Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29,
1958 in Gary Indiana to a working-class family, the
sixth of seven brothers and the eighth of ten children
of Joseph Walter (Joe) and Katherine Esther
(née Scruse) of African American descent. Katherine, a
Jehovah's Witness, raised the children in that faith,
while Joe, who initially started studying with the
Witnesses, eventually decided not to join. Jackson's
father was a steel mill employee who often performed in
an R&B band called "The Falcons" with his brother
Luther. The father was a strict disciplinarian, and
many of the Jackson children recall being spanked or
whipped by their father for misbehaving.
Jackson showed musical talent early on performing in front of his classmates
and other participants during a Christmas recital in his school at five. He
joined his brothers first playing congas when they formed a group in 1964
later taking a more pivotal role within a year as a background singer and
occasional dancer before ascending to the group's lead singer position at
the age of eight. During this period, the boys toured Indiana extensively,
and after winning a major local talent show in 1966 with a rendition of
Motown hits and James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)", led by
Michael, they began playing professional gigs in Chicago, Illinois and
across the mid-eastern U.S. Many of these gigs were in a string of black
clubs and venues collectively known as the "chitlin' circuit" and the young
kids sometimes had to open for strip tease and other adult acts in order to
The Jackson 5 / The Jacksons
Michael took co-lead singing duties with brother Jermaine when the
group's name changed from The Jackson Brothers to The
in 1966. The group eventually auditioned for, and signed a contract with,
Motown Records in 1968. They hit stardom with their first four singles, "I
Want You Back", "ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There", which
charted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first time ever a group had
pulled off that feat. While remaining a member of the group, Jackson
released a total of four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got
to Be There in 1971 and Ben in the following year. These were
released as part of the Jackson 5 franchise and produced successful singles
such as "Got to Be There", "Ben", and a remake of Bobby Day's "Rockin'
Robin". Between 1971 and 1975, Jackson's voice "descended ever so slightly
from boy soprano to his current androgynous high tenor."
The group's sales
declined after 1973 and they chafed under Motown's strict refusal to allow
them creative control or input. In 1976, the group signed a new contract
with CBS Records (first joining the Philadelphia International division and
then Epic Records). Motown Records sued the group for breach of contract.
As a result of the
legal proceedings, which were further complicated by the fact that Jermaine
Jackson was married to the daughter of Motown president (Berry Gordy),
the Jacksons lost the rights to use the "Jackson 5" name and logo. Jermaine
left the group, choosing to stay at Motown. They changed their name to
The Jacksons, featuring youngest brother Randy in Jermaine's
place, and continued their successful career, touring internationally and
releasing six more albums between 1976 and 1984, with Jermaine eventually
re-joining in 1983, making them a sextet. From 1976 to 1984, Michael was the
lead songwriter of the group, writing such hits as "Shake Your Body (Down to
the Ground)", "This Place Hotel", and "Can You Feel It". In 1978, Jackson
starred as the Scarecrow in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical
The Wiz with former-label mate Diana Ross playing Dorothy. The
songs for the musical were arranged by Quincy Jones, who established
a partnership with Jackson during the film's production and agreed to
produce his first solo album in four years.
His success in the 80's
Off the Wall,
released in 1979, made music history becoming the first
album ever to spawn four top-ten hits, including the
number-one hits, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and
"Rock with You". It reached #3 in the Billboard album
charts, spending 48 consecutive weeks on the Top 20.
Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson jointly produced the
album, with lyrics and music by Jackson, Heatwave's
Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul
among others. The album signaled the arrival of a new
Michael Jackson, one not reliant upon his brothers to
further his career. Off the Wall, buoyed by its
catchy dance rhythms and avoidance of the "shallow
excesses...of the period's disco" sold 10 million copies
at the time and eventually sold some 20 million copies
worldwide. Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt
the album should have made a much bigger impact and was
determined to exceed expectations with his next release.
