Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson, 1988

What does Michael Jackson mean by "I'm starting with the man in the mirror"? Who is the man in the mirror?

What does Jackson want to change about himself (and suggest others change about themselves)? Why?

What global conflicts of the 1980s might have inspired Jackson to write this song?

The lyrics are not overtly religious, yet the song features the gospel groups the Winans and the André Crouch Choir. What is the significance of including gospel music and its spiritual connotations?

"Man in the Mirror" performed by Michael Jackson on FHIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, © 1995. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on Michael Jackson, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source

Michael Jackson Bad album cover
Bad album cover.

Born in Chicago, Michael Jackson (1958–2009) became nationally known at the age of eleven when he and his brothers auditioned for producer Berry Gordy and were signed to Motown Records. Known as the Jackson Five, the brothers performed on the popular Ed Sullivan Show and had four number one hits. Building on his entertainment success as the lead singer of the Jackson Five, he went on to become a solo artist with Grammy Award–winning songs, videos, vocal performances, and albums. Along with vocal abilities, his talent in dance was masterfully displayed in the videos of songs such as "Beat It," "Thriller," and "Bad." He was not only a performer, but also a songwriter, producer, choreographer, and actor. Jackson’s legacy and the positive messages in his songs like “Man in the Mirror” are marred by numerous, credible allegations of child abuse and molestation.

The song "Man in the Mirror," released in January 1988, is on Jackson's seventh album, titled Bad. The theme of the song is self-transformation and the ability of everyone to make a difference in the world for the betterment of society. Raised a Jehovah's Witness, but later disassociating with the religion in 1987, Jackson brought his ideas of spirituality and morals into both the text and sound of the song. The introduction begins with a high-pitched keyboard melody that transports the listener into a dreamlike world. The simplicity of the keyboard and Jackson's voice allow the listener to focus on the message that he sings: "I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life." As other instruments, voices, and a gospel choir enter the song, the volume intensifies and the message is confirmed and supported. The featured background voices are the gospel stars the Winans and the Andre Crouch Choir.

Jackson also enjoyed storytelling and presenting music visually as a film. The video for the song features a montage of news footage of various advocates for peace and change in the world, such as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and people holding signs, such as "Remember Love," and "Make Love, Not War," along with images of catastrophes, such as homelessness and famine, and many other references to events such as the Vietnam War and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.




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