December 1982: When Toni Basil Hit #1 with "Mickey"

Toni Basil in the "Mickey" video
Photo Credit
(YouTube)

By the late '70s, Toni Basil was already a major player in the world of music, dance, and choreography. She had a brief but memorable role in Easy Rider as one of the women in the notorious cemetery scene, directed the dance scenes in American Graffiti, and worked with David Bowie on the Diamond Dogs tour.

Commissioned by a British record label to produce a handful of original music videos, she connected with music producer Nicky Chinn. Basil already had a cheerleader video concept in mind, and just needed a song to go with it. Chinn recommended that she cover a song titled "Kitty" that he'd written with producer Mike Chapman for the group Racey. They reworked the tune, adding the memorable cheerleader chant, and turned it into "Mickey."

In order to realize her cheerleader video concept (Basil had been the head cheerleader of her Las Vegas high school), the artist tapped Carson, CA, high school cheerleaders to make the clip. The video was such a hit in England that it was released as a stand-alone single in early 1981, where it soared to #2. In Australia, it hit #1.

"Mickey" would finally get released in America in February 1982, really picking up steam in the fall when it became a hit with kids heading back to school and Friday night football games. The song cracked the Top 40 in October 1982, gaining momentum with repeated spins on MTV. On December 11, 1982, "Mickey" would become the #1 song in America, dethroning Lionel Richie's "Truly."

 

Despite the song's enduring popularity and being used in such movies as Bring It On and Wayne's World, Basil claims that she's only earned around $1500 from "Mickey." She never sought songwriting credit, despite writing the cheerleader hook on the tune. In 2017, she filed a lawsuit against a host of parties, including Disney, claiming that the song “has been exploited and unlawfully licensed throughout the world over the last three decades." The suit was dismissed in 2018.

 

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