MJ Studies Today CI

Abstract: This 101st monthly edition of the MJ Studies Today column looks at the collaboration of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, two musical geniuses who began their careers as child prodigies and who in 1987 recorded two duets – “Just Good Friends” and “Get It.” This month, our columnist Kerry Hennigan discusses both tracks as well as the long association and relationship between the artists.

Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the free monthly newsletter A Candle for Michael, administrator of the fan group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film Ghosts” on Facebook, and an MJ blogger on WordPress. Kerry is a life-long student, has Certificates in the Archaeology of the Ancient World and the Archaeology of Ancient Britain from Cambridge University in the UK and is currently focused on the Viking Age.


Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today CI: When “Just Good Friends” team up and “Get It” – the Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder duets of 1987.  ” (14-05-2024). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies Vol 10, No. 4 (2024). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-ci/

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When “Just Good Friends” team up and “Get It” – the Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder duets of 1987. 
By Kerry Hennigan

Photo collage © Kerry Hennigan

When young Michael Jackson turned up in the studio to watch Stevie Wonder record, Stevie would sing “Michael’s here, Michael’s here.” Jackson later acknowledged how much he had learned from Stevie, whom he believed to be way ahead of everyone else musically. [1]  Accolades like “genius” and “a musical prophet” were used by the King of Pop to describe the blind musician who, like Jackson, had begun his career as a child prodigy. [2][3]

It was Berry Gordy’s Motown label that first signed an 11 years old “Little Stevie Wonder,” the name bestowed on him by Gordy, (real name Stevland Hardaway Judkins, born 13 May 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan). In 1963 Wonder, aged 13, became the youngest solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 with his single “Fingertips.” However, by the age of 20, he was negotiating for more artistic freedom, wanting his music to touch on the social problems of the world, just as Jackson would years later. [4]  Again like Jackson, he was known to spend unprecedented amounts of money on studio time to achieve the desired results for his recordings. [5]

Jackson grew up idolising Wonder, who was actually a third cousin on Katherine Jackson’s side of the family. “He (Michael) would always come into the studio curious about how I worked and what I did. ‘How do you do that? Why do you do that?’” Stevie said years later. “I think he understood clearly from seeing various people do the music scene that it definitely took work. He must have been around 9 or 10 then, and I definitely felt that he would be someone. You hear the voice, and all he could do is grow. And that’s what he did.” [6]  Michael spoke of Stevie letting him “sit like a fly on the wall” in the studio. “I got to see Songs in the Key of Life get made, some of the most golden things,” he said. [7]

In addition to providing backing vocals for other artists, and being prominently involved in the 1985 USA for Africa single “We Are the World,” in 1987 Michael and Stevie teamed up for two duets for their own respective albums – “Just Good Friends,” written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, for Jackson’s Bad album, and “Get It,” written by Stevie Wonder and released on his Characters album. [8]  Joseph Vogel writes that “Just Good Friends” is “a fun if forgettable synth-pop duet, featuring two of music’s most famous voices.” [9]  While the song has its supporters, it was far from the strongest track on Bad, and could be considered a wasted opportunity for a far more significant song from two musical greats who, collaboratively or individually, could have written a stronger track. Even Jackson’s producer, Quincy Jones, admitted he’d made a mistake with the number. “That didn’t work,” he said. [10]

By comparison, “Get It,” [11] the third single lifted from Characters, better highlights the talents of both artists at this stage in their respective careers. It is undoubtedly a harder-hitting, foot-tapping track than “Just Good Friends.” Sonically it is comparable to Jackson’s own “Speed Demon” from the Bad album and peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s R&B chart. Cashbox magazine described it as “A light dance tune, heavy on groove, low on fat. Features Wonder’s patented skipping base feel and percussive sound. Jackson chimes in with some fine singing, putting a bit of growling energy into the performance. The entire track is exciting and accessible.” [12]

There were plenty of other occasions when the Jackson/Wonder duo got together, either to record backing vocals for another artist or for each other, and at fundraising events and awards ceremonies. Wonder co-wrote the song “I Can’t Help It” (with Susaye Greene) which was recorded by Jackson for his Off The Wall album, and famously joined him on stage in Brisbane, Australia, for “Just Good Friends” on the 1987 leg of Jackson’s Bad world tour. Stevie was also there at the end – on 7 July 2009 at Staples Centre, Los Angeles, for Jackson’s memorial service, singing through his tears over Michael’s gold coffin.

Stevie described Michael thus: “He had a childlike heart. And that was very, very impressive to me. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings, and for those who can’t see that it is possible for a man who’s an adult to have a childlike spirit, it doesn’t mean that they’re weird, it doesn’t mean they’re a freak or whatever ridiculous things people say. We have all kinds of people in the world. The most important thing is that your heart is in a good place.” [13]

Kerry  Hennigan
14 May 2024


[1] https://youtu.be/6xWRXfQkBsc?si=HX99znWNPPF_G9gB Michael Jackson talks about Stevie Wonder.

[2] Michael Jackson Secret Interview With Brett Ratner (Official Video HD) https://youtu.be/1t7xlnkLTGE?si=6VLxIv1dNTjnJq60

[3] National Public Radio website. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/02/1083730542/half-a-century-ago-stevie-wonder-defined-what-an-artists-classic-run-could-mean Article about Stevie Wonder

[4] Michael Jackson Interview with Geraldo Rivera 50fps https://youtu.be/7u-Hl_K5nqQ?si=8GbtfWZ2d8UQERkb

[5] Davis, Sharon. Stevie Wonder: the Rhythms of Wonder. Pavilion GB, 2006, page 78. (Sourced from Google Books) https://books.google.com.au/books?id=VXSaGI4-SZ8C&pg=PA72&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

[6] Stevie Wonder’s official website. http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/bio/life-stories/michael-jackson.html

[7] Michael Jackson interview with Ebony Magazine, December 2007 quoted on http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/bio/life-stories/michael-jackson.html

[8] YouTube official video. “Get It.” https://youtu.be/Uh2V2X3J0Sg?si=pPl3RRy8n_RgMdfi

[9] Vogel, Joseph. Man in the Mirror. The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson. Vintage paperback edition, 2019, page 185.

[10] Rolling Stone. “Quincy Jones looks back on the making of Michael Jackson’s Bad.” August 30, 2017. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/quincy-jones-looks-back-on-the-making-of-michael-jacksons-bad-117216/

[11] YouTube. Stevie Wonder with Michael Jackson. “Get it.” Universal Music Group. https://youtu.be/Uh2V2X3J0Sg?si=hBLoyp4eE1tZHYMI

[12] Cash Box, April 24, 1988, page 8. Retrieved from  https://www.worldradiohistory.com/Archive-All-Music/Cash-Box/80s/1988/CB-1988-04-23.pdf

[13] Blog article “Stevie Wonder reminisces about Michael Jackson.” https://michaeljackson4eva.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/stevie-wonder-reminisces-about-michael-jackson/  Accessed 1 May 2024.

Illustration: Photo collage compiled by Kerry Hennigan. No infringement of original photographic copyright is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.