Michael Jackson's long-awaited charity single wasn't written by him. In fact, the lyrics were commissioned for a contest that was won by a songwriter who was subsequently kicked to the curb rather than rewarded for his work.
Ric Kipp, who describes himself as being in his mid-40s, is a veteran Nashville musician who works in a local wine store for $9 an hour. In 2002, he entered a songwriting competition sponsored by AOL on behalf of writers-producers David Foster and Carole Bayer-Sager for their now defunct music company, Tonos (their other partner was Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds).
The contest promised the winner that Jackson would record their song and possibly place it on an album. The song would be used for charitable purposes. Jackson was advertised as the composer of the instrumental part of the song.
But now the song, called "I Have This Dream," could be part of an interesting authorship dispute. Kipp won the contest with his lyrics. Kipp tells me that when he was brought to a Los Angeles studio for the prize recording, Foster told him he was excited about the lyrics and wanted to use his work. But the award-winning Bayer-Sager, Kipp says, was intent on using her own lyrics.
Unfortunately, this would completely contradict the press release Tonos, Jackson and AOL released on May 10, 2002, which included this wordage:
"The contest gives AOL members the opportunity to co-write a song with the BMI-affiliated "King of Pop," as well as with Foster and Bayer-Sager. The winning submission will be recorded by Jackson himself and may be released as part of an upcoming album. All proceeds from the song will be donated to children's charities around the world."
Kipp tells me that after he won the contest he was brought out to Los Angeles. Tonos and AOL gave him $1,500 for expenses, did not put him up at a hotel and kept him waiting in the studio for Jackson for several days before giving up the ghost.
Jackson was simply not coming. He never did show for the promised recording session.
Kipp says he not only wrote the lyrics but composed a musical "bridge" for Foster, who recorded the finished product with one of Faith Hill's female back-up singers.
Kipp says that Foster's son-in-law, Simon Gillies, even videotaped the writing sessions for a possible documentary about the contest. In the end, Kipp says he went home and "I never heard from any of these people again."
Gillies, who ran the A&R department for Tonos, confirmed for me that he did tape the writing sessions. He also revealed that that Foster, his father-in-law and not Michael Jackson, wrote the music for the song with one of his associates.
"Jackson had nothing to do with it," he said.
Cut to the other day, when a friend told Kipp he'd read about Jackson's new charity single called "I Have This Dream." If it's ever released, the single is intended to help the people of the Gulf Coast, even though the hurricane is now almost five months in the past and other artists have already put out their own singles.
Ironies abound here: Kipp told me when I spoke to him that he's originally from New Orleans and that his family home was wiped out by Katrina, so his relatives might benefit from any money raised by charity singles.
Unfortunately for Kipp, the "dream" in the title has become a nightmare. At first he thought winning the contest would be a breakthrough for him in the music industry. Back in 2002, when he won the contest, he thought he'd made it at last. Instead, the roller coaster ride that ensued more or less undid him.
"Rich people don't realize what something like this does to you," he told me. "It was like the boy who cried wolf. We thought everything was going to come from this."
Alas, things turned out quite differently. "We were promised everything and got nothing," he said.
Now, of course, there's a problem. Jackson's publicist Raymone K. Bain told me: "Kipp won the contest but his lyrics weren't deemed worthy of a song sung by Michael Jackson. Carole told me she rewrote them."
Bayer-Sager says that Kipp's lyrics were simply not good enough, and that in the end she, Foster and Jackson rewrote them.
"It was always understood that Michael wouldn't record the song if it wasn't up to our standards," she said.
That this philosophy undermines the whole reason for having a contest and selecting a winner was a subject she didn't broach.
What does seem to have happened, from reading over lyric sheets that Kipp sent me, is that he won with one set of lyrics, then Foster and Bayer-Sager began massaging them. Eventually, a finished song was produced, with a combination of lyrics. But in the intervening time, Kipp's contribution was cut to nil, and now nearly nothing remains of his work.
Bayer-Sager, Foster and AOL are all part of the Time Warner family. Bayer-Sager has had a long association with the company; she is the wife of former longtime Warner Bros. co-chairman Robert Daly.
Foster has produced and recorded exclusively for the Warner Music Group since long before it was sold to a group of investors. And AOL was famously merged into Time Warner several years ago.
Witnessed at the valet station on the Wilshire Boulevard side of the Beverly Hilton, around midnight after the Golden Globes, this ironic scene: "Entourage' star Adrien Grenier, suddenly abandoned by his posse of pals. Grenier lurches into the street looking for a ride, only to hear pals say: "No room."
Grenier -- who's a New Yorker, so his lack of knowledge on this subject is forgiven -- says, "Is anyone going to the Peninsula?" This is a hotel roughly five minutes away by foot. No one answers. He looks worried, and darts around limos that are filling up.
Finally, one friendly guy says, "Dude, you can walk there."
And that's the last we saw of Grenier as he hoofed it down to the cement peninsula in front of Trader Vic's. We can only assume he made it home safely.
But where oh where were E, Johnny Drama and Turtle when you need them? This illustrious trio must have already scored -- at least E did. The talented Kevin Connolly's girlfriend is Nicky Hilton, the "smart one," as she is rightly known.
The Sundance Film Festival will begin in earnest tonight with a Park City screening of "Friends with Money," the new Jennifer Aniston movie. Aniston is coming, which means so is every paparazzi and tabloid writer who can find a plane, train or automobile.
Here's the story about "Friends with Money": two really smart guys who I've known for a long time, Ted Hope and Anthony Bregman, produced it. They have excellent taste. Nicole Holofcener wrote and directed it -- she has indie cred from her terrific films "Lovely and Amazing" and "Walking and Talking."
Frances McDormand, Jason Isaacs and the insanely good Catherine Keener are in it, which means the buzz is probably right and Aniston will have a needed hit.
But how will this all play out, publicity wise? I hear that Sony Pictures Classics and Aniston's PR people are trying to limit her exposure to the press.
Is it possible that any thinking human being will take the time out to try and embarrass themselves or humiliate her with painful personal questions?
Here's the deal: in five years you can ask her what happened with Brad, Angie and the baby issue. For now, as Harvey Keitel likes to say, let's keep off the grass.