'Dreamgirls' Songwriter Talks Oscars, MJ

Black Academy Awards Series: Two-time nominee Siedah Garrett on songwriting and her kinship with Jackson.

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SG: It was very different for me the second time around because instead of being one of eight songs, it was one of two. And I had a 50-50 shot. But I lost to a muppet -- "Man or Muppet" is the song that won. 

TR: What projects are you working on now?

SG: I'm getting ready to embark on a new adventure with my writing partner Glen Ballard, where we're going to write a musical based on the life of Madame Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of Louisiana. She was extremely special for her time [the 19th century]. She had power where women didn't have power at that time, especially black women ... It would be a Broadway musical. But we haven't even started yet, and it could take as little as a few months and as many as a few years.

TR: You said you like to live in the moment. How has that helped you in your career?

SG: I think since the music and entertainment business is so busy, in order to just really give something the attention it needs to make it the best it can be, you really kind of have to focus. Multitasking really isn't productive in the creative process. So I guess I'm really good at focusing on what I'm doing at the time. I wrote, I think, 25 or 26 songs for Dreamgirls. And most of those were rewrites. I got two songs in the film, and one of them was nominated for an Oscar.

TR: Aside from yourself, who would you say has been the most influential person in your career?

SG: It would have to be Quincy Jones. Quincy made it a deal to be a songwriter. All I wanted to be was a recording artist because that's all I saw for me. But Quincy introduced me to the world as a writer, and he introduced me to the world's biggest pop star -- Michael Jackson. And Quincy introduced the world's biggest pop star to a song that I wrote -- "Man in the Mirror." So he is by far my biggest influence and my mentor. And he's my brother for life. 

TR: How did that change your life?

SG: Well, it got me to talk to people like you. If I was filing at the insurance company I used to work for, I doubt we'd be having this conversation. It was a real introduction, a real entree into the elite of the entertainment industry. And from that introduction, Michael liked my voice so much he wanted to do a duet with me, which was my No. 1 pop song ("I Just Can't Stop Loving You") that I was an artist on. When Michael Jackson says, "I want to sing with you," that means you've got something -- something that somebody else doesn't have.

TR: It's been nearly four years since Michael Jackson's death. Are you still affected by it?

Black Academy Award Winners: Past and Present

Take a look back at previous black nominees who’ve won.

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