Written and first recorded by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979).
Hit versions by Greg Phillinganes (R&B #77/DANCE #4 1985), Eric Clapton (UK #15 1987).
Also recorded by Michael Jackson (1982, released 2010), Ryuichi Sakamoto & Bernard Fowler (1987), The Human League & Yellow Magic Orchestra (1993).
From the wiki: “‘Behind the Mask’ is a Synth-Pop song by electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, written by member Ryuichi Sakamoto and first produced as an instrumental in 1978 for a Seiko watch commercial. It was later released in 1979 as part of the band’s Solid State Survivor album with English lyrics added by Chris Mosdell. Sakamoto already had the melody line when he asked poet and lyricist Mosdell to write lyrics, which Mosdell based on the imagery of a Japanese traditional Noh mask, combined with a poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats called, ‘The Mask’.
“In the early 1980s, Michael Jackson wanted to write additional lyrics for the song with an accompanying melody, intending the track for Thriller, but it was left off because of a song credit dispute. Jackson’s original recording was updated posthumously and released in 2010.
“Following the break-up of Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1983, the band’s former keyboardist and the writer of the song, Ryuichi Sakamoto, re-recorded it in 1987 with Jackson’s additional lyrics and lead vocals by Bernard Fowler.
“Jackson’s keyboardist Greg Phillinganes recorded a version of ‘Behind the Mask’ for his 1984 album Pulse. His arrangement was released as a single in 1985, and in the United States it reached #4 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and #77 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
“Eric Clapton recorded a cover of the YMO song with lyrics for his 1987 The Cream of Eric Clapton Greatest Hits album. The song was released as a single, and hit #15 in the UK in 1987.
“‘Behind the Mask’ was also covered by The Human League in 1993 with the song’s original group, Yellow Magic Orchestra. ”
Michael Jackson, “Behind the Mask” (1982, released 2010):
Greg Phillinganes, “Behind the Mask” (1985):
Eric Clapton, “Behind the Mask” (1986):
Ryuichi Sakamoto & Bernard Fowler, “Behind the Mask” (1987):
The Human League & Yellow Magic Orchestra, “Behind the Mask” (1993):