He was an
extremely popular and successful singer-songwriter and dancer born in Gary, Indiana, as the 8th youngest of 10 children
from a musical family where his father was a singer with The Falcons as
well as working in a steel mill.
His brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine,
Marlon and Randy, sadly Brandon who was Marlon’s twin passed away
while only an infant, and three sisters Rebbie,
La Toya and Janet were also singers.
Jackie, Tito and Jermaine established a backing
band called The Jackson Brothers.
When Michael was just 5 or 6 year old in 1964 he and Marlon joined them
playing instruments such as the tambourine and congas. After a couple of years Michael and Jermaine shared lead vocals and around that time they
changed their name to The Jackson 5.
In 1966, when
Michael was still only 7 or 8 years old, they were the first prize winners
of a well known talent show in their local area and went on tour in the Midwest, giving performances at many black clubs
on the “chitlin circuit”. This tour went on for around two
years until 1968 but during those years they were also signed up by the Gary, Indiana, based company Steeltown
Records, and released their debut single “Big Boy”. Although not seeing any major
national or chart success with it the record sold 10,000 copies and they
went on to release the further single “We Don’t Have to be Over
21 (To Fall in Love)”.
In 1968 the
group left Steeltown Records and moved to Motown Records where they were immediately catapulted
into stardom. The first four
singles they released all went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting
a new chart record. These were
“I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You
Save” and “I’ll Be There”. Around that time Rolling Stone magazine described
Michael as “a prodigy”.
another four years or so Michael ventured out as a solo artist as well as
performing with the group and released his debut album Got to Be There which made it to No.3 on the R&B chart and
No. 14 on the album chart.
He went on to release his second album Ben with the title track, used for the film of the same name,
gaining him his first solo No. 1 hit in the US and No. 7 in the UK as well as winning a
Golden Globe and getting an Academy Award nomination.
In 1973 he
released Music & Me which
produced his No. 14 hit ”With a Child’s Heart” which was
a cover of a Stevie Wonder song. At the same time he was touring the
world with The Jackson 5 and battling with the changes to his voice due to
him being fourteen. The
group’s record sales were starting to take a bit of a downturn too as
Motown was not allowing input, creative or
otherwise, from the group’s members. The decision for the group to leave
the record label came to fruition in 1975.
When he was 16
he released his final album on Motown Records
entitled, Forever, Michael. This didn’t see any of his
previous three album’s success, reaching 101 on the Billboard album
chart but achieving No. 10 on the R&B album chart. However, in 1981 the album’s
single “One Day in Your Life” reached No. 1 in the UK and became the 6th top
selling single there in 1981 after being re-released from his compilation
of the same name.
Moving to Epic
Records in 1975 with The Jackson 5 the group subsequently became known as
The Jackson with their brother Randy officially joining the band and Jermaine leaving to concentrate on his career as a solo
artist. This let to a new
resurgence of popularity with the group with hits such as “Shake Your
Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Can You Feel It” and the
release of six albums during the years 1976 to 1984.
the big screen in 1978 he appeared in the film musical The Wiz taking on the role of the scarecrow. Although not successful he did,
however, start collaboration with Quincy Jones who had arranged the movie
score. This would be a changing
moment in his career when his talent as an accomplished dancer became
recognised alongside his massively successful 5th album in 1979,
Off the Wall, which produced hit
songs such as “Don’t Stop ‘Til
You Get Enough”, “She’s Out of My Life”,
“Rock With You” and the title track. The album reached No. 3 on
the Billboard 200 chart and has since sold more then 20 million copies
worldwide and won him several awards including a Grammy Award and an
American Music Award. The
dancing had it’s downturns too though when he broke his nose in the
middle of a routine and entailed him have to have two rhinoplasty
procedures and several other operations.
later, in 1982, Michael gave the song “Someone In the Dark” for
the movie E.T.’s
storybook. It won him a Grammy
Award to go along with the seven others he received that year for his
best-selling album Thriller which
also got him eight American Music Awards, where he was also presented with
the Award of Merit. The album
has since become the best-selling album of all time in the world stacking
up in the region of 110 million sales to date and being certified with a
Double Diamond status in the US.
