If you were alive in the 1980s, there was only one question: Prince or Michael Jackson?
It took some years to realize it, but there was only one answer: Both.
Prince and Michael Jackson were both Midwesterners born in 1958: Prince in Minneapolis, on June 7, and Michael Jackson in Gary, Indiana, on August 29. If you can’t tell from this picture, both blew up in the 1970s.
Prince and Michael Jackson had a lot in common. Both were black crossover artists who were among the only African-Americans whose videos were played in the early days of MTV.
In 1985, Prince was criticized for not performing on “We Are the World,” a song co-written by Michael Jackson to help starving African children. Prince was reportedly too shy to perform with his fellow artists, though Jackson’s shyness didn’t stop him from playing a crucial role. Prince & the Revolution did record a gorgeous song for the “We Are the World” album — “4 the Tears in Your Eyes.”
Their race and sexuality were constantly questioned at the peak of their popularity, and both rightly told their critics to leave them alone — Jackson used almost exactly those words on “Leave Me Alone” — but they also played with the questions.
Also Read: Prince Remembered: Nothing Compares 2 U
“Am I black or white/am I straight or gay?” Prince sang on “Controversy.”
“Who’s black/who’s white,” Jackson sang on “Black or White.”
Both men were also Jehovah’s Witnesses. Michael Jackson reportedly proselytized door-to-door near his family’s home in Encino, Calif. Prince often sang about God and Jesus, including in “I Would Die 4 U.” He backed away from some of his dirtier lyrics as he embraced his religion more strongly.
Though Prince was always known as the dirtier of the two musical acts, he noted the irony of Michael Jackson being embroiled in scandal in 2004.
“What are my contemporaries doing now?” Prince said in an Associated Press interview, while Jackson was on trial accused of child molestation. “I’m not entangled in a bunch of lawsuits and a web that I can’t get out of. I can hold my head up … a happily married man who has his head in order. There isn’t a bunch of scandal in my life.” (Jackson was found not guilty.)
Jackson, the King of Pop, named one of his children Prince, which only fueled speculation about his feelings toward the elder Prince.
Sadly, they both died much too young — Jackson on June 25, 2009, and Prince on April 21, 2016.