If you feel like you've heard the new [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] song, "This Is It," before, you are not alone. The title track to the upcoming documentary about rehearsals for the pop icon's planned career comeback was released at midnight on Monday. And though little information was available about it, questions quickly arose about its creation.
One of the people asking those questions was former 1950s teen idol [artist id="1846"]Paul Anka[/artist] ("Diana," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder"), who, like a number of people, thought the ballad sounded very similar to the 1991 single by Latin R&B singer Safire. The songwriter credit on that song listed Jackson and Anka as co-writers, and when Anka, 68, was not contacted about the release of the Jackson single — which credits Jackson as the sole songwriter — he threatened to sue, according to The New York Times.
The situation was quickly resolved, though, with the administrators of Jackson's estate acknowledging Anka's work and agreeing to give him a 50 percent publishing cut for "This Is It," ending a long battle over the song that had for the most part gone on behind the scenes.
The Times reported that Anka and Jackson co-wrote and recorded the original song in 1983 at Anka's California studio and planned to release it on Anka's duets album Walk a Fine Line. But, Anka said, around the time that Jackson was becoming a superstar with the release of Thriller, the self-proclaimed King of Pop took the tapes and Anka threatened to sue over the tune, which was called "I Never Heard" when Jackson originally tracked it.
In a statement released Monday, the Jackson estate said, "The song was picked because the lyrics were appropriate because of the name Michael gave his tour. We are thrilled to present this song in Michael's voice for the first time, and that Michael's fans have responded in unprecedented numbers. The song was co-written by the legendary Paul Anka."
With the original multi-track tapes in his possession now and paperwork documenting the copyright held by both singers, Anka said he was forced to act when "This Is It" was released without a credit for his work. "It's exactly the same song," Anka said. "They just changed the title."
According to TMZ, Anka said that Jackson estate special administrator and record executive John McClain told him, "Now we know why the song was so good ... it wasn't the type of Michael Jackson song that he could write."
Anka later gave the song to Puerto Rican singer Safire, who recorded it in 1990.
The Times reported that "This Is It" is based on a piano and vocal take featuring Jackson that was filled out by McClain with a full arrangement, including newly recorded backing vocals from Jackson's brothers.
McClain told Anka he took 50 songs to Jackson's Sony Music record label as options for the movie and "This Is It" was the best of them. "My thought was that this one sounded different," Anka said McClain told him. "Now I know why."
Despite the dust-up, Anka said he's not bitter. "I said, 'It's fine if it's an honest mistake," he said. "These things happen."