Michael Jackson’s favorite song did not look much like a hit from his catalog. Oddly enough, the melody was co-written by a leading movie star. Interestingly, the track has become prominent again due to a recent movie at DC Comics.
Silent movie star Michael Jackson would dress like
Jackson’s favorite song was not from another R&B singer but from a leading celebrity: Charlie Chaplin. While Chaplin is mostly remembered for his roles in the film, he has a musical legacy. According to American Songwriter, Chaplin helped create the score in his film Modern times. Singer-songwriters John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons later adapted part of this result in the song “Smile”.
According to the book Man in the Music, Jackson was a big fan of Chaplin. He watched his movies, listened to his music and read about it. Beginning in the 1970s, he dressed as Chaplin for numerous photoshoots.
CONNECTED: Michael Jackson hit that was meant for Frank Sinatra
What it was like for the New York Philharmonic to help create Michael Jackson ‘Smile’
While working on his album HISTORY: Past, Present and Future, Book I., Jackson succeeded producer David Foster. Foster had previously worked on Jackson’s Off the Wall, as well as songs by Peter Cetera, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Jackson long considered the cover of “Smile” – which MTV News reports was his favorite song – and Foster finally persuaded him to do so.
Jackson recorded his cover with the support of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. According to the book In the Studio with Michael Jackson, many bassists, cellists, harpists and violinists played on the track. Predictably, this gives Jackson’s song a more lush feel to it than Cole’s. Moreover, the vocals in Jackson’s “Smile” version are more melancholy than the vocals in Cole’s version.
CONNECTED: Why Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston never performed a duet
Jackson decided to meet with the members of the orchestra after they finished “Smile”. When he went to meet them, each member of the orchestra gave Jackson a standing ovation. Jackson was thrilled by the experience. “Smile” may not be one of Jackson’s big hits, but members of the New York Philharmonic seem to have enjoyed working with Jackson.
How ‘Smile’ referred to popular culture
For a song from the 1930s, “Smile” has a rather prominent place in pop culture. He lives through Jackson’s cover as well as his use in movies. “Smile” appeared on biopic Chaplin, film Julia Roberts Mona Lisa Smile, and trailers for joker, who prominently used the cover of Jimmy Durante’s song.
CONNECTED: Prince vs Michael Jackson: The ‘Purple Rain’ singer once tried to drive the King of Pop
Perhaps the most annoying use of “Smile” was in Jackson’s funeral service. MTV News reports Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, covered “Smile” as a tribute to his late brother in service. During her echo for Jackson, Brooke Shields referred to her as “Smile.”
“There is a line [in the song] that says, ‘Smile when your heart aches,’ “said Shields.” And though our hearts ache, we must ask, where [Michael] it is obviously busy on a crescent moon and we have to smile. “