♫ Billie Jean ♫

Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is one of the highest selling singles of all time.  Released in January 1983, this song is about a girl who claimed Jackson was the father of her child. Jackson based it on a woman who used to stalk him, writing him letters about a son she thought was his.

While Jackson didn’t give many details about the real Billie Jean, his producer Quincy Jones said that Jackson found the woman one day lounging by his pool with a bathing suit and sunglasses on. According to Jones, she accused Jackson of being the father of one of her twins, which Jones thought was pretty funny.

The origins of the song, according to Jackson …

“A musician knows hit material. It has to feel right. Everything has to feel in place. It fulfills you and it makes you feel good. You know it when you hear it. That’s how I felt about ‘Billie Jean.’ I knew it was going to be big while I was writing it. I was really absorbed in that song. One day during a break in a recording session I was riding down the Ventura Freeway with Nelson Hayes, who was working with me at the time. ‘Billie Jean’ was going around in my head and that’s all I was thinking about. We were getting off the freeway when a kid on a motorcycle pulls up to us and says, ‘Your car’s on fire.’ Suddenly we noticed the smoke and pulled over and the whole bottom of the Rolls-Royce was on fire. That kid probably saved our lives. If the car had exploded, we could have been killed. But I was so absorbed by this tune floating in my head that I didn’t even focus on the awful possibilities until later.”

There is much trivia surrounding this song, some credible and verifiable, others not so much.  I’ll stick with what is verifiable, but here’s one that will knock your socks off … the handwritten lyrics to Billie Jean sold for £24,984, or $30,940 USD, at auction in 2012.

The video for this song is often credited with breaking the color barrier on MTV, as it was the first to make heavy rotation, and more black faces started appearing on the network soon after, notably Prince.  Up to that point MTV had been around for only two years, since 1981, and had been accused of racism, for they had featured no black musicians.  In fact, they did not feature Billie Jean until two months after its release, when it was already at #1 in the U.S.  Walter Yetnikoff, who was head of CBS Records (Jackson was signed to its subsidiary, Epic), recalls threatening to pull all CBS videos from MTV if they didn’t play Billie Jean. He says he threatened to bring Jackson’s producer Quincy Jones in on it as well, and the network acquiesced.

Billie Jean
Michael Jackson

She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene
I said don’t mind, but what do you mean, I am the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round?
She said I am the one, who will dance on the floor in the round

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round

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

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
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son

For forty days and 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, do think twice)

She told my baby we’d danced ’til three, then she looked at me
Then showed a photo my baby cried his eyes were like mine (oh, no)
‘Cause we danced on the floor in the round, baby

People always told me be careful of what you do
And don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts
She came and stood right by me
Just the smell of sweet perfume
This happened much too soon
She called me to her room

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

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
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son

She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son

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
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son

She says I am the one
You know what you did, (she says he is my son) breaking my heart babe
She says I am the one

Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover (don’t Billie Jean)
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Michael Jackson
Billie Jean lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

21 thoughts on “♫ Billie Jean ♫

  1. My oldest was six during the early days of MTV. Michael Jackson was so important to him. He even wore a glove on one hand that I had to cut to look like Michael’s. When he died my grown son was deeply saddened. We have a short video of my second son singing his version of Billie Jean at the age of four. Treasured memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What wonderful memories!!! Despite the controversies over the years, one cannot deny the immense talent that was Michael Jackson. I’m so glad you liked the song and that it brought back happy memories, treasured memories.

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  2. Jill, this is a terrific song. But, seeing Michael Jackson sing it at the 25th anniversary of Motown show was quite memorable. As I recall, The Jacksons just completed a selection of songs, then all but Michael left the stage. He said it is great to do the old songs, but he also liked doing the new songs…Keith

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    • I don’t think I was even aware there was a 25th Anniversary of Motown show, but after reading your comment, I went a-Googling and found the very clip of this song from that show! Awesome and amazing! If I had known of it, I might have played that instead of the official video! Ahhhh Motown. Some of the best music of my lifetime.

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      • Jill, it was an interesting show. They appropriately headlined Diana Ross as she helped grow Motown into what it is, but the star of the show was Michael Jackson. It is one of the most electric performances I have witnessed on TV. Keith

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  3. One of my favorite Michael Jackson songs. I knew nothing about the background story to the lyrics. Couldn’t resist watching the video clip again. It’s also the first time I’m seeing the lyrics. I was struck by the following line: “And [mother always told me] be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth” So apt for our times.

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    • I know, and I understand. I agree with you that I don’t like at all the person that Michael Jackson became, but I still like his music and respect his talent. For me, I can separate the man from his music, but I fully understand why some cannot. It’s partly why I don’t play his songs here often.

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