Browse by Title
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z #  




Ben

by

Michael Jackson



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Don Black and Walter Scharf wrote this for the 1972 movie of the same name. It was the sequel to a movie called Willard, which was remade in 2003 starring Crispin Glover. Ben is a pet rat. In the movie, a young boy befriends the rat, but the rat turns evil and recruits other rats to attack humans. In the remake of Willard, Ben becomes an enormous super-rat.

Despite being about a rat, the lyrics are touching and sentimental, and make no reference to rodents. A lot of people were very moved by the song.
According to the book Jacksons Number Ones, this was intended for Donny Osmond, but Don Black suggested Jackson, who got the song instead.
The song's co-writer Don Black has written many movie themes, including the hits "Diamonds Are Forever" (for the James Bond movie) and "Born Free." At his 2007 induction in the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, he said of "Ben," "When it came to writing about a rat, I said, 'You can't write about a rat.' I mean, I'm not going to use words like 'cheese.' I thought the best thing to do is write about friendship."
This song is one of Michael Jackson's favorites, and it was his first #1 hit as a solo artist. Motown recorded him as a solo artist when The Jackson 5 stopped selling well.
Jackson was 14 when he recorded this. He became the youngest artist to top the US charts both as a solo artist and as a member of a group (The Jackson 5).
This was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. Jackson sang it at the ceremony in 1973.
Part of this song was used in a 1991 episode of The Simpsons, where Jackson guest stars as an overweight, white mental patient who sings it to Homer. While Michael Jackson voice all the talking parts for the character, the singing voice was someone else, which caught the rest of the cast by surprise. Harry Shearer, who does several voices on the show, told us: "Michael did all the vocal parts when we read it again at the stage. The character in the show sang special lyrics to 'Ben,' and when it came time to sing, Michael sat back, nodded, and a guy that we'd not noticed before, a white guy sitting across from him at the table, started singing in a ridiculously accurate Michael Jackson voice. And I thought about it for a minute, and then I realized, I guess we paid enough for the talking Michael Jackson, but not enough for the singing Michael Jackson.

The guy who did the singing was Kipp Lennon, who often did singing parts for the show.
Pearl Jam has a song called "Rats," which is a reference to this. It's on their 1993 release Vs..
At Michael Jackson's 2001 tribute special, young Country singer Billy Gilman performed this with Marc Anthony.
This song was used in an episode of Queer as Folk where Michael Novotny is trying to win back lover Ben Bruckner. (thanks, Allison - Portales, NM)
After Jackson's death, his family sued the promotion company that planned his comeback tour. In testimony, his mother, Katherine, revealed that Michael did enjoy the company of certain rodents: he once smuggled a mouse into a Beverly Hills restaurant.
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson Artistfacts
More Michael Jackson songs
More songs with boys' names in the title
More songs about animals
More songs that are also the names of movies
More songs used in movies
More songs that were written for other artists
More songs covered by the Glee cast

Comments (37):

