Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson had a successful relationship as collaborating artists, but their friendship disintegrated after Jackson bought The Beatles’ catalog away from him. When Jackson first told him his plan, McCartney thought he was joking, unaware of the pop singer’s true intentions.
Paul McCartney didn’t think Michael Jackson would buy The Beatles’ catalog
After Beatlemania took over the world in the 1960s, Jackson was the next artist who sent the world into a frenzy in the 1980s. McCartney and Jackson took advantage of their star power and collaborated on two songs: “Say Say Say” and “The Girl Is Mine”. Both songs were hits, with “Say Say Say” reaching No. 1 in the U.S., and “The Girl Is Mine” peaked at No. 2.
In an interview with David Letterman, McCartney said he took the opportunity to give Jackson some wisdom about the music business. The former Beatle told him to look into music publishing, and he thought Jackson was joking when he said he would get the rights to The Beatles’ music.
“He was talking to me and asking me about business advice, and one of the things I said to him was, ‘Think about getting into music publishing.’” McCartney said. “And he looked at me, I thought he was joking, he said, ‘I’m gonna get your’s’… But it turned out to be true. Which was cool, somebody had to get it, I suppose.”
McCartney hoped Jackson would sell the rights to his music back to him
John Lennon and Paul McCartney initially had the rights to The Beatles’ music through their company Northern Songs Ltd. However, in 1969, they sold their shares of the company, leaving them without the publishing rights. In 1985, The Beatles’ catalog was up for grabs. However, Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney, buying the rights to The Beatles’ music for $47 million.
McCartney had hoped this would be an opportunity to get the rights back from Jackson at a reasonable price. However, Jackson didn’t want to pass on this massive business venture, and their relationship deteriorated.
“I started to ring him up because I thought, ok, he is the guy historically placed to give Lennon-McCartney a good deal at last,” McCartney explained. “‘Cause we got signed when we were 21 or something in a back alley in Liverpool, and the deal remained the same, even though we’d made this company hugely successful.”
“So, I kept thinking it was time for a raise,” he continued. “But I did talk to him about, but he kind of blanked me on it. He kept saying, ‘That’s just business, Paul.’ So, I went, ‘Yeah, it is.’ And waited for a reply. But we never kind of got to it…So, we kind of drifted apart. It was no big bust up. We kind of drifted apart after that.”
Despite getting swindled out of his music catalog, McCartney still had tremendous respect for Jackson and was saddened by his death in 2009.
“He was a lovely man, massively talented, and we miss him,” he concluded.