Michael Jackson is the King of Pop. This is not a title that he gave himself. It was given to him by his millions of fans around the world and by his peers, among whom he has no equal. How did he get the title, you ask? He came by it the old fashioned way. He earned it! No other performer in history has generated the massive sales that he has. No other performer in history has received as many awards and accolades as he has. No other performer in history draws the kind of excitement and mass hysteria that he does. And no other performer in history has done so much in the way of humanitarian efforts than he has. There has never been one like him before, and there will never be one like him again. He is in a class all by himself.
Michael became a superstar at an age when most other children are learning things like the alphabet and how to count to 20. Born on August 29, 1958 he was the seventh child in a family of nine. Michael and his older brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon) were thrust into the spotlight when their father, Joseph Jackson, a steel mill worker in Gary, Indiana, formed a singing group out of his sons and called them The Jackson 5. Even though Michael was the youngest, it became immediately obvious that he had something special. Armed with a magical voice mature beyond its tender years and a crowd-charming charisma that rivaled any seasoned entertainer, little Michael lead his brothers from winning local talent contests to a recording contract with Motown Records in the late 1960's. The group quickly began turning out hit after hit for their new record label and remained a hit-making machine throughout the '70's. During their time at Motown, Michael also began a successful solo recording career that would run parallel to his work with his brothers.
In 1976, the Jacksons left Motown and signed with Epic Records where they continued to crank out one hit after another.
In 1978 Michael ventured into film when he starred opposite Diana Ross in The Wiz, an African-American remake of the Wizard of Oz. The film itself was unexceptional but it did put Michael on a collision course with destiny because it introduced him to legendary producer Quincy Jones who arranged the film's score.
Michael and Quincy collaborated on his next solo project, 'Off The Wall.' And with that album Michael was immediately transformed from a cute little kid act into an adult superstar. The album was released in 1979 to critical praise for its crossover blending of soul and rock and its non-stop boogie grove. With the help of number one hits "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You", the album sold 10 million copies and went multiplatinum. It's hard to believe that any artist could top a success like that.
But in 1982, that's just what Michael did with the release of a monster of an album called 'Thriller.' 'Thriller' broke all kinds of records. To date, it has sold more than 108 million copies worldwide (that's more than any other album before it or since). The album spawned a record six top ten singles and spent a record breaking 37 weeks at number one. It remains the best selling album of all time. That year Michael also won an unprecedented eight Grammy Awards - 7 for 'Thriller' and 1 for 'E.T.-The Storybook Album.' Much of Thriller's success was due, in part, to a new thing called music videos. Hits like "Billie Jean," "Beat It," and "Thriller" came alive before our very eyes when paired with a cool story line and Michael's amazing dancing ability. Michael's short films not only helped pioneer the video medium but also broke MTV's color barrier in the process. 'Thriller' made Michael Jackson an American pop icon.
So, what do you do after recording the number one best-selling album in history? You record the number two best-selling album in history, of course! 'Bad,' Michael's next solo project released in 1987, sold over 25 million copies worldwide and included the hit singles "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and "Man In The Mirror." Accompanied by his first ever solo world tour (the biggest concert tour in history), the Bad album generated 5 consecutive number one hits (a feat unequaled since).
In 1991, with his next album, 'Dangerous,' Michael continued the astronomical sales figures with 23 million copies sold worldwide. With Dangerous came more state of the art videos and another amazing concert tour in 1992.
In 1993 Michael made TV history when the notoriously private superstar sat down for a 90-minute live interview with talk show host extraordinaire, Oprah Winfrey. The interview was conducted from Michael's home, Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Ynez, California and was the most watched program of 1993 attracting nearly 100 million viewers around the world. Also in 1993 Michael became the first major recording artist to perform the Super Bowl halftime show, giving the Super Bowl it's largest television audience to date.
In 1995, Michael released his most ambitious project yet. 'HIStory Past, Present and Future Book I' was a massive double album containing 15 of Michael's greatest hits from his previous four albums and 15 brand new songs. 'HIStory' saw Michael turning a corner creatively as the 15 new songs were some of the most personal songs he has ever recorded. By January of 1996, 'HIStory' had been certified six times platinum in the United States alone and it is still the most successful double album of all time.
In May of 1997 Michael released 'Blood On The Dance floor: HIStory In The Mix.' The album contained 5 new songs (some of the best work he's ever done, according to many critics), and 8 remixes from 'HIStory.' Some saw this remix CD as a brilliant idea because it brought a two-year-old album back to the forefront. Also in the spring of 1997, Michael and his brothers (the Jackson 5) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. In December of 1997 Michael's most ambitious video ever was released. The video, or short film, was 'Ghosts' and it included one song from the 'HIStory' album and two songs from the 'Blood On The Dance Floor' album. The video contained a really cool storyline in which Michael played several of the main characters himself. 1997 also saw the beginning of a whole new world for Michael on a personal level. In February of that year his wife Debbie, whom he had married in November of 1996, gave birth to their first child, a son named "Prince" Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. A daughter, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, followed in April of 1998. Michael has said that fatherhood is his greatest dream come true.
