Why Michael Jackson Had His 'Authorized Soundalike' Perform His Songs on 'The Simpsons'

Why Michael Jackson Had His 'Authorized Soundalike' Perform His Songs on 'The Simpsons'

01/11/2021

The Simpsons continues to draw top ratings after being on the air for over 30 years. Featuring the daily lives of Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta), his wife Marge (Julie Kavner), and their three kids: Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and baby Maggie, the animated show has also hosted a plethora of A-list guest stars.

When music icon Michael Jackson agreed to lend his voice to the show, he let someone else take over when it came time to sing.

Michael Jackson asked to be on ‘The Simpsons’

Mike Reiss, writer and producer of The Simpsons, recalled when Jackson reached out to show creator Matt Groening and requested to be on the show.

“Al Jean and I were assigned the script, and we started with an outline,” Reiss recalled in his 2018 book Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons. “Jackson read it, and offered some funny suggestions. He pitched the scene where Bart tells the town that Michael Jackson is coming to visit, creating an uproar. And he added the scene where ‘Michael’ writes a song with Bart.”

When Reiss met with Jackson to go over the script, he got to hear the music legend perform.

“We had the script reading at the home of Michael’s manager, Sandy Gallin,” Reiss wrote. “I sat next to Michael at the reading and was three feet away from him as he sang ‘Ben’, ‘Thriller’, and the song he composed for the episode, ‘Lisa, It’s Your Birthday’. I couldn’t wait til we got that performance on tape.”

Singing was more in Michael Jackson’s wheel house than acting

When Jackson came in to voice his scenes, the production team soon realized that acting wasn’t his strength.

“Jim Brooks stepped in personally to direct Michael,” Reiss noted. “But Michael was no actor, and Jim is not the only Oscar-winning director to try to squeeze a good performance out of him. Martin Scorsese in the ‘Bad’ video and Francis Ford Coppola in ‘Captain EO’ both tried in vain to make Michael look badass.”

Reiss wasn’t too concerned about Jackson’s lack of acting skills since he knew the Grammy winner would nail it during his singing segments.

“If Michael’s acting wasn’t great, at least his singing would be,” Reiss wrote. “We’d recorded all of Michael’s spoken parts in the morning, and we would finish the day with the songs. And that’s when Michael called in a little white guy.”

Michael Jackson handed over the mic

To everyone’s surprise, Jackson had brought someone along to perform the songs for the show.

“‘This is Kipp Lennon – he’s my authorized soundalike,’” Reiss recalled Jackson telling them. “Michael stood by laughing as Kipp performed all the songs in that episode. It’s an amazing impression, but if you watch the show again, you can tell that Kipp is actually spoofing Michael, to Jackson’s delight.”

The Simpsons team was disappointed and a bit taken aback that Jackson had someone sing in his place.

“We asked Jackson, ‘Um, Michael … why are you doing this?’ He replied cryptically, ‘It’s a joke on my brothers.’”

Reiss concluded his story with his own take on the incident, writing, “Let me be the first to say it: Michael Jackson was an odd guy.”

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