Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” Lyrics Meaning

An artist of Michael Jackson’s caliber would logically have issues with groupies. In fact you’ve probably seen footage of ladies totally losing their cool simply due to being in close proximity to the King of Pop. Indeed the subject of overzealous female fans, if you will, is something MJ had dealt with in the past on his classic track “Billie Jean” (1982). And that is the same subject he tackles on another of his most-recognizable songs, 1988’s “Dirty Diana”.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Michael Jackson's Dirty Diana at Lyrics.org.

At the time this song was released, there was a persistent rumor that the titular “Diana” was in fact Diana Ross, another artist who like Michael Jackson blew up as a part of Motown music scene. In other words, she was close to the singer. However, such proved not to the case, as Michael himself has asserted that this song is indeed about a random admirer, not one of his peers.

Lyrical Content

And lyric-wise the story being told is quite simple. The best way to describe the “Dirty Diana” as presented is as she being an overaggressive groupie. And even though the singer refuses her sensual overtures, she refuses to let up. Indeed the second verse depicts her as someone who is quite experienced in her craft. Or another way of stating it is that she’s somewhat of a professional groupie, knowing when popular musicians are coming to town and how to get close to them. And the way she tries to ensnare Michael in particular is by promising to fulfill any and every bedroom fantasy he may have.

But once again, Jackson staunchly refuses. In fact he tells Diana that his ‘baby’, i.e. his true lover, is waiting for him back at home. Thus his preoccupation is getting back to his woman at home as opposed to hooking up with Diana. But Diana, being the persistent lady that she is, even sets out to thwart this plan.

Is “Dirty Diana” Autobiographical?

So looking at Michael Jackson’s reality, he has stated that “groupies” were something he had to deal with ‘all his life’, which is logical considering that he and his brothers were child stars. And as aforementioned, this is a topic he has dealt with before. But whereas in “Billie Jean” the insinuation is that he did actually sleep with his female admirer, in this particular case he seems to be making his best effort not to. 

In fact considering that he refers to said lady as “dirty”, this doesn’t seem to be a case of mutual attraction. And truth be told during his lifetime, even though Michael Jackson (1958-2009) was arguably the most-famous individual in the entire world, he was not known as the type of guy to just randomly hooking up with women – so much so that some people used to taunt him about not liking ladies.

Lyrics of “Dirty Diana”

Music Video

The music video to this song, with Pykta as its director, is arguably one of MJ’s most-memorable, even though it consisted almost exclusively of him performing on stage in front of a large crowd.  In 1989 it was ranked “Number-One Video in the World” at the World Music Awards.

The lady who plays the titular character in the music video is an actress by the name of Lisa Dean (1959-2009).

Facts about “Dirty Diana”

This song originally came out as part of one of Michael Jackson’s most well-known albums, “Bad”. Epic Records released it as the fifth single from that project on 18 April 1988.

In fact “Bad” is one of the most-successful albums in history, and all four of the singles released prior to “Dirty Diana”, in addition to “Dirty Diana” itself, all reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and setting a record by doing so in the process.

The songs “Liberian Girl” and “Smooth Criminal” are just a handful of the hits released as singles from “Bad”.

“Dirty Diana” was written by Michael Jackson, who also produced the track in collaboration with his steady musical partner, Quincy Jones.

In terms of the aforementioned Diana Ross rumor, it has been noted that Miss Ross herself sometimes played this song during performances while she was entering the stage.

More “Dirty Diana” Facts

In terms of the aforementioned Diana Ross rumor, it has been noted that Miss Ross herself sometimes played this song during performances while she was entering the stage.

And while we’re on the subject of famous people named Diana who were associated with Michael Jackson, it has been noted that “Dirty Diana” was in fact a favorite of Diana, Princess of Wales. And it should be noted that Lady Diana was a personal friend of Michael’s. In fact the two of them only met once, during a Michael Jackson concert in London on the date of 16 July 1988. And Micheal decided to remove this song from the setlist, as he thought it might be unintentionally offend the Princess. However, according to Jackson, Princess Di demanded that he indeed perform “Dirty Diana”, which he did.

“Dirty Diana” has charted numerous times throughout the years. For example, during its first showing in 1988, it topped the coveted Billboard Hot 100. This is in addition to charting in over 10 other countries, including peaking at number 4 in Britain.

Then the track recharted in 2006, most notably scoring a number one in Spain (where it didn’t even chart the first time around).

And in 2009, upon the surprising death of Jackson, “Dirty Diana” once again charted, largely due to digital sales, in over 10 countries.

Moreover in the grand scheme of things, this song has earned Platinum certification in the United States, in addition to going Silver in the United Kingdom.

The guitar solo on “Dirty Diana” is performed by Steve Stevens, who was perhaps best known at the time as Billy Idol’s guitarist.

Who is the woman who plays “Dirty Diana” in the music video of “Dirty Diana”?

Lisa Dean, hailing from San Diego, California, was the 5’9” model who appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” music video, taking on the titular role. For the most part, she was chosen due to her admirable legs. However, it should be noted that she also posed for Vogue magazine, advertised for reputable companies and was featured in another music video (1984’s “Round and Round” by Ratt).

Lisa Dean
Lisa Dean is best remembered for playing “Dirty Diana”

The story goes that hundreds of models auditioned to portray the role of “Dirty Diana”. However, the King of Pop himself chose Lisa to star in the clip due to his personal admiration of her legs. But this does not mean that he was romantically interested in Dean. In fact based on her own account Michael spent most of his downtime during the video shoot chillin’ with his pet chimp, Bubbles.

Unfortunately Lisa Dean died in Los Angeles on the date 1 December 2009, at the age of 50, from colon cancer. And this was less than five months after Michael Jackson died, at the same age and in fact in the same city.

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