Michael Jackson’s “Ben” Lyrics Meaning

As pointed out in the trivia section, Michael Jackson’s “Ben” is actually the theme song to a movie. However, when Motown and co. marketed the tune, they did not do so directly in relation to the film. Nor are there any direct references to the flick contained within the lyrics. And ultimately this proved to be a wise decision considering that the titular Ben in the movie is actually a killer rat.

Or rather let’s say that the writers decided to focus more on the relationship between Ben and Danny. The latter is a human who in the movie befriends the rat, with the latter actually serving as the former’s protector. And even if a listener is not aware that this song is based on a movie, which as alluded to earlier many of them weren’t, the main idea that actually comes through is the fact that the singer does consider the addressee an invaluable friend.

But many listeners also know beforehand that the vocalist is indeed singing to a pet. Yet that does not change the sentiment being put forth. For either way, by the end it becomes apparent that Ben is the narrator’s closest friend in the world. Moreover the implication is that the singer may be a lonely soul, with Ben basically serving as his only true companion. And apparently he too plays such a role in Ben’s life.

Facts about “Ben”

The writers of this tune are named Walter Scharf (1910-2003) and Don Black. And it is actually a theme song for a movie which itself is entitled Ben (1972). As such it is also featured on an album called Ben. And said album was Michael Jackson’s second full-length project as a soloist.

This classic was produced by a songwriting/production crew known as The Corporation. This crew were famous for working heavily with the Jackson family, i.e. Michael as well as The Jackson 5.

“Ben” holds the distinction of actually being Michael’s first American number 1 hit of his solo career. It was also a chart topper in Australia and reached as high as number seven on the UK Singles Chart. More notably, it actually took home a Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Song. Additionally, the track was nominated for an equally-powerful accolade, the Academy Award’s Best Original Song. And for the record when “Ben” was originally composed it was intended to be sung by another child star at the time, Donny Osmond.

Osmond was not able to record it in a timely fashion due to scheduling conflicts.  However, he said in the aftermath, he and Michael had no ill feelings between each other about the matter. Indeed they got a kick out of the fact that during the same year “Ben” was released Donny also had a hit with a tune, “Puppy Love” (1972), which was inspired by an animal in a roundabout way. 

It has been pointed out that “Ben” may be the only notable song ever that is actually based on a rat.

This song came out, via Motown Records, on 4 August 1972.

Michael recorded this classic in late 1971, just after he had turned 13. This was the time in his life when his voice started changing, i.e. from the sweet, innocent child you hear on the recording to more of a deeper, masculine sound. As such, it has been speculated that when MJ performed this tune at the Oscars, he lip-synced due to that specific reality.

“Ben” hit again in the UK when the song was covered by an actress/singer named Marti Webb in 1985. And an American actor, Crispin Glover, recorded his own version in 2003 upon the movie Willard being remade. The original Willard (1971) was the prequel to the aforementioned Ben film.

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