Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, at Gary, Indiana, U.S. The American singer, songwriter and dancer was recognized by the Guinness World record as the greatest entertainer the world had ever seen. His contribution revolutionized the music industry. His unique music style, dance and fashion made him the most successful artist of all time. His album, Thriller was and still is the best-selling album in history, till date.

Michael Jackson

The King of Pop, as he was popularly known, grew up with three sisters (Janet, La Toya, and Rebbie) and five brothers (Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Randy). In 1964, their father, Joseph Walter Jackson trained Michael and his brothers (except Randy) to become singers. They formed a child star band called Jackson 5. Michael was only five years old when the band started and he was the lead vocal. They started with small gigs and recorded few unsuccessful singles before they were signed in 1969 by Motown Records. Their first album hit the charts in December 1969. Its single, “I Want You Back,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. More top chart singles like “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” followed afterwards.

Jackson 5
Jackson 5

Following the refusal of Motown to allow creative input and control over their material, the Jackson 5 severed ties with Motown in 1976 and moved to Epic Records as the Jacksons. Though Jermaine Jackson remained with the label to pursue his solo career, while Randy replaced Michael as he started his solo career.

In 1979, Michael released his fifth album (the first after separating from the Jackson 5), Off the Wall. The album sold more than 20 million copies. “Don’t Stop ’ Till You Get Enough” and “Rock with You,” introduced his dance style and unique vocal. He won the Favourite Soul/R&B Album, Favourite Soul/R&B Male Artist and Favourite Soul/R&B Single for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. He also won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for 1979 with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

Three years later, the singer returned with a bang, dropping his second solo album, Thriller. The production budget of the album cost $750,000 and after seven months of recording and production, the album was released in 1982. It was the best-selling album in the world in 1983. It became the best-selling album of all time in the US and the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling over 66 million copies. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart for 37 weeks and was on the top 10 for 80 consecutive weeks. It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles, including “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ “.

Thriller album

The music video for the album’s title track was by directed John Landis. The horror-laced music video featured choreographed dance scenes, special effects and make-up. “Thriller” music video was a tremendous success, boosting sales and skyrocketing Michael’s career. At the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, Thriller won seven awards, while Michael also won an award for contributing “Someone in the Dark to the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial storybook, winning eight Grammys in one ceremony.

Michael with Quincy Jones at the 26th Grammy Awards

Michael’s album Bad (1987) was released after Thriller. It reached the top of the charts and recorded five No. 1 hits, including “Man in the Mirror” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”. The singer spent more than a year on the road to promote the album. Bad world tour ran from September 12, 1987 to January 14, 1989. The 504,000 people who attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium set a new Guinness world record. In 1991, he released his Dangerous album featuring another hit “Black or White”.

In 1993, he performed at several important events, including the halftime show of Superbowl XXVII. Michael debuted his moonwalker dance while performing “Billie Jean,” during Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, an NBC television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an estimated audience of 47 million. The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, a music documentary, won a Grammy for Best Music Video.

By 1984, Jackson was renowned worldwide as the “King of Pop”, a name that was popularly accepted by his fans from around the world. When Elizabeth Taylor presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, she called him “the true king of pop, rock and soul”. On May 14, 1984, President Ronald Reagan gave Jackson an award recognizing his support of alcohol and drug abuse charities. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush designated him the White House’s “Artist of the Decade”. From 1985 to 1990, Jackson donated $455,000 to the United Negro College Fund and all profits from his single “Man in the Mirror”, went to charity. In 1985 Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote “We Are the World,” an all-star project aimed at famine relief.

Michael was inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980 as a member of the Jacksons, and in 1984 as a solo artist. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In March 1988, Michael purchased 2,700 acres (11 km2) of land near Santa Ynez, California, to build a new home, the Neverland Ranch, at a cost of $17 million. He installed a Ferris wheel, a carousel, a movie theatre and a zoo on the Ranch.

Neverland gate
Neverland ranch gate

In late 1993 Michael Jackson proposed to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley and they got married in May 1994. There were speculations that the marriage was a ploy to deflect the media’s attention from Michael’s child abuse allegations. The marriage ended a little over a year after.

After his first child molestation acquittal, Michael released a two-disc album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, in 1995. The album is the best-selling multi-disc album of all time, with 20 million copies sold worldwide. HIStory received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. His singles from the HIStory album, “Scream”, a duet with his younger sister Janet, was an outburst of how the media circulated untrue stories surrounding the 1993 child abuse allegations against him. “Scream” made number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and he received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

“You Are Not Alone”, holds the Guinness world record for the first song to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and it received a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance” in 1995. HIStory World Tour ran from September 7, 1996 to October 15, 1997. Michael Jackson performed 82 concerts in five continents, 35 countries and 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans. The tour grossed $165 million.

“Ghosts”, a short film written by Michael Jackson and Stephen King, premiered at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. At over 38 minutes long, it held the Guinness world record for the longest music video until 2013, when it was eclipsed by Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”.

During the tour in Sydney, Australia, Jackson married Debbie Rowe who gave birth to his first child, Michael Joseph Jackson (Jr.), commonly called Prince, on February 13, 1997. They welcomed their second child, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson a year later on April 3, 1998. In 2002, an anonymous surrogate mother gave birth to his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, nicknamed Blanket, who was conceived by artificial insemination.

In 2000, Guinness World Records recognized Michael for supporting 39 charities, more than any other entertainer. His sixth album, Invincible was released on October 30, 2001. It was his first full-length album in six years and the last album of original material that was released in his lifetime. The album debuted at number one in 13 countries with 6 million copies sold worldwide, receiving double-platinum certification in the US. The music video for “You Rock My World” lasts over 13 minutes, and featured Chris Tucker won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Music Video in 2002.

After 9/11, Jackson helped organize a benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. On April 24, 2002, the King of Pop performed at Apollo Theatre. The concert was a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and former President Bill Clinton. The money collected was to be used to encourage citizens to vote and the concert t raised $2.5 million. The concert was called Michael Jackson: Live at the Apollo and it was Michael’s final on-stage performance.


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