Michael Jackson’s influence has left an indelible stamp on the face of popular music. Today’s artists such as Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5 owe much to Jackson’s unique and varied sound catalog. Timberlake has openly admitted to copying his incomparable style and incorporating it into his own act… one can only imagine what the pop world would be like today without Jackson’s Midas touch.
Known as the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana (an industrial suburb of Chicago, Illinois) on August 29, 1958, to a working-class family. The seventh of nine children born to Joseph Walter and Katherine Esther, his father was a steel mill employee who enjoyed performing in an R&B band with his brother Luther. Jackson’s mother, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, raised him as a Jehovah’s Witness as well.
Jackson began his musical career at the early age of 5 when he and his brother, Marlon, joined The Jackson Brothers as backup musicians to brothers Jackie and Jermaine, Tito, and Randy. At the ripe old age of 8, Michael began singing lead vocals with Jermaine and the group changed their name to The Jackson 5.
Hit singles by The Jackson 5 include “Sugar Daddy,” “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” and “Dancing Machine.” After 1972, The Jackson 5’s releases were less successful, but they still did very well and remain as one of the biggest phenomenons in pop music during the early 70s.
Peaking at number 14 in the U. S., “Got to Be There” was Jackson’s solo debut album and includes the song of the same name. “Ben” (the theme of a 1972 film of the same name and sequel to the movie Willard) was Jackson’s first number one hit as a solo artist on Motown Records. It also became the first of thirteen number one pop hits in the United States.
In 1977, he starred (as the Scarecrow) in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, the hit musical The Wiz. Jackson’s album, “Off the Wall,” was released in 1979 containing the hit singles, “Rock With You,” and “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.” The album eventually sold 10 million copies.
His next album, “Thriller,” was also a huge success, shooting seven Top 10 singles up the charts. This album was released on November 30, 1982, and aided by producer Quincy Jones, Jackson wrote four of “Thriller’s” nine tracks. With the release of the second single off of the album, “Billie Jean,” the album topped the charts in many countries and has sold 28 million copies to date.
Jackson’s third release on Epic Records, “Bad,” followed in 1987, and after that, he wrote an autobiography detailing his childhood and his career. After signing with Sony Music in 1991, Jackson released the album, “Dangerous,” and formed the “Heal the World Foundation” to aid in the lives of unfortunate children around the world.
The Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California, was Jackson’s private amusement park and home when the facility opened in 1988. Included on the ranch was a theme park with a Ferris Wheel, merry-go-round, super slide, roller coaster, bumper cars, and a zoo. It was named after Neverland, the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan, where children never grow up.
Lisa Marie Presley married Jackson in 1994, twenty days after her divorce from musician Danny Keough. During the marriage, Jackson was charged with child molestation and became increasingly dependent on Presley for emotional support. He reached an out-of-court settlement in the lawsuit arising from his friendship with thirteen-year-old Jordan Chandler. Presley filed for divorce from Jackson in January of 1996.
During the Australian leg of the HIStory World Tour, Jackson married his second wife, Debbie Rowe, who was a dermatologist nurse that he met while treating vitiligo, a skin pigment disorder. Rowe gave birth to their son, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (also known as “Prince”), and a daughter named Paris Michael Katherine Jackson.
Jackson was involved in a number of charitable events and in 2000, he was listed in the Guinness World Records for his support of 39 charities, more than any other entertainer or personality. A special 30th Anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden marked the singer’s 30th year as a solo artist and helped to promote the album, “Invincible.” In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Jackson helped to organize the “United We Stand: What More Can I Give” benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C.
Jackson fathered another son in 2002, Prince Michael II (nicknamed “Blanket”), from a surrogate mother he reportedly never met. The famous incident where he dangled the nine-month-old baby over a fourth-floor hotel balcony happened on November 19 of that same year. Jackson said later that he regretted the event.
In 2003, a Granada Television documentary titled Living with Michael Jackson, showed the singer holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with twelve-year-old Gavin Arvizo, who would later accuse him of child sexual abuse. After the program aired, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent. Jackson denied the allegations, saying that the sleepovers were not sexual in nature and that he did not give the children alcohol to drink.
Mental health professional, Dr. Stan Katz, examined the singer and stated that Jackson had become a regressed ten-year-old and did not fit the profile of a pedophile. During his trial, Jackson became dependent on morphine and Demerol (which he subsequently overcame), and suffered from stress-related illnesses. In May of 2005, he was acquitted on all counts and relocated to the Persian Gulf Island of Bahrain as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah.
In 2006 Jackson experienced frequent financial problems after the closure of the main house on the Neverland Ranch as a cost-cutting measure. Later that year, he agreed to share joint custody of his first two children with Debbie Rowe whom he divorced in 1999. To celebrate his 50th birthday in 2009, Sony BMG released a compilation album called “King of Pop” in various countries. It was not released in the U. S., but the album did reach the Top 10 in the vast majority of other counties.
Jackson was scheduled to perform 50 concerts from July 13, 2009 to March 6, 2010, to over one million people in London. Ticket sales broke several records, according to the singer’s website. However, the concerts were not meant to be as Jackson collapsed at home on the morning of June 25, 2009. He fell into a coma and died of cardiac arrest after being rushed to UCLA hospital. There is an ongoing investigation into the pop star’s death, but there is no evidence of foul play.
Since the early days of The Jackson Five, Jackson has set himself apart from every other musical artist with his tremendous talent and flamboyant, but utterly unique sense of style. From his bell-bottoms and Afro as a child star to his military-inspired suits, Jackson’s fashion statements are etched permanently into our memory banks.
With an instantly identifiable voice, we can remember Michael Jackson as unquestionably the biggest pop star of the 80s and certainly one of the most popular recording artists of all time. We remember also Jackson’s single white glove that perhaps signified a mystical connection to a fantasy world where he could be free from the strains of this one…
Article by Melissa Parker
© 2009 Our Prattville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.