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Michael Jackson's single 'This Is It' dates to a 1983 collaboration with Paul Anka

JACKSON_AP_this_is_it_3Though officially released less than 24 hours ago, Michael Jackson's first posthumous single, "This Is It," has turned out to not be so new after all. After rampant speculation Monday that the song has decades-old roots, a representative to the special administrators for the Jackson estate has confirmed that "This Is It" was originally co-written with Paul Anka in the early '80s.

Anka tells Pop & Hiss that he recorded two songs with Jackson in 1983, both intended for Anka's 1983 album "Walk a Fine Line." One of them, "I Never Heard," contains the identical vocal and piano line heard on "This Is It," Anka said.

Anka said that in the hours since he first heard the song today he had reached a deal to receive half the publishing royalties. He repeatedly called the situation an "honest mistake."

Anka said he was tipped off to the song when he received a call from TMZ's managing editor Harvey Levin, who was inquiring about the song's similarities to a 1991 cut Anka gave to Latin artist Sa-Fire. Jackson and Anka shared a songwriting credit on her version of "I Never Heard." 

"I said, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about yet, but let me check it,' " Anka recalled. "I listened, and there were no similarities; it was the same damn song."

The song takes it name from what would have been Jackson's comeback tour this summer, and will now serve as the title track to a concert film and accompanying album. The film arrives for a limited two-week run on Oct. 28, and the album will be released in North America on Oct. 27.

“The song was picked because the lyrics were appropriate because of the name Michael gave his tour," said a spokesman for special administrators for the Jackson estate John McClain and John Branca. "We are thrilled to present this song in Michael's voice for the first time, and that Michael’s fans have responded in unprecedented numbers. The song was co-written by the legendary Paul Anka.“

Canadian artist Anka came out swinging on Monday, threatening to sue the Jackson estate in comments made to TMZ and the New York Times. He didn't mince words when speaking to the New York Times. “They have a major, major problem on their hands,” he is quoted as saying. “They will be sued if they don’t correct it.”

It's not the first time Anka has had to have conversations with lawyers regarding the song. He said his relationship with Jackson grew strained after "Thriller" became an international hit, and he had to fight to regain control of the tapes to his recording sessions with the artist.

"I took the tapes over to a studio on Sunset Boulevard," Anka recalled about working with the star in 1983, "and Michael was supposed to meet me there so we can go to the next phase of the duets. I go to work, and I am informed by the studio that Michael had sent one of his people over and took the tapes. They stole them. I said, ‘What?’ He didn’t want to do the project anymore." 

Anka said there was no such drama today. He said he heard from the special administrators to the Jackson estate around 2 p.m. "They said, ‘Look, we get it. We made a huge mistake. Please, we apologize. Don’t throw an injunction. We understand that this is your song.’ I said I wasn't going to hold them up, and wanted what was right, and that’s 50 percent," Anka said. "That was my vocal. That was nothing new for Michael."

Yet the version released late Sunday/early Monday features some new flourishes, namely backing vocals from Jackson's brothers. The latter were added to the mix after Jackson's death on June 25, sources familiar with the song's production confirm, and did not exist in any prior form of the song. 

Lyrically and melodically, "This Is It" is nearly identical to a song recorded and released by Latin artist Sa-Fire in 1991. Times critic Ann Powers discussed the similarity in a posting earlier today on Pop & Hiss, writing that the version released by Sony Music Entertainment last night "lacks the popping bass and round-the-way funkiness of Sa-Fire's interpretation, instead residing firmly in the realm of worship music as the King of Pop imagined it."

Anka, who is currently working on a book for release next September, said he had limited interactions with Jackson after the meeting in 1983. He said he recently was listening to the vocals on the songs he recorded with the pop star in the early '80s and was thinking of way to repurpose them.

"I was going to go in and do a duet with him and another artist because I own that track," Anka said. "I was having dialogue with [producer] David Foster, who’s a friend. I was going to take that track and do exactly what they did with somebody else ... But I love what they've done and I do think it's an honest mistake."

The other song to emerge from Anka’s session with Jackson was a song called “Love Never Felt So Good,” which is available online in demo form and was ultimately released by Johnny Mathis.

--Todd Martens

Photo credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (14)

Anka, if it's your song all the way from the early 90's, why didn't you do something with it? Why wait until someone who had the know how to make something of it did something with it to claim it? Why don't everyone just go ahead and make a claim on Michael Jackson eventhough none of you care about him, he is not here to defend himself, how do we know that you didn't give him the rights to the song? Once again, why didn't you do anything with the song until now?

