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His Youth - The Jackson 5 / The Jacksons - His success in the 80's - The 90's - The 2000's


His Youth

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 earn money.

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 Jackson 5 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 McCartney (ex-Beatles), 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 burns.

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.

Bad 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 Elvis Presley, 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.

The 90's

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 date.

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 Angeles.

Jackson married 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 songs.

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.

The 2000's

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.

Subsequently, Jackson 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.

Jackson's first 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 Madonna.

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, Fergie, Kanye West, and Akon with single releases alongside the album.

Internationally, "The 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 since 1993.

Shortly after Thriller 25, Jackson is expected to release the new album he has been working on. There have been reports of collaborations with, 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.

A 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.

Richard Dion



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