The 1987 pop hit reminds us that every change in the world starts inside ourselves.
“Man in the Mirror” was one of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits from his 1987 studio album Bad. Written by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones, this pop standard spent two weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The lyrics express a desire to make a positive change in the world by first changing one’s own outlook. The chorus is a call to action for all, proclaiming, “If you want to make the world a better place, then take a look at yourself and make a change.” This sentiment is very similar to St. Mother Teresa’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
The music video is full of potent footage of various major news events and famous people from all over the world. It features images of people peacefully protesting or offering works of charity, among shots of some of the worst tragedies in human history.
Rolling Stone has songwriter Glen Ballard recalling his experience writing “Man in the Mirror” with Siedah Garrett:
I’d been producing for Quincy [Jones], and I had tried to write something for Bad but it hadn’t been accepted. We were closing out the record, and Quincy said, “Don’t you have anything for us?” So [singer] Siedah Garrett wrote “Man in the Mirror” on a Saturday night at my house in Encino. We didn’t have a chance to dress it up, so I didn’t feel like it had a chance, but Quincy played it for Michael, and he said, “Make a track.” The song was this really magical moment, and it had everything to do with Michael’s vocal interpretation. In the last two minutes, Michael started doing these incantations: all the “shamons” and “oohs.” He went to that place on his own. We certainly couldn’t have written that.
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Man In the Mirror
I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
As I turned up the collar on my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin’ my mind
I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs
A summer’s disregard, a broken bottle top
And one man’s soul
They follow each other on the wind ya know
Cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
I’ve been a victim of a selfish kinda love
It’s time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me pretending that they’re not alone
A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart
And a washed out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya see
Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me