It’s not common knowledge that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, lent his vocals to a Kenny Rogers track in the early ’80s. Jackson doesn’t have a prominent roll in the song. In fact, he sings backup. But it’s still easy for music lovers to pick out his voice that provides a wonderful contrast to Rogers’.
In 1981, Kenny Rogers released his 11th studio album, Share Your Love. The record was produced by Lionel Richie who also penned four out of the 12 tracks. One of the songs Richie wrote was “Goin’ Back to Alabama,” telling the story of a man who starts over fresh after life has beaten him down, despite the lack of support from those he loves. The song features soft, but vital, backup vocals in which Jackson participated in and can be heard in the video above around the :45, 1:45 and 3: 25 second marks.
You might wonder, how did Jackson end up singing backup for Rogers? Unfortunately, the story isn’t clear. Some people may speculate that their connection came about when Jackson and Richie wrote the charitable USA for Africa track “We Are The World” in which Rogers sang along with numerous other popular artists. But “We Are The World” was completed in 1985, years after Rogers’ Share Your Love.
We can probably assume Rogers and Jackson met through Richie, even though the story of how he came to sing backup vocals on “Goin’ Back to Alabama” at the Concorde Recording Center in Los Angeles is unconfirmed. According to CMT, when Rogers appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live following Jackson’s death, he deeply admired Jackson’s talent. “First of all, you start off envying, and then you’re just thankful you don’t have to go through what he went through. I mean, that would have been treacherous for anybody,” Rogers said. “And so I loved his music. … There are very few people that represent certain eras of music. And he definitely was one of them.”