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TV Legends Revealed | Did Michael Jackson Actually Sing on ‘The Simpsons’?


TV URBAN LEGEND: Michael Jackson didn’t actually do any singing in his guest appearance on The Simpsons.

Guest-starring on The Simpsons has become almost a rite of passage for celebrities (a while back, we featured a TV legend about Justin Timberlake’s ill-fated first appearance as a guest voice on the long-running animated series). However, in the early days, producers allowed their guest stars to use pseudonyms; the first to do so, Dustin Hoffman was credited as “Sam Atic” (get it?) in Season 2’s “Lisa’s Substitute.”

In the Season 3 premiere, “Stark Raving Dad,” Michael Jackson appeared as “John Jay Smith,” playing Leon Kompowsky, whom Homer Simpson meets after being accidentally committed to an asylum. In the episode, Kompowsky, who believes himself to be Michael Jackson, sings the hit songs “Billie Jean” and “Ben,” as well as an original, “Happy Birthday, Lisa,” as a birthday present from Bart Simpson to his sister. However, while Jackson did appear on the episode, did he actually not sing on it? Find out!

It’s interesting seeing how “Stark Raving Dad” came about: Jackson apparently was a fan of the show and contacted Matt Groening about making an appearance. Jackson was particularly a fan of Bart, and he wanted to write a song for the character. So Jackson actually co-wrote the hit “Do the Bartman,” although because he was under contract to another music company he couldn’t legally take credit (his co-writer Bryan Loren was solely credited). While “Do the Bartman” was never released as a single in the United States, it was distributed in other countries and did, indeed, become a No. 1 hit in the United Kingdom, Australia and Norway, among other markets.

leonkomposkyWhen he was given the original script for the episode, Jackson had a few suggested changes, including that his character would write a song with Bart (it ended up being “Happy Birthday, Lisa”). In addition, Jackson insisted that before he commit to the episode, the show had to do a read-through of the script with him (the cast and crew traveled to his manager’s office to do so). Jackson finally agreed, but under two conditions: one normal and one more than a little odd. First, he would only do so under the aforementioned John Jay Smith pseudonym. Again, as the show had done it recently with Hoffman, it wasn’t a big deal. Second, however, Jackson would only perform the speaking parts; an impersonator would handle the singing. He wanted to trick his brothers into thinking it was him singing on the show.

The producers agreed, although as it turned out, they were so annoyed by having to evade questions about whether it was actually Jackson doing the voice they made a rule that, from that point on, all guest voices on The Simpsons would have to be willing to be credited under their actual name.

Just to add extra confusion to the situation, when it came time to record the episode, while the impersonator, Kipp Lennon, performed the songs in the episodes, Jackson decided to also record the songs, just for fun. As a result, there has always been some murkiness, even among Simpsons staffers, as to whether any of Jackson’s performances were used on the final show. The Simpsons music editor Chris Ledesma, however, has confirmed that it was only Lennon’s performances used on the actual show.

So the legend is …


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  • Eric Lee

    I ALWAYS wanted to know whether that was Michael Jackson or not in that episode!!

  • PietroMaximoff

    weird guy….

  • Jason

    Ok, so this is really bizarre

  • Marcos

    One of my favorite bits of Simpsons trivia is that they satyrized the whole sittuation in the episode where there’s the Itchy and Scratchy movie (in which Bart can’t see because he is grounded). Lisa says the opening day for the movie is so incredible there were even celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson, “using pseudonyms, of course, but you just KNEW it was them!”.

  • Alex

    I heard it was a contractual thing. Michael Jackson was obviously under contract to a record company, which would of made his work exclusive to that company, so he couldn’t perform on the show.

  • Greg

    Sam Atic… I don’t get it.

  • David Fullam

    Probably my fave bit of Simpsons lore. heck, I fell for it. For many years I figured they got one hell of an impersonator.

  • Kenshiroh

    He was actually credited as “Sam Etic” (Semitic), not “Sam Atic”.

  • Morinen

    Jackson’s version of “Happy Birthday Lisa” is available on Youtube along with Kepp Lennon’s. Check it out and see if you can tell the difference between the two :)

  • zero

    >Dustin Hoffman was credited as “Sam Atic” (get it?) in Season 2’s “Lisa’s Substitute.”

    No, I don’t get it. Please explain.

  • bobmoo79

    I always thought the singing was off but the speaking voice was fine. This story explains why!
    This was just after Jackson signed the biggest recording deal in history and understandably Sony were keeping their biggest asset to themselves. He signed in March 1991 and the show first aired in September 1991. I would be very interested to hear the version(s) Jackson himself recorded – I wonder if the MJ Estate have managed to find them.
    Bart and homer Simpson also appeared in Jackson’s music video for ‘Black Or White’ released in 1991 (the cameo is not included in the edited itunes version of the song)

  • bobmoo79

    Why? Because he wanted to be in The Simpsons? Or because he couldn’t sing in the episode for contractual reasons?

  • bobmoo79

    Why? Because he wanted to be in The Simpsons? Or because he couldn’t sing in the episode for contractual reasons??

  • Jeff

    Did you not read the article? Him not singing in the episode wasn’t for contract reasons. He chose not to sing to try to trick his brothers.
    The contractual issues cited in the article were over him not being able to take songwriting credit for the song “Do The Bartman”.

  • LouGrizli

    I’ve found the original Sound and it’s Michael who singing!

  • D. Changstein

    Wow, Michael Jackson sure had a fanboygasm being on the Simpsons. Who could blame him.
    I personally want to know whatever happened to the Quantum Leap/Magnum PI crossover. And whatever happened to that footage, and who will raid Bellasario’s vaults for it.

  • MJ

    He did voice it but on the Episode he did not sing it because of Copyright reasons. You can hear the song on the unreleased Dangerous Bonus Disc.

  • Tommy Rankin

    Like many others I’ve always wondered whether it was MJ himself voicing the character or not and it’s really difficult to get a definite answer to that and this explains why people are so confused! So he did the voice but not the singing though he recorded those songs himself even if his recordings weren’t used in the actual episode.

  • Sean Chandler

    The article didn’t say anything about him not being able to sing due to contractual reasons.

  • Jason

    For the reasons below, and the fact that he wanted to appear on the simpsons, but only to do speaking roles. Wanting to fools his brothers, by not singing, but then still doing the songs. For confusing the staff so much that they are not even sure who was singing or not singing. Just a bizarre story all the way around. So much so that there is very little normal in the story, lol.