Paul McCartney pays tribute to Michael Jackson

Sir Paul McCartney has paid tribute to Michael Jackson, who died following cardiac arrest in Los Angeles on 25 June 2009.

It's so sad and shocking. I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.

I send my deepest sympathy to his mother and the whole family and to his countless fans all around the world.

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, 1983In 1982 McCartney featured on Jackson's record-selling Thriller album, collaborating on the duet The Girl Is Mine. The pair teamed up again for Say Say Say, and a third duet, The Man, both of which appeared on McCartney's fifth solo album Pipes Of Peace (1983).

During the recording sessions for the album Jackson temporarily stayed at the home of Paul and Linda McCartney. One night McCartney told Jackson of the songs he owned the publishing rights to, revealing that he made large amounts of money each year from other people's songs.

This is the way to make big money Every time someone records one of these songs, I get paid. Every time someone plays these songs on the radio, or in live performances, I get paid.
Paul McCartney to Michael Jackson

Soon afterwards, in 1985, Jackson bought ATV, in a deal worth $47.5 million. ATV owned Northern Songs, the publishing company set up by Dick James and Brian Epstein in 1963 and which owned the rights to the majority of The Beatles' songs. The move resulted in a well-publicised falling out between McCartney and Jackson. McCartney said: "I think it's dodgy to do things like that. To be someone's friend and then buy the rug they're standing on."

On 7 November 1995 Jackson and the Sony Corporation merged their music publishing business, making them joint owners of The Beatles' publishing along with songs performed by Elvis Presley and Little Richard. The deal netted Jackson $95 million.

From 2005 Jackson's 50% stake was used as collateral for a $270 million loan from Bank of America. It is unknown what will happen to the stake following Jackson's death, although rumours that it was left to McCartney in his will are unlikely to prove positive.

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29 responses on “Paul McCartney pays tribute to Michael Jackson

  1. Dan

    Paul is a class act. I was starting to feel saddened after Jackson’s death, but then remembered how he screwed Paul out of the rights.

    Bye bye Chester Jackson!

    1. mcfly

      What a fool you are Dan. MJ told Paul he was going to buy them to his face, Paul did not pull out the money so MJ bought them fair and square. Somebody else would have bought them so its Paul’s own fault, he had the money. Its called business, after all Paul has gathered up 700 million for himself. Tell him to give it away.

  2. John Rosenfelder

    Michael J. didn’t cheat Paul out of the rights but he secretly outbid him, which is just as harsh. It happens.

    I think Paul is making a negative but accurate, and earned, remark when he calls Michael Jackson a “boy man.” To my ear, the tone is like “ladies man” or “leg man.”

    My opinion is that he initially liked Michael J. as an artist, resented him for the publishing deal, but he was ultimately disgusted by the behavior. That’s half his focus and he doesn’t mention ATV/Sony, etc.

    1. Cristina

      Mmmm… no, I don’t think Paul mean it like that at all.
      I really doubt he was “disgusted” by him. He wouldn’t have written a comment like this, saying he had a gentle soul.
      I think he actually said in the 90’s he didn’t believe the accusations were true.

  3. James Kalomiris

    Despite his apparently hearfelt sentiment, I can’t help but think that Paul McCartney is perhaps gloating inside at this moment.

    First, Phil Spector, the producer who at the time Paul believed ruined “Let it Be,” was convicted of murder and is now sitting in a California prison. Now, Michael Jackson, the “thief” of the song rights to the Beatle catalogue, has passsed away.

    This shows you what will happen if you hang on for a while.

  4. Ellen Rantzer

    Paul is & has always been a diplomat. His comment about Jackson are totally appropriate & not at all bitter. He takes jabs when needed & is no pushover but ultimately he’s a class act.

  5. Lady Macca

    First Phil, then Jacko and now Allen Klein. I don’t believe Paul is a vindictive person, but he has to somehow feel vindicated by the recent turn of events. Phil screwed with the Beatles music, Jacko screwed Paul and Alan screwed just about everyone in the music business he came into contact with. Phil got what he deserved but Jacko did not deserve to die as young as he did, regardless of what he did. The only comment I will make about Alan is that it’s so sad he died of Alzehimers and ultimately forgot about all the people he screwed over in his lifetime. That man will not be missed.

