Meaning of “Liberian Girl” by Michael Jackson
The song “Liberian Girl” was penned by the late American singer Michael Jackson. Lyrically, “Liberian Girl” sees the narrator (MJ) showering praises on a woman he loves deeply while reminding her of how much he treasures her.
From the song, this special girl in MJ’s life comes from Liberia; hence the title “Liberian Girl”. Liberia is a small country located in West Africa.
Is the Liberian Girl in the song referring to Elizabeth Taylor?
Over the years, a number of reports have claimed that Jackson dedicated this song to American actress Elizabeth Taylor. Jackson and Taylor were very close friends. But did Jackson dedicate this song to her? During his lifetime, Jackson never said the girl in the song was Taylor. Neither did he confirm the reports that the song was dedicated to her.
Meaning of “Naku penda piya-naku taka piya-mpenziwe”
Jackson begins this song with the phrase “Naku penda piya-naku taka piya-mpenziwe” said by a woman. These words are obviously not English. They are Swahili. In English, they mean “Love you too. I want you too, my love”. The woman who utters this phrase in the song is a South African jazz singer named Letta Mbulu. Today, Mbulu is best known around the world for her Swahili phrase in the song.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Swahili language is spoken by the Swahili (also known as Waswahili) people from East Africa. Swahili isn’t spoken in Liberia. And why Jackson decided to use it remains a puzzle to this day.
Liberia’s reaction to the song
When the song was released, the people of Liberia welcomed it with open arms. They found it difficult believing that such a mega superstar like Michael Jackson used the name of their country in his song. To many Liberians, MJ honored them greatly by using the name of their country in his song. According to many women in Liberia, the song empowers them.
Music Video for “Liberian Girl”
Renowned music video director Jim Yukich directed the song’s video. The clip stars Michael Jackson and about three dozen famous celebrities. These famous names include the following:
- “Weird Al” Yankovic
- Amy Irving
- Beverly Johnson
- Billy Dee Williams
- Blair Underwood
- Brigitte Nielsen
- Carl Weathers
- Corey Feldman
- Dan Aykroyd
- Danny Glover
- David Copperfield
- Debbie Gibson
- Diahann Carroll
- Don King
- Jackie Collins
- Jasmine Guy
- John Travolta
- Lou Diamond Phillips
- Lou Ferrigno
- Malcolm-Jamal Warner
- Mayim Bialik
- Olivia Hussey
- Olivia Newton-John
- Paula Abdul
- Quincy Jones
- Richard Dreyfuss
- Emily Dreyfuss
- Rick Schroder
- Rosanna Arquette
- Sherman Hemsley
- Steve Guttenberg
- Steven Spielberg
- Suzanne Somers
- Vic Damone
- Virginia Madsen
- Whoopi Goldberg
Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee Bubbles also made an appearance in the clip. Elizabeth Taylor (whom the song is reported to be about) doesn’t appear in the clip.
Facts about “Liberian Girl”
- Michael Jackson wrote “Liberian Girl” entirely by himself. However, he co-produced the track with his longtime collaborator Quincy Jones.
- The official release date of “Liberian Girl” was July 4, 1989. It was released as the ninth and final single from Jackson’s critically and commercially successful seventh studio album Bad. With over 35 million copies sold around the world, Bad has been described as one of the most successful albums of all time.
- Although the track was released in July 1989, it was written several years earlier.
- Q Magazine included this song in their 2003 list of the “1001 Best Songs Ever”.
- On the UK Singles Chart, “Liberian Girl” peaked at number 13. It didn’t chart in the United States because it wasn’t released in that country as a single.
- The song entered the top 10 in both Poland and Ireland. In the latter country, it peaked at number 1.
- The 2001 posthumous Tupac Shakur single “Letter 2 My Unborn” heavily sampled “Liberian Girl”. Aside Tupac, many other artists have sampled this hit in their songs. Some have also covered it. Artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Mac Dre and Roi Heenok are just some of the artists who have sampled this track in their songs.
Did “Liberian Girl” win a Grammy?
No, it didn’t.
Does Letta Mbulu appear in the song’s music video?
No, she doesn’t.