In January 1980,
Jackson won his first awards for his solo efforts at the American Music
Awards. He won "Favorite Soul/R&B Album" (for Off the Wall),
"Favorite Male Soul/R&B Artist" and Favorite Soul/R&B Single (for "Don't
Stop 'Til You Get Enough"). Later that month, he also won two Billboard
Awards (for "Top Black Artist" and "Top Black Album"). On February 27, 1980,
Jackson won a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male" (for
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"). In 2003, the TV network VH1 named Off
the Wall the thirty-sixth greatest album of all time. Rolling Stone
ranked it #68 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2008,
the Off the Wall album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In November 1982, the
storybook for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released and included
the Jackson song, "Someone in the Dark". The album later won a Grammy for
"Best Album for Children". A few weeks later, Jackson released his second
Epic album, Thriller. Thriller is the best selling album of
all time, with sales of more than 45 million copies worldwide, while the BBC
claim that the Guinness Book of World Records lists it as 65 million copies.
In 2007, NARM/The
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ranked Thriller third on their
"Definitive 200" albums list. The album also became the first in history to
spawn seven top-ten Billboard Hot 100 hit singles, including "Billie Jean",
which was the first music video by a black artist to receive regular airplay
on MTV, "Beat It", and the album's title track, which was accompanied by a
revolutionary music video. The thirteen-minute "Thriller" video was
critically acclaimed and massive airplay lead to it being packaged with the
featurette Making Michael Jackson's Thriller on VHS, where it became
the best-selling music home video ever. Thriller spent 37 weeks at #1
and remained on the Billboard album chart for 122 weeks. It’s currently
certified 27x Platinum in the U.S., second only to The Eagles -
Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
In 1983, while
performing "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
concert, Jackson debuted his signature move: the moonwalk. The performance
sparked a new wave of interest in Thriller, which continued to sell
well throughout the year. In 1983, he started a sponsorship deal with
Pepsi-Cola. As part of the deal, he agreed to star in a commercial. While
filming the commercial in front of 3,000 fans the following year, a
fireworks display behind him malfunctioned, shooting a shower of sparks on
the singer’s head, setting fire to his hair which caused second-degree
In February 1984,
Jackson was nominated for twelve Grammy awards - of which he won eight -
breaking the record for the most Grammy awards won in a single year. Seven
were awarded for Thriller and the other for the E.T.: The
Extra-terrestrial storybook. The following year, “The Making of Michael
Jackson’s Thriller” took home the Best Video Album trophy at the 27th Annual
Grammy Awards. In 1984, he also won eight American Music Awards and the
"Special Award of Merit" and three MTV Video Music Awards.
After reuniting with
his brothers, he helped to write and produce the Victory album. He
then joined his brothers for the Victory Tour, which started on July
6, 1984 and lasted for five months. That year, Jackson was invited to the
White House and was thanked by President Ronald Reagan at a White House
ceremony for allowing the song "Beat It" to be used in drunk driving
prevention television and radio public service announcements.
Jackson continued his
charity work in 1985 by co-writing with Lionel Richie the hit song
"We Are the World", and singing a featured solo on the charity single. The
record helped to raise money and awareness for the famine in East Africa and
was one of the first instances where Jackson was seen as a humanitarian. The
song also won a Grammy for "Song of the Year". "We Are the World" became one
of the top five best-selling singles of all time and the best selling single
of the 1980s.
In 1986, Jackson
starred in the George Lucas-produced, Francis Ford Coppola-directed
3-D film Captain EO. The film lasted 17 minutes but had costs
estimated at $17 million. At the time, it was the most expensive film
produced on a per-minute basis. In the U.S., the Disney theme parks hosted
Captain EO. Disneyland featured the film in Tomorrowland from
September 18, 1986 until April 7, 1997. It was also featured in Walt Disney
World in Epcot from September 12, 1986 until July 6, 1994.
