Is Michael Jackson’s ‘Billy Jean’ about Paternity Fraud?


Alex Knapp, a reader, has an interesting commentary about Michael Jackson’s mega-hit Billy Jean:

I recently found an interesting tidbit having to do with the late Michael Jackson.  You know his hit song “Billie Jean” from the Thriller album?  It seems like that song was actually based on and describes a personal experience that Jackson himself, as well as his brothers, had with Paternity Fraud.  From wikipedia:

Jackson stated in his autobiography, Moon Walk, that the song was based on the groupies he and his brothers encountered while part of The Jackson 5. “There never was a real Billie Jean. The girl in the song is 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.”

Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli promoted the theory that “Billie Jean” was derived from a real life experience the singer faced in 1981. The Magic & The Madness documents how a young woman wrote a letter to Jackson, informing the singer that he was the father of one of her twins. Jackson, who regularly received letters of this kind, had never met the woman in question and ignored it. The woman sent more letters to Jackson, claiming that she loved him and wanted to be with him. She wrote of how happy they would be, bringing up the child together. She pondered how Jackson could ignore his own flesh and blood. The letters disturbed the singer to the extent that he suffered nightmares.

Following the letters, Jackson received a parcel containing a photograph of the fan, as well as a letter and a gun. Jackson was horrified–the letter asked that the pop star kill himself on a certain day and at a specific time. The fan would do the same once she had killed their baby. She wrote that if they could not be together in this life, then they would be in the next. To his mother’s dismay, Jackson had the photograph framed and hung above the dining room table of their family home. Afterward, the Jacksons discovered that the female fan had been sent to a psychiatric hospital.

And the song lyrics itself also indicate its themes of a woman falsely claiming he fathered her child.  For example:

People always told me be careful of what you do
And don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts
And mother always told me be careful of who you love
And be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth”

For forty days and for forty nights
The law was on her side
But who can stand when she’s in demand
Her schemes and plans
‘Cause we danced on the floor in the round
So take my strong advice, just remember to always think twice
(Do think twice)”

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”

It reminds me of the present-day Keanu Reeves situation, where famous men are caused grief when people they don’t know target them for falsely-based child support orders.  It’s also interesting that “Billie Jean” went on to become one of the King Of Pop’s biggest hits, but few people really take the time to analyze the lyrics and see what they talk about.

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