Pop icon Michael Jackson enjoyed a strong friendship with former Beatles bassist Paul McCartney, one that even saw the two of them collaborate in an artistic fashion. However, that relationship abruptly ended in 1985 when Jackson astonishingly paid $47.5 million to own the publishing rights to the entire back catalogue of material by The Beatles, outbidding McCartney in the process.
The move, unsurprisingly, angered Paul McCartney no end, especially considering that he was the very person who alerted Jackson to the auction in the first place. The former Beatle, quite rightly, felt betrayed and, judging by the corresponding letters written by the Thriller singer—in which he is brutally scathing about The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen—there was clearly no love lost.
Jackson’s letters were recently unearthed by The Sun and have been made public for the very first time, offering a very candid insight into the former Jackson 5 member’s struggle at being a black man in a white man’s world — which he wanted to change.
He was frustrated at the fact that white artists would be deemed as being The King or The Boss—in reference to Elvis and Bruce Springsteen—and Jackson believed there were black artists who were out there that were more talented but were being starved of acclaim.
His criticism of The Beatles receiving so much wild success by making black music more palatable for a mainstream audience is a fair claim, one that even John Lennon discussed in one of his final broadcast interviews when he appeared on Tom Snyder’s ‘The Tomorrow Show’ in 1975.
“People have always been trying to stamp out rock ‘n’ roll since it started, I always thought that it’s because it came from black music and the words had a lot of double entendre in the early days,” Lennon said. “It was all this ‘our nice white kids are gonna go crazy moving their bodies’, y’now the music got to your body and The Beatles just carried it a bit further, made it a bit more white, even more than Elvis did because we were English,” he added.
In his letters, Jackson wrote: “Throughout history, white men have always branded the pages of history with Great White Hopes putting whites over Blacks like nobles like Elvis being the King of Rock and Roll, Springsteen being The Boss and The Beatles being the best.”
He then went on to praise The Beatles stating that they ‘were good’ before scathingly stating that “they weren’t better singers or dancers than the Blacks”. The late pop sensation then brazenly said that whites controlled the media and that they could “make the public believe whatever they desire”.
“I will change this NOW with the power of my songs and dance and looks and total reclusiveness and mystery world. I will rule as the King,” he wrote and added that Elvis was not the ‘king’ and he promised to “show Springsteen who’s boss”, before revealing he was “very angry” and vowed to “change things”.
His aim was very wholesome, he wanted to make sure “white children can have Black heroes so they don’t grow up prejudice. My goal is to become so ‘Big’, so powerful. To become such a hero, to end prejudice. To make these little white kids love me by selling over 200,000,000 albums,” Jackson continued.
The singer added that this had given the fuel he needed to achieve his dreams, which it’s safe to say he managed to make true. “All of this put a fire in me. To get the recognition so ‘whites and Blacks of all races love me to be on the cover of Time, Life, Newsweek,” he wrote.
“But I did it over anger. To get even. To prove myself. I love white people, Black people, all races. I want what’s fair. Now is the time for my kingship forever. I want all races to love as one,” he concluded.
The letter was scathing in parts but at its heart, Jackson was aiming to make a wider point and didn’t care who he trampled on en route to becoming the biggest star of all time — who felt like he had to work twice as hard as his white counterparts to achieve this.