Alongside its huge success as an album, the seven singles released
from it also became hugely successful.
These include “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, Wanna Be Startin’Somethin’”
and the title track made its own mark in music history with its
groundbreaking video, which was the first ever music video chosen by the
Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 2009. Even the video of The Making of Michael Jackson’s
Thriller sold in excess of 350,000 copies and won itself a Grammy Award
in 1985. The tour for the album
was coupled in with the Victory Tour with The Jacksons
and all his money raised from that tour were given
around and Michael re-united with his brothers to perform live for the TV
special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. That same time he also performed
“Billy Jean” and his famous moonwalk made its first public
appearance and immediately gained attention and popularity.
In 1984 the
New York Times stated “in the world of pop music there is Michael
Jackson and there is everybody else”. There were even Michael Jackson type
dolls for sale at that time.
Also in 1984 he and some of his family made a commercial for Pepsi but
as he was performing at the concert set up for the ad, his hair caught fire
from the pyrotechnics that where being used. He was inflicted with second degree
burns on his scalp and even though he as paid a large out of court
settlement by Pepsi, which he donated to what is
now the Michael Jackson Burn Center at Culver City’s Brotman Medica Center in California, he never fully recovered. That same year he was presented with
an Award for his work with various charities by President Ronald Reagan and
he began negotiations to buy the copyrights from ATV Publishing which
contained most of The Beatles’ songs by John Lennon and Paul
McCartney after Paul let his offer fall through.
In 1985 he and
Lionel Richie wrote “We Are the
World” as a charity song and it became another best-selling single
for him with in the region of 30 million copies being sold in aid of famine
relief. The song also gained
him another four Grammy Awards.
His negotiations for the ATV Publishing copyrights were also
successfully finalised. Ten
years later he would merge the rights with Sony Music Pulblishing
but still retain half the rights.
time his skin began to get noticeably paler spawning media speculation that
he was somehow bleaching his skin.
He was diagnosed with lupus and vitiligo
and his appearance would dramatically change over the coming years earning
him nicknames he hated like “Wacko Jacko”. It was during his medical treatment
for these ailments that he became close friends with Debbie Rowe who would
later become his second wife.
1986 saw the
release of Captain EO which was a
3D film that Michael collaborated on with Francis Ford Coppola. The film appeared at EPCOT and Disneyland in Florida followed by Disneyland in Tokyo and Euro Disneyland in Paris who ran it
until the 1990s and subsequently in 2010 after Michael passed away.
Five years after
the international smash hit Thriller
he released the much awaited Bad
in 1987 and once again, although not topping the previous album, it was a
huge success in its own right with resultant hits that include the title
track along with “Dirty Diana”, “I Just Can’t Stop
Loving You”, “Leave Me Alone”, “Man in the
Mirror” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”. He became the first act to have five
No. 1 singles from the same album in the United States and received a further Grammy Award and
the American Music Awards presented him with an “Award of
Achievement”. He then
embarked on the Bad World Tour which saw him performing to 4.4 million
people in 123 concerts and breaking records for sellout
performances in Japan and the UK, where he broke the standing Guinness
continued in 1988 when his autobiography Moonwalk was published and topped the New York Times best
seller list. It was followed by
his film Moonwalker where he
starred with Joe Pesci and he topped charts yet
again when he stayed in the No. 1 position on the Billboard Top Music Video
Cassette chart for 22 weeks.
Also in 1988 he built his Neverland Ranch
near Santa Ynez in California.
In 1989 he
earned the distinction of being the first Western act to appear in a TV
commercial in the Soviet
Union and he
became known as “The King of Pop” after being presented with
the Soul Train Heritage Award by Elizabeth Taylor who referred to him as
“the true king of pop, rock and soul”.
To finish off
the 1980s he was named the White House’s “Artist of the
Decade” by George H.W. Bush and the last five years of the decade saw
him making donations to the Unite negro College Fund of half a million
dollars along with the profits from “Man in the Mirror”.