2001 was another big year for Michael. First, in the spring of that year, Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time; this time as a solo artist. Then, in celebration of his 30th Anniversary as a solo artist, Michael attended two "tribute" concerts on the 7th and 10th of September. During these concerts many of Michael's famous friends, and some of the biggest names in the music industry, paid tribute to him by performing his songs. The real treat for fans however, came toward the end of the concerts when the King took to the stage himself; performing first with his brothers and then with such stars as N'Sync, Brittney Spears and Usher. In October of 2001 Michael finally released his long awaited new album, 'Invincible.' Overall, 'Invincible' had a nice, smooth R&B vibe going on; very reminiscent of his 'Off The Wall' days. Unfortunately, disputes between artist and label prevented 'Invincible' from receiving the promotion that it deserved, resulting in low record sales. (NOTE: Keep in mind that when talking about Michael, the phrase "low record sales" is relative because his sales figures are always astronomical. Therefore, "low" for him is, in fact, quite well for most other artists).
In 2002 Michael became a father again when his third child was born; a son named Prince Michael II, known affectionately as 'Blanket.'
In November of 2003, Michael released a Greatest Hits compilation called 'Number 1's.' This album included 16 previously released tracks spanning his career from 'Off The Wall' through 'Invincible;' plus the new single, "One More Chance." It also included a live version of his #1 hit "Ben" on the US pressing and "Blood On The Dance Floor" on the European pressing.
2004 was yet another busy year. March saw the release of the DVD 'Michael Jackson-The One.' The DVD featured 44 minutes taken from a CBS special, footage from the HIStory Tour and behind-the-scenes footage. In April Michael was presented with a Golden Elephant for his work fighting AIDS in Africa by the AASA (African Ambassadors' Spouses Association). In November the eagerly awaited 'Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection' finally arrived. This 5 disc anthology is packed with songs that span the entire extraordinary career of the King of Pop (from 1969-2004). It also includes early demos of some favorite hits plus several rare gems never released before. Also in November, Michael was inducted into the UK's first Hall Of Fame for Music.
Back in 1993, Michael had faced false accusations of child molestation. Formal charges were never brought against him and the case was settled out of court. Unfortunately, Thomas Sneddon, the District Attorney for Santa Barbara County, began a decade long vendetta. With the truth being wildly debated, the news media around the world became an unwitting accomplice in this plot to "bring down" the world's biggest superstar. The world press painted a target on Michael Jackson's back and it was only a matter of time before someone took aim. Forever trusting, and eager to lend a hand to those in need, Michael opened his heart and his home to another family who, in turn, took advantage of his kindness. At this same time, he also opened his life up to a tabloid videographer. What followed were cruel and hurtful accusations, criminal charges and a lengthy court trial that proved physically and mentally exhausting for Michael, his family, and his fans around the world. However, on June 13 2005, after ten days of deliberations, Michael was acquitted when the jury in the case against him came back with a verdict of NOT GUILTY on all counts. After five months of testimony the celebrity trial of the century had finally come to an end and Michael Jackson was a free man.
In 2006 Sony-BMG Europe released 20 of Michael's greatest hits on the new CD/DVD format. The box set was called 'Visionary: The Video Singles.' The singles were released over a five month period and the new "dual disc" format features the single on one side with the video on the other. Also, on Christmas Day in 2006 the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, passed away. James was one of the greatest influences on Michael's performance style. Speaking at the funeral Michael said, "James Brown was my greatest inspiration." He went on to recall that, as a child, his mother would call him to the TV and even wake him up if James Brown was on. "When I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I'd never seen a performer perform like James Brown, and right then and there, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
2007 saw much preparation for the 25th Anniversary of the biggest selling album of all time. In celebration of 'Thriller,' 25 years later, Michael appeared on the cover of several magazines around the world; among them Ebony (USA), L'Umo Vogue (Italy) and Rolling Stone (Japan).
In January of 2008, as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration, Michael allowed the song "Thriller" be used in an ad campaign for Sobe Life Water. The commercial, which featured cute little lizards (the logo for Sobe) doing the Thriller dance with supermodel Naomi Campbell, aired during the Super Bowl and was voted as one of the favorites of the evening. The album, 'Thriller 25,' was released worldwide in early February 2008. This new release featured the original album plus 7 new bonus tracks, 6 of them previously unreleased. Some of the new bonus tracks featured remixes by Akon, will.i.am, Kanye West, and Fergie. 'Thriller' has definitely stood the test of time because this 25 year old album held on to the number one or number two position on album charts around the world for the first three weeks of it's release, proving once again that Michael Jackson truly is, and will always remain, the one and only King of Pop!
2009 promised to be a special year for Michael and his millions of fans all over the world. In March of that year, Michael announced that he would be performing his last concerts in London during the summer of '09 at the O2 Arena. "This Is It," he called it! Fan response was so overwhelming that the announced number of shows quickly grew from 10 to 50 and all 50 shows sold out within a matter of a couple of hours. Fans around the world were filled with excitement and anticipation as this would be the King of Pop's first concert tour in 12 years.
Sadly, the "This Is It" tour was not meant to be. Just two weeks before opening night, on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson was taken to the UCLA hospital. He was pronounced dead at 2:26pm. The King of Pop was gone.
During the investigation that followed, it was determined that Michael died at the hands of his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray admitted that he administered the powerful hospital anesthetic propofol and other sedatives to Michael, as he was a chronic insomniac, and struggled to sleep. On February 8, 2010, Conrad Murray plead not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. He entered his plea in Los Angeles Superior Court just hours after he was charged. However, on November 7, 2011 Murray was finally found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and on November 29 he was sentenced to the maximum term of four years in prison.
Our hearts are broken. We are overwhelmed with sadness. But we will ALWAYS remember the extraordinary talent of the greatest entertainer in the world and the sweet, gentle soul of the man. For there will truly never be anyone else like him.....EVER again.
Portions of this biography where taken from 'Michael Jackson, The Visual Documentary' by Adrian Grant, published by Omnibus Press.
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