In 1991, singer-songwriter Bryan Loren found chart success with a little help from a cartoon character and The King Of Pop. Riding the wave of Bartmania that briefly gripped the globe (and shook school administrators to their T-shirt-banning cores), “Do The Bartman” was the No. 1 song in the U.K. for three weeks, though it’s now best remembered for the uncredited participation of Michael Jackson. But now that the rights to royalties from the song (along with other Loren compositions) have sold at auction for $38,500, the fight to claim lyrics like “Fixin’ test scores to get the best scores / Droppin’ banana peels all over the floor” has reignited.
“It was always amazing to me that no one ever found out that Michael Jackson wrote that song,” Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in 1998, a quote which Music Business Worldwide reprinted in its coverage of the “Do The Bartman” sale. This prompted a response from Loren, who stated his claim to the songwriting credit before giving an account of Jackson’s contributions to the track: background vocals, the title, the “bad like Michael Jackson” namedrop. “Perhaps this tidbit of info is not as sensational as saying MJ co-wrote the song,” Loren said, “but I assure you, he did not.”
And so the case of “Do The Bartman”’s true authorship remains disputed, until the day some enterprising young scamp finds a note from Loren to Jackson scribbled in the margins of the original “Do The Bartman” sheet music. (“To Michael Jackson,” the note might say, “Your moxie more than makes up for your lack of talent.”) Until that day, however, we can still credit Jackson with the creation of Brown-Nose Bear, Disgruntled Goat, Flatulent Fox, and Dinner Dog. But not Rich Uncle Skeleton—Michael Jackson buying The Elephant Man’s bones is not based on a true story.