove and he talks about it, he said prince actually rode past his house and threw a copy of control out the window of his car. whydfml wasa track they made for their own album for their group called 'the secret' , they never did release anything.

Jimmy has one hell of a memory, he's very detailed in every aspect of events that happen well over 30 years ago and then some...Im gonna try to finish part two tonight, I was listening to it at work but people interrupt me by trying to converse when I dont want to -_-

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I think Prince was initially supposed to sing WHYDFML & in that case it probably would have worked but he's the only one I can see pulling it off. 

Nah.. not like Janet did... it had impact and sparked her career. 

Not to say Prince wasn't huge but he wouldn't have done the song justice. It would just another blimp on his discography as oppose to Janet's spark that started the fire beneath Her career

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there is a wonderful interview with Jimmy on Pandora Questlove Supreme  radio station, it is in two parts probably about 2 hours and Jimmy talks about his beginnings and more in very deep detail....look it up if you get a chance folks get listening material

OMG yes this interview is EVERYTHING!!  He gives so much T on Perspective Records/ A&M, why some artists succeeded and failed.  Seriously this is a can't miss series for music fans.  

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OMG yes this interview is EVERYTHING!!  He gives so much T on Perspective Records/ A&M, why some artists succeeded and failed.  Seriously this is a can't miss series for music fans.  

I dont think fans know because its on Pandora and I havent found the interview anywhere else to post it so I told folks where it is to hear, BUT yes it is amazing they talk about a lot of stuff

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