Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, dancer, entertainer, and recording artist. Michael Jackson epitomised the era of pop in the 70s, 80s and 90s, earning himself the title the King of Pop. He remained a global icon until his untimely death in 2009.
Michael Jackson began his music career alongside his fellow brothers and family members in the Jackson Five. His career began in 1964, aged only six. The group, led by Jackson’s father, worked hard touring many clubs and bars performing their mix of Motown hits. They gained the attention of record labels and in 1968 signed with Motown records. It was the youngest, baby-faced Jackson, that caught the eye of reviewers. Rolling Stone magazine wrote that Michael was a ‘prodigy’ with ‘overwhelming musical gifts’. Michael stood out for his exceptional enthusiasm and soft, infectious musical voice. The group produced four number one hit singles, including “I Want You Back“, ABC and “the Lover You Save.”
Despite achieving his goal to be a music performer, Michael’s childhood was far from happy. He was regularly beaten and threatened by his authoritarian father. This legacy of abuse left Michael scarred throughout his adult life.
Solo Career Michael Jackson
By the late 1970s, Michael was increasingly looking to pursue a solo career. With the help of music producer, Quincy Jones, Michael produced the solo album ‘Off The Wall‘. The album was a great success, eventually selling over 20 million copies. The album gained much critical acclaim, and Michael secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry. (37% of album profit)
His second solo album, Thriller, launched Michael Jackson into a position as the most famous pop singer in the world. With little commercial advertising and promotion, Thriller rose to number one on album sales and remained at the number one spot for a total of 37 weeks. It gained one of many Guinness World Records for Michael Jackson, attaining 110 million global sales and 29 million sales in the US. Thriller included number one hits such as Beat It, Billie Jean.
In March 1983, Michael Jackson performed live on Motown 25, ‘Yesterday, today, forever’, – a TV special. He performed his distinctive and memorable dance move – the Moonwalk. In the dance routine, he effortlessly moves backwards with seemingly keeping one leg perfectly straight. His performance made him a global icon of not just music, but dance. Michael Jackson pioneered the importance of music video in promoting a pop artist. This iconic performance has been compared to the famous Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
Jackson’s next albums were Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991). His final album was Invincible (2001).
By the late 80s, there was an increasing number of stories speculating on Jackson’s personal life, health and physical appearance. Michael Jackson underwent numerous operations of plastic surgery to fix his nose and add a dimple in his chin. During the 1980s, his skin started to lighten; this was due to a rare skin pigment disease, but it didn’t stop a wave of speculative press stories that he was bleaching his skin colour. The press covered a range of speculative stories about Michael Jackson, including imaginary stories Michael had invented himself (such as sleeping in an oxygen tent to avoid the ageing process)
“I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was six-years-old, and as Charles Dickens would say, “It’s been the best of times, the worst of times.” But I would not change my career… While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me.”
The press attention made Michael increasingly reclusive, spending much of his time in his ‘Never Land’ ranch.
Speaking on the Oprah Winfrey show, Jackson addressed the issue of skin colour change:
“OK, number one. There, as I know of, there is no such thing as skin bleaching…I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin, it’s something that I cannot help, OK? But, when people make up stories that I don’t want to be who I am, it hurts me…it’s a problem for me, I can’t control it.”
He married Lisa Marie Presley in 1994; it lasted two years though they remained friendly after the divorce. In 1996, he married Deborah Rowe in Sydney. Together they had two children. They divorced in 1999 and Rowe gave full custody of children to Jackson.
Allegations of child abuse were first raised in the 1980s and re-appeared in the 1990s. This led to the trial of The People v Jackson on 31 Jan 2005, in Sante Maria, California. After five months of high publicity, Jackson was acquitted. Though the experience left him physically weak and emotionally stressed. He departed America for the Persian Gulf Island of Bahrain.
“The minute I started breaking the all-time record in record sales—I broke Elvis’s records, I broke Beatles records—the minute it became the all-time best-selling album in the history of the Guinness Book of World Records, overnight they called me a freak. They called me a homosexual. They called me a child molester. They said I bleached my skin. They made everything to turn the public against me.”
– Remarks at National Action Network headquarters (9 July 2002)
Towards the end of his life, he was increasingly plagued by money troubles and ill health. He increasingly became dependent on a variety of drugs, which was said to have contributed to his ill health and premature death. Despite concerns over finance, he is said to have made career earnings of $500m and had assets in Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalogue worth over $300m alone.
“In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe”
– M. Jackson Quoted by CNN June 2009.
Michael Jackson died on 25 June 2009, at a rented mansion in the district of Los Angeles.
Charity Work of Michael Jackson
- Michael Jackson supported many charities. This included a burns charity in Culver City, California. This followed an incident where Michael Jackson was burnt in filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984.
- He also supported HIV / AIDS charities at a time when it was still unfashionable.
- In 1984, he received an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities which help overcome alcohol and drug abuse.
- From his 1984, Victory Tour he donated all funds (around $8million to charity)
- In 1985, he also co-wrote the charity single “We are the World” with Lionel Richie. It sold over 30 million copies, and the proceeds were sent to the poor in the US and Africa.
- He continued his charity work to the end of his life supporting charity concerts such as Aid for victims of Kosovo war.
The Essential Michael Jackson
The Essential Michael Jackson at Amazon
The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson
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