Michael Jackson was a singer-songwriter, entertainer, philanthropist, and occasional actor known as the “King of Pop.” Born in Gary, Indiana, his career spanned four decades from small beginnings in a family band to his very lucrative solo career.
Jackson had a very rough upbringing with his five brothers and three sisters. Even though he was emotionally and physically abused by his father, Joe Jackson, he credits him with playing a huge role in his success. In 1964, he joined The Jackson 5 with his brothers Tito, Jacki, Jermaine, and Marlon playing tambourine and backing vocals. Five years later, the group signed with Motown Records and moved to Los Angeles. Their hits, “ABC,” “I Want You Back,” and “The Love You Save” were successful among the Billboard Hot 100. Around this time, Jackson was starting to breakaway from the group to embark on a solo career. He even released four solo albums with Motown including Got To Be There.
By 1975, The Jackson 5 renamed themselves The Jacksons and signed with Epic Records. Jermaine left the group to pursue a solo career, while Randy took his place. Michael remained and continued to write songs for the group including “This Place Hotel.” He didn’t officially leave the group until after his film The Wiz was completed and Quincy Jones agreed to co-produce his album Off the Wall. His plastic surgeries began around this time with two rhinoplasties; the first being botched because he had difficulty breathing.
Off the Wall spawned the singles, “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough” and “Rock with You,” which made the Top 10 hits list in the United States. It also sold over 20 million copies worldwide. He won several awards for the album including Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album at the American Music Awards. Jackson used the success from Off the Wall as a learning experience to exceed expectations for his follow-up album Thriller.
In 1982, Jackson released what would come to be the best-selling album in the world Thriller which earned him seven Grammy Awards. The album is known for hits, “Billie Jean,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” and “Beat It.” During this time, he released a short-film music video for “Thriller” including the famous zombie dance. It was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2009.
He reunited with the other members of The Jacksons for a live concert performance at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, a televised special that aired on NBC. It was on this special that he debuted one of his signature moves, the moonwalk.
Jackson and his brothers were big endorsers for PepsiCo and would film commercials using his songs as jingles. One of the famous commercials included a young Alfonso Ribeiro as a dancer who casually bumped into Jackson while “Billie Jean” played in the background. During the filming of another commercial involving a simulated concert, the pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire, leaving him with second-degree burns on his scalp. Pepsi awarded him a $1.5 million settlement, which he used to donate to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City. Their burn center was named after him for his generous donation.
The Jacksons reunited for the Victory Tour from July to December 1984. It was named for their album Victory, although none of the songs were performed. The album featured the singles, “Torture” and “State of Shock” with Mick Jagger and was the first to include all six Jackson brothers.
Also in 1984, he was recognized for his humanitarian work when President Ronald Reagan invited him to the White House to receive an award for his support to various charities. Jackson acquired ATV Music Publishing in 1985.
His appearance was the subject of media controversy in 1986 when he was diagnosed with vitiligo, later discovered in his autopsy. There were claims of him also being diagnosed with lupus, but that didn’t show up. Jackson was also the center of a story involving a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which he used to slow the aging-process. All of these tabloid stories inspired the hit, “Leave Me Alone” from his album Bad, released in 1987. Other hits included “Man In the Mirror,” “Dirty Diana,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to produce Captain EO a short-film distributed at Disneyland and EPCOT. It was also featured at Euro Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. In 2010, the film returned to the parks to honor Jackson’s memory.
1988 was a big year for Jackson; he published his autobiography, Moonwalk which sold 200,000 copies, and he built Neverland Ranch which cost $17 million. In 1989 when Elizabeth Taylor presented the Soul Train Heritage Award to him, she proclaimed him “the true king of pop, rock, and soul.”
He released his album Dangerous in 1991 and founded the Heal the World Foundation in 1992. After the death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention for HIV/AIDS by convincing the Clinton Administration to donate more money to research and charities. His song, “Gone To Soon” was dedicated in memory to White. Other singles from the album included “Black & White,” “In the Closet,” and “Remember the Time.” He also did a memorable performance during the Super Bowl halftime show in 1993.
The sexual abuse allegations against him began in 1993 when the Chandler family accused him of abuse against their 13-year-old son. Eventually, he settled out of court, but never recovered from the humiliation of the strip search when police wanted to match Chandler’s description of Jackson’s intimate parts.
In 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Pressly after proposing to her over the phone. The marriage lasted less than two years. In 1995, he merged ATV Music Publishing with Sony and kept half-ownership of the company. He released HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I a double album featuring his greatest hits on one disc and new material on the other. Singles included “Scream,” a duet with his sister, Janet Jackson, “Earth Song,” and “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” He married Deborah Rowe in 1996 after it was discovered she was pregnant. The couple had two children; Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (Prince) and Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson. They divorced in 1999, and he received full custody of the children. He release Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, remixes of previously released material in 1997.
He won the American Music Award for Artist of the 1980. His album Invincible was released in 2001 and would be the last one released while still alive. In September 2001, he celebrated 30 years as a solo artist by holding anniversary concerts at Madison Square Garden. Other performers included Usher, Destiny’s Child, and Slash. He also performed with his brothers for the first time since 1984.
He released a documentary in 2003 entitled Living with Michael Jackson, featuring the baby-dangling incident with his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (Blanket) in Berlin. This caused controversy and painted Jackson in an unflattering light. In 2005, he was on trial for seven counts of child molestation, but was acquitted in June after five months.
Jackson closed Neverland Ranch in March 2006 as a means of cutting costs. There were also reports of him collaborating with Akon and will.i.am of The Black-Eyed Peas on new material for a future album. He announced in March 2009 during a press conference that he was working towards a series of comeback concerts dubbed This Is It. He worked with Kenny Ortega and rehearsed in the Staples Center for the shows. Before his death, he was working with Christian Audigier to release a clothing line.
On June 25, 2009, Jackson was found dead in his rented mansion in Los Angeles. News of his death crashed several entertainment sites and social media feeds. His memorial service was held July 7, 2009 at the Staples Center followed by a private ceremony for the family. It was one of the most watched events in online streaming history with 31.1 million viewers. It was proven that his physician, Conrad Murray was responsible for prescribing the general anesthetic, propofol that he overdosed with and was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was released in October 2013, but his medical licenses were suspended in the states he practiced medicine.
In October 2009, Columbia Pictures released the concert film Michael Jackson’s This Is It in theaters, making it a box-office success. He was also the best-selling albums artist of 2009, since more people were purchasing his music. Recently, more of his previously unreleased material came out in a compilation album entitled Xscape. The single, “Love Never Felt So Good” was released featuring a version with Jackson and Justin Timberlake performing a duet. There was also a music video released with clips from Jackson’s previous videos.
Jackson is survived by his three children, his brothers and sisters, and parents Katherine and Joseph. Katherine Jackson received temporary custody of his children on June 29, 2009.
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