A year after Michael Jackson gathered Britney Spears, 'NSYNC, Destiny's Child and dozens of other superstars to record "What More Can I Give," the September 11 benefit single is finally being heard.
New York radio station WKTU-FM debuted the song on Friday at 6 p.m. and has been playing it about six times a day since, albeit without permission.
Program Director Frankie Blue, a longtime friend of Jackson's, won't say how he got the song, but he insists the King of Pop had nothing to do with it. Marc Schaffel, the executive producer of the single, said at least 200 copies were sent to artists who participated and their representatives and that the song has since surfaced on the Internet.
"It's a loose train; there's no stopping it," Schaffel said. "But I would hate to see it out there and not do its intended purpose, which was to raise money for the victims of September 11th and children's charities."
WKTU-FM and sister station WJTM-FM were the first to play Jackson's "You Rock My World" last summer, but they were asked by the singer's record label to stop playing it soon after (see "Michael Jackson Rocks Fans' Worlds (A Little Early)").
As of Wednesday afternoon, nobody associated with the song — not Music Fighters (a Tokyo company claiming ownership), Sony Music, Schaffel nor Jackson — had contacted Blue. "I don't know if anyone even knows who owns it," he said.
Schaffel said his company claims the rights to the song per an agreement with Jackson. Music Fighters, he said, was involved in a deal that was never completed. Still, he pointed out, Sony and other labels could send a cease-and-desist order because not all of the artists on the song have been cleared.
WKTU-FM said it has received countless phone calls and about 200 e-mails a day from listeners thanking the station for playing the song and asking where they can get it.
"This song is a gift to the world," Blue said. "Michael and everyone donated their time for it, and it deserves to be heard. The song is called 'What More Can I Give,' and I can give the world a song they can cling onto and hopefully make them think about what they can give."
Why "What More Can I Give" was shelved depends on who you ask. Some say the song was withheld when Schaffel's background in pornography came to light (see "Did Porn, Sony Or McDonald's Sink Jackson Charity Single?"), though Schaffel believes the real reason is because the label didn't want the song to overshadow Jackson's ill-fated Invincible.
"Maybe this will give someone the push to put it out," Schaffel said, "because now would be the time. Otherwise, the more it proliferates the more it defeats the purpose, and there's no way it can raise money."
"What More Can I Give," which Jackson and some of the collaborators have performed only once — in October at a Washington, D.C., concert — also features Mariah Carey, Ricky Martin, Usher, Nick Carter, Shakira and several others (see "Jackson Taps Britney, More For Song To Help Terrorism Victims").
Although the song was written as a response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Blue said he believes it's still relevant today. "We were angry after the first 9/11," he said. "After the second 9/11, we are coming together. People need a song like this right now."
Blue pointed out that Jackson's previous charity single, "We Are the World," was popular for years after the song was recorded, even in the weeks after September 11.