Paul McCartney Got Defensive When Michael Jackson Asked to Work With Him

Paul McCartney has been writing songs since he was a teenager and making money with his music for more than 60 years. Macca had an easy time writing songs with John Lennon in The Beatles. He found new artists to collaborate with when the band broke up, but Paul said once got a bit defensive when Michael Jackson asked to work with him.

Paul McCartney (left) got a little defensive when Michael Jackson (right) cold called him about working together, but they collaborated on three songs in the early 1980s.
Paul McCartney (left) and Michael Jackson in the studio | Bettmann

Paul McCartney successfully collaborated with several artists after The Beatles broke up

A photo of him and John Lennon he saw later reminded Paul he wasn’t the villain of The Beatles’ split, but he didn’t necessarily believe that at the time. His relationship with John was so strong that he has dreams that sound like nightmares with Lennon in them. Still, he didn’t hesitate to form a new band not long after the Fab Four broke up. 

Macca’s new group, Wings, released several albums in the 1970s. Later, he and Stevie Wonder teamed up on “Ebony and Ivory,” which got banned in South Africa, wrote songs with Elvis Costello, partnered with the former members of Nirvana, overcame his hesitancy and worked with Ye, and chewed celery on a song for Britpop group Super Furry Animals (h/t NME). And that’s not anywhere close to a comprehensive list of Macca’s collaborations. 

The collaboration with the King of Pop eventually earned him one of his 81 Grammy nominations, but Paul was a little uneasy when Michael Jackson contacted him about working together.

Paul got a little defensive when Micheal Jackson called and asked about ‘making some hits’

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Paul has never hesitated to work with other musicians. The relatively short sessions with Jackson produced three songs. The Grammy-nominated “The Girl Is Mine” was the first single from Thriller, and “Say Say Say” and “The Man” both appeared on Paul’s Pipes of Peace record.

The partnership proved to be successful, but Paul admitted he got a little defensive when Jackson asked to team up, as he told David Letterman (via YouTube):

“I was at home, and my phone rang, and a little voice talked to me. I said, ‘Who’s this?’ kind of guarding my privacy, [you know,] private number. ‘Who’s this?’ ‘It’s Michael.’ ‘Michael who?’ because I thought it was sort of dodgy. But anyway, he said, ‘Michael Jackson,’ and he said, ‘Do you wanna make some hits?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ You know, being of the hit-making variety. So we did, and it was really nice. He came to my house and got to know the family and stuff … It was very nice. We had a really good time and made a couple of records together, did a video, and were really good friends.”

Paul McCartney reveals how he got a bit defensive when Michael Jackson called him

Somehow, Paul was completely in the dark about the King of Pop wanting to work together. It’s a little surprising Macca’s management team didn’t provide a heads up about Jackson calling.

If Jackson somehow tracked down Paul’s number without going through an agent or manager, it’s both impressive and dodgy. And if that’s how it went down, Paul had every right to be a little defensive about an unsolicited call on his home phone.

Jackson’s other dodgy move ruined his friendship with Paul

Paul got past feeling a little defensive about Jackson’s cold call, and their partnership in the early 1980s proved to be successful. Before they teamed up, Macca wrote a Wings song for Jackson, one the King of Pop covered on Off The Wall. However, their friendship couldn’t withstand some of the business maneuvers Jackson made years later. 

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Paul told Letterman that Jackson asked him for business advice, to which Macca told Jackson to get into music publishing. The King of Pop did exactly that. He bought the publishing rights to The Beatles’ music, which Paul considered a dodgy move.

Not only did Jackson buy the rights to The Beatles’ catalog, but he also refused to give Paul and the rest of the Fab Four a bigger share of the profits from the tunes they wrote in the 1960s. Jackson’s move — buying The Beatles’ songs and not giving them a bigger cut — put off Paul, and they never worked together again.

Paul McCartney got defensive when Michael Jackson called him out of the blue in the early 1980s. It would have benefited him to keep his guard up when Jackson swooped in and bought The Beatles’ music.

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