Was “Dirty Diana” About Diana Ross and/or Princess Diana?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Michael Jackson’s song “Dirty Diana” was about Diana Ross and/or Princess Diana

For years, Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit song off of the album of the same year, Bad (the fifth single from the album to hit #1 on the charts), “Dirty Diana,” has been rumored to be about Diana Ross and/or Princess Diana.

I think there’s really two ways of looking at this, and it really depends on how slim your definition of a song being “about” someone is.

First off, the people who think that “Dirty Diana” is about either Diana Ross or Princess Diana are obviously just looking at the name of the song, because the lyrics don’t support such a reading.

Take a look at a couple of verses from the song before I tell you who Michael Jackson (the writer of the song) and Quincy Jones (the producer of the song) both say the song is about.

She likes the boys in the band
She knows when they come to town
Every musician’s fan after the
curtain comes down
She waits at backstage doors
For those who have prestige
Who promise fortune and fame
A life that’s so carefree

She’s says that’s ok
Hey baby do what you want
I’ll be your night lovin’ thing
I’ll be the freak you can taunt
And I don’t care what you say
I want to go too far
I’ll be your everything
If you make me a star

Now, of course, reading those lyrics right now, what do you think the song is about?

If you say “groupies,” you are capable of putting two and two together and getting four. Well done.

To go one step further, both Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones have specifically said that the song is about groupies.

Here’s Michael Jackson from an interview with Barbara Walters…

Jackson: I wrote a song called “Dirty Diana.” It was not about Princess Diana. It was about certain kind of girls that hang around concerts or clubs. You know; they call them groupies.

Walters: Groupies?

Jackson: I’ve lived with that all my life. These girls…they do everything with the band, you know, everything you could imagine. So I wrote a song called “Dirty Diana.”

Can you even IMAGINE the sorts of groupies Jackson was probably dealing with in the late 1970s and early 1980s? I can’t even fathom it.

So yeah, the lyrics seem to be clearly about groupies, he says it is about groupies, so the song is about groupies, right?

Well, yeah, but here’s where the whole “depends on how you look at it” deal comes in.

It simply canNOT be a coincidence that Jackson just happened to use the name Diana in the song, when he was so close with Diana Ross and Princess Diana was one of the most famous people in the world at the time. I just don’t buy it. I believe that the song was not written about them in the sense that they are not the “Dirty Diana” he describes in the song, but at the same time, I just don’t buy the name of the song as a coincidence.

I think he was thinking of at least one of them when he came up with the name, even if he meant it as a tribute. Jackson has said that he picked the name “Diana” for the song because he liked the name. That might be true, and if so, it is a bit of a tribute to either Ross or the Princess, just a bit like a writer naming a character after a friend of his. If a writer uses a friend’s name for, say, a murderer – he/she is not saying that the friend is like a murderer, he/she is just tossing in a little tribute, and I think that’s at play here.

Does that count as the song being “about” them? I say no (hence the false) but I can see how you could possibly argue otherwise (hence the basically).

As an amusing side note, Jackson pulled the song from his act when he was performing in England and the Princess was in attendance. She told him, however, that she loved the song and insisted he play it. I’m a bit unclear if he did end up playing it or not (he did four shows at Wembley, and I don’t know for sure which one she attended).

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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16 Responses to “Was “Dirty Diana” About Diana Ross and/or Princess Diana?”

  1. What? Of course it’s about Diana Ross. See, Michael slyly evaded the question — he said it wasn’t about Princess Diana, but he didn’t say Diana Ross. The ‘groupie’ is actually Ross.

    He’s not gonna confess that he wrote the song about his 5-6 year secret affair with Diana Ross, who was still married to Robert Ellis Silberstein when they first got together and still continued seeing him even though she was publicly dating Gene Simmons, lol.

