Did Princess Diana Inspire Her Friend Michael Jackson’s Hit ‘Dirty Diana’?

Princess Diana was one of the great icons of the 1980s and 1990s. So was Michael Jackson. According to a fan theory, Diana inspired one of Jackson’s greatest hits: “Dirty Diana.”

“Dirty Diana” is one of the most beloved songs Jackson ever wrote. Because it was released when Diana was a major figure in the media, people wondered if Diana inspired the song in any way. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Jackson opened up about the song’s inspiration.

Michael Jackson holding records next to Princess Diana | Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Michael Jackson’s masterpiece ‘Dirty Diana’

“Dirty Diana” is a collaboration between Jackson and Steve Stevens. Stevens worked as a guitarist for 1980s rock god Billy Idol. Jackson generally didn’t make rock music, but he seemed to be fascinated by it. When he was working with Stevens, Jackson kept asking him about Mötley Crüe and other rock bands.

“Dirty Diana” is probably the hardest rock song in Jackson’s catalogue. It was arguably a risk for him to release it as a single. The risk paid off handsomely, as “Dirty Diana” hit the peak position on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the fifth number-one single from Jackson’s album Bad. Bad is the only album to produce five number-one singles besides Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

Is ‘Dirty Diana’ About Princess Diana?

“Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson

So was the song about Princess Diana? Jackson told Walters it wasn’t, even though he had met the Princess of Wales. Jackson had some nice things to say about Diana, calling her “very kind, very loving, [and] very sweet.” Diana told Jackson she was honored to meet him and Jackson expressed the same sentiment. Jackson seemed to have a much higher opinion of Princess Diana than the fictional Diana in the song.

Jackson said the song was actually about groupies, although he disliked that term. He said he’d seem groupies doing “everything you’d imagine” with bands his entire life. Some critics decried “Dirty Diana” as a sexist song, but Jackson deemed it a personal favorite.

Michael Jackson’s close friendship with Princess Diana

Princess Diana in a red and white outfit | Bettmann

Jackson and Diana were close and would have long phone conversations. Jackson recalled “She was extremely close by phone… I was still married to Lisa Marie [Presley]. Diana woke me up usually late at night… mostly after three in the morning! And then she held me for hours on the telephone. She talked about children, the press.”

The Princess of Wales clearly made an impression on Jackson. Her death made him very sad. Jackson remembered waking up and learning of her death from his doctor. After that, he began feeling pain in his stomach and his chest. His intuition told him another famous figure was going to die soon.

Not long afterward, Mother Teresa passed away. Walters wanted to know if Jackson thought he was a psychic. Jackson said he wouldn’t describe himself as a psychic, but there were other times when his intuitions turned out to be true. Although Diana tragically passed away, she still made a huge impression on Jackson – even if she didn’t inspire “Dirty Diana.”

Also see: Princess Diana: Why This ‘Very Bad’ Painting of Her Is So Famous