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Michael Jackson’s Halloween Anthem and the 2009 TV Special That Never Was, But Still Could Be!

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It’s that time of year again – when the King of Pop and his dancing ghouls rise triumphantly from the grave to top music and video streaming charts around the world.
Michael Jackson dressed as a surgeon for Halloween.
Michael Jackson dressed as a surgeon for Halloween.

It’s no secret that Michael Jackson loved Halloween. From the light-hearted thrills to disguising himself in costumes and even the candy – Halloween was tailor made for Jackson.

“I love to trick or treat,” revealed the pop star in a 2001 interview.

“I love dressing up like some kind of monster… and knocking on doors. Nobody knows it’s me and I get candy!”

But Jackson says that it wasn’t until later in life that he was able to fully embrace the spooky season:

“I missed out on Halloween for years, and now I do it. It’s sweet to go door-to-door and people give you candy. We need more of that in the world. It brings the world together.”

“I always thought Halloween and Thriller fit each other like a glove,” said Jackson in a 2008 statement about Thrill The World – an annual event in which people around the world dress as zombies and simultaneously perform the dance routine from Jackson’s legendary 1983 short film.

Above: Michael Jackson’s short film for “Thriller”

According to ChartMasters.org – whose formula calculates an overall ‘sales’ figure based on physical sales, digital downloads, YouTube views and audio streams – “Thriller” is by far the biggest selling Halloween-themed song of all time, having sold 23,430,000 copies to date (updated October 26, 2021).

As of October 31, 2021, the “Thriller” short film has been viewed 950 million times on Jackson’s official YouTube channel – 800 million for the full 13-minute version, and 150 million for the shortened version.

Not bad for an early 80s music video which has never been commercially released in restored quality.

Above: The Story of ‘Thriller’ – Michael Jackson’s Halloween Anthem, taken from the podcast The Genesis of Thriller

Needless to say, Halloween wouldn’t be the same without “Thriller,” and “Thriller” has has certainly benefitted from annual sales boosts afforded to it by Halloween.

Like Jackson said, they fit each other like a glove.

Halloween Television Special

When Michael Jackson agreed to perform a 50-date concert series at London’s O2 Arena, his agreement to do the shows came with a specific requirement – that the tour’s promotor, AEG Live, would also help Jackson pursue his dreams in the film industry.

One of the first projects that Jackson wanted to bring to fruition was a Halloween television special centred around his 1996 short film called Ghosts.

To do this, AEG boss Randy Phillips set up a meeting between he, Jackson, and Grammy Award show producer Ken Ehrlich.

AEG’s Tim Leiweke and Jackson’s manager Frank Dileo joined Jackson, Phillips and Ehrlich for the meeting, which took place at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on June 24, 2009 – the day before Jackson’s death.

“When I saw him the night before he passed, we were having a meeting about a Halloween project that Michael wanted to do with CBS,” Ehrlich recalls.

Jackson’s handwritten note detailing plans for a 2009 Halloween special centred around his Ghosts short film.

When I asked Randy Phillips about it, he told me that Jackson was excited to bring his masterpiece to the masses, adding that Jackson was going to host the show himself.

“Ken Ehrlich was to produce the show for Michael,” said Phillips via email. “It centered around the Ghosts footage Michael had personally financed. The intent was to create a yearly Halloween television special. Michael was going to host and perform on the show.”

With the This Is It tour expected to bring the public’s focus back to Jackson as an artist, October 2009 loomed as the perfect moment for the reintroduction of Ghosts, portions of which were to feature in the This Is It concerts themselves.

Ghosts is a 40-minute film co-written by Jackson with legendary horror writer Stephen King, and directed by Stan Winston. Jackson plays the roles of several characters in the film including the fun-loving yet eccentric ‘Maestro,’ the bigoted town ‘Mayor,’ and the ‘Skeleton’.

At face value, the characters are very different. But they all have one thing in common – they can dance like the King of Pop!

“The video contains some of the best, most inspired dancing of Jackson’s career,” said Stephen King in a moving piece published shortly after the entertainer’s death. “If you look at it, I think you’ll see why Fred Astaire called Jackson ‘a helluva mover’.”

Jackson’s planned Halloween special was set to be broadcast by CBS on October 31, 2009. This was perfect timing for all parties.

By Halloween 2009, Jackson would have been one month into a three-month break from the This Is It tour.

Jackson’s final show of the tour’s first leg was scheduled for September 29. The pop star was not scheduled to return to the stage until January 7, 2010, for the commencement of the second leg.

AEG’s Phillips told me that Jackson’s ‘performance’ for the special would have been sourced from footage of Jackson performing a medley including “Thriller,” “Ghosts” and “Threatened.”

The footage would have been captured during the first set of This Is Is concerts.

Jackson’s manager, Frank Dileo, echoed Phillips’ sentiments that Jackson was excited about the project.

“Michael was very happy. I solidified [the] Halloween special that he wanted,” explained Frank Dileo in an interview.

“We laid out what we wanted to do with the film, Ghosts, and what his participation was. He was extremely happy.”

“Who’s doing sculpture for Halloween special?”

Tragically, plans for both the This Is It tour and Halloween special came to an end when Jackson died on June 25th, 2009 – the day after Dileo ‘solidified’ the deal for the special.

Several Halloweens have come and gone since Jackson’s death, and his planned Halloween special has never been brought to fruition.

However, many of Jackson’s fans believe it should be.

Despite being relatively unknown by the general public, Michael Jackson’s Ghosts – which would have been at the centre of the CBS broadcast – is arguably among Jackson’s finest work, and Jackson’s legions of loyal fans around the world have made it clear that they’d love for the film be officially released in high-definition by the pop star’s estate.

And not only the film itself, but an extensive ‘making of’ documentary to go with it.

In a 2001 interview, Jackson was asked whether he had any plans to release Ghosts.

“Yes,” he answered, adding:

“It will be released as a DVD in its entirety, and some of The Making of Ghosts. That was one of my most favourite things I’ve ever done, because it’s been a dream of mine for a long time to do something scary but comical at the same time. It’s all the elements. It’s just fun. Because I don’t want to scare people to the point where they’re afraid to go to sleep. I want it to have a little twist of humour. And within the laugher, there is a tear, you know? It’s fun.”

There’s no question as to whether or not Jackson would approved of its release, yet his wishes have never been brought to fruition.

NOTE #1: Since the publication of this article, Jackson’s estate and Sony released Scream – a compilation album containing some – but not all – of Jackson’s spooky songs, along with a number of thematically irrelevant tracks to make up the numbers.

Jackson’s estate also produced an animated film, called Michael Jackson’s Halloween, using Jackson’s music. This film is in no way connected to Jackson’s vision for the Ghosts Halloween special.

