Written and Composed by Michael Jackson
Produced by Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc.
From the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, released June 20, 1995
Released as a single March 31, 1996
THE SHORT FILM
Director: Spike Lee
Michael Jackson elected to create two separate short films for “They Don’t Care About Us.” These were the fifth and sixth of seven short films produced for recordings from HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, Michael’s fifth album as an adult solo performer. As a single, “They Don’t Care About Us” reached the Top 10 in 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy (where it reached No. 1) and New Zealand. In the United States, the song charted in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Dance Music and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts.
Spike Lee was the director for both short films for “They Don’t Care About Us.” This version was shot in a prison and depicted Michael and other inmates in a mess hall and in cells under close supervision from prison guards. These scenes are juxtaposed with uncensored footage of war and unrest around the world, including civil rights protests, the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and others.
Michael felt this unapologetic vision perfectly complemented the message of the song. “‘They Don’t Care About Us’ has an edge, and Spike Lee had approached me,” he said of their collaboration. “It’s a public awareness song, and that’s what he is all about. It’s a protest kind of song…I think he was perfect for it.”
The controversial imagery and lyrics of “They Don’t Care About Us” prevented the “prison version” of the short film from airing during primetime music video programming hours. It was not released to home video until 2010, when it was included as a bonus feature on Michael Jackson’s Vision.