Sega's Uncredited Composer: Michael Jackson
Growing up, my favorite video games were the Sonic the Hedgehog series. And one of my favorite parts of the series was the music. It was always catchy, but the series had its musical pinnacle with Sonic 3. The game had 6 credited composers, but it’s very likely that there was one high profile musician who went uncredited.
In 1990, Sega published a video game based on Michael Jackson’s movie Moonwalker, which started Jackson’s relationship with Sega. It was around this time that the first Sonic game came out, and Jackson expressed to people at Sega how much he liked the game.
In 1993, while in Los Angeles on his “Dangerous” world tour, Jackson was invited to visit Sega Technical Institute, where Sonic 3 was being developed. While he was there, one of the developers asked him if he’d like to write some music for the game. That was all it took, and Jackson got to work penning themes for the new game.
About half of the music in Sonic 3 seems to have been contributed by Jackson, and it shows - his themes are musically complex, and are some of the most ambitious tracks ever programmed for the Sega Genesis.
It isn’t known exactly why Jackson isn’t credited for his work on the game. Some say it is because he was unhappy with the compromises needed to be made to the music to have it play on the limited synthesizer available on the game system. Others point out that Sega may have been nervous about the child abuse allegations that Jackson faced later in 1993, shortly before Sonic 3 was released.
Sega still denies that Jackson worked on the score for the game, but with 3 of the 6 composers confirming that his music exists in the final product, it’s hard to believe that he wasn’t deeply involved.