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How My Uber Driver Influenced Michael Jackson's Music: An Interview With Alfonzo Jones

Sophie Sanders |
November 24, 2015 | 9:45 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy
Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy

I am riding in an Uber, jamming out to Michael Jackson playing on the stereo. My driver turns to me and asks me to look his name up online. I am confused at first by the odd request but when a 1980s album cover with his name and face comes up, it becomes clear that my driver, Alfonzo Jones, had quite the prominent music career back in the day. I ask to hear some of his music and I am completely awed by not only how beautiful his voice is, but also by how similar it is to Michael Jackson’s.

Jones told me that he was actually friends with Jackson and how he influenced his music. He sang background vocals for Jackson who, according to Jones' website, cited him as one of “the best singers in the world!” Jones' music career seemed like it would end in the 1980s when he released his last album; however, he is now back in the studio recording new tracks. I knew that this was a story that had to be shared so I set up a time to ask him some more questions.

Neon Tommy: How did you first get discovered and started in the music industry? 

Alfonzo Jones: It was on Halloween night with a friend of mine. We decided to go see this producer/engineer’s recording studio and we banged on his door. We didn’t really think he was going to be there but he answered the door and said: “What do you guys want?” and we said, “We sing, play piano, and write songs” and he said, “Come on in!” I was 19 years old and I was a little nervous and when I walked in he said: “Here is a piano, do what you do.” I played the piano for him for maybe five minutes, and he said to me: “I want to sign you...” He had connections at Universal [Music]. It was meant to be.

NT: Did you go to school for music before being signed?

AJ: I went to school as a young kid at the age of five and had private lessons. Then I went to college and I studied classical music. 

NT: When did you release your first album? 

AJ: The first album was released in 1982. It was perfect timing.

NT: Did the album consist of all songs you wrote?

AJ: Almost all the songs were written by me. 

NT: How did you first meet Michael Jackson?

AJ: Michael and I go all the way back. I first met Michael at "The Wiz" [a 1978 movie staring Michael Jackson] celebration when the movie first came out. I see "Mike" and I went to speak to him. After that, I had a record (distributed by Universal) come out and the CEO of my company was friends with Michael Jackson. Michael fell in love with my music. He liked my songs and he understood the songs. The single, “Change the World,” he was excited about…and when I went to Disneyland for "Captain EO" [a 1986 film staring Michael Jackson], the main song in the movie was “We Are Here to Change the World.”

NT: So you believe you had a direct influence on Jackson’s music? 

AJ: Yeah. Michael was happy that someone came out with [my] songs, he was really happy about that. We are from the same powers of force, and he knew that. 

NT: When did you stop making music?

AJ: I did the first album in 1982 and the second album in 1988 and that is when I disappeared from the music scene… the situation wasn’t the best at that time for me. 

NT: What did you do after your career in the music industry ended?

AJ: I taught music to middle school and taught private lessons, piano and voice. 

Nt: What does the future hold? 

AJ: I am working right now in the studio. Everyday is unbelievable, I can’t wait for everyone to hear it, it is so amazing. I am co-writing a lot of songs with very special people. 

Reach Staff Reporter Sophie Sanders here.



 

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