No, you shouldn't get 50%. I doubt if you can even sing anymore.

People need to remember when they critisisms that THIS IS IT was simply the name given to the live concert tour and that there would have been live recordings available for the fans afterwards - Michael didn't choose to die and he didn't choose to release this CD or DVD of his rehearsals and old songs!!!!!!

So what ? Mr.Anka, - the song is co-written with Michael in the early '80s.
Now, for a honesty mistake, Sony decided to put this song on Michael`s film "This Is It". Is a very touching song, and the voice of Michael is fit for this song. Sony made a good job, remastering this song. Mr.Anka, you could, in respect for Michael`s death, to accept the appologize, and not to ask 50% for the song.Don`t be paltry !!! Sorry, but with Michael voice, the song sounds much better, it`s Michael`s soul....

MICHEAL JACKSON IS A GAY FAGET !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ps HE IS A KID MELESTER

to the person who can't spell the derogatory names that they are calling someone who has recently passed away, you need to get a life.

To Paul Anka: Just because your career is down the toilet due to your age and not doing anything else since the 80's, don't start trying to capitalize on someone else. Especially someone who cannot defend themselves.

Everyone needs to let this poor man finally rest in peace. The media, his family, greedy people, and goofballs that have to keep saying he is a "FAGET" and a "KID MELESTER".

He was proven innocent by a court of law of molestation. LET IT ALONE!!! How come I don't hear anything about Pete Townshend and his child porn problems, but when it comes to MJ, all the freaks come out of the woodwork?

Paul Anka was 100% right in taking 50% of the song royalities. He had every right to not do anything to the song until right now. Michael didn't do anything to it until "right now." Kudos for the Jackson family by not making this get dragged out in court, which would only prevent us from hearing it until a settlement. Also it would only serve to pad the lawyers bank accounts as it is pretty clear that Paul Anka was correct in his assertions. I think it was an honest mistake and I'm glad that all parties involved are being civilized and doing the right thing.

Anka's a savvy businessman, as well as a legendary performer and songwriter. If he owns the Jackson tapes and a portion of the writing credits for the song, he should be able to cash in... period. I think he might have felt differently if Jackson's people hadn't backed out of the duets project in such an unprofessional manner. But if what Anka states in this article is accurate, then I can't blame him for the bad blood against Jackson. From what I heard, this flaky behavior was typical Michael Jackson. He always reacted to everything... including business.. in a child-like fashion, making snap decisions on a whim and letting the "adults" clean up his mess. It's also laughable, that the children running SONY music didn't vet the "This Is It" recording properly before committing it to major release.

^ DD must stand for "developmentally disabled" ...

please confirm with a dictionary before posting.

and let the man rest.

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Anka needs to make a public apology for saying that MJ "stole" his song or tape, whatever. How come he called MJ a thief, stealing something that also belonged to him. Legally and commonly he was entitled to have a copy of that tape since he co-wrote the song and sang the song himself. Anka should not make such a casual statement to the public. That's not so thoughtful and irresponsible. The media took Anka's "casual"statement and ran with it. I'm so mad to read on the Internet tons of articles starting with "MJ stole Anka's song" or something in that nature. Just think about his kids and his mom. How would they feel if they read about all this crap written and spoken about their father, her son. It'd hurt them deeply. Anka needs to correct that NOW. MJ did not steal the tape which partially belonged to him too.

Anka is making himself look like an opportunistic jerk!

Can't say I blame ANKA, anything to do with MJ rings the MONEY BELLS. Since it would be worth nothing if Anka released it, he would have to jump on the bandwagon when MJ sings it aye? Everybody always wanted a piece of Michael Jackson and nothing has changed even now that he has passed away. It might have been penned by both Michael and Anka but who is responsible for making it a great song? Michael Jackson. I believe Anka did deserve to get some royalties but 50%! Wow! Just for writing a song? What about Michael's extreme talent and fame that would make the song and not the other way around? I would have given him no more that 10% or even a one off payment. Whatever! I'm glad Michael's not around to see this crap anymore but safe in heaven where no one can touch him. Live on Legend. MJ.

hi mr. anka. how i wish i was you so i can get richer all of a sudden without doing anything after a very very long years..thank you very much michael for helping mr. anka. maybe he really needs money more than your children.

i cant believe he died he was my idol i cant believe im still crying about it!!! i miss you mj RIP


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