SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A gag order bars Michael Jackson (search) from speaking out about his legal troubles, and the defense has not said if he will testify during his molestation trial. But Jackson may have offered his best defense on an album released a decade ago.
"HIStory (search)" came out in June 1995, soon after the singer paid millions to settle a 1993 molestation allegation. The current case stems from alleged acts in 2003.
The two-disc set was billed as a representation of Jackson's "past, present, and future," with one disc offering classics like "Billie Jean" and another presenting new songs about the singer's troubles.
"I've often thought that if you really want to understand Michael Jackson, listen to HIStory," said J. Randy Taraborrelli, a CBS News analyst and author of the biography "Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness. (search)"
"He doesn't express himself totally in a one-on-one interview," Taraborrelli said. "He's best in his songs."
Jackson's spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, confirmed that many of the songs on "HIStory" address what the pop star was going through at the time.
It seems several could have been written in response to Jackson's current problems. On the sweet-sounding "Childhood," he pleads, "People say I'm not OK, 'cause I love such elementary things/it's been my fate to compensate, for the childhood I've never known. ... before you judge me, try hard to love me/The painful youth I've had."
In interviews — including some played for jurors during the trial — Jackson has given a similar explanation for turning his Neverland ranch into a children's fantasyland and spending time with youngsters. He said he is trying to recapture a youth lost to the music business.
On another song, "Money," Jackson rails against people who will "lie for it." The cornerstone argument of his defense is that his accuser's family fabricated their claims to try to win money from him.
The most obvious reference to Jackson's legal problems is "D.S.," in which he rails against someone named in written lyrics as "Dom Sheldon" — though he seems to pronounce the name as Tom Sneddon, the lead prosecutor in the current case.
Sneddon tried to charge Jackson in 1993, but the case collapsed when the boy refused to cooperate after the out-of-court settlement.
In the song "Tabloid Junkie," the singer objects to unfair media coverage, and on "Scream," a duet with sister Janet Jackson, he complains that he is "tired of injustice, tired of the schemes."
Taraborrelli believes the song that best reflects Jackson's feelings is "Stranger in Moscow," an ethereal and stirring description of a man wounded by a "swift and sudden fall from grace" walking in the shadow of the Kremlin.
"How does it feel when you're alone and you're cold inside?" Jackson sings. "Like a stranger in Moscow."
Jackson has said in interviews — including one played for jurors — that he used to walk alone at night looking for new friends, even at the peak of his musical popularity.
Many jurors may not have heard the album. Though some have expressed admiration for Jackson's music — one alternate even said during jury selection he can "moonwalk" — Jackson's most popular material came out in the 1980s.
Prosecutor Ron Zonen asked several prospective panelists if they could name any of Jackson's songs in the last five years. None could.
The reviews of "HIStory" were mixed. Rolling Stone called the new songs an "exhilarating, misconceived, often heartbreaking package." But the work has held up in the decade since its release, said music journalist Steven Ivory, who interviewed Jackson several times in the 1970s.
"It was supposed to be celebrating this man's pinnacle of success at that time, but it was also reflecting where he was, which was coming out of a child molestation allegation," Ivory said.