In 2008, the
Thriller album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 1987, Jackson
released Bad; his third album for the Epic Records label, and the
final album with producer Quincy Jones. He initially wanted to make the
album 30 tracks long, but Jones cut this down to 11. According to Jones,
Jackson wanted the title track to be a duet with Prince who later
declined the duet. Jones said the reason given by Prince was that he thought
the song would be a hit whether he was in it or not. With the industry
expecting another monster hit, the release was heavily anticipated as it was
Jackson's first album in five years. The album had over two million advance
orders. Jackson hired film director Martin Scorsese to direct the
video for the album's title track. When the 18-minute music video debuted on
TV, it sparked a great deal of controversy as it became apparent that
Jackson's appearance had changed dramatically.
had lower sales compared to Thriller, but was still a commercial
success. In the U.S., it spawned seven hit singles, five of which went to
#1: "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man
in the Mirror",and "Dirty Diana". Two decades after it was released, Bad
still holds the record for generating more #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100
charts than any other album. It went on to sell over 32 million copies
worldwide and the RIAA certified Bad at 10x Platinum in the U.S. At
the 1993 Grammy Awards, the album was acknowledged as the second best
selling album of all time, but has since been overtaken. In September 1987,
Jackson embarked upon his first solo world tour, the Bad World Tour,
which had record-breaking attendance figures. In Japan alone, Jackson had 14
sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record of
200,000 in a single tour. The tour lasted sixteen months with Jackson
performing 123 concerts to over 4.4 million fans worldwide.
This period saw
Jackson enjoy "a level of superstardom previously known only to
The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra."
This success led to him to be dubbed the "King of Pop". The nickname was
conceived by actress and friend Elizabeth Taylor when she presented
Jackson with an "Artist of the Decade" award in 1989, proclaiming him "the
true king of pop, rock and soul." In 1990, the White House presented the
singer with its own special "Artist of the Decade" award, in recognition
Michael Jackson's musical influence in the 1980s. It was delivered to
Jackson by President George H. W. Bush, who commended Jackson for acquiring
a "tremendous following", among other achievements.
In November 1991,
Jackson released Dangerous, which, at roughly 30 million copies
worldwide, registered sales figures almost identical to those of Bad
and became one of the most successful new jack swing albums of all time.
Dangerous featured several hits, including "Black or White", "Remember
the Time", "In the Closet", "Give In To Me", and "Heal the World".
Dangerous was highly anticipated, as highlighted by an incident at the
Los Angeles International Airport that witnessed a group of armed robbers
stealing 30,000 copies of the new album before its official release.
The biggest hit
single in the United States from the album was "Black or White", which
reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for seven weeks, with
similar performances around the world. The single was accompanied by a
controversial video, premiering as a simulcast on the Fox network, MTV, and
BET, which featured scenes construed as having a sexual nature as well as
depictions of violent behavior. The offending scenes in the final half of
the fourteen minute version of "Black or White" were edited out to prevent
the video from being banned. On November 14, 1991, the video for "Black or
White" simultaneously premièred in 27 countries with an estimated audience
of 500 million people, the largest viewing ever for a music video.
The second single
released from Dangerous was "Remember The Time" which spent 8 weeks
in the top 5 in U.S.. The song hit a peak at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100
singles chart and #1 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart. In 1993, Jackson
performed the song at the Soul Train Awards in a wheel chair saying he had
an injury in rehearsals. At the ceremony, he was given three awards "Best
Male Single" of the year for "Remember The Time", "Best R&B Album" for
Dangerous and a Humanitarian Award for his charitable contributions to
In the UK, as well as
other parts of Europe, "Heal the World" was the biggest hit from the album.
In Britain, it sold 455,000 copies alone and spent five weeks at #2. It was
the Christmas #2 of 1992 and because of extra seasonal sales it outsold
"Black or White".
In January 1993, he
performed during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII. It drew one of the
largest viewing audiences in the history of American television. Jackson was
given the "Living Legend Award" at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards in Los
Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of
Elvis Presley, in 1994. Presley maintained during their marriage that
they shared a married couple's life and were sexually active. They divorced
less than two years later, although still remain friends.
