The ballad was written to mourn fallen icons, recorded by Jackson to mourn a fallen friend, and revived three years ago to mourn the fallen King of Pop.
When Michael Jackson died three years ago today, among the many songs in his catalog injected with new significance was the 1991 ballad, "Gone Too Soon." Performed by Usher at Jackson's memorial service, the track had fascinated Jackson for years before he recorded it—and was finally put to tape following tragic circumstances. Here's the story behind the song, which has been revived time and again for times of public mourning.
IT WAS PAST MIDNIGHT ON A SUNDAY when the phone rang at the Kohan home. "Sorry, did I wake you up?" a voice whispered on the other line. "Is Buzzie there?"
It was Michael Jackson, who, at the moment, was riding one of the biggest waves of success popular music had ever seen. That month (February, 1983) Jackson was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone; "Beat It" joined "Billie Jean" at the top of the charts; his videos played in a loop on MTV; and Thriller was flying off shelves like loaves of bread.
"Buzzie" was Buz Kohan, renowned television producer and writer (best known for his work on award shows and variety shows, including the Motown 25 special). Jackson first met him when the singer was just 12 years old. Buz lived nearby in Encino on beautiful Beaumont Street. He was a well-known veteran in the entertainment industry, and the two became good friends. Jackson would ask Buz endless questions about legendary figures like Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis and Fred Astaire—the "greats," as he called them. They later worked closely in Las Vegas for the Jackson family's variety show.