    He was deeply in love with her, and apparently proposed to her twice (heck, he even said in a 1983 Ebony interview that he wanted to marry her) but she rejected him because he was ‘too young’. And then in 1986 (one year before Dirty Diana came out) she got married to someone else and even had the nerve to invite Michael to her wedding! Check out the 1986 AMAs, one month after she got married — Michael was really miserable throughout the whole show, especially when Diana Ross came onstage to present him an award. He even admitted in his 1988 autobiography ‘Moonwalk’ that he was jealous of Diana’s husband because he had always loved her and always will.

    Anyways Michael broke down and wrote this song about her, because she had only treated him like a fling (also it seemed like she was using his fame to propel her career, not that she’s not talented but Diana has a history of sleeping with the Motown bigshots like Berry Gordy to get offers and shows, etc — it was the same with Michael, she had him writing songs for her album and to guest her ‘Diana’ shows to boost ratings).

    The lyrics of Dirty Diana make a lot of sense especially if you look at this angle — a woman who wants to get ahead in her career by using men — I mean, groupies are just fans who want to sleep with the stars, not to be a celebrity themselves. But then we have the line ‘I”ll be your everything, if you make me a star!’ Definitely not about a groupie — Michael was lying when he said that.

    Just research Diana and Michael’s relationship, trust me, everything in this song matches their situation. It’s actually pretty obvious that I’m embarrassed that Michael made it so obvious.

  2. Diana Ross proved the whole world by marrying a much older man that if she would be smaller in age than Michael she did not mind to marry Michael.

  3. The song was both about groupies and about Diana Ross and the hold she had on his heart. The first draft of this song was written in 1983 and was indeed written about groupies. The second draft came in 1985 and was finished in 1986. The 1st and last verse is representative of his on/off love affair he had with Ross for years. You notice the end of the song he stays with Diana. The affair however was not one sided. These two were in love and there is documented proof of romantic getaways (Liberia, Costa Rica…Diana being the inspiration for Liberian girl) as well as an engagement complete with a ring (see 1984 AMA). The person above must forgot who Ms Ross the Boss is and the weight she carries now and especially back then. If anything Michael hitched a ride to her train. Nonetheless, their relationship which lasted a lifetime was about way more than that and I for one am waiting patiently for the true story to come out.

  4. By the way Gene Simmons was her public for show date, while Michael was the real love. Much like Brooke Shields was for Michael. In the end Diana chose her love for MJ and that is when they became a serious relationship. That is the reason to this day why Simmons does not like Michael.

  5. I can’t say much because of legal reasons, but I can say this, I have met Mr. Jackson, and many are deceived by the meaning of this song. Michael did lie about it’s true meaning, and the groupie thing was added to help cover up the fact that he was indeed talking about Diana Ross. The same was done in Michael’s song, Leave Me Alone. I was told that Diana Ross seduced him at a young age, then made bedroom promises that she didn’t keep. She was seeing Michael in between husbands, and he felt used, it seemed like she always needed something, including asking him to write a song for her. They did remain friends, but when Michael was over her, he meant it!, and the only reason that he wanted her to take his children if his mother could no longer care for them, was because he liked the way Diana raised her own, not because he was still deeply in love with her. He finally saw the truth, and said that he loved her as a second mother, no longer a lover. Michael had a way of getting back at those who had wronged him, and Dirty Diana was one of them. This would not be the first time, Michael and Diana Ross did have feuds, and he once made her look like a liar on national television. If Diana Ross was so big, why did she need Michael to write a song for her? They were not both on the recording, she needed it for herself. I feel that Diana Ross has always used men in this way, sleeping her way to the top. It just hurt my heart that Michael was completely messed up by the time the truth sank in. It’s sad that people get their opinions about Michael from tabloids and interviews, because there are a lot of lies said in these things, and there were a lot of lies that Michael has said in interviews only because he felt that he had to. and many did not know that he had a very small number of secret friends who were not celebrity. With them he found his real comfort zone where he felt he could speak freely and be real without worry of what he said getting to the tabloids. People should remember that things are not always what they seem. Diana Ross did not treat Michael right in their so called relationship, she used sex to hold on to him to get what she wanted, just like she did with every other man. She primed Michael from a young age, and that was not proper behavior! I don’t care who may get angry at me for telling the truth, but Diana Ross did not love Michael in the way that he loved her, bottom line!!

