Rewinding the Charts: In 1983, Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson Thrilled With 'The Girl Is Mine'
Macca & MJ scored the first of two hit duets with the lead single from "Thriller."
LIGHTNING STRUCK TWICE IN 1983 for Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. The pop icons teamed up to achieve the rare feat of scoring two hit duets in little more than a year — with the first, "The Girl Is Mine," rocketing to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Jan. 8, 1983.
The collaboration between the former Beatle and the ex-Jackson 5 singer — who each had built enduring solo careers — came about, as the song's producer, Quincy Jones, told Billboard in 2009, simply because "Michael and I just wanted to work with Paul." Jones suggested the song's subject of two men squabbling over a woman, and Jackson, who was 24 at the time, wrote the tune while watching cartoons with McCartney, who was 40.
With its star power-times-two, "Girl" served as the lead single from Jackson's opus Thriller. Second and third singles "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" followed, both hitting No. 1, for seven and three weeks, respectively, in 1983. The album has been certified 32-times platinum by the RIAA – the best total of all time.
Jackson and McCartney did even better with their next duet, "Say Say Say," which hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 for six weeks beginning in late 1983. It was released from McCartney's Pipes of Peace album, which includes a third duet, "The Man."
Despite their chemistry in the studio, the pop stars' relationship deteriorated in 1985 after Jackson acquired the ATV Music Publishing catalog, which included rights to The Beatles songs written by McCartney and John Lennon. McCartney, who, ironically, had counseled Jackson on the value of owning publishing rights, also had sought to purchase the catalog.
The two never collaborated again, but McCartney, who still tours and records, had only kind words to say when Jackson died suddenly in 2009 at the age of 50 due to a fatal combination of medications in his system. "He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul," said McCartney. "His music will be remembered forever, and my memories of our time together will be happy ones."
This story first appeared in the Billboard issue dated Jan. 14.