In June 1995, Jackson
released HIStory: Past, Present And Future - Book I, which received a
Grammy nomination for "Album Of The Year" as well as four more nominations
including winning one (seen below). It sold more than 20 million copies
worldwide making it the largest selling multiple-disc album of all time by a
solo artist. To promote the album, Jackson embarked on the successful
HIStory World Tour, which was attended by more than four and a half
million people. Jackson also made a promotional "teaser" music video showing
him marching with thousands of military personnel as well as shipping
statues of himself on boats around Europe and 30 million dollars were spent
on its promotion by Sony. The first disc, HIStory Begins, was a
fifteen-track greatest hits album (this disc was later released as
Greatest Hits - HIStory Vol. I in 2001 selling an estimated 3 million
copies). The second disc, HIStory Continues, contained fifteen new
The first single
released from HIStory was "Scream", sung and performed with his
sister Janet Jackson. The single had the best ever debut at #5 on the
Billboard Hot 100 and had a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Collaboration
With Vocals". The music video for "Scream" is one of his most critically
acclaimed winning three MTV awards in 1995 and a Grammy in 1996. "Scream" is
currently the most expensive music video ever made. "You Are Not Alone" was
the second single released from HIStory and would become the first
song ever to debut at #1 on the Hot 100, (beating his previous single
"Scream"). It reached #1 in various international markets, including
Britain. It was seen as a major artistic, commercial success and received a
Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Vocal Performance".
"Earth Song" was the
third single released from HIStory, it was accompanied by a well
received expensive music video that was nominated for a grammy in 1996 but
lost to his earlier video "Scream". The song topped the UK singles chart for
six weeks over Christmas in 1995 and sold one million copies there, making
it his most successful UK single, surpassing the success of "Billie Jean".
At the 1996 BRIT Awards, Jackson was awarded as the Artist of A Generation.
At the ceremony Jackson performed the track "Earth Song", dressed in white
and surrounded by children and an actor portraying a rabbi. Pulp lead
singer Jarvis Cocker leapt onstage and made rude gestures, and in the
ensuing scuffle, several children received minor injuries.
During the HIStory
World Tour, Slash of Guns N’
Roses joined Jackson onstage for some shows, including one in Seoul,
South Korea in 1996. This was held at the Chamsil Olympic Stadium and filmed
for a live broadcast and commercial release on VHS. Slash also appeared at
Jackson's MTV Music Video Awards 1995 performance during "Black or
White", played a solo, then played along to the opening of "Billie Jean".
On November 14, 1996,
during the Australian leg of the HIStory World Tour, Jackson married
his dermatologist's nurse Deborah Jeanne Rowe, with whom he fathered
a son, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (also known as Prince), and
a daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson. Jackson and Rowe divorced in
1999. Jackson later said that Rowe wanted him to have the children as a
"gift". Both Jackson and Rowe always maintained that his first two children
were conceived naturally, Jackson's third child, Prince Michael Jackson
II (a.k.a. Blanket) was born in 2002.
In 1997, Jackson
released an album of new material titled Blood on the Dance Floor:
HIStory in the Mix, with remixes of hit singles from HIStory, and
five new songs; it sold six million copies worldwide and became the greatest
selling remix album ever, reaching #1 in Britain. Of the new songs, three
were released globally: the title track, "Ghosts" and "Is It Scary". The
title track reached #1 in the UK. The singles "Ghosts" and "Is It Scary"
were based on a film created by Jackson called Ghosts. The short
film, written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan
Winston, features many special effects and dance moves choreographed to
original music written by Jackson. The music video for "Ghosts" is over 35
minutes long and is currently the world's longest music video.
In October 2001, Invincible was released and
debuted at number-one in thirteen countries.
Invincible went on to sell more than 10 million
copies worldwide. The album spawned three singles: "You
Rock My World," "Cry," and "Butterflies". Around the
same time that Invincible came out, Jackson and
35 other artists recorded a charity benefit single
entitled "What More Can I Give", designed to raise money
for 9/11 victims, which was never released. Just before
the release of Invincible, Jackson informed the
head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola,
that he was not going to renew his contract; the
contract was about to expire in terms of supplying the
label with albums of full-new material for release
through Epic Records/SME. In 2002, all singles releases,
video shootings, and promotions concerning the
Invincible album were canceled.
made allegations that Mottola was a "devil" and a "racist" who did not
support his African American artists and who used black artists for his own
personal gain. Sony disputed these allegations, pointing out that Mottola
was once married to biracial pop star Mariah Carey. The sales for
this album were poor compared to his previous releases, which may be due to
the lack of a supporting world tour and because only one music video was
released to promote the album. While most reviewers called the album
Jackson's least impressive effort, the reviews that were negative often
discussed the singers perceived eccentric image rather than the music.