The below review sums up the estate’s version of the Halloween special:

Above: RebelTaxi review of Michael Jackson’s Halloween

NOTE #2: In the lead up to Halloween in 2020, Jackson’s estate released the full 40-minute version of Ghosts on YouTube in a seemingly improved quality… for four days only. It did not reappear in 2021.

NOTE #3: A ‘Halloween remix’ of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” produced by Syzz – which highlights Jackson’s chorus vocals – was released by Universal Music Group on October 15, 2021.

Above: Somebody’s Watching Me (Syzz Halloween Remix)

Jackson’s estate and record label could easily do something like the “Somebody’s Watching Me” remix for any number of Jackson’s Halloween-friendly songs, which include Thriller, Ghosts and Is It Scary.

Mashups and mega-mixes could also be done using all of them.

Another thing Jackson’s estate could do is revisit one of the tracks that Jackson wanted to release as a single, but was never able to.

During an online interview with Get Music and Rolling Stone in 2001, Jackson was asked if there were any tracks on his Invincible album that he wanted to create music videos for.

“Absolutely,” responded Jackson.

“I can’t wait to do Threatened. It’s a kind of scary one with Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone. I can’t wait to get my hands on that one.”

Alas. Just like the Halloween TV special for CBS, the “Threatened” short film Jackson was so eager to produce never came to fruition.

But it could! And so could the Halloween special. But whether they will is another story.

I’ll leave you with a fantastic fan-made video for Threatened”. Happy Halloween!


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. john lomas

    October 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Ghosts was released on a limited edition video box set with the on the line ep and blood on the dancefloor album it also had a replica ghosts program I have it here unfortunately it just missed the DVD boom that followed a year or so later and wasn’t re released on DVD but their are vcd copies which came out in Japan I think its mjs best ever work I really hoped he would do more like this in the future alas it wasn’t to be

  2. Etkar

    October 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    So many great things would have happened if MJ hadn’t died… Comeback tour, a new album and a Halloween special? What more could someone ask for? If I ever get my hands on a time machine I’m going to go back in time and stop Conrad Murray.

    • khaled

      October 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      It’s Allah’s will , only God could decide who will live and who will die !

      • Fred Nichols

        November 2, 2013 at 2:18 am

        Idiot

  3. sandi

    October 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    I sincerely hope that Ghosts can be shown worldwide as a tv event or even a cinema release. it sure deserves it. first time i saw it, my jaw dropped.

  4. S. L. Trout

    October 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Damien, there’s no question but that the Estate should be focusing on re-mastering Ghosts and the making of-documentary. I couldn’t agree with you more that it is Michael’s finest work with regard to imagination, creativity and powerful message. After reading your take on Quincy Jones suing the Estate, I continue to have my doubts about them. Releasing Ghosts as a Halloween special woud be a wonderful tribute to Michael. Perhaps they will do it next year. It will then be five years since his passing. Frankly, I think it should be an annual special. There are millions of people, fans included, who would watch it and enjoy it. It has the potential to become a cult movie, just like Rocky Horror Picture Show. He deserves to have Ghosts recognized. Thanks for focusing on it. You are awesome, my Friend!

  5. CEThom

    October 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Megamixes are a dreadful idea, in my opinion. MJ himself said he hated it when people remixed his songs.

    I can’t see the Estate making a good job of a posthumous ‘Threatened’ video, based on the toe-curling bodge-jobs they made of Hold My Hand, Hollywood Tonight and Behind The Mask. It’s also difficult to see how a Halloween Special could be put together in MJ’s absence, short of just showing Ghosts and Thriller with a bit of making of footage – and I think that’s already been done, about 10 years ago.

    I would certainly be in support of a comprehensive DVD release of Ghosts, with extensive ‘making of’ features. We know that a wealth of ‘making of’ footage, including on-set interviews with MJ, exists. I imagine the only reason they haven’t done it is because it wouldn’t be a money-spinner. It isn’t particularly well-known, doesn’t feature any big hits and is quite dark and challenging. It doesn’t fit the caricature image they have chosen to exploit for maximum profit.

    I can’t understand why the Making of Thriller has never had a DVD release, though. A horrendous oversight. How can the Estate be apparently planning a 3D transfer of something as cringe-worthy as the HIStory Tour when it has something as seminal and significant as the Making of Thriller – at one time, I think, the biggest selling home video of all time – sitting in the vault gathering dust?

    • Damien Shields

      November 1, 2013 at 5:58 am

      Megamixes: I agree. In my opinion they’re not great. But I’m not talking about releasing it on a CD worldwide, adding it to MJ’s official discography and acting like it was what he wanted. All I’m suggesting is an EP containing a megamix for use at parties and on radio, plus all the original tracks featured within. Put up an iTunes advertisement once a year, on Halloween and the days leading up to it. Instead of selling 3 versions of “Thriller” and having it appear #21, #65 and #97 on the charts, sell the Michael Jackson Halloween EP with all the songs and a mix. Maybe even bundle the video in there! Based on all the sales it’d probably chart. Just a suggestion 🙂

      “Threatened” video: I agree. In my opinion the directors used for the posthumous videos so far have been sub-par when it comes to Michael Jackson and short films. The Estate actually asked Mark Romanek (“Scream”) to do a video for “Breaking News” (before single plans were cancelled after fans protested its authenticity) and “Hold My Hand” but he said no to both. Thank fuck he didn’t touch “Breaking News.” I believe there is enough material and creative ideas to pull off something brilliant for “Threatened,” especially if they put a decent budget into it. But we know that won’t happen. Money and resources are put towards legally pursuing foreigners who sell keyrings and lighters rather than creating something that could visually enhance a piece of work that Michael did during his life.

      Ghosts DVD: I agree.

      Making of “Thriller”: I agree. December 2013 is the 30th anniversary of the “Thriller” short film and making of documentary. What better time to release it? Ultimate combo of Thrillerness and Christmas. That WOULD be a money-spinner.

      • Fred Nichols

        November 2, 2013 at 2:52 am

        Making Of Thriller DVD is a No-Brainer and if the stories I’ve read are true about the high-quality Victory Tour tapes that Michael had are true, I’m confused about what the Estate is waiting for…As for Ghosts,
        I’m going to be honest with you. I love Michael Jackson, but while some fans call it his best work, & I do enjoy it overall, the truth is, some of it is annoying. It’s obviously too long for what it is truly meant to be. There is far too much filler in the Ghosts video. The seemingly endless section where the “ghouls” are walking up & down walls while Michael constantly screams & yells to the point that even a fan as big as I am, gets annoyed. I can only imagine what others would think. My wife & daughter watched it for the first time with me a couple of years ago and they both had that “Is this part ever going to end?” look on their faces. In fact my wife did ask “why does he keep yelling”. I had know idea how to answer that and I was a bit embarrassed during that portion of the film. In my opinion, it’s not as good as fans make it out to be. If they do plan on releasing it, I think they better edit it down a bit or do us all a favor & put it in a “do not release box” with the History tour. Aside from some fantastic dancing (as always with MJ) it’s just too dragged out. I hate to be a downer, but I just can’t exaggerate the “greatness” of something just because it’s Michael. It’s definitely not his best work and I don’t think it would sell beyond his established fan base if released as is. I would buy it. I have the VHS Ghosts box set & the VCD, but I don’t watch them. I’ve seen them maybe 4 or 5 times. I really hope I’m not coming off like I’m bashing Michael.

        • CEThom

          November 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm

          You’re right, there are portions which are a bit weird. During the 90s, MJ did become a bit obsessed with standing in front of/on top of wind machines and screaming ‘hooooooooaaarrrrh!’ over and over again. I’m not really sure what all that was about.

          It’s one of the things that makes HIStory Tour so cringe-worthy, actually. You’ve got a man onstage miming to album vocals from as far back as 1979, then constantly shrieking ‘hooooooooo!’ over the top of them through a scratchy head mic, which serves only to demonstrate the clear difference in both voice and sound quality between the recorded vocals and the live screaming, thus making it painfully obvious that he’s miming.

          Moreover, fans often make up stories that MJ was miming because he had laryngitis (for two years!?) or nodules – of which there is no evidence at all – but the fact that he keeps screaming at the top of his voice proves beyond any doubt that these stories are not true. Nobody with nodules or laryngitis would do that to their throat/vocal chords – and especially not a long-time professional singer like MJ – because it can cause massive, irreparable damage. Besides which, they’d be incapable of doing it as loudly and frequently as MJ did if they were genuinely suffering with either affliction.

          On top of all that, it’s just weird. Why did he keep pointing to the sky and screaming ‘hooooooaaaarrrhhhh!’? Nobody bought a concert ticket to see MJ miming to the 1979 recording of ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ and sprinting around the stage making strange roaring noises. It was very peculiar.

          • Blythe

            December 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

            “Nobody bought a concert ticket to see MJ miming to the 1979 recording of ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ and sprinting around the stage making strange roaring noises.”
            Michael Jackson’s billion dollars says diferrent.
            What nobody is paying for is somebody like u behind a computer tearing him down.

        • Constance

          November 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

          I don’t agree with you. Ghosts short film is justbp perfection. The effects, the plot the whole movie is just magic. And the yelling and screaming is part of the magic. They show the strength of Maestro, his unbreakable soul and spitit, his superiority and in my opinion maybe the ecstasy music gives toMichael( music is MJ )and the perfection of it!

  6. Zakk

    October 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    that halloween special sounded like it would have been fantastic, i would have loved to see that. it’s a shame Michael passed before any of this could happen, the world was so ready for his return and i think these projects would have done Michael Justice. He had such a grasp on halloween, a vision into the creative side.. to thrill the world’s audiences with theatre/illusions & Magic. i do hope that the estate will one day plan to have this project created, using the red shirt rehearsal of Thriller from at the forum in 2009. And the airing/release of Ghosts. Maybe they could plan a 5 track ep, using: 1. Monster (authentic Differential demo). 2. Is It Scary. 3. Thriller. 4. Ghosts & 5. Threatened. it could be a real treat. and i’d certainly love that. Ghosts Blu-Ray, remastered by Warner Bros. who worked on the Moonwalker Blu-Ray in 2010, with Making of footage would be great.. the motion capture footage is fantastic.. as is the footage they used in the vh1 & wowow making of’s. and yes, the making of thriller definitely needs to be released. Maybe with some additional making of footage as bonus features.

  7. TJ

    October 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Thriller and Halloween will always go hand in hand.. Forever. And the possibilities of Thriller/Halloween shows, movies, products etc are endless.. But I’d hate to see the suits currently running the MJ estate shit out a subpar product simply to further cash in on MJ’s art.
    I’d rather wait till someone responsible is calling the shots, and produces something with the respect it deserves.

  8. CEThom

    October 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    “Maybe they could plan a 5 track ep, using: 1. Monster (authentic Differential demo”

    Monster is not a Michael Jackson song. It is a fake. The voice on the track demonstrably does not sound like Michael Jackson’s in any sense. No proof has ever been brought forward to suggest he had any involvement in the song whatsoever.

    • Zakk

      October 31, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      I believe there is another recording with the same title that WAS recorded by Michael in the 1990’s.

      • Damien Shields

        November 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

        Yes, Zakk, Michael Jackson worked on a song called “Monster” in 1998 with Michael Prince and Brad Buxer. It was never finished and is not the same song that Eddie Cascio whipped up in his basement.

  9. BZ

    October 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    There was a box set of Johnny Cash’s music called Love, God, and Murder released not to long ago. It compiled songs of similar themes (love, god, and murder) onto three respective CDs. I always thought that would be a great way to re-package MJ’s music. I would even be interested in hearing a good, really, really well-chosen compilation of his ballads (I recall some of the Motown Love CD compilations of the J5/MJ and I always thought song selections could have been better). Something like a transition of Got To Be There to Dreamer (Jacksons) to Human Nature to Push Me Away (Jacksons) to Time Waits For No One (Jacksons) to Someone Put Your Hand Out would make for an achingly beautiful, mesmerising listening sequence.

  10. jason rodgers

    November 1, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Im in 2 minds about this………maybe im in the wrong frame of mind to comment,but am i the only fan to get sick of rehashing old ideas and then putting it out to the world….i dont know……maybe im a bitter fan that used to love any kind of MJ release,but now as im older everything MJ related has become more political..or tinged with regret on how his career has gone………..or should have gone,maybe the whole Estate has ruined things or even the forums,i wish i could go back to a time when i just enjoyed his music without the f**king bullshit………….the whole Ghosts video box set was a tragedy,it did not get the credit it deserved……and i don’t think it ever will.

    • Fred Nichols

      November 2, 2013 at 3:03 am

      Actually I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I like anniversary releases with bonus stuff, but it’s getting a bit redundant. I mean, I can’t wait to tell my wife “wow guess what, they’re releasing Thriller again, but with an interview & a couple of new remixes”. Hell, at this point, I’d prefer the Estate release a coffee mug line or breakfast cereal, MJ-Os.

  11. Marlow

    November 1, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    um What about something animated … the old holiday season with rudolph and all the old claymation animation etc or modern tim burton before christmas type of thing.

    Ghosts as is would be nice too .. but i think we need something added. i dont know BUT Thriller alone on every year on network CBS … ABC (pick a main channel) would be a good deal to sign and have it on every year like clock work like all the other American classic halloween – christmas specials … Thriller really should be on that list as it is a short film .. not only music video. Plus I think its nice to remember the young Michael too. I know Michael loved Ghosts and I do like the beat but the song Thriller had everything plus added Vincent Price laugh… that video should be on every year. It should be on network tv. youtube-dvds are great but the point of the holiday season is to tune into network tv with your family and watch together. its so simple. big audience. Make this happen!

    music stations used to sometimes show it but not everyone has cable and its not the same

  12. helena1247

    November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Damien, I was very much interested to learn more about the meeting on June 24 you mentioned in this post and looked up the article to which you made a link. But that article says that Ken Ehrlich was at the Staples center just by chance:

    • “Ken Ehrlich: I had gone down just kind of coincidentally to Staples, where he was rehearsing, for a meeting with him. And while I was down there, he was in rehearsal. They were going to show him a 3-D film that a guy that we work with a lot (Rob Wagner) had prepared for the tour that was based on Earth Song. And I just happened to walk in, maybe a few minutes before that, and Michael said, “Come on in. You know I’d love for you to look at this thing with me.” And there were several people standing around, you know, kind of watching this. And I think he had probably seen a couple of versions prior to this, but we watched this about-four-and-a-half-minute film. This was to be a standalone piece.” http://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/813388/grammy-awards-producer-dishes-michael-jackson-tribute

    Could you give a link to a source saying that Michael had a meeting arranged for him by Randy Phillips that day, please? Or did I understand it right that Randy Phillips told YOU about it? Or were you quoting someone when you wrote it?

  13. helena

    November 3, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Damien, I was very much interested to learn more about the meeting on June 24 you mentioned in this post and looked up the article to which you made a link. But that article says that Ken Ehrlich was at the Staples center just by chance:

    • “Ken Ehrlich: I had gone down just kind of coincidentally to Staples, where he was rehearsing, for a meeting with him. And while I was down there, he was in rehearsal. They were going to show him a 3-D film that a guy that we work with a lot (Rob Wagner) had prepared for the tour that was based on Earth Song. And I just happened to walk in, maybe a few minutes before that, and Michael said, “Come on in. You know I’d love for you to look at this thing with me.” And there were several people standing around, you know, kind of watching this. And I think he had probably seen a couple of versions prior to this, but we watched this about-four-and-a-half-minute film. This was to be a standalone piece.” http://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/813388/grammy-awards-producer-dishes-michael-jackson-tribute

    Could you give a link to a source saying that Michael had a meeting arranged for him by Randy Phillips that day, please? Or did I understand it right that Randy Phillips told YOU about it? Or were you quoting someone when you wrote it?

    • helena

      November 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Sorry for the double post. The previous one said that my message could not be posted unless I corrected something in the fields marked*

    • Damien Shields

      November 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      About Ken; the coincidence wasn’t that Michael was at the Staples. The coincidence was that Ken came in right when MJ was viewing the 3D “Earth Song” piece and he got to see it. The meeting with Michael was the reason Ken was at Staples. And yes, Randy Phillips personally confirmed that for me. The quote is from a private communication.

      • helena

        November 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm

        Damien, thanks, but could you give a link to the quote from Ehrich mentioned in your text please? I mean this one (the link you provided does not have it):

        “When I saw him the night before he passed, we were having a meeting about another show; a Halloween project that Michael wanted to do with CBS,” Ehrlich recalls.

        The reason I am asking is because I’d like to have a confirmation from Ehrich of what Randy Phillips said to you in a private communication. In his testimony Randy Phillips never spoke of discussing the Ghost project on June 24th.

        The AEG General Counsel trial Shawn Trell also said that the time for developing scripts for three films under their film agreement with Michael expired on June 1 and nothing came of those projects.

        • Damien Shields

          November 4, 2013 at 10:59 pm

          As explained by Randy, “Ghosts” has already been financed by MJ independently. The film was done so the script required no development.

          As for Ken Ehrlich; the quote is hyperlinked by clicking “Ehrlich” in this passage:

          “When I saw him the night before he passed, we were having a meeting about another show; a Halloween project that Michael wanted to do with CBS,” Ehrlich recalls.

          I hope this answers your question 🙂

          • helena

            November 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

            Yes, Damien, now I see it, sorry for overlooking it. But I still think it is a mistake to say that the project Ehrlich discussed with Michael was arranged for him by AEG.

            Ehrlich had been in negotiations with Michael for a very long time.

            On February 4, 2008 when AEG was not even in the picture Ken Ehrlich said he been mulling “for weeks” the idea of marking the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s “Thriller” with a big show. Ehrlich hoped that Michael would perform but agreed to “just have him appear on stage” because Jackson was “saving his moves for a show where he’ll make some money – a “Thriller” TV special and a series of concerts.“ http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/michael-jackson-grammy-awards-gotta-glove-article-1.308906

            So the “Thriller” TV special was discussed or at least envisaged as early as 2008. The 50th Grammy was on February 10, 2008 and those negotiations with Ehrlich had nothing to do with AEG.

            In winter 2009 Ehrlich approached Michael again about him performing at that year’s Grammy [February 8, 2009]. The negotiations must have been at least several weeks before the ceremony, when AEG was not even in contract with Michael. Ehrlich indeed says AEG and Michael “were still in talks”:

            And on June 24th, 2009 Ehrlich says he had a meeting with Michael to discuss appearing at the Grammy awards again – this time in January 2010:

            • “Ehrlich met Jackson at the Stapes Center while he was rehearsing This is It to discuss appearing on the 2010 Grammy Awards.”

            The Halloween project was evidently raised there just as part of their negotiations. “Michael wanted to do it with CBS” as Ehrlich says.

            Frankly, I don’t understand what Ehrlich has to do with the film in CBS. He was there primarily about the Grammy awards and Michael naturally spoke to him of the TV project he wanted to make.

            And your text says the Halloween project was central to that meeting and it was set up for Michael by AEG:

            “One of the first things Jackson wanted to do was produce a Halloween television special focusing on his more horror-type music and film pieces; “Thriller” and “Ghosts”. To do this, Jackson had Randy Phillips set up a meeting between he and Grammy Award show producer Ken Ehrlich.”

            AEG by then had dropped all movie deals with Michael – their contract with him for movie deals expired on June 1, 2009 and was not resumed.

            So when Randy Phillips now is attributing to himself that meeting on June 24 he is not telling the whole truth: Ken Ehrlich had been in negotiations with Michael for a very long time and his meetings with him in winter 2009 and on June 24 were simply a continuation of their previous negotiations.

            AEG HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH IT. Michael was carrying out this work with Ken Erlich ON HIS OWN.

        • Damien Shields

          November 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm

          Firstly; Michael had been talking to AEG since early 2007, so they were very much in the picture in early 2008 when Ehrlich was discussing the Grammys with MJ. However that point is irrelevant as Ehrlich stated that there are a number of people he invited to perform at the Grammys EVERY year – MJ being one of them. He almost got him in 2008 with the “Thriller 25” proposal, as you mentioned. He proposed it in 2009 and MJ said no. And MJ had loosely agreed to do something in 2010 but never got the chance.

