Remembering Michael Jackson's iconic song, and who inspired it.
Billie Jean will forever be known as one of pop music's most groundbreaking songs. The video for the song became the first by a black artist to be aired on MTV (after a great deal of pressure from Michael Jackson's record label). The live performance of the song on the Motown 25th anniversary special introduced the world to the moonwalk, garnered an Emmy nod, and led Fred Astair to call Jackson personally to commend him on his dance moves. And the song itself topped the charts around the world, won numerous awards (including two Grammys and an Anmerican Music Award) and propelled Jackson's album Thriller into what was, for many years, the best-selling album of all time. Michael Jackson's Greatest Love Songs
But in the midst of all its chart-topping success, many wondered: What is the song about? In the refrain, Jackson sings: "Billie Jean is not my lover/she's just a girl who claims that I am the one/but the kid is not my son."
The truth seemed to be revealed in Michael Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moon Walk. In it, he said that: "There never was a Billie Jean. The song was a composite of people my brothers have been plagued with over the years. I could never understand how these girls could say they were carrying someone's child when it wasn't true." Michael Jackson's Lovelife: A Timeline
His explanation seemed plausible. The book itself, as legit as an autobiography could be (Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, after all, was the editor).
But in his 1991 biography of Michael Jackson entitled, The Magic and the Madness, J. Randy Taraborrelli told a far different story. Basing his explanation on multiple interviews with Jackson and members of his close circle, he claimed that Billie Jean was a psychotic female fan who believed that Michael Jackson was the father of one of her twins. Michael Jackson's Ex-Wives Mourn His Passing
Upon receiving his first letter from her, Jackson — being accustomed to receiving such correspondence from women he'd never met — ignored it. More letters from the woman, however, followed. And then even more — telling Jackson she loved him, begging him to live with her, and accusing him of turning his back on his responsibilities as a father.
Eventually, she sent him a parcel containing a photograph of herself, a letter and a gun. In the letter, she instructed Jackson to kill himself on a certain day at a specific time. She said that at the same time, she would kill their son and then herself. To his mother's dismay, Jackson had the photo framed and hung above the dining room table. Afterwards, the Jacksons learned that the female fan was sent to a psychiatric facility.
Was Taraborrelli telling the truth? Did Jackson have a fan so insane she'd kill herself for him? Was it possible that Jackson, himself, was bizarre enough to make his stalker's photo the centerpiece of his family's dining room? Was it all made-up sensationalistic nonsense designed to sell books? Or is it possible that the truth lies somewhere between Taraborrelli and Jackson's stories?
The world, unfortunately, may never know.
Photo courtesy of Splash News.