Michael Joseph Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and philanthropist. Dubbed the “King of Pop”, he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Over a four-decade career, his contributions to music, dance, and fashion along with his publicized personal life made him a global figure in popular culture.
Early Life and The Jackson 5 (1958–1975)
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana to a working-class African-American family. He was the eighth of ten children in the Jackson family and grew up in a small three-room house. His father Joseph Jackson was a steel mill worker and a guitarist while his mother Katherine was a devout Jehovah’s Witness.
From a young age, Michael showed talent as a performer. By the age of 5, he was performing at local talent shows. In 1964, Michael and his brother Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers band formed by their father. They were later joined by brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine to become the Jackson 5.
The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5 played at local clubs and venues before signing with Motown records in 1968. They soon became one of the premiere groups of the Motown label, with four consecutive number one singles on the Hot 100 chart. As the lead singer, young Michael captured national attention with his energetic dance moves and singing talent, which included hits like “I Want You Back” and “ABC”.
Table 1: Notable Achievements of The Jackson 5
| Year | Achievement | |-|-|-| | 1970 | First four singles (“I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There”) reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 chart | | 1970 | Debut album “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” reached number one | | 1971 | Won two Grammy awards | | 1972 | All Jackson 5 singles released in 1972 entered the top 20 on the Hot 100 chart |
The Jackson 5 successfully bridged the genres of R&B, soul, pop and later disco with Michael as the lead vocalist. They became an immediate success, producing 20 singles in the top 40 hits including 4 number 1’s. However, tensions grew within the band and in 1975 they left Motown records.
Transition to Solo Career (1971-1981)
Even during his time with Jackson 5, Michael pursued solo projects including a number one hit “Got to Be There” in 1971. While his voice was changing, he continued to release singles like “Rockin’ Robin” and “Ben”.
In 1978, Michael played the Scarecrow in the film musical The Wiz alongside Diana Ross. The musical scores were arranged by Quincy Jones who agreed to produce Michael’s next solo album Off the Wall.
Off the Wall Success
Released in 1979, Off the Wall was a critical and commercial success for Michael Jackson. It spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number one hits “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You”. The album won Michael his first Grammy Award and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
Thriller Era and Superstardom (1982–1985)
In 1982, Michael released Thriller, which became the best-selling album worldwide of all time. With hits like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”, it spent nearly two and a half years on the Billboard album chart.
The album won Michael an unprecedented eight Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. It also broke racial barriers for black artists and revolutionized music videos as an art form with iconic shorts films like Thriller and Beat It.
Pepsi, Tabloid Attention and Business
Michael’s fame continued to skyrocket, landing him endorsement deals with Pepsi-Cola. However, a tragic accident during filming of a commercial severely burned Michael’s scalp. He underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries which opened him to tabloid rumors about his appearance.
Around this time, Michael also began to take more control of his career. He negotiated the highest royalty rate in the music industry and retained ownership of his master recordings as well as the publishing rights to his songs.
We Are the World
In 1985, Michael co-wrote the charity single “We Are the World” with Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. Featuring 44 artists, the song raised over $63 million for famine relief in Africa and became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
New Directions and Scandals (1987-1993)
Michael’s follow-up to Thriller was the album Bad in 1987. It produced five Billboard Hot 100 top ten hits including “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana”. While it could not match the commercial success of Thriller, Bad still sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
Autobiography, Neverland Ranch and Vitiligo
In 1988, Michael released his first autobiographical film Moonwalker as well as the book Moonwalk. He also purchased the 2,700 acre Neverland Ranch which featured amusement park rides, zoo animals and a movie theater.
Around this time, Michael was diagnosed with vitiligo, a disease that caused white patches on his skin. He also stated he suffered from an autoimmune disorder causing the loss of skin pigment.
Dangerous, Super Bowl and Sex Abuse Allegations
Michael’s 1991 album Dangerous debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The next year he performed at the Super Bowl XXVII halftime show, drawing in the largest U.S. television audience.
In 1993, Michael was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. Michael denied the allegations but the case was eventually settled out of court.
