Red jacket, black moccasins, and his iconic moonwalk are some of the elements that evoke the image of Michael Jackson in the eighties. The man who captivated the world with his voice, charisma, and memorable presentations, became a living legend.
The youngest member of the Jackson 5 consolidated his solo career by creating unique musical stories like Paul McCartney did. McCartney –the artist who created genius compositions with The Beatles and by himself– admired Jackson, mainly because he was reminded of himself as a young artist: a kid filled with ambition and talent, capable of conquering the world with his tunes. In the same way, Michael was fascinated by The Beatles, so the agreement of doing some collaborations went smoothly, "Say, Say, Say" the best proof of it.
The mutual admiration they had became the foundation of a musical friendship that seemed to last for years. Paul wrote some songs form Michael, such as "The Girl is Mine," included in Thriller. Likewise, the King of Pop collaborated with the Beatle in songs like "The Man." Their collaborations were quite successful, until one day Paul revealed his master plan to his new friend. Then, taking advantage of Paul's trust, Michael Jackson stole his idea.
Paul McCartney has always been a music lover, and by the time he met Jackson, he had already acquired a huge fortune. His plan was to acquire the rights to his favorite songs, as he'd already done with Buddy Holly's catalog. Jackson, a shopaholic, had already bought land in unique places that he would then fill with eccentric decorations and furniture. He also loved producing tours with expensive special effects and surprises. So, of course, McCartney's idea drew the attention of the unconventional musician.
Together with Brian Epstein and Dick James, Paul McCartney and John Lennon had founded a company called "Northern Songs," which owned the legal rights of all The Beatles' catalog. When Epstein passed away, the two musicians tried to get all the control over the material. However, James, who had much more legal power than them, sold the rights to ATV Music Publishing, a company owned by the Australian millionaire Robert Holmes.
When Lennon was murdered, McCartney tried to get all his music material back. Unfortunately, the price was so high that he had to resort to Yoko Ono. The woman who allegedly parted the FabFour declined the offer, arguing that she wanted nothing to do with it. Paul saw a great opportunity in the King of Pop.
The former Beatle proposed him an association to buy the rights for the songs, in exchange for a percentage and the right to use the songs. Jackson said he was going to think about it but in 1984, he secretly offered around 46 million dollars to get the songs for himself. Once McCartney found it out, the relationship was over.
Paul McCartney kept his attempts to get his work back in secret, and even though he asked for his catalog to remain intact, all the negotiations seem to favor Jackson. In the end the company that owned the songs accepted Jackson's offer, which increased by 1.5 million dollars over the initial offer. Finally, over 400 songs of The Beatles became property of the King of Pop.
However, only 10 years later, Jackson saw himself surrounded by debts and far from the glory he enjoyed during the eighties. He used The Beatles' catalog as currency to pay his debt or a form of bribery.
When Michael died in 2009, everybody wondered what was going to happen with all of the musician's assets, being The Beatles' catalog one of the main concerns. Years later, a hacker leaked some of Sony's private emails, where the possibility of selling Paul McCartney his songs for a modest amount was exposed. However, Jackson's will stated that the song catalog was destined to go back to his favorite Beatle, the one with whom he had the opportunity of sharing great moments, and the one he had betrayed out of greed by stealing the legacy he had created together with John Lennon, Ringo Star, and George Harrison. Even today, no one knows the status of the catalog. Neither Paul, nor the lawyers have made public statements; perhaps we'll never really know what has happened to them.
If you want to know more about the King of Pop's eccentricities, check Michael Jackson's Art Collection That Reveals His Megalomaniac Fantasies.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards