Why Michael Jackson Apologized To Daryl Hall For Releasing 'Billie Jean'

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

March 18, 2022

Despite being one of his biggest hits and an iconic track from his Thriller album, Michael Jackson felt guilty about "Billie Jean" for years after its release.

The reason: the song was inspired by the groove in another No. 1 hit from just two years earlier, Daryl Hall & John Oates' "I Can't Go for That."

Jackson, who co-wrote "Billie Jean" with producer Quincy Jones, never reached out to Hall & Oates about the track and was unsure if he'd crossed a line. In early-1985, Jackson had the chance to ask Hall directly if they were cool.

"That happened at the 'We Are the World' session," Hall recalled to Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. "He came up and he said, 'Hey, man, I hope you're okay with that. You know, I stole 'No Can Do' for 'Billie Jean.'

"I said, 'It doesn't sound like 'No Can Do' to me! Sure, no problem!'" Hall replied. "He was really nice about it."

While the drum grooves in the two songs are nearly identical — with "Billie Jean" being just slightly faster — the songs use different chord progressions in different keys.

Listen to "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do" above and "Billie Jean" below.

Check out the full Out of the Box interview via the player at the top of this page.

Daryl Hall & John OatesMichael Jackson
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