  6. It seems Diana is/was something else!

  7. She was and still is something else Zoe. Many people are still fooled by her.It’s ok for people to call Michael names and put him down even in death, but no one wants to come out with the truth about Diana Ross, but I will, as much as I legally can.

  8. I have a question for Ming, I hope you can respond. Would you have any insight as to how Mrs. Katherine Jackson felt about Michael being in a relationship with Diana Ross? Like, did she approve of it? I’ve always heard rumors that Mrs. Jackson did not care for Diana Ross.

  9. @Lovely One…I know your question was meant for Ming, but I would like to answer.

    I’m not sure that Katherine would have been OK with them being in a relationship because Diana was several years older than Michael and more experienced, and also because Katherine had raised Michael in the Jehovah’s Witness faith…it is a very strict religion that prohibits a lot of things.

    She liked Diana to the point where she trusted Diana to take care of Michael when he was a little boy in Motown, but to have Diana date her son when he became a man?
    Something tells me that she might have had an issue with that. And I can understand somewhat, because Michael was a sensitive type of guy who could be easily hurt.

  10. @Ming…I agree, to an extent. I think that Diana cared about Michael in her own way but didn’t see the depth of his feelings for her at the time.
    He was so young and sensitive, while she was older and more experienced.

    I like Diana as an artist and I find her extremely talented. But I don’t like the way she handled things with Michael, if what people are saying is true.
    He wasn’t like the typical guy…he was shy and very fragile emotionally. When a person like that falls in love, especially for the first time at a young age, it can be tough when the relationship ends.

    As an older lady, she should have been wiser about it and left it at friendship only, instead of having a romantic or sexual relationship with him (as it is rumored).
    Michael was a cute little boy and he was gorgeous during the early 1980’s, so I can understand if she was attracted to him when he got to be in his twenties. But he still wasn’t “grown” enough to handle his heart being broken.

    And she should have been honest with him from the start about things…he was very hurt when she married Arne, although he tried to be happy for her.

  11. It is true Lovely one that Michael’s mother did not like Diana. She did feel like Diana was too old and would corrupt her son. Katherine put on the smile for the public, but she hated when Michael would get an award and Diana Ross would be there. To this day Katherine has no liking for Diana Ross, none whatsoever!

  12. @Ming and @MB WOW!!! Thank you so much for the information. I always felt that Mrs. Jackson was only cordial with Diana but not fond of her in any way. And I think she may have been displeased with the “Will” in which Michael chose Diana to be the guardian of Michael’s children in the event that Katherine wasn’t able to.

  13. You are also correct Lovely One about the will. I can tell you this, The last time that I spoke with Michael was in April 2009, and at that time he said that he wanted to change something in his will. Michael had a change of heart about a lot of things before his death.

  14. Ming, I would love for us to continue this topic in a more private setting. I think it’s important for the fans to know the truth about MJ relationship with Diana as well as other women he was involved with, a lot of the information you shared is unknown. This same topic is also discussed on a particular forum, which the participants within it are still very unclear about Michael and Diana’s relationship. I would greatly appreciate any insight you can contribute to the fans. Our main focus is spreading the truth and debunking the lies. Please help us shed some light on this. I can be reached via email mstrina.j.kj@gmail.com or if you prefer another method of communication, I am open to that. Please let me know.

  15. Lovely One,
    Please email me at bw88656@gmail.com for some reason my message didn’t go through, but you can email me. I talk to many people on this subject, and I answer questions on different sites. Hope to hear from you soon.

  16. That woman was a mess! Hardhearted, and the song was truly about her.

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