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Michael Bearden made his mark in music as a keyboardist, composer and, most notably, as a musical director to the stars. Across the talented pool of entertainers he’s worked with, Bearden is perhaps best known as the final musical director for the King of Pop, the late, great Michael Jackson.

Bearden was born and raised in the south side of Chicago, getting his start in music at five years old by way of his father. He and his siblings were exposed to the rough streets and gangs of the Windy City, and Bearden’s dad felt  music would keep his children out of trouble.

Bearden’s instrument was the piano, and a godmother taught him how to play classically, but Bearden also learned how to play many of his favorite songs by ear.

As a student at Howard University, Bearden gigged at clubs around Washington and one night, Stevie Wonder heard him playing and asked him to back him up on the keyboard. Wonder gave the young Bearden some solid advice, and after college, Bearden headed north to Brooklyn, New York where he got his first big break. Flutist Herbie Mann took Bearden on the road with him, which led to meetings with numerous jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie.

Along with Michael Jackson and his work on “This Is It,” Bearden is also the musical director for Lady Gaga and has performed directorial duties for the late Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, and over 400 other stars.