On September 7 and
September 10, 2001, Jackson organized a special 30th Anniversary celebration
at Madison Square Garden for his 30th year of being a solo artist. The show
aired on November 13, 2001 and featured performances by Mýa, Usher,
Whitney Houston, 'N Sync, The Jacksons, Slash, and a number of
other artists. In wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Jackson helped
organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK
Stadium in Washington D.C.. The concert was aired on October 21, 2001, and
included performances from dozens of major artists, including Jackson, who
performed his song "What More Can I Give" as the finale.
In November 2003,
Jackson and Sony Records released a compilation of his number-one hits on CD
and DVD titled Number Ones. The compilation has sold over six million
copies worldwide. On the album's scheduled release date, Jackson was in Las
Vegas filming the video for "One More Chance" (the only new song included in
the Number Ones compilation), the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department
searched Jackson's home, the Neverland Ranch.
In February 2006,
Jackson's label released Visionary: The Video Singles, a box set made
up of twenty of his biggest hit singles, each of which were issued
individually week by week over a five-month period. Sony released the
Visionary box set in the US on November 14, 2006.
documented public appearance since his trial was in November 2006 when he
visited the London office of the Guinness World Records. There, he received
eight awards, among them the "First Entertainer to Earn More Than 100
Million Dollars in a Year" and the "First Entertainer to Sell More Than 100
Million Albums Outside the U.S.". Jackson was awarded the Diamond Award on
November 15, 2006, for selling over 100 million albums, at the World Music
Awards. Despite tabloid rumors prior to the event, he did not perform
Thriller, instead joining a choir on stage for a verse of "We Are the
World" reaching an estimated worldwide audience of around one billion
viewers, in over 160 countries.
In October and
November 2007, Jackson did photo shoots to commemorate the 25th Anniversary
of Thriller in L'Uomo Vogue, the Italian men's version of
Vogue magazine and Ebony Magazine. In the US, Jackson sold 650,000
albums and dvds in 2007, 250,000 more than
On February 11, 2008,
Jackson released a 25th anniversary edition of his top-selling album
Thriller called Thriller 25. It’s a double disc album; disc one
contains the original nine tracks from "Thriller", five remixed "Thriller"
tracks, a new song called "For All Time" and a voice over by Vincent Price.
Disc two is a DVD which contains the three music videos from "Thriller" and
Jacksons performance of "Billie Jean" at Motown 25. The album
featured will.i.am, Fergie, Kanye West, and Akon
with single releases alongside the album.
Girl Is Mine 2008" was released as a downloadable single on January 14 and
on CD on January 25. In the United Kingdom the CD release was pushed back to
February 4. In the United States, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" was the
first single released on January 23. "The Girl Is Mine 2008" reached #2 in
Japan, #4 in Mexico, #6 in the Netherlands, #7 on the United World Airplay
Chart, a top 20 position in the major European markets but saw disappointing
sales in Canada. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" reached #3 in Sweden, #4
in New Zealand, #8 in Australia, #32 in Canada, but saw disappointing sales
in America. On March 21, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" will see its
physical release in Europe. These are Jackson's first singles since "One
More Chance" in 2003. Then album tracks "Beat It 2008" and "Billie Jean
2008" charted moderately around the world without being released as singles.
On February 3, 2008 a
televised Pepsi ad featuring super model Naomi Campbell singing and
dancing to "Thriller" aired during Super Bowl XLII, exposing the song to
over 95 million Americans. The ad also aired at the Grammys on February 10
and marked the first time Jackson has been associated with the Pepsi label
Thriller 25, Jackson is expected to release the new album he has been
working on. There have been reports of collaborations with will.i.am,
Teddy Riley, Akon, and Chris Brown. Initially, it was thought
that the Bahrain-based label Two Seas would release the album, but, in
September 2006, it was made apparent that Jackson and Two Seas were no
longer affiliated with each other. Consequently, Jackson formed The Michael
Jackson Company Inc. which will oversee both his finances and the release of
his new album.
on which had worked Jackson for a long time, was supposed to get released in 2008.
On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson was found dead, victim of a heart attack.
He was a few weeks from going to London for new concerts.