Photo: Keith Capstick

Ryerson’s Music Den hosts musician Greg Phillinganes

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By Keith Capstick

If you’ve never heard the name Greg Phillinganes before you don’t have to go any further than to listen to the piano in Michael Jackson’s thriller—because it was him who played it.

Phillanges was at the Rogers Communication Centre’s (RCC) Transmedia Zone on Jan. 27 to speak about his career in the music industry and touring with some of music’s biggest names—and also to play some piano.

The lecture was part of the Music Den’s FCAD Talks speaker series.

Phillinganes has played for, been musical director or toured with the likes of Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder and even played piano on Bruno Mars’ latest album for the song “Versace.”

Phillinganes’ message to students was dominated by the mix between experience and art that he feels is the key to being a musician. He spoke at length about creating music, but also how it’s best listened to and the culture that surrounds different genres.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Michael Jackson play Billie Jean to a stadium of 70,000 to 75,000 people from 15 feet behind him,” Phillinganes told the crowd.

He made a point of comparing the process of listening to music have changed since his origins with Stevie Wonder to the digital download process we’re familiar with now.

“You used to just sit and listen to the music!” he said loudly.

One of the highlights of the lecture featured Phillinganes playing the opening of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb while recollecting his tour with David Gilmour last year.

The lecture was animated and ridden with applause as Phillanganes took Ryerson students on a trip through the last 40 years of musical history while playing snippets of some of his favourite memories along the way.

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