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Jackson Will Re-Record 'Care' Lyrics : Pop music: Michael Jackson apologizes and says he plans to change the words in 'They Don't Care About Us' that some considered to be racial slurs.

June 23, 1995|CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a week of public pressure over song lyrics that many in the Jewish community labeled anti-Semitic, Michael Jackson announced Thursday he will go back into the studio and change those words.

"Because of the unforeseen reaction to specific words in my song . . . I have chosen to re-record it. In doing so, I acknowledge that I seriously offended some people," Jackson said in a statement released Thursday.

He also continued to offer his apology to the Jewish community in the statement, saying, "I sincerely hope that anyone offended by my words will forgive me for not recognizing this sooner."

Jackson first announced his decision to re-record "They Don't Care About Us," the controversial song off his new "HIStory" album, with a phone call to Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd. The conversation appeared in Thursday's edition of the trade publication.

"Haven't you ever done something that you wish you had never done? I do. So, now I'll change it," Jackson told Archerd.

Jackson plans on going into the studio early next week to overdub new lyrics in the song. He told Archerd he will probably change the lyrics to "strike me" for "kike me" and "Do me" for "Jew me."

"As soon as he realized the extent to which those lyrics might hurt people, Michael decided to do this," Sandy Gallin, Jackson's manager, said.

A spokesperson for Epic Records estimated that 2 million copies of "HIStory" are already in retail stores or on their way, but any copies after that will either have the new version of the song or a prominently placed explanatory sticker added to the packaging. She said it is uncertain how long it will take to add the new version of "They Don't Care About Us" to pressings of the disc.

In a statement issued Thursday, Epic Records said it stands by Jackson's decision.

Gallin said Jackson told Epic he wants it to do "everything humanly possible to put new versions of the song on the album." He also wanted to emphasize that the decision was not made due to concern over possible lackluster sales of the album.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he is pleased with Jackson's decision to change the lyrics, but he feels it's too little, too late.

"We've always believed Michael's claim that he did not want to hurt anyone, but those lyrics never should have seen the light of day," Cooper said. "Out of all the people that heard the record before it came out, somebody should have stopped it."

Gallin was one of those people who heard the record and Jackson's manager said that even though he is Jewish, he did not know the ramifications of the slur.

"I personally had no idea. It has not been in use for many, many years, and was not something that children would recognize as racism. The mere usage of the word, of bringing it back, is the essence of where the mistake was," Gallin said.

In his Daily Variety comments, Jackson told Archerd that many of the Jewish associates he cites as close friends heard the song "over and over."

Archerd, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, had adamantly criticized "They Don't Care About Us" in his column. Gallin says Jackson called Archerd because Archerd had also made many phone calls to try to persuade Jackson to change the lyrics.

"Michael saw that the [explanatory sticker] might not be enough, and that people might still get hurt. That's all he needed to prompt him to do this," Gallin said.

Until the new version of "They Don't Care About Us" can be added to "HIStory," the album will have stickers that say the following:

"There has been a lot of controversy about my song, 'They Don't Care About Us.' My intention was for this song to say 'No' to racism, anti-Semitism and stereotyping. Unfortunately, my choice of words may have unintentionally hurt the very people I wanted to stand in solidarity with. I just want you all to know how strongly I am committed to tolerance, peace and love, and I apologize to anyone who might have been hurt. Respectfully, Michael Jackson."

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