Michael Jackson was working on two albums

Fri Jul 3, 2009 3:00pm EDT
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By Mariel Concepcion

NEW YORK (Billboard) - At the time of Michael Jackson's death last week, it was well-known that he was preparing for a 50-show concert series at London's O2 Arena later this month.

What was less well-known -- and what many are now speculating about -- was what kind of recordings Jackson had done for the last few years.

Billboard has learned that the singer was working on two albums at the time of his death: one in the pop vein that made him famous and another that would consist of an instrumental classical composition. And while some believe the star wanted to recapture his '80s glory days -- or escape financial trouble -- those who worked with him recently say he was motivated by his fans and his children.

Jackson was working on the pop album with songwriter Claude Kelly and R&B star Akon, who says that Jackson was motivated by the ticket sales for his performances.

"He said, 'My fans are still there. They still love me. They're alive,'" Akon says. "His kids are like his first priority, and they had never seen him perform live. He was trying to create the most incredible show for his kids."

Kelly, who wrote "Hold My Hand," the Akon-produced Jackson track that leaked last year, says Jackson never lost his passion. "He was the King of Pop, the biggest to ever do it, and the one thing you never lose -- whether known by the whole world or just 10 people -- is your love for music," Kelly says. "That never goes away, and it never went away for him amidst his troubles."

Composer David Michael Frank had worked with Jackson on a 1989 TV tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. and received a call from the star's assistant two months ago about collaborating again. Jackson invited Frank to his home in Los Angeles' Holmby Hills, told him he was working on an instrumental album of classical music and asked for help with orchestration.

"He had two demos of two pieces he'd written, but they weren't complete," says Frank, who adds that he was impressed with Jackson's knowledge of classical music. "For one of them, he had a whole section of it done in his head. He had not recorded it. He hummed it to me as I sat at the keyboard in his pool house and we figured out the chords. I guess this recording I made is the only copy that exists of this music."   Continued...

<p>Jackson family spokesperson Ken Sunshine speaks at a news conference announcing details of the Michael Jackson public memorial service in Los Angeles July 3, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>