Marriage, Final Years and Death (1994-2009)
In 1994, Michael married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley. They divorced in 1996 after less than two years of marriage. Later that same year, Michael married dermatology nurse Debbie Rowe. They had two children through artificial insemination – Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (Prince) and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Michael and Rowe divorced in 1999.
Invincible and Financial Troubles
In 2001, Michael released his final album Invincible. While it debuted at number one, sales declined due to changes in the music industry and lack of promotion.
Around this time, Michael also began to experience financial troubles. Despite his lucrative recording contracts, the costs of running Neverland Ranch along with his lavish lifestyle left him saddled with debt.
Charges of Child Molestation
In 2003, Michael’s reputation was again tarnished when he was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of providing an intoxicant to a person under age 14. The 2005 trial ended with Michael’s acquittal on all charges.
Final Years and Death
After the trial, Michael and his three children moved to the Middle East before returning to Los Angeles. He was preparing for a series of comeback concerts titled This Is It when he passed away on June 25, 2009 after going into cardiac arrest from a drug overdose.
His memorial service was broadcast live around the world with millions of fans mourning. In death as in life, Michael Jackson remained the undisputed King of Pop.
Michael Jackson’s Musical Legacy
With his unique tone and range, Michael Jackson is regarded as one of the greatest singers in pop music history. Hits like “Billie Jean” and “Man in the Mirror” displayed his vocal prowess and emotional delivery that connected with audiences worldwide.
As a Dancer
Michael was an extraordinarily gifted dancer who brought dance into the forefront of pop music. His signature moves like the moonwalk and robot dance inspired generations and sparked new interest in choreography.
As an Innovator
Michael broke down racial barriers in the music industry and revolutionized music videos as an artform. His trend-setting videos became embedded in pop culture and showed the possibilities of using visual media in songs.
Influence on Pop, R&B and Hip Hop
Artists across musical genres have cited Michael Jackson as an influence. His contributions redefined pop and R&B while also shaping hip hop – he was one of the first major pop stars embraced by the rap community.
Fashion and Style Icon
Michael’s fashion and styles continue to inspire modern pop and street culture. His sequined gloves, white socks, red leather jacket and single glittering glove sparked global fashion trends.
Michael Jackson’s immense talent and acknowledged status as the King of Pop has made him one of the most legendary figures in music history whose legacy continues to this day.
In conclusion, Michael Jackson was undeniably the greatest entertainer of his era. His enormous talent as a singer, dancer, and performer made him the undisputed King of Pop and one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. However, the pressures of fame also extracted a toll on his personal life.
He remains a complex figure whose influence on music, dance and pop culture will endure for generations to come. While his legacy is not without controversy, his artistic genius created an indelible mark on the musical landscape. Michael Jackson’s music and memory will continue to inspire artists and fans around the world.
FAQs About Michael Jackson’s Biography
What was Michael Jackson’s childhood like?
Michael Jackson had a difficult childhood. As the youngest member of the Jackson 5, he was thrust into the spotlight at an extremely early age. The band rigorously rehearsed and toured which prevented Michael from having a normal childhood. He was also emotionally and physically abused by his father Joseph.
Why did Michael Jackson’s appearance change so dramatically?
Michael’s changing appearance, especially the lightening of his skin, was largely due to vitiligo – a disease that causes skin to lose its pigment. He also underwent multiple plastic surgeries including rhinoplasty which he said was to improve his breathing.
How many albums did Michael Jackson sell worldwide?
It is estimated Michael Jackson sold between 350-750 million records worldwide in his lifetime. His 1982 album Thriller remains the best selling album of all time with over 66 million copies sold.
What were some of Michael Jackson’s most famous dance moves?
Some of Michael’s most famous dance moves were the moonwalk, the robot, the toe stand, the anti-gravity lean, and the pelvic thrust. His synchronized dance routines during live shows and music videos amazed audiences.
What humanitarian work did Michael Jackson do?
Michael co-wrote the song “We Are the World” with Lionel Ritchie and donated all proceeds to famine relief in Africa. Through his Heal the World Foundation, he gave millions to charity including to children’s hospitals and HIV/AIDS research.