Remembering Michael Jackson: Five Years Later

By Samantha Glick,

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 break away 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 dance 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, Jackson 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. In 1985, Jackson acquired ATV Music Publishing.

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