Can Jacko ever rest in peace? An album of 'new' songs he didn't want released hits the shelves and his family battle over his millions

How ironic. In Breaking News, one of the songs included on Michael Jackson’s posthumous album, he sings about ‘Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson’.

Because 18 months after his death, the fight over Jackson and his legacy continues.

Next week, Michael, an album of ‘new’ material from the singer, is released. Made up of just a few of the hundreds of songs Michael recorded and discarded before his death from an ill-fated combination of prescribed drugs, it is the first release from the £125 million ten-album deal Michael’s estate made with Sony Records in March.

But the fights have already started, with his family and friends saying the perfectionist singer would never have wanted the songs to be released because they aren’t of a high enough standard.

‘As an unfinished product, Michael Jackson did not want them recorded,’ Brian Oxman, the Jackson family lawyer told me this week.

‘Sony were continually asking him to release these unfinished songs and he always said he did not want them put out. It was a huge bone of contention, but they hounded him.’

Black Eyed Peas frontman, who worked with the singer a few years ago, adds: ‘Whoever put [this album] out and is profiting out of it, I want to see how cold they are. Michael Jackson songs are finished when Michael says they’re finished. He was very particular.’

The singer’s former producer Quincy Jones says of the album: ‘He wouldn’t have wanted it to come out this way.’

Even more controversially, the singer’s family have claimed that some of the songs on the album do not even have Michael’s voice on them.

They say that five tracks donated by producer Eddie Cascio — who spent four months in the studio with Michael in 2007 — do not even sound like the singer. Cascio has already admitted that some of the backing vocals were provided by session singer James Porte to beef up the tracks.

‘Some of the songs are him, and some aren’t,’ Michael’s brother Randy wrote on Twitter. ‘I would bet my life on that.

‘All these people are more concerned about making money off his death. Sony were cutting deals with the estate before I could get my brother in the ground.’

Sony and the people behind Michael’s estate say they held a ‘listening party’ of the tracks with several producers who had worked with Michael as well as two musicologists, all of whom verified it was him.

Sony insists that it has ‘complete confidence’ that the lead vocals are all Michael, but the fuss has already led to some fans threatening to boycott the album. However, it is expected to be a No 1 hit all over the world. Because while the singer may have ended his life several hundred million pounds in debt, in death he has become pop’s biggest earner.

His estate is believed to have raked in more than £500 million in the past 18 months alone, including the contract with Sony (the biggest music deal in pop history), a wave of Jackson nostalgia prompting about £150 million in record sales and the footage of Michael rehearsing for his ill-fated London concerts being turned into the movie This Is It, with sales of £150 million.

Meanwhile, there has also been a video game (Michael Jackson: The Experience), plus a deal with Cirque Du Soleil to turn his music into a Las Vegas show.

But Michael’s family have barely seen a penny of that.

He left almost everything to his three children — Paris, 12, Prince Michael I, 13, and Blanket, eight — and ensured an estate was formed to make sure the money is there for them when they turn 18. But aside from his mother Katherine, Michael had not spoken to most of his family in years, convinced they were interested only in his money.

The estate is run by lawyer John Branca and record executive John McClain, both hired and fired by Michael several times over the years. The pair claim it could take years sorting through the labyrinth of his finances before they can release the money to Michael’s children and mother.

He was said to be at least £200 million in debt when he died, although his assets — his own back catalogue and a music publishing catalogue which features many of the Beatles hits — are worth more than that. However, there are hundreds of creditors demanding money.

The two Johns are said to be earning 10 per cent of the income of the estate for their hard work, so some have queried their motives for making deals in Michael’s name.

His mother, meanwhile, on behalf of Michael’s adored children, has had to resort to begging the estate for enough funds.

Initially awarded £30,000 a month (not that much when you consider the six ­bodyguards and two nannies), Katherine recently had to go before a judge to ask for more. ‘They have been rendered subservient to the estate,’ says a family friend.

‘Michael wanted his kids and his mother to have control of his money. The whole thing is a scandal.’

Despite not being named in Michael’s will, the rest of the family are already jostling for cash, says Diane Dimond, who wrote a biography of him.

‘The minute Michael Jackson died, the brothers were whispering in Katherine’s ear:

“You’ve got to get in there for the estate,” ’ she says. ‘All the brothers show up at Mama’s house for cheques, and she gives them to them.’

The Jacksons’ father Joseph, meanwhile — whom Michael detested for regularly beating his son — has attempted to get money out of the will but has been rebuffed several times by the judge. Joseph is now trying to sue his son’s doctor, Conrad Murray, for £250 million damages for his son’s ‘unlawful death’.

Katherine is the linchpin holding the family together, and reminding them that the estate is making more money than any of them could ever have dreamed of for the children. But she is 80 and in ill-health.

‘When Katherine Jackson dies there is going to be a fight over those kids like you have never seen in your life,’ says Diane. ‘Where the kids go, the money goes. [Michael’s siblings] Jermaine, Marlon and Randy will be fighting hardest for custody.’

At the centre of all the acrimony is the three young heirs.

Conscious that being a child star had led to his many problems, Michael was so desperate to keep them out of the limelight that they always had to wear masks in public.

With their new family, however, they took centre-stage at their father’s funeral and recently appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show where Paris talked about wanting to be an actress while Prince Michael I fancies directing. ‘It’s all about publicity with the Jacksons,’ says Diane. ‘I think they see it as whetting the public’s appetite for the children.’

Bringing out songs he consigned to the bin, showing intimate footage of his concert rehearsals, parading his children on television . . . you can’t help thinking that Michael won’t just be turning over in his grave at the way friends and family have acted since his death, he’ll be spinning.

The album, Michael, will be released next Tuesday.

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