Enough about Michael Jackson. Pay no attention to those premature reports.
Yes, the Gloved One has been approached about singing with the Animated One. But no, it is not a done deal. Which is why the recent stories about Jackson doing a duet with Bart Simpson have infuriated the folks over at Fox Broadcasting Co.'s hit cartoon show.Especially perturbed is "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, who plops down at a West Hollywood recording studio and grants a speedy interview about the latest project to come from America's favorite dysfunctional family.
"Oh, it's so frustrating," says the cartoonist. "I said to a reporter a while ago that I would like to have this happen and it was printed as if it was true."
What Groening wished for was Jackson's participation in "The Simpsons Sing the Blues," an incongruous title for the debut album of an overnight success story. What Groening is afraid of is that all the publicity will send the obsessively media-shy Jackson scurrying from negotiations.
"This may kill it," Groening says. "We have a whole wish list of people we'd like to use on the album. Stevie Ray Vaughan was lined up, then he was killed."
Milling around the recording studio this day are the actors who provide the voices for "The Simpsons."
There is Julie Kavner, whose scratchy vocals come out of Marge's animated mouth and Dan Castellaneta, who talks for the long-suffering dad, Homer. Sitting nearby is Yeardley Smith, the voice of the high-minded daughter, Lisa. Nancy Cartwright, nursing a cold and chugging Evian water, drops in and out of Bart's unmistakable whining monotone.
The four performers have been working on "The Simpsons Sings the Blues" for about a month. So far, they have completed only two rough cuts in between taping shows for "The Simpsons" fall season, which begins Oct. 13.
Due out in November, the disc contains an eclectic mix of old blues tunes such as Billie Holliday's "God Bless the Child" and original songs such as "Deep, Deep Trouble," produced by rapper D.J. Jazzy Jeff and written by Groening.
Fox has been trying to keep the record under wraps until negotiations with performers like Jackson are nailed down. But word has leaked out, to the great consternation of those involved.
Jackson's duet was to come on "Do the Bartman," and published reports have said it was penned by Jackson. It wasn't, which prompted producer and filmmaker James L. Brooks to issue a press release late last week apologizing for any misunderstanding about who actually wrote the tune. The composer is Jackson pal Bryan Loren.