          Secondly; AEG would be required to sit in on the meeting with Ken Ehrlich on June 24, 2009 if the This Is It tour was involved in their discussions – which it was. Michael had planned to use footage, which AEG would capture during the tour, to present his live “Thriller/Ghosts/Threatened” performance within the Halloween special. As detailed in the article.

          Thirdly; I’ve presented handwritten notes from MJ, both detailing the Halloween special. One of those notes reads: “Movies when? Randy Phillips. Dileo. Halloween Special. Ken Ehrlich.”

          I hope that helps you understand the situation a little better, Helena.

  14. corlista

    November 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you again, Damien, for the insightful post.. Ghosts is without a doubt my favorite video. Michael’s dancing in it is mesmerizing, literally, and it also gave us a chance to see what a gifted actor he was, something he wanted to do his whole career. Threatened is one of my favorite songs. The few seconds we get to see him dance at the end of the TII Thriller clip with fresh, new moves is my favorite part of TII, brief as it is. I have never understood why Ghosts hasn’t been officially released. How sad that he came so close to releasing projects that were close to his heart and such a disappointment for us as fans. Hopefully your ideas – and those of others – will be heard by the Estate. We all know there’s still so much out there that fans would give anything to see/hear. So much mystery surrounding unreleased material.

  15. Alec

    November 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Why did Frank Dileo claim he booked Michael for an NBC TV special (as opposed to CBS, which you mention)?

  16. Arjun Sanyal

    November 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Fantastic! I’ve been hoping for a Halloween-themed Michael Jackson project! Amazing songs like ‘Thriller’, ‘Ghosts, ‘Is It Scary’ and ‘Threatened’ could be unveiled to the world just like Michael would have wanted, and videos such as the ‘Thriller’ short film, the ‘Michael Jackson’s Ghosts’ film, and live performances of ‘Thriller’ (even the ‘Ghosts’ short film edited from the film) could also be released. They could also re-release the ‘Ghosts Deluxe Collector Boxed Set’ containing the ‘On The Line’ single.

  17. Arjun Sanyal

    November 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Damien,

    If there was to be a Michael Jackson Halloween-themed project, featuring his scary songs such as ‘Thriller’, ‘Ghosts’, ‘Is It Scary’ and ‘Threatened’, do you think it would be possible for ‘Torture’ to be included. The song itself it quite scary (scarier than ‘Threatened’ if you ask me), and it’s not a song many Jackson fans know about.

    Do you think that perhaps some short documentaries could prepared for each of the songs listed above, much like ‘Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller’? I think many fans would appreciate seeing documentaries of how ‘Torture’, ‘Threatened’ and ‘Ghosts’ & ‘Is It Scary’ were made.

  18. TheresaB

    November 8, 2013 at 1:04 am

    Some very good constructive suggestions. But, I absolutely do not agree with allowing anyone to sell MJ merchandise (key rings included) or anything else without licensing. It is stealing and I won’t condone it. Disappointing that several fans excuse it and use it to poke at the estate.

  19. Arya

    January 4, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Excellent article, Damien! This is exactly what I had been dreaming about! Seriously, I was blown over when I saw Ghosts (on YouTube) and kept wondering where the hell I was all these years for not having discovered this masterpiece. And none of my friends knew about it as well! They were stunned when I showed them! Right after that I started searching news regarding a BluRay release of Ghosts and your article gives me hope. I was disappointed when I found out there was very little promotion of Ghosts except that it was premiered at Cannes and its making was shown on VH1 at some point. And its 2014 already but nothing notable is being re-released of MJ’s old works. I really hope the estate gives it the much needed grand release, it is one of the most underrated MJ short films ever! I was hoping it could be released in the theaters in 3D. I had read an article about the estate having plans of releasing Thriller in 3D. They can combine it all as some sort of a spooky movie. In that article, John Landis said he was approached by MJ in 2007 for some project that he declined and I wonder if it was regarding making the short film of “Threatened”. I hope they can also add “Threatened” in there and let the audiences listen this amazing track. Especially after hearing the Immortal Tour’s version I can imagine how epic it can be. 😀

  20. JVL

    April 7, 2014 at 4:05 am

    There is the rumored “Halloween Night” song that MJ recorded in the 2000’s.

    The estate could TOTALLY release a Halloween Night EP

    1. Halloween Night
    2. Ghost
    3. Thriller
    4. Threatened
    5. Is It Scary

    Special edition could include the Ghost and Thriller shortfilms in HD.
    Maybe one 3D animated short film could be built around Threatened & Halloween Night.

  21. walther

    June 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Woah this specific web site is fantastic i adore examining your articles. Be the good work! You realize, lots of people will be looking circular because of this details, you may assist these individuals drastically.

  22. Halloweenie

    November 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    MICHAEL JACKSON IS ALIVE!!!!!!!! >>> https://twitter.com/frontback777

  23. Martin

    September 10, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Hi, I found your article (but I think I already read it at the time) in searching of sources for a Wikipedia page about the new album/compilation Scream who’s set to be released on September 29, 2017. Plus there have been talks of a CBS special in October 2017 and the presentation of Thriller 3D at the Venice Film Festival and Ghosts was shown in HD on the screens at the after party (I was there)! So I think that this Haloween special with Thriller&Ghosts (+a cartoon) is finally happening!
    Martin

  24. Neci

    June 14, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    John Landis was in London in 1983 when Michael Jackson called to ask if he was interested in making a video for Thriller, the title track of the album he’d released a little under a year before. Seemingly unaware of the time difference, Jackson had called at m UK time and the sleepy director had to feign knowledge of the song, which he hadn’t heard. Jackson, for his part, hadn’t seen Landis’s films Animal House, The Blues Brothers or Trading Places; he wanted Landis because of An American Werewolf in London. Landis said he would do the video if it could be a short film, and Jackson embraced the idea. The 13-minute film that resulted changed the music video for ever, becoming less a promo clip than a cultural phenomenon. Even now, Kirsty Wark can perform the Thriller dance on Newsnight as a Halloween joke, and everyone gets it.

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Cascio Tracks

Producer Teddy Riley Comes Clean Regarding Fake Songs From Posthumous Michael Jackson Album

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Legendary producer Teddy Riley has spoken out against the controversial Michael Jackson album he worked on after the pop star’s death, claiming that he believes some of the tracks he was asked to remix for the project are fakes, but that he was “pushed” to say they were authentic.

“I just hope that the truth comes to light because it was never proven to me that it was Michael’s voice,” said Riley in a bombshell video published today by hard-hitting pop culture interviewer DJ Vlad for Vlad TV.

The songs in question, known as the Cascio tracks, were provided to Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson by the pop star’s longtime friend Eddie Cascio and his collaborative partner James Porte.