Ironically, when the song became a hit in 1972, that year was also The Year of The Rat in the Chinese Zodiac.
- Adrian, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Years ago I went on a cruise that a studio I was a writer for gave me free tickets to. A few fans wanted to see me and they considered it a working vacation as they wanted me to come up with some new shows for them. On the cruise was the Jackson 5. However it wasn't the regular line up. All the regular line up was there except for one. Michael who was replaced by a younger family member. When people become famous they don't have to expose their full family to the press/public. Some they keep in the background and generally never mentioned to the press. Also there were worries on public perceptions sometimes. Anyways the unknown story is that Janet had a twin named Ben. He was born before her at about 2 months premature. This caused him a bunch of health problems including blindness. Ben liked to sing and dance with his family. He could learn his way around an area. Also he was the spitting image of his older family member when he was young. Why it was easier to try to pass him off as Michael. During the cruise performance that I saw them do. He was introduced as Mike and knew his way around the performance area and his position with the older members of the band. Practice had taught him this. It was only after the performance when his older relative(in family adoption as Rebbie's kids I think it was re Ben & Janet) would hand him his glasses and cane. From a distance you couldn't tell the watch he was wearing was for the blind but it was. Anyways so after performance he came and sat with me to talk commenting he heard I was the young writer the studio sent on the cruise. We kind of made friends at the time. I also have a disability too. I asked him if he performed much. He said no but occasionally he would sneak in and do it for fun. They thought it was funny most people didn't question it though Mike was taller. Ben did have a pet rat back at home he told me. He also said after the cruise he was to undergo surgery that was routine for his type of eye problems. He wasn't expecting to get his vision back but it was still needed. After the cruise was over I did hear back that Ben got back some of his vision. He could see shapes and light and dark. They specialist was going to give him another surgery. I was told it would take a minimum of 3 to 6 months to fully adjust. Because he had learned braille now he would need to learn to print, write, and read all over again. He would need to learn colors and other things he was finally able to see. I was told once as a prank after he got his vision back sometimes he would still switch with Mike. But he wore risers and with the cut of his cloths people didn't seem to notice. Ben is taller than Janet but smaller than Mike. Now I've not talked to them in years. But don't believe the negative press stuff. It's a long story and the people that knew them know better. Though I admit it still bothers me what happened and why. I have learned in this business we have to roll with somethings, etc. Doesn't mean I have to like it.
- Susie, Burnaby, BC
This song was nominated for Best Song at the 1972 Academy Awards {Lost to "The Morning After" from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure"}!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I Myself am 18 and for a song like this, actually MANY of michael jacksons, to be still popular to this day is a great acheivment. the messages in each of his song are still being heard and understoood by the generations of today. excellent song, just one of many by a great artist.
- kevin, Geraldton, Australia
Love Ben Love you...Michael Jackson
You are in my mind...forever
- Wichapan, bangkok, Thailand
I hear this song and, in my mind's eye, I see the gentle child that will live forever in the Jackson 5 footage. MJ was a precious gift. RIP MJ 7/3/09
- Erin, Boston, Massachusetts, MA
It's weird to hear a song about a giant rat put it's a pretty song.
- Theresa, Murfreesboro, TN
I always liked this one. R.I.P. Michael.
- Micky, Los Angeles, CA
Hey Ash, Just giving the benefit of the doubt here... We all know Michael did not have a childhood. And he never really grew up. It's true he made those kids stay in his room, per his statement, perhaps because in his mind, he wanted to feel like he was a kid again. Just to recapture that moment of childhood. I remember myself I was like that too. Kids like being around with their buddies, sometimes locking themselves in the room just goofing around, sleeping in the same bed. I slept with my friends myself WITH NO MALICE. We were carefree. Yeah, I remember my childhood... because I used to be a kid myself...And I had a beautiful childhood. What about you, did you? Michael skipped that part of his life because he was making music to earn. I'm not saying it looked good on Michael to know kids were in his room. Especially nowadays people think maliciously right away because of how the world is now...So messed up. Somehow I just feel Michael was greatly misconstrued, as he has given the wrong impression. He only wanted to experience childhood. I posted about the song Ben on FB. I used to think that Ben was a symbolical figure of Michael, as if his alter-ego (Michael too himself) is talking to him saying "Ben, most people would turn you away; I don't listen to a word they say. They don't see you as I do; I wish they would try to. I'm sure they'd think again. If they had a friend like Ben." Okay now, I'm pertaining to the meaning of the song, and not the rat... Michael isn't a rat. He was a good soul.
- June, Los Angeles, CA
I thought Michael Jackson wrote the song for his pet rat as reports say.

What then is the contribution of Don Black and Walter Scharf as its writers as this site says?

It is interesting to know that the song was first offered to Donnie Osmond!
- joey, manila, Philippines
I can relate to Claire of Oak Ridge very much. I lost a girl rat - she became my best pal in a very short space of time. Like Claire's, she was a real "personality" and very loveable. I would never have believed it possible that I would grown to love such a little creature so much within a short space of time. Totally unexpectedly. Even now, six months since her passing, my eyes well up with tears when I think of her. May we neber forget our non-human friends!
- Maria, London, United Kingdom
micheal jackson has been proven innocent and i believe that he is he was just a lonely man... he did good for those kids he didnt harm them in any way... he just dosnt know anything other then what he grew up with whitch was immence fame and that can mess someone up... hes messed up because of his missed childhood... he never harmed children
- daisy, Norwich, United Kingdom
When has there ever and will there ever be a band like the Jackson 5 they can sing they can dance they were young they can entertain and their lyrics to a lot of there songs are both meaningful and beautiful
- daisy, Norwich, United Kingdom
I remember seeing the movie in a drive-in theater when I was a little kid. I remember feeling so bad for the boy and the Ben at the end of the movie. Very touching song even now.
- Michelle, Detroit, MI
When Walter Yentikoff signed the Jacksons to Epic in 1975, naysayers were wondering why he'd sign an act whose lead singer's last #1 hit was a love song to a pet rat.
- John, Nashville, TN
Why do some people have so much venom and find reasons to attack? Michael taught me to live with straitforward honest self.
- john, Brisbane, United States
Why do people always think about mice and rats when they hear this song.?I think it is a song about a little boy who is worrying about his placement in society.Ben speaks of a yearning to understand why little people without a voice are alwayhs shut out.
- john, Brisbane, United States
michael is always be a king of pop.. he is the bets singer dancer of all time..i love u michael
- izzy515, Cebu City, Philippines
I was listening to hits of the 70's on launch.com when I heard Ben. I never knew until today the true meaning behind the song. I had heard it was about a rat but thought why would Michael sing about a rat. When you think of a song about a pet rat you think ugh! But to have a pop icon such a Michael Jackson do it...WOW! I even remember the movie but didn't know this was the song written about it. An awesome song with great lyrics. How clever!
- jackie, san fransico, CA
i love micheal jackson soooooo much he's great and the song ben always reminds me of my old friend from school that we said we would never grow apart and always be there for eachother but he moved away and i know maybe oneday he will see this and try to get in contact i love and miss him sooooo much. micheal rules yaaaaay!!!!!! xxxxx
- fay, southampton, England
wow i also had a pet rat called ken! it is so amazing as i had a similar experience! ken also turned evil one day and attacked my friend david! this was very unlike him cos he had always been such a sweet and loyal friend in the past! david is very traumatised by this experience, but obviously you always stand by ur own flesh and blood so ken comes first in my eyes! so this is why im so moved by this song as it is so similar to my experiences and not forgetting davids too!

