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"Somebody's Watching Me "(Rockwell) - the story of a hit song with Michael Jackson on backing vocals

Even decades later, this song is still relevant! And yes: it is a loud Halloween anthem...

All about the song "Somebody's Watching Me" (Rockwell) - background and inspiration, recording, clip and success

Music producer and founder Motown Records, Berry Gordy vacationing at his Los Angeles mansion when his 18-year-old son Kennedy William Gordy Brought my dad a pop-funk demo made on a tiny 4-track tape recorder! Kennedy, who later took on the pseudonym Rockwell, wrote the future hit in his small apartment in Hollywood. It happened in 1982 year. Needless to say, Berry Gordy - as a label executive and producer - had many number one hits? Therefore, he immediately recognized the hit when he heard it. However, after listening to his son's recording, Berry was not very impressed ...

“He said, 'It's okay. Don’t quit your job, keep writing, and one day something will work out ... “I was devastated ...” Kennedy said in an interview.

Well: Kennedy did not really quit his job, but his confidence in "Somebody's Watching Me" was just growing up ... A year later, he would take the pseudonym Rockwell, recruit michael jackson and his brother Jermaine, and make "Somebody's Watching Me" an international hit! Even decades later, this song is still relevant! And yes: it is a loud Halloween anthem...

background

Diana Ross, Berry Gordy and Young Rockwell
Diana Ross, Berry Gordy and Young Rockwell

It would seem: what could be easier than becoming a songwriter when your father is one of the most influential recording executives in the music industry! But... it's actually quite a bold task. So, presenting your record to your father Kennedy William Gordy was rejected. But he did not give up, and went the other way! He changed his name to Rockwell and yet signed a contract with Motown Records as an unknown aspiring musician! Kennedy refused to use his real name in order to avoid reproaches for his success, allegedly due to the big name of his father ...

“When he found out I had signed with Motown, he called me up and said, 'How did you get signed? How did it happen? What's happened?" Rockwell recalls. “I said, “I don't know. I think they liked my music…”

Looking back, Kennedy claims to have never considered using the name Gordy, despite the fact that it would instantly open all the doors for him ...

“I never thought about it that way. But I wanted it to be a family business, because Motown has always been a family. My father was always so busy with performers and bands that he spent very little time with us (Berry Gordy has 8 children in total) in childhood ... "

Inspiration and recording

In the center of Rockwell and Michael Jackson
In the center of Rockwell and Michael Jackson

Kennedy had written tracks before, but they were, as he put it, "mediocre at best." When father coldly commented "Somebody's Watching Me", he was disappointed and even angry ... As the singer himself says, that day he simply fell to his knees and decided to pray:

“I asked God to give it to me,” he says. “The prayer was: “God give me creativity to write a song that will reach the top of the charts and tickle the taste buds of a music connoisseur ...” After this prayer, everything came to me so easily!”

Michael Jackson and Rockwell
Michael Jackson and Rockwell

Over the next two days Rockwell sat on the floor in his bedroom and wrote what later became known as "Somebody's Watching Me". Inspiration was drawn from both the past and the present. Kennedy recalled the days when he was a child:

“I was looking out of my bedroom window and I saw the neighbor stick his head out the window trying to look into our apartment!”

Rockwell
Rockwell

While writing a song Rockwell lived with a girl whom he often played:

“When she took a shower, I went to the glass, waited while she washed her hair, and then pressed my face against the glass,” he recalls. “She opened her eyes, saw my face and screamed!”

Bringing the Jacksons

Michael and Jermaine Jackson
Michael and Jermaine Jackson

attraction Jacksons backing vocals sounds like a classic label maneuver: a way to help an unknown aspiring artist… But in this story, the truth is more organic! As a child, Kennedy spent a lot of time in the Jacksons' house, and as a result, warm friendships developed between them ... Taking a pseudonym Rockwell, he went to the Jackson residence to show the family that he had been recording for several days in his apartment. Bringing a tape recorder with a demo cassette, a slightly nervous Kennedy began to perform "Somebody's Watching Me"!

“I did it eight or nine times… And every time Michael said, “Hi, Rebbie! Hey Janet! You need to hear this song that Kennedy wrote!” Every time we stopped the song, Michael would call three more. After that, he pulled me aside and said, “Kennedy, I need to talk to you. Who are you going to give backing vocals to? I said, "Why don't you do it?" And so we did!”

Rockwell and Michael Jackson
Rockwell and Michael Jackson

Jermaine Jackson also contributed to this track. It should be noted that sister Rockwell, Hazel, was married to Jermainewhich further strengthened the bond between the two families.

Rockwell personally wrote, produced and arranged "Somebody's Watching Me"! He recalled how, after finishing work on the song, he prayed again:

"I told God, 'I'll tell everyone about you,'" he says. “I will tell them how you did it for me and how it really happened…”

Graduation and Success

The single was released in January 1984 year, before the self-titled debut album Rockwell! Combining new wave, R&B and synthpop (along with Kennedy's haughty fake British accent), the song entered the Billboard Hot 100 on January 28, 1984 at number 73, where it spent 19 weeks and peaked at number two!

Ultimately a single "Somebody's Watching Me" went gold: three months after release, more than 500,000 copies

Music video

A crazy haunted house video helped make the song ubiquitous!

Clip filmed Francis Delia, raises more questions than answers: what about the piglet on the tray? Is it legal to have a graveyard in your backyard? And why, finally, Rockwell taking a shower in shorts...?

“I wanted a lighter and more positive video. I thought that the director heard me ... But when I saw the blood and the tombstone with my name - I realized that he did not listen to me at all! laughs Rockwell!

Curious fact...

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

So, the song became a hit, and Michael Jacksonin turn helped a childhood friend! However - the king of pop denied his participation in this song for many years ... At the time of release "Somebody's Watching Me" he was already at the height of his popularity, and he just didn't want too much attention. He just wanted to Rockwell was a hit... That's why Michael doesn't appear in the video and his name isn't mentioned in any of the descriptions or credits...

Jackson wanted this to be kept secret so Rockwell's career could take off! Absolute respect for MJ.

Lastly

Somebody's Watching Me (1984) - Rockwell - Single cover
Somebody's Watching Me (1984) - Rockwell - Single cover

The success of the song was an unexpected source of pride for Berry Gordy after he rejected his son's demo two years earlier...

“I was with my dad and my girlfriend and a couple of people and all of a sudden there's 'Somebody's Watching Me' and my dad is like, 'You did it! You did it boy!" He was so excited… It was a really great moment for us…”

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