Cascio and Porte claim that Jackson recorded 12 songs in Cascio’s basement shortly before his death. Three of those songs – “Keep Your Head Up,” “Breaking News” and “Monster” – were included on the Michael album in December 2010.

Riley, who worked extensively with Jackson throughout his life, remixed “Breaking News” and “Monster” for the posthumous project.

Initially, Jackson’s family gave Riley their blessing to work on the project. Michael’s nephew, Taryll Jackson, even joined Riley in the studio.

But upon hearing the Cascio tracks, Taryll believed the vocals were sung by an impostor.

When the rest of the Jackson family heard them, they felt the same way, taking to social media to denounce the Cascio tracks as fakes.

Amidst all the controversy, Riley and Cascio appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talkshow, where they both insisted the vocals were the real deal.

But when interviewer DJ Vlad asked Riley about it, the producer made the explosive claim that he was forced to say the vocals were authentic:

“I was influenced and pushed to say the things that were said.”

The producer went on to explain that he initially demanded proof regarding the authenticity of the vocals, but that no such proof was ever presented.

“They would not prove it to me,” says Riley.

Riley also says that Jackson’s nephew, Taryll, encouraged him to distance himself from the tracks, but that Riley felt too intimidated by those in control of the project to do so.

“I felt I was dealing with some high, powerful people. And I didn’t want no problems at all.”

Riley explains that his decision to continue working on the Cascio tracks ultimately cost him his friendship with Taryll.

“I was like, Taryll, I already got paid. What do you expect me to do? And he stopped speaking to me for a while. And I was like damn, I lost my friend over this.”

Riley said that to be involved in another Michael Jackson project in the future, he would need proof that the vocals were authentic, and for the Jackson family to be on board and involved.

“[Michael] is their family. This is their brother, their son, their uncle,” said Teddy.

“I will not move until I have their blessing. But this time I want a real blessing. I’m not talking about money. I want a real blessing from the family.”

Riley also took the opportunity to apologise to fellow producer Quincy Jones.

During the interview, DJ Vlad reminded Riley that back in 2010, Riley accused Jones of being too old to know the difference between the real Michael Jackson and a fake Michael Jackson.

“My apologies, my apologies,” said Riley to Jones in the video. “I always wanted to say that, because Quincy is someone I look up to… He’s a guy that I worship as my idol.”

Riley’s interview with Vlad TV comes just months after Sony Music and the Michael Jackson Estate abandoned the Cascio tracks.

As part of the settlement of a consumer fraud lawsuit filed against them over the Michael album, Jackson’s estate and Sony removed the three commercially-released Cascio tracks – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – from streaming platforms around the world.

The corporations have also re-pressed the physical CD of the Michael album without the Cascio tracks, and are now selling the amended version via the official Michael Jackson shop online.

For those of you who are interested, a podcast series called Faking Michael, detailing the findings of my 12-year investigation of the Cascio tracks, is currently in production. Subscribe via Apple PodcastsSpotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Huge Win for Michael Jackson Fan as Supreme Court Rejects Sony’s Free Speech Defense in “Fake” Songs Lawsuit

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Two ‘get out of jail free’ cards, used by lawyers for Sony to avoid facing the music in a consumer fraud lawsuit, were ripped to shreds by the California Supreme Court on Thursday last week.

As part of their ruling, the court determined that the description on a posthumous Michael Jackson album cover was indeed commercial speech — not free speech, as lawyers for Sony and Jackson’s estate had argued — and that consumers have a case if false or misleading statements were made in the description.

The unanimous ruling sets an important precedent for the protection of California consumers in cases of alleged fraud moving forward.

This case

The controversy centers around an album titled Michael, released 18 months after Michael Jackson’s death by his estate and Sony Music Entertainment.

Prior to the album’s December 2010 release, members of Jackson’s family claimed that three songs on Michael  — “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” — were fakes, with vocals sung by a Jackson impersonator.

But Sony and Jackson’s estate insisted the songs, which they acquired from the pop star’s friend Eddie Cascio and his collaborative partner James Porte, were the real deal.

The songs are known as the ‘Cascio tracks’.

In response to the controversy, Estate attorney Howard Weitzman said he’d conducted an “exhaustive investigation” during which a host of Jackson’s former producers had listened to the Cascio tracks and confirmed that the vocals were “definitely Michael”. 

But several of those producers dispute Weitzman’s version of events. You’ll hear their stories in an upcoming podcast series called Faking Michael.

Nevertheless, based on the purported findings of Weitzman’s investigation, Sony asserted their “complete confidence” in the authenticity of the Cascio tracks.

With the authenticity a matter of conjecture, fan Vera Serova relied on Sony and the Estate’s assurances — that the tracks on Michael were indeed sung by Jackson — when she decided to buy the album.

Further convincing Serova to hand over her money was the product description printed on the reverse side of the album cover. It stipulated that the vocals were “performed by Michael Jackson”.

But as evidence contradicting the official story emerged, Serova began to believe she’d been duped.

And so she hired a world-renowned forensic audiologist, who conducted a groundbreaking scientific examination of the vocals on the Cascio tracks. His opinion: the vocals weren’t Michael’s.

That forensic examination was the catalyst for what became an eight-year David versus Goliath legal battle, culminating in Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.

Corporations can’t sell fake art as the real deal

“Relief has long been available in California to unwitting purchasers of imitation art who relied on false representations about authenticity” said the court in their 45-page opinion. 

“If Sony’s assertion that Jackson contributed lead vocals affects consumers’ experience of Michael, this illustrates how misrepresentations about an artist’s contributions can harm consumers in ways that matter to them.”

Executive director of the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice, Ted Mermin, who supported Serova in her battle with Sony, said:

“If we are buying an album that is marketed as being the songs of Michael Jackson, it had better have the songs of Michael Jackson.”

As well as setting an important legal precedent protecting California consumers, the court’s ruling inadvertently protects artists. 

Based on the ruling, there is no plausible excuse for falsely attributing fake works to famous artists. This puts songs on par with paintings and sculptures when it comes to outlawing art forgery.

The ruling is a huge win for creatives, whose reputation — and therefore livelihood and legacy — could be at stake if corporations were free to commercially exploit pastiches under their name.

“Misleading attributions on a record jacket might not only confuse consumers […] but also harm a performer’s reputation,” the court’s ruling states.

But what happens if a corporation sells a forgery without knowing it’s a forgery? This was also covered in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Sony’s ‘lack of knowledge’ defense

Sony’s purported ‘lack of knowledge’ was raised by the corporation itself in a 2016 petition to be removed from Serova’s lawsuit.

At the time, lawyers for Sony and the Estate volunteered to argue their case based on the notion that the Cascio tracks were fakes, but that they ‘didn’t know’ at the time they released them back in 2010.

