Jackson gave some tough-love advice about how to kickstart his career in the early '80s that Osmond didn't want to hear, but he eventually realized Jackson was right all along!
In many ways, it's easy to see how Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson would grow close. Born just eight months apart, both of them grew up in famous singing families, achieving superstardom at a young age with their brothers.
Both of them craved the normalcy of childhood that would elude them as they faced instead blockbuster tour schedules, recording sessions and television appearances. And both would seek to break free from their family's success stories and begin their own chapters as solo artists.
In a recent interview with Page Six, Osmond recalled their long friendship, which began when their families met up and performed on the same stage back in 1971. "I remember seeing Michael peeking out the side of the curtain watching me during the show," Osmond recalled.
He remembered earlier that day when the two of them had been backstage playing like the 13-year-old kids they were. "It’s really difficult talking about," he said. "These two little teenagers who are just selling amazing amounts of records and having number-one records and very powerful recording artists, and all they want to do is just be kids."
It's because of this shared experience that Osmond said he feels for the challenges faced in the public eye by more modern child superstars like Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. "It’s probably worse now than it used to be, especially with social media. But I think what happens is that you become a puppet to your image," he said.
"There is a certain road or certain path that everybody thinks that you should be on. And it gets very difficult. Everybody is telling you what you should be like," he continued. "It’s really taxing ... When you want to do something and you can’t."
Despite saying that his family and Mormon faith gave him a foundation from which to draw strength, the pressure would still get to him. "There were times when I just crawled up in a ball and cried my head off because of the same dynamic that Britney and Justin and all these guys [have had to deal with]," he noted. "I’m not immune."
It also helped that he didn't feel so alone in his experiences. Osmond's fast friendship with Jackson never faded over the years, even as Osmond's career began to. While both sought that transition into solo stardom, it seemed to come easier for Jackson.
Osmond broke out big with "Puppy Love" at 14 years old, but as he wanted to be taken more seriously as a rock artist through the late '70s and early '80s, the industry and fans pushed back ... hard. Meanwhile, Jackson released "Thriller" in 1982 and became the biggest star on the planet.
It was at this point that Osmond shared the tough love advice that Jackson gave him, and he initially resisted. "Well, you got to change your name," he recalled Jackson telling him. "Your name is poison!"
That's certainly hard to hear, with Osmond describing it as "quite offensive," but the Osmond name had become synonymous with a type of corny, wholesome music that just wasn't in fashion anymore come the 1980s. The Jackson name, meanwhile, didn't suffer the same fate, which could be why Osmond found it a hard pill to swallow.
In fact, he resisted it through most of that decade. It wasn't until Jackson was proven right years later that he realized how good his friend's advice had actually been. In 1989, Osmond didn't even have a record deal in the United States, but a radio deejay decided to take a chance on his latest single from across the pond after it had been sent to her.
Apparently sensing the same thing that Jackson did, she started playing the record without revealing the artist. For weeks, it was a game for fans to try and guess who that was singing the song "Soldier of Love."
Finally, the artist was revealed, and Osmond found himself with a record deal and a new career ... all thanks to no one knowing it was him who's recorded the song. They took the song on its own merits. "So Michael was right," he mused.
The two would stay in touch over the years as they both enjoyed very different career highs, lows and challenges. Osmond said that their last conversation about a year before Jackson's shocking death in 2009.
"I said, ‘Mike, where are you?’ He says, ‘I can’t tell you,'" Osmond shared. "I said, ‘Mike, come on. You’re talking to me. Where are you?’"
Finally, he said Jackson relented. "He said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody, but I’m in Phoenix. I rented a tour bus and I got my kids and we drove to Phoenix and I’m in hiding right now.’"
Realizing that this was just a nine-hour drive from where he was living in Utah, Osmond offered to have Jackson come over with his family. "I want your kids to go swimming with my kids," he told his friend. "You’re going to have a wonderful conversation with my wife and myself. And I’m going to bring some normalcy into your life."
Osmond recalled Jackson telling him, "I really need that right now." Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. "He never took me up on it," Osmond said.