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Michael Jackson Said That Prince Was "Mean and Nasty" to Him

Recordings of the King of Pop revealed his true feelings about his fellow artist.

They're two of the biggest musical artists of all time, but that similarity led to tension instead of camaraderie. For years, Michael Jackson and Prince had a rivalry that was tied to their status as hugely popular stars. In the 1980s, Jackson had already been famous for years after getting his start as a child performer with his family band the Jackson 5. Prince, on the other hand, came to fame in the late '70s. Still, both performers reached the peak of their careers in the '80s with Jackson's Thriller becoming the best-selling album of all time and Prince finding major success with the albums 1999 and Purple Rain, as well as the movie of the same name.

The two came into contact and commented on each other in the media over the years, but it was statements made by Jackson and released after his death that show just how strongly he felt about his fellow superstar. Read on to find out more.

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The rivalry supposedly began at a concert.

Prince performing in Inglewood, California in 1985
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Prince and Jackson's rivalry is thought to have kicked off during a James Brown concert in Los Angeles in 1983. Brown called Jackson to the stage, and he briefly sang and danced. Brown then told the crowd, "[Jackson] just insisted that I introduce Prince." Prince made his way to the stage where he played guitar, then took his shirt off and started dancing before knocking over a large prop streetlight.

According to the book Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life by Steven Hyder (via Slate), "What's interesting about the video is that members of Prince's entourage were convinced that MJ intended to humiliate Prince, and (in their view) he succeeded."

They nearly collaborated.

Michael Jackson in Los Angeles circa 1990
Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock

Other incidents that Hyden points out as key moments in the Jackson/Prince rivalry include Prince deciding not to participate in the celeb-filled charity recording of "We Are the World" in 1985, and Prince declining to record Jackson's 1987 song "Bad" as a duet. The "Little Red Corvette" singer later explained in an interview (via Express), "The first line of that song is 'your butt is mine.' Then I said, 'Who's going to sing that to who? Because you sure aren't singing that to me and I sure ain't singing that to you.'"

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Jackson called Prince "nasty" and "rude."

Prince performing in Inglewood, California in 1985
Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 2016—seven years after Jackson's death and only months after Prince's death—recordings were released that Jackson had made while working on his 1988 biography Moonwalk. In one exerpt, he talked about Prince, and not kindly.

"I don't like to be compared to Prince at all," Jackson said, as reported by the Mirror. "I have proven myself since I was real little. It's not fair. He feels like I'm his opponent. I hope he changes because boy, he's gonna get hurt. He's the type that might commit suicide or something."

He added, "He was so rude, one of rudest people I have ever met. Prince is very competitive. He has been very mean and nasty to my family."

Jackson said Prince "made a fool of himself" at the James Brown concert.

Michael Jackson performing for the "American Bandstand" 50th anniversary celebration in 2002
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

In the Moonwalk recordings, Jackson also brought up the Brown concert, providing evidence that he had wanted to see Prince fail at the show.

"He made a fool of himself. He was a joke," he said. "People were running and screaming. I was so embarrassed. It was all on video."

Prince didn't comment after Jackson's death.

Prince performing in Budapest in 2011
Northfoto / Shutterstock

After Jackson died, Prince did not speak publicly about the late singer, but he did begin including Jackson's song "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" in some of his performances, as reported by Smooth Radio.

The TV host and writer Tavis Smiley, who was close to Prince, shared what he claims was the musician's reaction to Jackson's death in a 2016 interview with Extra.

"I've never said it publicly… when the news came that Michael had died, Prince was in rehearsal at Paisley Park," Smiley said. "Prince cancels rehearsals, sent the band home, and for days locked himself in his bedroom and wouldn't come out and really didn't talk to people."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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