ichael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer also known as the "King of Pop" who would rise to become one of the biggest selling and most known entertainers on Earth from his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, including the year of his death (2009) where he was the best selling recording artist of that year. Indeed, Jackson ranks high, along with the likes of Elvis Presley and the The Beatles, in the human lexicon of popular culture in achieving the highest possible recognition.
Born the eighth child of the Jackson family, Michael's professional debut would be in 1964 with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon as a member of the Jackson Brothers; later re-named the Jackson 5 (then The Jacksons). The following year, the group won a major local talent show with Jackson performing the dance to Robert Parker's 1965 hit Barefootin'. From 1966 to 1968 they toured the Midwest, performing at a string of black clubs known as the "chitlin' circuit" as the opening act for artists such as Sam & Dave, the O'Jays, Gladys Knight and Etta James. After releasing several singles they would sign to 'Motown' and relocate to Los Angeles. As the Jackson 5 they would release: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969), ABC (1970), Third Album (1970), Jackson 5 Christmas Album (1970), Maybe Tomorrow (1971), Lookin' Through the Windows (1972), Skywriter (1973), Get It Together (1973), Dancing Machine (1974) andMoving Violation (1975). And previously as The Jacksons on 'Epic/CBS': The Jacksons (1976), Goin' Places (1977), Destiny (1978), Triumph (1980), Victory (1984) and 2300 Jackson Street (1989).
His solo career started in 1971 at 'Motown Records' and the 1972 albums, Got to Be There and Ben, but it was in the early 1980s when he became a dominant figure in popular music. His music videos, including those of Beat It, Billie Jean, and Thriller from his 1982 album Thriller, were credited with breaking racial barriers and transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The popularity of these videos helped bring the television channel MTV to fame, despite the network originally refusing to play black artists until labels refused to send them videos until they did - they relented immediately; Thriller would become the biggest selling record album in history with estimated sales of over 66 million copies worldwide, reaching number one on every market and being awarded a whopping 3x Diamond (33x Platinum)!
His 1987 album Bad became the first album to have five number-one singles in the US at the same time, those being I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana.
His innovations in video filming resumed with Black or White and Scream throughout the 1990s, and forged a reputation as a touring solo artist.
Via his stage and video performances, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, especially in the 1980s when Break-dancing was the rage, with the 'robot' and the 'moonwalk'; dances he also named.
As popular as Thriller was, many of Jackson's other albums, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995) were no slouches either, each ranking among the world's best-selling albums. He is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame as the only dancer from pop and rock music. His other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records including the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time, 13 Grammy Awards, the Grammy Legend Award, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 24 American Music Awards (more than any other artist) including the "Artist of the Century". In fact, Jackson had won hundreds of awards, making him the most awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. He also achieved 13 number-one singles in the United States during his solo career, more than any other male artist in the 'Hot 100' ranking era, and estimated sales of over 350 million records worldwide. He became the first artist in history to have a top ten single in the Billboard 'Hot 100' in five different decades; a recognition that came posthumously when Love Never Felt So Good reached 9 in 2014, 5 years after his death. Jackson is also remembered for his philanthropy and pioneering efforts in charitable fundraising in the entertainment industry and humanitarian efforts; in 2000, after his death. the Guinness World Records called again to recognize him for supporting 39 charities, more than any other entertainer.
Jackson became a figure of controversy in the 1980s due to his changing physical appearance when his skin tone morphed to a much lighter shade of black/brown, causing many to accuse him of engaging in surgery to make him appear more 'white'. His dance move many dubbed "the crotch grab" as well as various relationships and behavior also caused media discussions. A 1993 child sexual abuse scandal accusation by a family friend who accused him of sexually abusing his son proved to be one of the biggest of them all. The case led to an investigation but was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. In 2005, this story line would haunt him again when he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges stemming from visits by children to his private "Neverland" theme park; the jury found him not guilty on all counts. He earlier face charges stemming from his holding his son, Prince, four stories over the railing of a balcony to greet fans; the charges were also dropped.
Financial issues would also haunt Jackson causing the closure of his "Neverland" park. Jackson had been delinquent on his repayments of a $270 million loan secured against his music-publishing holdings, even though the holdings were reportedly making him as much as $75 million a year.
While preparing for his comeback concert series, This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide, and his personal physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson's death triggered a global outpouring of grief, and a live broadcast of his public memorial service was transmitted around the world. Forbes magazine ranked Jackson as the top-earning deceased celebrity for the fifth consecutive year in 2017. His estate earned $825 million in 2016, the highest yearly amount ever recorded by the publication.
His legacy would leave a discography featuring: Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music & Me (1973), Forever, Michael (1975), Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) and Invincible (2001). The albums Michael (2010) and Xscape (2010) were released posthumously.
Footnote: The Jacksons as a band (consisting of mostly the remaining brothers) would continue to record on their own. Their sister, Janet, would become a pop talent in her own right.
Also of note: Comedian and songwriter "Weird Al" Yankovic relentlessly spoofed Jackson's music. The "Men In Black" movie also featured a phone call from someone described as an alien 'Michael Jackson' wanting to join the organization as "Agent 'M' and being ignored.
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