Memories of Michael Jackson: Collaborating with Paul McCartney
by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 26th 2009 6:12PM
The stunning news yesterday about the death of Michael Jackson conjured up many memories of the singer for me, as I'm sure it did for most people. For many of us, there was never a time when the Jackson Five and Michael were not part of pop culture. Little Michael and his brothers on The Ed Sullivan Show, their funky outfits when they sang on The Flip Wilson Show (much cooler than the Osmond Brothers!), Michael as the Scarecrow in The Wiz (a hideous movie, but he was quite good).
Well after leaving his brothers to become Michael Jackson, solo superstar, Michael hooked up with Paul McCartney for a couple of songs, "Say, Say, Say" and "The Girl is Mine." The latter was okay, but the former was terrific. They co-wrote it and it reached #1 on the charts in 1983. Those were the times when MTV really showcased music videos and the artists and labels invested in top-notch productions. It was, if you will, the golden age of music videos!
Before talking about what happened to Michael and Mac after they worked so well together, take a look at "Say, Say, Say" and you'll see what I'm talking about. This might be the Michael Jackson I enjoyed the most -- self-deprecating, sweet, boyishly charming and in a harmonious collaboration:
Ironically, it was during this period of time when Michael's stardom was truly on the ascent that he asked Paul McCartney for advice about investments. McCartney gave MJ the advice he'd been given years before when he was in need of the same counsel. Linda's father had told Mac to get into a business he knew something about -- music. McCartney started in the music publishing field by purchasing the Buddy Holly catalog. Thanks to Lee Eastman's advice, McCartney became a billionaire.
MJ heeded Paul's advice, but it cost him a friendship. Jackson purchased Northern Songs, the Lennon/McCartney catalog. McCartney had desperately wanted those songs back. Even after the deal was done, he approached Jackson to resell the catalog to him based on their friendship. MJ refused and their friendship ended acrimoniously.
For MJ, the business decision was a wise one. In subsequent years, those songs were the basis of Michael Jackson's wealth. He used rights to secure loans that kept him afloat into the 21st century when the court cases and diminished record sales in the U.S. drove him to the point of bankruptcy. What does it say about Jackson that he used McCartney's advice against him? Smart business man or false friend?
My take is that he was following the advice of lawyers and managers. I don't think I would have done it if I had been in his shoes. But then that's part of the mystery of Michael Jackson. Why did he make some of the decisions he did? Why all the plastic surgery and the skin-lightening? Why the questionable activities with young boys, even though you insisted till the end that it was all innocent? Why chase after the success of Thriller year after year instead of recognizing that nothing would ever equal that once-in-a-career monster hit?
But you can't turn back the hands of time, can you?
By the way, kudos to MSNBC and Keith Olbermann for the five-hour, comprehensive live coverage last night. From the anchor desk, Keith was in the zone, covering the story, reporting the news and speaking off the top of his head with an expertise I didn't know he possessed. Somebody save that tape for Emmy consideration!