Album: Ben (1972)
Charted: 7 1
  • 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.

    In Willard, Ben is a pet rat who is trained by a human named Willard that has learned how to make rats to his bidding. Willard has the rats kill for him, but at the end of the movie they turn against him.

    In the sequel, Ben, 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. This made it a sturdy song about friendship:

    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

    Many people were very moved by the song, which was marketed independently of the movie, as the true meaning would have irked some listeners.
  • According to the book Jacksons Number Ones, this was intended for Donny Osmond, but Don Black suggested Jackson, who got the song instead.

    Donny Osmond told The Huffington Post that he didn't record the song when it was offered to him as he was on tour and they had to finish the movie. He added: "Michael and I would talk about this all the time. It's funny, because we eventually ended up laughing at this one. I will never forget, we stayed up to like two in the morning, laughing about the fact that I had a hit about a puppy and he had a hit about a rat. (Laughs)"
  • 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 voiced 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 "Ben." It's on their 1993 release Vs..
  • At Michael Jackson's 2001 tribute special, the 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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.
  • In 1985, Marti Webb released a cover version of this song in tribute to Ben Hardwick, who at age 2 was the youngest person in Britain to receive a liver transplant. Hardwick died a short time later; proceeds from the song, which reached #5 in the UK, went to his memorial fund.
  • This is certainly the most popular song about a rodent, but it's not the only one. In 1976, Captain & Tennille hit #4 US with "Muskrat Love."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 39

  • Robert from Kintore OntThis is a long time ago. As I remember this was my first attempt at a love song. I left out the name. Then said not Ben. It was going to be weird with Michael singing Ben so they made sure he had a pet. After that a lot of songs lyrics were give to girls to avoid the problem. I was very young so was Jackson that's why he got it. Simple. Poseidon.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 1st 1972, Michael Jackson performed "Ben" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Four weeks later on July 30th, 1972 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on October 8th, 1972 it peaked at #1 (for 1 week) and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on December 11th, 1972 it reached #1 (for 8 weeks) on the Australian Kent Music Report chart...
    On the same 'Bandstand' show he also performed "I Wanna Be Where You Are"; and at the time it was at position #21 on the Top 100, and on July 9th it peaked at #16 (for 2 weeks)...
    The week "Ben" was at #1 on the Top 100 it prevented "Use Me" by Bill Withers from reaching #1...
    R.I.P. to The King of Pop (1958 - 2009).
  • Adrian from Johor Bahru, MalaysiaIronically, when the song became a hit in 1972, that year was also The Year of The Rat in the Chinese Zodiac.
  • Susie from Burnaby, BcYears 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.

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThis song was nominated for Best Song at the 1972 Academy Awards {Lost to "The Morning After" from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure"}!!!
  • Kevin from Geraldton, AustraliaI 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.
  • Wichapan from Bangkok, ThailandLove Ben Love you...Michael Jackson
    You are in my mind...forever
  • Erin from Boston, Massachusetts, MaI 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
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnIt's weird to hear a song about a giant rat put it's a pretty song.
  • Micky from Los Angeles, CaI always liked this one. R.I.P. Michael.
  • June from Los Angeles, CaHey 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.
  • Joey from Manila, PhilippinesI 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!
  • Maria from London, United KingdomI 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!
  • Daisy from Norwich, United Kingdommicheal 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 from Norwich, United KingdomWhen 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
  • Michelle from Detroit, MiI 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.
  • John from Nashville, TnWhen 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 from Brisbane, United StatesWhy do some people have so much venom and find reasons to attack? Michael taught me to live with straitforward honest self.
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesWhy 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.
  • Izzy515 from Cebu City, Philippinesmichael is always be a king of pop.. he is the bets singer dancer of all time..i love u michael
  • Jackie from San Fransico, CaI was listening to hits of the 70's on 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!
  • Fay from Southampton, Englandi 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
  • Mary from Newcastle, Englandwow 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
  • Sam from Lincoln, Englandi have a rat called Ben!!!
    he was an anniversary present. wow!!
    i was surprised to find out that this song was about a rat
  • Lane from Wister, Oki think michael jackson is gay and so are rat and your reading this your gay too
  • Lane from Wister, Oki have 5 rats and love michael jackson its a perfect combination
  • Maxwell from Houston, TxThe best song ever about a pet rat.
  • Punkanelly from Lake Charles, LaI always thought that Ben was written about one of his lovers. Did Michael ever have a lover named Ben? I'm so curious now.
  • Melanie from Germantown, MdBeing 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...
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaGiven 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.
  • Frank from Beijing, China12 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.
  • Derek from Cambridge, New ZealandAsh, 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!!!
  • Ash from Charleston, WvYes, 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.
  • Michael from Wien (vienna), AustriaI 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?
  • Craig from Madison, WiWhen 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.
  • Ben from Manchester, Englandben 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
  • Claire from Oak Ridge, TnI 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.
  • Amy from Wellington, New ZealandMy 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!!
  • Chantal from Liverpool, CanadaWhat a lovely song, such a nice voice for his age back then, a true star
see more comments

Donald FagenSongwriter Interviews

Fagen talks about how the Steely Dan songwriting strategy has changed over the years, and explains why you don't hear many covers of their songs.

Booker T. JonesSongwriter Interviews

The Stax legend on how he cooked up "Green Onions," the first time he and Otis Redding saw hippies, and if he'll ever play a digital organ.

Rupert HineSongwriter Interviews

Rupert crafted hits for Tina Turner, Howard Jones and The Fixx.

Bob DaisleySongwriter Interviews

Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.

The Real Nick DrakeSong Writing

The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.