When the 1990s
came around he took out a contract renewal with Sony for $65 million in
1991 and that same year issued the album Dangerous. The
album included a featured rapper which helped seal its success for being
the best selling album that included that kind of music and also the best
selling album worldwide for the year in 1992. The ensuing single releases were
chart hits as usual with “Black and White” being No. 1 in the
Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks and being named 1992’s best selling
single worldwide and “Remember the Time” reaching No. 3. “Heal the World” would
become the biggest from Dangerous
in the UK and he established his children’s charity the Heal the World
Foundation. The world tour that
ensued, and lasted from June 1992 to Novemeber
1993, was another case of sell-out concerts to in the region of 3.5 million
people and the broadcasting rights went to HBO in a record-breaking deal of
$20 million. He performed at
President Clinton’s 1992 Inaugural Gala around that time and aside
from his performance he begged for more funds to be donated for the
research of AIDS as well as to charities dealing with the sufferers of the illness
in the wake of the death of the teenager Ryan White. That same year he went
to Africa where he was crowned “King Sani” in Cote d’Ivoire and his second book, Dancing the Dream, which was a
poetry collection, was released and become another bestseller.
In 1993 he
gave a spectacular performance at Super Bowl XXVII’s
half time show and with is usual crowd pulling ability and stage presence
the live audience and viewers in America alone were around 135 million. His Grammy nominations that year
were many again and he was presented with the Living Legend Award. He also won several American Music
Awards and the first ever International Artist Award, which has since been
given his name. 1993 was not
all good for him though when he was faced with the accusation of abusing Jordan
Chandler by the child’s father.
He suffered the humiliation of a strip search by police, which he
never got over, there were no conclusive evidence found and no charges were
officially brought. Eventually
there was an out-of-court settlement by his lawyers in 1994 but it was later
stated that he had not given his consent for it.
1994 saw a
happier time for him when he married Lisa Marie Presley in the Dominican Republic in secret. They stayed together as man and wife
for under two years before getting amicably divorced.
In 1995 he
released the two disc set HIStory: Past,
Present and Future, Book 1 with the first disc being his greatest hits
and the second being 15 new ones.
It shot up to No. 1 on the US album chart, winning yet another Grammy
Award nomination. As always there were several successful singles that came
out of it with Grammy nominations and chart hits for the songs “Scream/Childhood”,
which was a duet with Janet Jackson, “You Are Not Alone”, which
holds the record for being the first song to debut at No. 1 on the
Billboard Hot 100, “Earth Song” which held the top spot on the
UK for chart for six weeks over the Christmas period and the controversial “They
Don’t Care About Us” where he released a version with changed lyrics.
With 20 million copies sold worldwide became it also broke the record for the
most multiple-disc album sales.
The accompanying world tour saw him performing to around 4.5 million
people in 35 countries and while still on tour in Australia he married
Deborah Rowe in Sydney. Their
first child Michael Joseph Jr., who is known as
Prince, was born in 1997. The
following April their daughter Paris-Michael Katherine was born.
Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix appeared on the shelves in 1997 with five new songs alongside the
remixed hit songs from HIStory.
Once again it became a bestseller, reaching No. 1 on the UK album chart, getting platinum
certification in the US and gaining the honour of being the best
selling remix album ever to be released. The title track was also a No. 1
song on the UK singles chart.
In 1999 he and
Deborah were divorced and he assumed full custody of the children. That same year he performed with Luciano Pavarotti at a charity benefit and then
established his own set of benefit concerts known as Michael Jackson &
Friends, with the events held in Korea and Germany.
millennium saw him receiving a further honour in being named the Artist of
the ‘80s by the American Music Awards. He announced his intention to leave
Sony to the head of the company before he released Invincible, six years since the released of HIStory. Due to this probable imminent
departure all releases of songs and videos were held in suspension.
30 years after
becoming a solo artist he celebrated the anniversary at two concerts at Madison Square Gardens where there was an all-star line up of
guest singers and he performed with his brothers for the first time in 17
years. The concerts were
recorded and broadcast on television in November 2001 as Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary
Celebration: The Solo Years.
