Paul Anka got 50% of his own song, the one he wrote and recorded with Michael Jackson in 1983 but was released this week. He says he also got the promise of another song he wrote and recorded with the dead pop star to be included on a forthcoming album of previously unreleased material. That song is called “Love Never Felt So Good.”
But honestly, being a victim of theft never felt so good as Anka ‘ a songwriting and performing superstar for five decades ‘ cleaned up yesterday. He told me he got 50% of all the mechanical and publishing royalties to “This Is It” plus some points still being negotiated.
He’s not mad. But he does tell the story of how this happened. “Michael and I were recording two duets for my album in 1982 in Las Vegas. This was before “Thriller.” “I Never Heard” was one of them. Later when we were supposed to meet at the recording studio in Los Angeles, Michael didn’t show. The tapes were gone. The engineer told me Michael took them.”
Anka ‘ furious ‘ appealed to Jackson’s lawyer at the time, who was also his lawyer. Jackson eventually turned over the tapes, which belonged to Anka. “But he must have made copies,” Anka told me. “He took his copy and re-recorded the vocal, erasing mine. And that became ‘This Is It.’”
Anka ran into Jackson once at a lawyer’s office years after the incident, but they didn’t discuss what happened. It was always a sore spot for Anka, who eventually forgot about it. He got a minor hit out of the song in 1991 with singer Sa-Fire. Both “I Never Heard” and “Love Never Felt So Good” were registered at BMI under both their names.
“When the calls started coming in on Monday, I didn’t know what was going on,” Anka told me. He figured it out quickly. The Jackson executors were quick to fix the situation. “They didn’t know how it happened. No one there is to blame.”
Who is to blame? Michael Jackson. In death he’s just as much trouble as he is in life. This was an example of his basic dishonesty. He was not a great songwriter and often took credit for material that wasn’t his. “He was more of a riff writer than a melodist,” said Anka, whose hits include Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and the theme music to the Johnny Carson “Tonight” Show.
“And then John McClain” ‘ one of Jackson’s executors ‘ called me up after this happened and said, the other best song in the box of tapes I found is called “Love Never Felt So Good,” Anka told me. “I told him, that’s mine, too.”
So that is it, and I’m sure Michael Jackson’s legions of fans will be upset to hear this or dispute it. But the story of this single should not interfere with the “This Is It” movie or much else. (Ridiculously, Jackson received nominations from the second-rate American Music Awards yesterday.) Rather, it speaks to Jackson. It also recalls an incident in 2001 when he “stole” the finished tapes for his “Invincible” album and refused to return them until Sony procured him a part in “Men in Black 2.” That’s the real Michael Jackson, whether he was murdered or not.
Maybe “This Is It,” the single, is jinxed. McClain actually had Michael’s brothers Jackie, Marlon and Tito add backup vocals to it. (It’s unclear whether Jermaine ever showed up.) The only thing Michael would have wanted less was his father in charge of his estate or children. So maybe “This Is It” is just being haunted.