becki and katie,,, ratland england
- mary, newcastle, England
i have a rat called Ben!!!
he was an anniversary present. wow!!
i was surprised to find out that this song was about a rat
- sam, Lincoln, England
i think michael jackson is gay and so are rat and your reading this your gay too
- lane, wister, OK
i have 5 rats and love michael jackson its a perfect combination
- lane, wister, OK
The best song ever about a pet rat.
- Maxwell, Houston, TX
I always thought that Ben was written about one of his lovers. Did Michael ever have a lover named Ben? I'm so curious now.
- punkanelly, Lake Charles, LA
Being a rat lover, I found this song very touching... Rats are very special creatures that deserve love and attention just like any other pet!

5 squeeks for Michael...
Mel
- Melanie, Germantown, MD
Given how Michael Jackson turned out as an adult, this song may take on a meaning that no one was aware of when he sang it. It sounds like a cry for help from someone who thinks that no one could ever love him. Unfortunately, the only person who really cared about him was his mother, who was helpless to do anything for him. The rest of his family just used him as a cash cow.
- Mike, santa barbara, CA
12 yrs before , when i was teens, i like it altho i could not understand. Just listened occasionally.... moved by the story and recall lots things of my childhood.....Good Song.
- Frank, Beijing, China
Ash, c'mon, this is about the song, not the singer. It's a lovely song that touched a lot of people. His private life has been blown out of all proportion, so let's just comment on the songs please!!!
- Derek, Cambridge, New Zealand
Yes, thanks Michael! Thanks for all you've done to lure young children into your bed for your illicit purposes. It's just great how you totally destroy the lives of countless young people that come to you for help, only to find out that you are, in fact, a child-molesting monster.
- Ash, Charleston, WV
I have always been moved by this song, and was surprised to read that it is about a rat. Still it makes the song even more chilling to me, as it seems to anticipate Michael Jackson's personal tragedy. A lonely boy whose only friend is a rat that turns into a mankiller. Isn't is like Jacko thinking his only luck is friendship with children, with all the consequences.
Was it one of his favourites, because he could identify with the hopeless and for the outside world "bizarre" friendship with Ben?
- michael, Wien (Vienna), Austria
When Michael Jackson appeared on the Simpsons playing a mental patient who thinks he's Michael Jackson, he sang this song for an institutionalized Homer to make him feel better.
- craig, madison, WI
ben was the first song i ever heard when i came home as a baby its strange how this song was written about a rat but means alot to me
- ben, manchester, England
I am now especially moved by this song too, as my rat passed away. As odd as it sounds, she was beautiful and full of personality, and I loved her very much.
- claire, Oak Ridge, TN
My parents named my brother ben after this song and i think its the nicest song ever. Michael jackson is a legend and i love the jackson 5 for ever. this song touched my heart and makes me think of my brother.

thanks michael!!
- Amy, Wellington, New Zealand
What a lovely song, such a nice voice for his age back then, a true star
- Chantal, Liverpool, Canada
You have to to post comments.
Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"
It wasn't her biggest hit as a songwriter (that would be "Bette Davis Eyes"), but "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" had a family connection for Jackie.
Steve Forbert - "Romeo's Tune"Steve Forbert - "Romeo's Tune"
"Let me smell the moon in your perfume..." It took a rough mix and an extra verse, but Steve found his "calling card" song, which is always the encore.
dUg Pinnick of King's XdUg Pinnick of King's X
dUg dIgs into his King's X metal classics and his many side projects, including the one with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam.
Curt Kirkwood of Meat PuppetsCurt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets
The (Meat)puppetmaster takes us through songs like "Lake Of Fire" and "Backwater," and talks about performing with Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged.