Even in death, Michael Jackson can't catch a break.
Sony and his estate are trying to put together an album of his unreleased materials. Their original plan was to get it out for Christmas and holiday sales. But they're being thwarted at every turn.
A few months ago I was the first to report that Michael, unbeknownst to anyone, had recorded a bunch of songs in the summer of 2007. This is what happened: He'd turned up on the doorstep, literally, of his long time friends Dominic and Connie Cascio, in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. With him were his three kids, a tutor, and some pets. They'd escaped from an estate in northern Virginia, where Michael had sought refuge after a short stint in Las Vegas. He had no place else to go.
He wound up staying with the Cascios from August until November. And during that time, with nothing else to do, he listened to the couple's son, Eddie, record with a singer named Bobby Ewing. Eddie's brother, Frank, had helped write and produce the Ewing tracks. They asked: Why not erase the vocals and have Michael sing over them? Michael agreed. When it was done, Eddie Cascio put away the tapes. No one ever discussed it again.
Meantime, I reported that there were fewer known unreleased Michael Jackson tracks than anyone realized. Many conversations with Michael's long time engineer Bruce Swedien resulted in this fact: this would be no Jimi Hendrix situation. So when the Cascio tracks were revealed, everyone should have been jumping for joy.
But not so happy are Michael's nephews, the three sons of Tito Jackson. The Jacksons have always been wary of the Cascios: after all, Michael liked the relatively normal Italian-American family from New Jersey more than his own blood relatives. Tito's kids -- known as 3T -- had recorded with Uncle Michael early in their career, but not in recent years. When the news broke, the 3Ts weren't happy. Why hadn't Uncle Michael left them a legacy like this?
In the last few weeks Sony has had to call in forensic audiologists to prove that the voice on the Cascio tracks is that of Michael Jackson. (The conclusion: it is.) The 3Ts, I am told, along with co-executor John McClain, have claimed it's a Jacko impersonator. It's not about money. It's about ego, and pride. Sony wants to include five of the Cascio songs right away on the new album. They made an agreement this year with the Michael Jackson estate that could be worth $200 million. In the end, Sony will get what it wants. The estate will make millions. And Michael's nephews, and the rest of his biological family, will have to accept reality.