|First Appearance:||“Stark Raving Dad“|
|Voiced by:||Karl Wiedergott|
Michael Jackson was a famous American musician.
Michael Jackson’s appearance
Michael Jackson himself voiced Leon Kompowsky’s dialogue, and sound-a-like Kipp Lennon performed all the singing parts. Jackson’s guest appearance was credited to “John Jay Smith.” The DVD commentary for this episode indicates that Jackson approached the Simpsons team wanting to appear on the show, but due to a contract obligation, was not allowed to sing. However, he did write “Happy Birthday, Lisa” for the show. Great secrecy surrounded the guest appearance for some time, and even Matt Groening, when appearing on the Jay Leno show, did not openly reveal that it was Jackson (although he hinted strongly). It wasn’t until the episode “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” that a more open clue was given to viewers, when Lisa mentions that Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson made cameo appearances in the movie, stating, “They didn’t use their real names, but you could tell it was them…” (Dustin Hoffman, of course, voiced Mr. Bergstrom in the episode Lisa’s Substitute, and his guest appearance was similarly shrouded).
He was seen in the Springfield Squidport along with dolls strapped together by wooden poles. Michael Jackson felt sad for Bart and gave him some money. Homer had difficulty in telling which was the real person. A dance by Homer and Barney as children inspired Michael to do the zombie dance.
Behind the Laughter
Michael’s look-alike (left) with Tommy Lee Jones‘.
Do the Bartman
“Do the Bartman” is a pop rap song from the 1990 Simpsons album The Simpsons Sing the Blues. It was performed by The Simpsons cast member Nancy Cartwright and was released as a promotional single from the album on November 20, 1990. The song was written and produced by American recording artist Michael Jackson, and Bryan Loren. Although Jackson did not receive any credit because he was under contract to another record label, he was a fan of The Simpsons—especially the character Bart—and had called the producers one night offering to write Bart a number-one single and do a guest spot on the show.
“Do the Bartman” was never officially released as a single in the United States, but placed first on the singles charts in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, it reached the top ten in Sweden and the Netherlands, and was certified gold in the United Kingdom. A music video, which was directed by Brad Bird, was released for the song in 1991. The video became a hit on the American network MTV and received a nomination at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.
The album The Simpsons Sing the Blues was released in September 1990. The first single from it was the pop rap song “Do the Bartman”, performed by Bart Simpson‘s voice actor Nancy Cartwright and released on November 20, 1990. Rumors began spreading in the summer of 1990 that Michael Jackson would write a song for Bart on the album. This song was reported early on to be “Do the Bartman”, but executive producer James L. Brooks issued a press release in September 1990 apologizing for the misunderstanding and stating that song was actually written by one of Jackson’s friends, Bryan Loren.
However, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening revealed during an appearance at the 1998 World Animation Celebration convention in Pasadena, California that “Do the Bartman” was actually co-written and co-produced by Jackson, but he could not receive credit for it because he was under contract to another record label. Groening told a crowd at the convention that had gathered for a “The Simpsons tribute” that it had “always [been] amazing to me that no one ever found out that Michael Jackson wrote that song. […] He was a big fan of the show.”
Jackson was a fan of The Simpsons, especially Bart, and had called the producers one night offering to write Bart a number one single and do a guest spot on the show, which is how “Do the Bartman” came about. Jackson eventually guest-starred in the episode “Stark Raving Dad” (season three, 1991) under the pseudonym John Jay Smith. He also wrote a song for that episode called “Happy Birthday Lisa”, which was later included in the album Songs in the Key of Springfield. It has been reported that Jackson also provided background vocals for “Do the Bartman”.
Critical reviews of the song were mostly positive. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly described it as “not bad”, and commented that Bart’s high voice “echoes the beats nicely”. The Daily Vault’s Benny Balneg liked that the song disengaged itself from the album’s “blues tag” and incorporated more “contemporary elements” into its sound. He added that he thought the song had a “catchy beat” and an “infectious chorus”. Long Beach Press-Telegram‘s Patricia Smith called “Do the Bartman” a “surprisingly funky tune”. Monika Bartyzel of Cinematical, however, thought the song was a “cheesy number”. “Do the Bartman” and its music video have become study material for sociology courses at University of California Berkeley, where it is used to “examine issues of the production and reception of cultural objects, in this case, a satirical cartoon show”, and to figure out what it is “trying to tell audiences about aspects primarily of American society, and, to a lesser extent, about other societies.”
While the song was never officially released as a single in the United States, it was very successful in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom, countries where it peaked at number one on the singles chart. In 1991 it was the number one song in the United Kingdom for three weeks from February 16 to March 9 and was the seventh best-selling song of the year. “Do The Bartman” has shipped at least 400,000 units in the United Kingdom and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry on February 1, 1991. The song’s success in the United Kingdom was remarkable, given that at that time The Simpsons had not yet been shown on British terrestrial television, and was not for a further five years. In Ireland, “Do The Bartman” spent nine weeks at number one on the Irish Singles Chart from January 24, 1991 to March 24, 1991. Only seven singles have ever managed a longer run at number one in that country. The song also charted at number-one on New Zealands RIANZ Singles Chart on the issue date of January 25, 1991, and peaked at number-one on the chart again, for a total of two weeks, from February 8, 1991 to February 15, 1991.
Bart Simpson, and other Simpsons, dancing in the music video.
The music video features the typical plot of Bart rebelling against authority when he decides to put his own spin on a rigidly choreographed dance presentation at Springfield Elementary School. The music video for “Do the Bartman” was directed by Brad Bird, with dance choreography by Michael Chambers. Nobody from the staff of The Simpsons wanted to direct it because they were busy doing the show, but Bird finally agreed to do it after having been asked four times. He had a very short amount of time to finish the video because it was supposed to coincide with the release of The Simpsons Sing the Blues.
The entire music video was storyboarded in only two days in the United States. Bird then got on a plane to Budapest, Hungary, where the video was animated by Varga Studio. They thought the video was going to be animated as simply as the original The Simpsons shorts, so when Bird told them that it was going to be done in full animation with no repeated scenes, they “went into deep shock”. The animators added the wraparound at the beginning to set Bart against the crowd and put the video in “some sort of context.”
The video was nominated for Best Special Effects at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. It was the number one music video on rotation on American MTV network between January and March 1991. Following the death of Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009, the music video was broadcast by the Fox network on June 28, 2009—ahead of a rerun of the episode “Wedding for Disaster“—and featured a title card paying tribute to Jackson.