(content note: reference to child molestation)
Did you know that Michael Jackson worked on Sonic the Hedgehog 3? It’s one of the most excruciatingly commonly told pieces of gaming trivia, so you probably did. Jackson’s work on Sonic 3 was part of a wider association with Sega that saw the star visiting Sega of America’s offices on a whim, a licensed game in Moonwalker, and the collaboration on the soundtrack of Sonic 3.
But things went bad. Before Sonic 3 was completed, Jackson was accused of some pretty heinous stuff, including child molestation. Sega was naturally keen to distance itself from him as court cases and settlements loomed with his reputation in tatters. The official line from Sega remains that Jackson’s contribution to Sonic 3, which was never formally announced, never even existed.
Fans who had connected the dots initially assumed Jackson’s music was cut from the game, with some accounts suggesting it was due to the molestation charges and others suggesting Jackson himself pulled his name and work from the game because he wasn’t happy with how it sounded on the Mega Drive sound chip. There’s quotes from people on all sides of the story backing up both narratives.
The generally accepted truth today, however, is that the music wasn’t cut at all: Michael Jackson delivered some of Sonic’s most beloved music.
Jackson himself isn’t credited in Sonic 3, but several names unfamiliar in the world of video game music appear: Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, Doug Grigsby III, and C. Cirocco Jones. These names formed Jackson’s writing team; they were musicians with a history of collaborating with him, and in the years since several of them have gone on the record talking about their experiences working with Jackson on Sonic 3. In a 2016 Huffington Post article, three of the six are unequivocal: Jackson worked on the game, and the music made it into the finished product.
For Jackson’s collaborators, it does appear there is a legal question around the game’s music.