It should be made clear that this wasn’t an ‘admission’ that the Cascio tracks are indeed fake. Rather, it was their way of arguing that ‘even if’ the tracks are fake, they’ve done nothing wrong by selling them to fans as authentic Jackson material.

In a December 2016 trial court hearing, attorney Zia Modabber argued that to be liable for misleading consumers, Sony and the Estate had to know the songs were fake, adding that Cascio and Porte had “failed to disclose to Sony or the Estate that Michael Jackson did not provide the lead vocals.”

But the judge overseeing that hearing didn’t take kindly to Sony’s position, saying:

“I think what [Modabber] is saying here is. ‘We were duped… We didn’t know [Cascio and Porte] were recording stuff in a basement that wasn’t recorded by Michael. [Cascio and Porte] told us it was Michael. We believed it was Michael.’”

The judge accused Sony of throwing Cascio and Porte under the bus before ruling in Serova’s favour, ordering Sony to face the music. 

But Sony appealed, and in 2018 the appeals court took Sony’s side, dismissing the corporation from the lawsuit. 

Serova then challenged the decision to dismiss Sony, petitioning the California Supreme Court to intervene, which they did.

That, in a nutshell, is how we got to Thursday’s ruling — arguments for which were heard by the court on May 24, 2022.

During that May 24 hearing, Modabber again argued that Sony couldn’t be held accountable because they didn’t know the vocals were bogus when they released them in 2010.

But on Thursday, the court rejected Sony’s lack of knowledge defense once and for all, stating that if ignoring evidence was all a corporation had to do to get away with fraud, false advertising laws would be redundant.

“If ignorance around a product’s authenticity were a legitimate defense against false advertising claims, sellers would be incentivized to know as little as possible about their own products,” said the court in their ruling.

“Sellers making claims about their offerings surely do not avoid false advertising regulation […] by scrupulously declining to verify those claims or to acquire knowledge.”

Jeremy Bollinger, one of the attorneys representing Serova, told the LA Times that the court’s ruling was not only a victory for his client, but for all music and art consumers.

“The decision confirmed that it doesn’t matter whether the seller has personal knowledge of the veracity of its statements about its products,” Bollinger said. “If you’re going to sell something, you’re responsible for those representations.”

If they didn’t know in 2010, they knew by 2018

As we discussed earlier: back in 2010, before the Michael album was released, questions were raised regarding the authenticity of the Cascio tracks. 

At that time, several people told Estate attorney Howard Weitzman that they did not believe the vocalist was Michael. They alleged it was another singer, named Jason Malachi.

In response, Estate attorney Howard Weitzman claimed that he spoke to Malachi and confirmed that he wasn’t involved. 

But when fans heard the Cascio tracks, many identified Malachi’s voice — not Jackson’s — on the tracks.

Further validating the reaction of fans was Malachi’s longtime producer, Tony Kurtis. In a barrage of comments posted via YouTube, Kurtis stated that he knew “without a doubt” that Malachi was the vocalist.

Even the aforementioned audiologist noted in his forensic report that the dialect and vibrato of the Cascio vocalist were consistent with Malachi, but not with Jackson.

Then, in early 2018, Malachi hired a lawyer. 

That lawyer then contacted Vera Serova’s legal team to discuss Malachi’s involvement with the Cascio tracks.

Serova and her lawyers claim that Malachi’s lawyer said that his client wanted to help resolve Serova’s litigation with Sony — and to get paid for his involvement.

A meeting between Malachi’s lawyer, Serova’s lawyers and lawyers for Sony and the Estate was arranged.

But according to Serova’s lawyers, the day before the meeting was set to take place, Sony and the Estate cancelled it, and communications with Malachi’s lawyer came to an abrupt end.

For the four years that followed Malachi’s attempted intervention, Sony and the Estate continued to argue their ‘lack of knowledge’ defense, while also continuing to commercially exploit the Cascio tracks as authentic Jackson recordings.

Calls and emails to Malachi and his lawyer — offering them the right of reply — were not returned.

Why don’t Sony and the Estate sue Cascio and Porte for fraud?

In their 45-page ruling, the California Supreme Court supposed that if the Cascio tracks are indeed fake, Sony and the Estate would want to file a fraud action against Cascio and Porte for duping them, stating:

“Presumably, Sony would seek to invoke any warranties, or assert fraud or other claims, against Cascio and his associates if it believed they peddled fake recordings.”

But in this case, it’s the exact opposite.

In fact, Sony and the Estate have stood firmly behind Cascio and Porte since 2010, regardless of the overwhelming evidence and public outcry against them — something that no one, including Jackson’s family, fans and former collaborators can understand.

Songs removed, case closed

In a somewhat anticlimactic end to their eight-year legal battle, just days before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Sony and the Estate reached a settlement agreement with Serova.

As part of the settlement, Sony and the Estate were forced to remove the Cascio tracks from digital retailers and streaming platforms around the world.

Based on Serova’s statements over the years, it was clear that no settlement could have been reached without this demand being met.

It should be noted that, according to Serova, she did not receive any money as part of her settlement.

As she has maintained from the beginning of her legal action, Serova’s main objective in filing this lawsuit was justice for Michael Jackson, his art and his fans. 

And while Sony hasn’t offered refunds — or an apology — to fans who feel they’ve been duped, the removal of the Cascio tracks from digital platforms worldwide has gone a long way to restoring the integrity of Jackson’s discography.

But despite the Supreme Court’s ruling — that the wording on a CD cover is subject to consumer protection laws — it appears Sony and the Estate have opted against recalling CD copies of Michael from music stores or other retailers around the world. 

This is surprising.

The case with Serova is settled only with Serova, meaning anyone else who purchased the album within the statute of limitations — or anyone who might buy the album in the future — would be able to sue Sony and the Estate just like Serova did.

The only difference is that a potential future plaintiff wouldn’t have to argue that the wording on the album cover was commercial speech, or contend with a ‘lack of knowledge’ defense from the corporations.

Now that the case is settled, will the truth regarding the Cascio tracks and the Michael album ever be told?

After selling the Cascio tracks as authentic Jackson recordings for almost 12 years — since December 2010 — Sony and the Estate’s settlement with Serova seems to have absolved Cascio and Porte of liability. At no point were the alleged forgers required to testify under oath, or prove the authenticity of their songs.

And while Sony and the Estate have stated that the recent removal of the Cascio tracks from digital platforms is the “simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” many of Jackson’s most dedicated fans continue to demand answers.

My forthcoming true crime podcast series Faking Michael will explore those answers, taking listeners behind the scenes to uncover the music industry scandal they were never meant to hear about.

Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to be notified when episodes become available.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Alleged Forgeries Removed From Michael Jackson’s Online Catalog After 12 Years of Protests and a Fraud Lawsuit

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Three songs alleged to have been falsely attributed to Michael Jackson were abandoned by the pop star’s estate and record company this week after 12 years of fan protests and a consumer fraud lawsuit.

