A lush reverie, “Remember the Time” was Jackson’s finest attempt at updating his sound for the hip-hop era. After splitting with Quincy Jones over creative differences following Bad, he began looking for a young producer and landed on Teddy Riley, architect of New Jack Swing, the hot R&B sound of the moment. “I came in with 10 grooves,” Riley said at the time. “He liked them all.”
“Remember the Time” was a high point of their collaboration and one of Jackson’s best post-Eighties vocal performances. Engineer Dave Way recalled watching the singer working on “Remember the Time” as he nailed “each note and harmony, double it, triple it and then maybe quadruple – each time singing it perfectly, vibratos perfectly matched, perfectly in tune, rhythmically dead on, knowing exactly what he wanted to do the whole time. Flawless.”
Who was Jackson singing about? Riley claimed the song was written after Jackson told him about his feelings for his second wife, Debbie Rowe (a claim he later retracted on Twitter). Jermaine Jackson, though, said the song was written for Diana Ross.
“Once a week, the kids got to pick a special place to go, and one of their favorite places was Chuck E. Cheese’s. Since Middleburg was in the middle of nowhere, the nearest one was forty-five minutes away in Alexandria, south of D.C. We took the kids there maybe three times. But this one particular time, we took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s and Mr. Jackson wanted to go in too. He wanted to watch them play. I escorted the kids in first. Mr. Jackson came in about ten minutes later with Bill.
The kids were playing and Mr. Jackson was sitting in the corner with a hat and a black veil over his face. The kids knew that whenever their daddy was in a public place, they couldn’t run up to him or approach him; that was against the rules. Can you imagine having to learn to stay away from your own father when he’s sitting across the room?
That’s what they had to do. It was a precaution. But Paris? She loved her daddy. There was no telling her "Don’t talk to your daddy.” She wasn’t having it. She was going up to the top of these slides yelling, “Look, Daddy! Daddy! I’m going down the slide! Look!”