The iconic pop song hides a very disturbing story behind it’s lyrics
Michael Jackson climbs to No.1 on the US Hot 100 in 1983 with his smash hit “Billie Jean”
Released by Epic Records on January 2, 1983 as the second single from “Thriller”, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” became one of his most iconic and popular songs ever. Written and composed by Jackson himself, who produced it with Quincy Jones, the song’s spare, bass-driven arrangement helped pioneer what one critic called “sleek, post-soul pop music. A landmark on modern pop music, “Billie Jean” was Jackson’s best-selling solo single and one of the best-selling of 1983, helping “Thriller” become the best-selling album of all time (a lot of “bests”) In the United States, it remained at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks starting on March 5, 1983. It also reached number one in the United Kingdom and several other countries worldwide. The song was awarded with two Grammy Awards and an American Music Award and it also made TV history when the now iconic music video, directed by Steve Barron, became the first video by a black artist to be aired in heavy rotation on MTV along with the other videos produced for “Thriller”, establishing MTV’s cultural importance of music videos as an integral part of the then new pop music marketing. But the honors didn’t stop there: Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean” on the famous TV special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever”, which aired in May 1983, won acclaim and was nominated for an Emmy Award. The performance introduced a number of Jackson’s signatures, including the moonwalk and white sequinned glove, and was widely imitated, also becoming a landmark on Pop music. However, the lyrical content of “Billie Jean” hides a very disturbing story, introducing a more paranoid lyrical style for Jackson, a trademark of his later music. Billie Jean” was inspired by letters Jackson received in 1981 from a woman claiming he was the father of one of her twins, and because he had never met the woman (as many others who write him similar letters at the time) he ignored it. She continued to send letters stating that she loved him and wanted to be with him, and asking how he could ignore his own flesh and blood. Jackson stated that the letters disturbed him to the extent that he suffered nightmares. Things got even more serious when he received a parcel containing a photograph of the fan, a gun, and a letter instructing him to kill himself at a particular time. The fan would do the same once she had killed “their” baby, so they could be together in the next life. To the mother’s dismay, Jackson had the photograph of the woman framed and hung above the dining room table of their family home. The Jacksons later discovered that the fan had been sent to a psychiatric hospital. “Billie Jean” might have a disturbing background, but it sure made it into a good song.
Look back at the iconic Michael Jackson’s 1983 music video “Billie Jean”
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