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"Human Nature" was originally written by Steve Porcaro, keyboardist with the Rock band Toto. "I had written the song for my daughter Heather. Something had happened at school and it just inspired me. I wrote the song while we were mixing "Africa
" and was just tinkering on the piano and wrote 'Human Nature.' It was one of a batch of three songs I had written in a certain time period. I had written the lyrics, which were the same verse I was singing over and over again. I had the 'why, why' chorus with the slap echo. Like most of my songs it was an unfinished song."
Steve Porcaro and fellow Toto member David Paich worked with producer Quincy Jones on the Thriller album, doing some synthesizer programming and playing. Said Porcaro: "Quincy had been asking David for songs and he was sending a messenger almost every day to David's house - where I was living at the time - to pick up anything David was working on. And so David was sending him stuff. One time, he had gotten a call that the messenger was on his way and he called down to me and told me to throw something we'd been working on onto a cassette. I didn't have any blank cassettes, so I took a cassette that had 'Human Nature' on one side and turned the B-side over, rewound it and put on these two songs of David's. and then gave them to the messenger."
Jones played both sides of the cassette and was excited about "Human Nature." Quincy called David the next day and was raving about this tune that went 'why, why.' It took David half an hour to tell Quincy that it wasn't his song! But the song was incomplete lyric-wise and Jones asked Porcaro to finish them. Porcaro recalls: "I forced myself to write the lyrics and Quincy was less than thrilled with them and he asked me if I would mind if he brought in John Bettis to finish them. I was completely thrilled with what John did with the lyrics."
The Jazz legend Miles Davis recorded this song in 1985. Steve Porcaro was thrilled when he first heard Miles' version of his tune. "My father was a jazz musician and when I was growing up, most of the music we heard in our household was classical music and jazz - Miles Davis. He was my father's hero. My brother Jeff learnt to play drums listening to 'Bag's Groove.' Miles Davis was ingrained in all of us, so I was completely thrilled. I was so honored. I remember doing a session with the bassist Neil Stubenhaus about six months after Miles did You're Under Arrest. He just cornered me and said 'do you realize how great it is to have Miles do one of your tunes? Do you have any idea what it means?' I certainly did. It's one of the things I'm most proud of out of everything I've done."
In 1985, Miles moved to Warner Brothers records and teamed with Porcaro to record new material for his first Warner album. They went to Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro's studio (The Villa) and tried recording "Exist" and "Walk of Life," but the sessions were unsuccessful. While at The Villa, Miles ended up playing on the Toto tune "Don't Stop Me Now
." (Thanks to George Cole, author of The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991
, for all above. Cole interviewed Steve Porcaro for the book.)
This was one of 7 US Top 10 hits off the Thriller album.
In 1993, SWV (Sisters With Voices) hit #2 in the US with a medley of this song combined with their own release "Right Here."
On November 7, 2008, Britney Spears and Madonna performed this at Madonna's Dodger Stadium concert in Los Angeles. Justin Timberlake also performed at the show, joining Madonna on stage for "4 Minutes
." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Sheryl Crow performed with Michael Jackson on his Bad
tour, joining him on stage for "The Way You Make Me Feel
" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You
." In 2010, she told Rolling Stone
, "My favorite memory of Michael was watching him do 'Human Nature' every night. he'd cry, and those tears were so directly linked to the wounds that drove him to anesthetize himself."
Leslie West of Mountain
From the cowbell on "Mississippi Queen" to recording with The Who when they got the wrong Felix, stories from one of rock's master craftsmen.
Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.