The alleged forgeries – known as the ‘Cascio tracks’ – come from a collection of 12 songs which producers Eddie Cascio and James Porte claim Jackson secretly recorded in Cascio’s basement in the fall of 2007.

The 12 Cascio tracks were sold to Jackson’s estate a year after the pop star’s death, and three of them – “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” – were officially released by Sony Music on the Michael album in December 2010.

But Jackson’s fans insist the songs are fakes, with vocals sung by an impostor, and they’ve been demanding the tracks be removed from Jackson’s catalog for the past 12 years.

This week, they got their wish, with the controversial songs being removed from streaming platforms around the world. Jackson’s estate also appear to have discontinued the original 10-track CD version of the Michael album, replacing it with a 7-track edition which can now be ordered from their official website.

But according to a joint statement issued by Jackson’s estate and Sony – who are currently co-defendants in a class action lawsuit which alleges that the Cascio tracks are fakes – their decision to abandon the tracks had nothing to do with their disputed authenticity:

“The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music decided to remove the tracks ‘Breaking News,’ ‘Monster’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ from the 2010 ‘Michael’ album as the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” reads the statement, adding that “nothing should be read into this action concerning the authenticity of the tracks – it is just time to move beyond the distraction surrounding them.”

But many fans aren’t accepting Sony and the Estate’s position, because the “conversation associated with these tracks” is founded entirely on their disputed authenticity. According to some fans, removing the songs while defending their authenticity is not way to move “beyond the distraction surrounding them.”

And despite the fact that the “conversation associated with these tracks” has persisted relentlessly for 12 years, Sony and the Estate continued to sell the tracks to unwitting consumers throughout that entire period, while reaping millions of dollars from what many believe are brazen forgeries.

Until now.

The Jackson family tried to warn them

Prior to the release of the Michael album in 2010, several members of the Jackson family tried to reason with the Estate, informing them that the vocals on the Cascio tracks were not Michael’s while urging them not to move forward with their release.

Michael’s siblings Randy, Jermaine and Latoya all claimed that the vocals on the tracks did not belong to their brother.

They were ignored.

Michael’s mother – Estate beneficiary and family matriarch, Katherine Jackson – raised her voice against the tracks.

She was also ignored.

Michael’s oldest brother, Jackie Jackson, also came out against the Cascio tracks, revealing that both he and Estate co-executor John McClain had insisted for many weeks that the alleged forgeries should be removed from the album.

Their concerns were “not taken seriously.”

Michael’s nephews Taryll, TJ and Taj from the group 3T also spoke out, taking to social media to dispute the authenticity of the songs and raise awareness regarding some of what went on behind the scenes. 

Once again, their concerns were ignored.

In a statement issued on the 5th of November 2010, Sony asserted their “complete confidence” in the authenticity of the tracks. It was even reported that two independent forensic musicologists had verified that the vocals were Jackson’s.

Fans reject Breaking News

On the 8th of November 2010, five weeks before the Michael album was officially released, Sony unveiled one of the Cascio tracks – “Breaking News” – in a world premiere on Michael Jackson’s website.

When fans heard the track, they revolted. 

Many rejected the notion that Michael was the vocalist while pointing the finger at another singer named Jason Malachi.

But as they’d done with the Jackson family, Sony and the Estate ignored the opinions of fans.

Instead of reconsidering their plan to release the Cascio tracks, the Estate opted to gaslight fans in a statement, claiming that they’d investigated the authenticity of the vocals and believed “without reservation” that they were indeed Michael’s.

The following month the Estate and Sony took things a step further, stipulating in no uncertain terms that the vocals were “performed by Michael Jackson” on the back cover of the Michael album – released in the U.S. on the 14th of December 2010. 

ABOVE: RESERVE SIDE OF MICHAEL ALBUM COVER

They also arranged for Eddie Cascio to defend the authenticity of his songs on the Oprah Winfrey show. The Jackson family, however, were not invited to tell their side of the story.

The lawsuit

In June 2014, Michael Jackson fan Vera Serova filed a class action consumer fraud lawsuit against Jackson’s estate, Sony, Eddie Cascio, James Porte and their production company.

In her lawsuit, Serova alleges that Cascio and Porte are the masterminds of an “elaborate artistic fraud” in which they forged a collection of fake songs, and that Sony and the Estate misled her and others by attributing those forgeries to Michael Jackson on the Michael album.

As part of her lawsuit, Serova demanded the removal of the Cascio tracks from Jackson’s discography – a demand which now seems to have been met.

But despite the Cascio tracks having now been removed, Serova’s lawsuit remains ongoing.

It has been reported by the media this past week that Sony and the Estate won this case in 2018. 

This is simply not true.

In fact, Serova actually won the initial ruling on Sony and the Estate’s involvement in this case back in 2016. At that time, Sony and the Estate had tried to shirk responsibility, but were ordered to face the music by the Los Angeles Superior Court.

But Sony and the Estate felt they’d done nothing wrong and appealed that ruling – an appeal on which they prevailed in 2018.

In turn, Serova fought back, petitioning the California Supreme Court for review.

And based on the Supreme Court’s view that the appeal court’s ruling was legally “problematic,” Serova won her bid for review.

Oral arguments in that review were heard by the state Supreme Court the 24th of May 2022. 

A ruling has not yet been made, but is expected soon.

Sony and the Estate will need to prevail to be officially removed from litigation once and for all. If they don’t prevail, they’ll remain defendants in this case.

As of today (July 7), neither party has definitively prevailed and there is no judgment.

As mentioned, the original producers of the Cascio tracks – Eddie Cascio and James Porte – have also been sued as part of Serova’s lawsuit. They are sued with fraud, and that aspect of the lawsuit also remains ongoing.

You can hear my opinion on the removal of the Cascio tracks and much more below, in a roundtable discussion hosted by Michael Jackson podcast The MJCast:

I am also working on a podcast series called Faking Michael detailing the ins and outs of the Cascio tracks and the Michael album. Subscribe via podcast apps to be alert when episodes are released in the future.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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‘Blue Gangsta’ and Michael Jackson’s Fascination with America’s 20th Century Underbelly

Below is a chapter from my book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault, revised for this article. The full book...

Creative Process1 year ago

Michael Jackson Meets America in Invincible Album Outtake ‘A Place With No Name’

Below is a chapter from my book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault, revised for this article. The full book...

Cascio Tracks2 years ago

First Amendment Coalition to Support Sony and the Jackson Estate in Fake Songs Lawsuit

There has been yet another twist in the class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova against Sony Music...

Cascio Tracks2 years ago

Californian Government Joins Fraud Lawsuit Against Sony Music and Jackson Estate

The California state government has officially joined a class action lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s estate and record company. In a...

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