Introduction and Early Life:
The King of Pop, Michael Jackson was quite possibly the biggest pop star of the late 20th century. Widely considered as one of the most important and influential recording artists in the history of popular music, he created a sensation with his unique blend of breathtaking dance moves, instantly recognizable voice and outstanding musical versatility. Jackson was probably the first black artist to find widespread popularity on MTV, heralding the age of video with his groundbreaking masterpieces such as “Billie Jean” and “Thriller”, which changed the way music videos are produced. Having sold an estimated 400 million records worldwide, he also gained notoriety for his controversial and turbulent personal life.
Born “Michael Joseph Jackson” in August 1958 in Gary, Indiana, he started singing at an early age and often joined his elder brothers in local clubs and talent shows. Michael’s father, Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson, was a steelworker at U.S. Steel who also played guitar for a blues band called “the Falcons” to supplement the family’s income.
Career and Musical Achievements:
In 1968, the Jackson 5 secured a recording contract with Motown Records. The group, featuring Micheal Jackson as the lead singer, made their first television appearance on ABC’s Hollywood Palace in October 1969. The show was guest hosted by Diana Ross. Their first two singles, “I Want You Back” and “ABC”, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The Jackson 5 recorded 15 highly successful studio albums between 1970 and 1978. They also appeared in two television programs, the animated Jackson 5ive and a variety show The Jacksons.
Micheal Jackson embarked on a solo career in 1971, while still working with the Jackson 5. He released four solo studio albums between 1972 and 1975 with Motown; Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music & Me (1973), and Forever, Michael (1975). It was his 1979 album, Off the Wall, co-produced by Quincy Jones and Michael, which established him as a hugely popular solo performer.
Even more success followed in 1982 with the release of Thriller. Although the title song was criticized as a novelty song, its 14-minute music video single-handedly revolutionized the landscape of pop music. The video, produced with an astonishing budget of $150,000, was met with widespread praise. When it aired on MTV, Michael Jackson became the first African American recording artist to ever appear on the network.
His next two releases, Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991), attained multi-platinum certifications. Michael’s career was marred by controversy and scandal in the early 1990s, including allegations of pedophilia and child sex abuse. Although he announced a series of comeback concerts in March 2009, he died an unfortunate tragic death in Los Angeles in June 2009. Michael’s memorial was held in July 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The memorial service was one of the most watched and talked about events in online streaming history, with an estimated U.S. audience of 31.1 million.
Awards and Accolades:
Michael Jackson earned numerous awards and accolades in his lifetime, and has been posthumously awarded many more, including 26 American Music Awards, 35 Billboard Awards, 13 Grammy Awards, 31 Guinness World Records, and 9 MTV Video Music Awards. He has been inducted onto the Rock and Roll and Hollywood Walks of Fame twice (as a member of the Jacksons and on his own), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (as a Jackson 5 member), and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (as a solo artist).
Long known for a turbulent, troubled personal life, his erratic behavior, changing appearance, personal relationships and legal troubles aroused much controversy in the press. He was married twice; to Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley from to 1994 to 1996, and to his nurse Debbie Rowe (1996-1999). Jackson was a noted philanthropist who played various benefit concerts and generously donated the proceeds of his shows to non-profit organizations.