Of course there’s no place for Michael Jackson in geek culture. Still it was a shock to find out this little had been written here about the alleged King of Pop.
Michael Jackson (1958-2009) American pop artist
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary (Indiana), as the seventh of nine children. His father Joseph worked at a steel mill, but founded a pop group consisting of five of his sons when Michael was only five years old. Still, the Benjamin of the pack was the lead singer of the Jackson 5, as they were called, assisted by his brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito. They were discovered by Motown after singing at talent contests and signed a contract in 1969, resulting in their first hit I Want You Back. It reached number one soon, as would their next three singles (ABC, The Love You Save, and I'll Be There).
Simultaneously the talented eleven-year-old was pushed into a solo career already, scoring his first hit in 1971 (Got To Be There) and still one of his best known the year after: Ben. Elvis Presley brought his young daughter backstage to meet the Jackson 5 when they performed at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 1974. Decades later this first contact would lead to a marriage between Michael en Lisa Marie Presley (married in 1994, divorced in 1996). Michael and his brothers left Motown in 1976 when their popularity started to decline a bit. They signed a deal with Epic but the rights to the name Jackson 5 were with Motown, so the brothers changed their name to The Jacksons.
Michael’s solo career was revived after he met Quincy Jones at the set of the Wizard of Oz adaptation The Wiz in 1978. In his movie debut, Michael played the scarecrow alongside Diana Ross, who starred as Dorothy. Michael Jackson would work together with producer Jones on his solo album Off The Wall, which was released in 1979. The album sold over 15 million copies worldwide and earned Jackson two more number one hits (Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough and Rock With You).
Although Michael still kept on recording and touring with The Jacksons, his solo efforts were way more successful. He cooperated with Quincy Jones again for Thriller in 1982, an album that became the best-selling record of all time. Twenty million Americans bought the record, while worldwide over 50 million copies were sold. Thriller also marked the launch of the new genre of music videos: short films accompanied all singles, almost simultaneously with the rise of newborn MTV. The album included seven top ten hits, of which the title song, Beat It and Billie Jean reached number one. The latter hit was accompanied by the first video by a black artist on MTV. It was also during this period that Jackson did his first Moonwalk and received his first fame as a dancer.
Supporting the fight against famine in Africa, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie composed We Are the World in 1985, performed by several famous artists under the name USA For Africa. Jackson’s next album after Thriller, Bad, came out in 1987 and went together with a world tour. The LP included hit singles as the title song, The Man in the Mirror, The Way You Make Me Feel, Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal, recently covered by Alien Ant Farm. The album was followed by Jackson’s second world tour, an autobiography called Moonwalk and the movie Moonwalker, also featuring John Lennon’s son Sean. He purchased and rebuilt the Neverland Valley Ranch in California, making it an amusement park, a movie theatre and a zoo, and often inviting terminally ill children to come and play. It would last another four years for his fans to cheer on a new album, called Dangerous, which would actually lead to just three hits: Black and White, Heal the World and Remember the Time.
In 1993, Jackson’s image was severely damaged after accusations of child abuse. Only adding more fuel to the flames, Jackson settled the case out of court through a huge but undisclosed amount of money. Also in 1993, Jackson did a TV interview with Oprah Winfrey about a lost childhood and his serious skin disorder vitiligo, which had caused media speculations about him bleaching his skin and having plastic surgery. The King of Pop’s next album would be his Greatest Hits under the title HIStory. The new material on the recording would not make it to a large audience.
Ten months after his divorce with Lisa Marie Presley, Michael Jackson married his dermatologist’s assistant Deborah Rowe in November 1996. They got two children before (also) divorcing in 1999.
In 2001, Jackson issued his last to date album Invincible, accompanied by the single You Rock my World. Controversy was created by a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Madison Square Garden. His brother Jermaine thought the entry ticket prices (up to 2500 US dollars) were absurd. Though not all musical appearances, the audience could enjoy Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Shaquille O'Neal for their money.
Following the 1993 happenings, Michael Jackson was arrested November 20, 2003, being accused of abusing a 12-year-old boy.
Michael Jackson died on a day we can all still remember, May 27th, 2009.