  6. Nancy

    I agree with Paul McCartney’s statement that it was dodgy for a friend to buy the rug out from under another friend. Little Richard’s songs were also in the package that Michael Jackson bought and he GAVE the publishing rights to Little Richard after purchasing them. Why didn’t he give Paul the rights to the Beatle songs? I know that buying publishing rights is good business, but you just don’t do something like that to a friend, especially after they’re the ones who gave you the advice. Paul has a lot of class and he was more forgiving than most artists would be.

    1. steelyglenn

      Jacko wouldn’t give Paul the rights to the Beatles songs because frankly, Paul doesn’t need the money. and also, if the Entire ATV catalog cost 47 million total, you’d better believe that at least 40 million of those dollars are directly for the Beatles songs! That catalog must be worth close to a half-BILLION Dollars by now!

  7. Iman

    Michael gave Little Richard his publishing rights because he was cheated out of millions of dollars by the recording industry. Paul did not need the money which he proved by marrying that ATM woman.

  8. tmw

    Instead of blaming Michael Jackson for his business acumen, why not acknowledge Paul McCartney’s failure to act more quickly and purchase ATV earlier, which would have precluded Michael from doing so. If it hadn’t been Michael, it might have been someone else.

  9. Damien

    For the record, Michael Jackson didn’t “screw” Paul McCartney out of anything. There are numerous interviews where Paul said he couldn’t come to an agreement with Yoko Ono about how much to spend on the rights, and then the bidding got too high for him to feel it was worth it. He had originally put in a bid for 20 million – 10 million each. Then Yoko backed out saying she wanted to negotiate the total price down to 5 million. Michael Jackson had already put in a bid of 30 million. Paul decided to back out when Yoko pulled out because he didn’t want to own the rights to the Lennon writings because he felt people would think he (direct quote) “was being grabby”. Michael ended up spending just under 50 million on the deal, which Paul said in later interviews was a figure outside of the range he had in mind for the deal. Paul also said to David Letterman that MJ was a gentle person and that he still held a great respect for him personally and professionally.

  10. Q

    The Beatles got their music from African American rhythm and blues performers who the record industries exploited and eventually left penniless or with minimal payment. They created the ‘rock and roll’ sound that The Beatles and Elvis ripped and attempted to make their own, doing substantially well commercially, but less than subpar vocally (the original Black performers were more authentic).

    Michael Jackson did a very wise and vigilant thing by taking the music originated by A.A.s back and making Paul pay for what they did not create in the first place. He gave Little Richard back the rights to HIS OWN music for free, something that he wouldn’t be able to afford on his own.

    So, the precious Paul McCartney isn’t some man who got cheated by the shrewd businessman. He got what he deserved. I’m sure he’s not struggling financially.

    1. Joe Post author

      I’m not sure how you can class Michael Jackson’s ownership of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, for example, as “making Paul pay for what he did not create in the first place”. Yours seems to be a very selective reading of the situation, and of The Beatles’ achievements.

      The Beatles covered a lot of black R&B artists in their early days such as The Shirelles, Arthur Alexander and The Marvelettes, and made their songs well known in a number of countries where they previously weren’t (I don’t mean the US; I’m thinking of a lot of European countries, the Far East etc). The artists should have received royalties from these albums; and if they didn’t, and had signed away the publishing rights, well that’s hardly The Beatles’ fault, is it?

      As for Michael Jackson doing a wise and vigilant thing, he wasn’t doing it for the African Americans – he was doing it to make money. What’s more, he only gave Little Richard his songs back because MJ’s mother advised him to treat the singer well. Neither McCartney nor Jackson seem(ed) particularly altruistic when it comes to business deals.

