Detroit-born keyboardist Greg Phillinganes has been one of the most sought-after session musicians of the last half century.
First discovered by Stevie Wonder as a teenager, Phillinganes served in Stevie's Wonderlove years in the late seventies, performing on four songs from the iconic Songs In The Key of Life and continuing for five years. He released his debut solo album, Significant Gains, in 1981, landing a hit with "Baby, I Do Love You." Introduced to the Jacksons, Phillinganes arranged their Destiny album. Later, producer Quincy Jones reached out to him to work on Q's collaboration with Michael Jackson, Off The Wall, and it began a relationship that lasted a decade.
Phillinganes worked on Jackson's seminal album, Thriller, and took a song rejected for the album as the lead single for his own sophomore album Pulse, again hitting on the lower end of the charts with "Behind the Mask." He also landed a quiet storm hit with his version of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein tune "I Have Dreamed."
Phillinganes spent the next two decades working with musicians ranging from Eric Clapton to Donald Fagan to Anita Baker, and was arguably the most respected keyboardist of the 80s and 90s.
In 2006, Phillinganes joined the rock group Toto (which, itself, was formed from top session musicians), where he remained until the band broke up in 2008. He did not join a reunited Toto in 2010. He continues to work with various artists, both in the studio and on tour, and, in 2019, agreed to serve as music director Cirque du Soleil’s massive Michael Jackson:The Immortal tour.
By Chris Rizik