Michael Jackson’s first song to be released since his death, “This Is It,” came out on Monday, but apparently the track isn’t exactly brand new.
Jackson co-wrote the song, originally titled “I Never Heard,” with Paula Anka, John Branca, a special administer of the King of Pop’s estate, confirmed to TMZ.
“We acknowledge that Michael and Paul wrote this song together,” he said, after it emerged that Anka did not know about the song’s release until today.
The release of the new version of the song has brought back a flood of memories to pop singer Sa-Fire, who recorded “I Never Heard” for her 1991 album “I Wasn’t Born Yesterday,” according to her manager Sal Abbatiello, who spoke to AccessHollywood.com on Monday.
“She is feeling vindicated as an artist. You wait all these years for something great to happen and [become] respected as an entertainer,” he told Access. “He was kind of one of her idols … and to have her name mentioned with his, when Michael wrote a song for Sa-Fire, she’s just ecstatic.”
Anka told TMZ he actually wrote the song with Jackson in 1983 for his “Walk A Fine Line” album of duets, but he alleged to the Web site that Jackson “stole the tapes” from a recording studio around the time of “Thriller.”
Anka said he used legal muscle at the time to get the tapes back, but he believes Jackson made a copy of the tape and that “This Is It” uses that vocal.
Meanwhile Sa-Fire’s manager, Abbatiello, said the “This Is It” vocal sounds exactly like the cassette she was given by Jackson as she prepared to record the cut – a song she was told was written for her to duet on with Paul.
“It was written for her… That’s all we know,” he said.
Sa-Fire herself wrote about the song in a blog post following Jackson’s death in June 2009 at the age of 50.
“Michael touched my heart & soul in so many different ways I feel blessed that I had the chance of recording an original song he wrote for me with Paul Anka titled ‘I Never Heard.’ Michael was someone who I admired and who’s career I followed. I drew inspiration from Michael as I watched his talents take flight on so many levels,” she wrote on her MySpace page in June.
Abbatiello said someone decided Sa-Fire was “way too young” to duet with Paul at the time she was gearing up to record the track and instead Michael, “gave her the cassette, [she] went home and practiced” to it.
Hearing “This Is It” on Monday brought Sa-Fire to tears.
“She’s just so happy,” Abbatiello said of his artist’s feelings. “Today is kind of overwhelming.”
As far as the song goes, Anka is going to get 50% of the publishing rights, the Associated Press reported on Monday evening.
“They did the right thing,” Anka told the AP. “I don’t think that anybody tried to do the wrong thing. It was an honest mistake.”
While no one seemed to know the song was co-written by Anka until it was released, even on Sa-Fire’s 1991 album it was hard to pin down who the songwriter was.
On music Web sites AllMusic and Discogs, which both are known for listing all of a song’s credits, on “I Wasn’t Born Yesterday,” the writer’s credits are listed for every song except for “I Never Heard.” Instead, the field is blank.