The day after the final concert was held, in the September of 2001, the
9/11 attacks occurred. He
immediately became one of the organisers to put together the benefit
concert United We Stand: What More
Can I Give which was held in Washington D.C. in the October. Also in the October his Invincible
eventually got officially released and, even though the sales were lower
than for previous albums, it got certified double-platinum and topped the
charts in thirteen countries. The singles released were “Butterflies”,
“Cry” and “You Rock My World” and there was no
promotional national tour.
The next year he
was given yet another honour when he was named Artist of the Century by the
American Music Awards, making it his 22nd award from them. Also in 2002 he became a father for
the third time to Prince Michael Jackson II, often known as Blanket, who
was born to a surrogate mother.
He sparked a worldwide controversy, however, when he lifted the
infant over a railing several storeys up in a hotel in Berlin that he was staying in. He later admitted he’d made a “terrible
Also in 2002
his compilation album Number Ones
was released and made six-times platinum on the UK and triple-platinum in the US.
That same year he had a documentary entitled Living with Michael Jackson made about him by the UK journalist Martin Bashir
for Britain’s ITV channel. After it had been seen in the US there was an enquiry opened by the Santa
Barbara County Attorney’s office and following their investigations
Michael was arrested on several counts of child molestation and
administering intoxicating substances to a child seen in the broadcast. The trial took place from January to
June 2005 but he was acquitted on each count. He then relocated to Bahrain and began initial discussions with Two
Seas Records, although a contract was never finalised.
It was decided
to close the house at the Neverland Ranch in 2006
for financial reasons with several reports being issued about him not
making loan repayments. Sony
did release the Michael Jackson: Visionary series, which was 20 singles
from the ‘80s and ‘90s and the majority of the singles released
from the package made a return to the charts. Also in 2006 he started recording a
new album in Ireland and, after accepting a Diamond Award for
record sales of over 100 million, he gave a performance at the World Music
In 2007 he was
backing collaborating with Sony to purchase the Famous Music LLC publishing
company which gave him further ownership of song rights. He also worked on a many recordings with
the acclaimed producer will.i.am, but the
contents for an album were incomplete and never came to be.
In 2008 he was
back releasing work though when Thriller
25, with the addition of the extra song “For All Time” and
some remixes which saw relatively minor success, came out to celebrate its
25th anniversary. The album achieved hit status and was followed
by Sony then releasing King of Pop
to mark his 50th birthday, which also went into the album chart
Top 10s in many countries. That same year he transferred the title of Neverland Ranch while still having a stake in it and
cleared his debts.
When 2009 came
around he appeared in the 02 Arena in London to announce a new series of concerts
which would be his first for 12 years.
The London ticket sales were astronomical at a million selling in under two hours, breaking records once again, to the
point that the concerts went from 10 to 50 dates. He did his lead-up rehearsals for
the tour, due to begin in July 2009, in Los Angeles but with just under
three weeks to go until his first performance he suffered a cardiac arrest in
bed at the mansion he was staying in and passed away in hospital. His physician would later be charged
with involuntary manslaiughter. The news of his
death shocked and stunned people the world over and the amount of people
wanting to read or talk about what had happened literally crashed much of
the internet. He was headline
news on television and covered the front page of most of the world’s newspapers
and magazines and The Sun
newspaper in Britain featured him on their front page for the
next two weeks.
service for his family members, his memorial, which was televised to a
possible one billion people, saw performances by many top artists who
wanted to pay tribute with songs and eulogies and there was a standing
ovation given to Reverend Al Sharpton.
His single “This
is It” was released posthumously with his brothers re-uniting to sing
the backing vocals. Michael Jackson’s This Is It which
was a documentary of his recent rehearsals became the highest grossing
documentary of all time worldwide, although just running for two weeks. There was a compilation album
released alongside. He was also
given four posthumous awards at the American Music Awards.
With his very
untimely and sudden death he left behind a legacy of having touched the
lives of probably billions of people during his lifetime. His staggering sales of in the
region of 750 million recordings, his transformation of pop music and how
it was perceived, his two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
his dancing, his cinematic videos, his countless Awards and world records
along with his sheer entertainment quality are unlikely to be matched and
will be remembered forever.