    2. Donella

      Michael Jackson’s business moves in buying the publishing rights to the Beatles and Elvis Presley and Little Richard were farsighted, shrewd, and well-thoughtout. Since Paul McCartney showed Michael Jackson “how to do it,” Jackson realized that McCartney had no problem making profits from the music of others, likely many fellow musicians known to Jackson who struggled financially having lost control of their publishing rights to McCartney. Not only that, like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles toured with Little Richard before they were known. The TRUE King of Rock & Roll taught the Beatles their early stage presence, song delivery, and style that appeared so unique to North American audiences. The Beatles benefited from the fact that North American radio segregated, suppressed, and appropriated African Americans who originated the rock & roll sound. So Jackson returned to Little Richard what was rightfully his–his songs. Tight-fisted McCartney too cheap to bid on his own music likely would not have returned publishing rights to Little Richard because McCartney, as he told Jackson, liked to make money off other people’s music. Having grown up in the music industry and been a witness to shady business practices surrounding publishing rights of African American singers and musicians, Jackson made a clear, undeniable, unmistakable point to the entire rock & roll music industry. And the rock & roll music industry who got that point has hated him ever since. McCartney has been making cutting, passive-aggressive, petty little remarks about Jackson ever since [Boy Man, indeed]. And then Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, likely making another unmistakable point about rock & roll.

  11. Q

    Oh, in no way was I attempting to be “sick” or “hateful”. I just find it a little interesting that you all seem to paint Paul McCartney and the Beatles out to be these poor, unsuspecting people who Michael Jackson did this horrible thing to. Let’s say that MJ didn’t give Little Richard back his publishing rights out of kindness, do you think the Beatles would have? Maybe they weren’t the cause of bad business deals agreed upon by groups like The Marvelettes, but they had to at some point know that these songs came from somewhere, right? They were performing during the same time as these groups doing covers, so the motivation for them was to also “make money”.

    And making the songs of these groups popular in other countries only gave the Beatles hit songs that would become apart of the “British Invasion”–no mention of any of the original performers (it’s very unlikely that someone in Ireland would hear a hit Beatles song and say, “hmmm I think the Beatles covered The Shirelles version of this song”).

    Anyway, my point was only to draw light to the fact that a lot of history is ignored when it comes to a lot of the people that Hollywood reveres. Also, there is no contradiction in saying that the Beatles stole the music of Black performers, in turn making their version inauthentic (Vonbontee, you may now grab a dictionary).

    1. Joseph Brush

      How come legendary performers such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Arethea Franklin, Louis Armstrong, covered Lennon-McCartney and George Harrison songs?
      Are you questioning their musical integrity by performing “inauthentic” music?
      The Beatles were always eager to praise the musicians (black and white) and the music that inspired them to become musicians.
      Since I am old enough to remember the original versions of most of the songs the Beatles covered, I also remember Disc Jockeys’ remarks here in Canada regarding the original and cover versions.
      The two main songwriting Beatles lost control of their music long before MJ was able to purchase their catalogue. Before he died, Lennon surmised that the ownership of songs were transitory.
      Music has no colour and musicians emulate other musicians and with the passage of time create new kinds of music and expression.

    2. McLerristarr

      The Beatles never owned the rights to the songs they covered. Michael Jackson only bought the ones that they had written. Yes, in the early days, they were influenced by black rock’n’roll and R&B musicians (as well as other stuff) but the rock’n’roll musicians didn’t invent music – they were influenced by others too. All music has to be influenced by something that came before it.

    3. Donella

      Paul McCartney had no problem profiting from the creative efforts of others. Michael Jackson showed him what it felt like. McCartney’s been making bitchy, snide little passive-aggressive asides about it ever since. How does it feel, Paul?

  12. Alesandra

    “You know what doesn’t feel very good, is going on tour and paying to sing all my songs. Every time I sing ‘Hey Jude,’ I’ve got to pay someone.” -Quote from Sir Paul. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I found this funny. He must pay to sing songs that were not originally his in the first place!

  13. Paulramon

    If it bothers Sir Paul that much, he should have made sure he bought the songs at whatever cost. It’s not like he wouldn’t have made the money back eventually and he could certainly afford to buy them

  14. robert

    I always found it interesting that Paul didn’t buy the Beatles’ catalogue when he had the opportunity. He obviously had the money, with or without Yoko.

    I can only surmise that in the end he didn’t think it was a good business move. Paul tends to be very shrewd in terms of his money – which is why the absence of a pre-nup with Heather Mills was such a surprise.

    Remember, the reason Paul sued the other three was to separate his money from theirs. It wasn’t so much to “dissolve” the Beatles – but because everyone’s money went into a big pot and then got split four ways (including solo work).

    All that being said, you do really wonder what was going on in his head as that deal went down – and MJ bought his songs. There’s seemed to be no emotional attachment at the time, however now there does seem to be some regret.

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