1958–1979: Early life and career Main article: The Jackson 5 Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana to a working-class family. He was the second-youngest brother of seven and the eighth of ten children of Joseph (Joe) and Katherine Jackson. 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, a steel mill employee who often performed in an R&B band called "The Falcons" with his brother Luther, was a strict disciplinarian. Many of the Jackson children recall being spanked or whipped by their father for misbehaving.[11] Jackson showed musical talent early on and joined his brothers when they formed a group in 1964.

During this period, the boys toured Indiana extensively, and after winning a major local talent show in 1966 with a rendition of The Temptations' "My Girl", 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 teasers and other adult acts in order to earn money.[12] The young Jackson had taken 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.[13] 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.[12]As a solo artist, Jackson released a total of four 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".

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).[14] When this became apparent to Motown Records, they sued the group for breach of contract.

As a result of the legal proceedings, which were complicated further 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.[15] 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, laying down 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 Wiz with former-label mate Diana Ross playing Dorothy.[16] 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.

1979–1982: Off the Wall era Main article: Off the Wall Off the Wall, released in 1979, was a worldwide success story that 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".[6] It reached #3 in the Billboard album charts, spending 48 consecutive weeks inside the Top 20.[17] Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson jointly produced the album, with lyrics and music by Jackson, Heatwave's Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney, among others. The album signaled the arrival of a new Michael Jackson, one not reliant upon his brothers to further his career.[18] Off the Wall, buoyed by its catchy dance rhythms and avoidance of the "shallow excesses...of the period's disco,"[18] eventually sold some 20 million copies worldwide.[19] 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").[6] Later that month, he also won two Billboard Awards (for "Top Black Artist" and "Top Black Album").[6] On February 27, 1980, Jackson won a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male" (for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough").[6]

More than twenty-five years after its release, Off the Wall remains one of the defining moments in Jackson's music career as it began his domination as one of pop music's leading artists. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named Off the Wall the thirty-sixth greatest album of all time.[20] Rolling Stone ranked it #68 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[21]

1982–1986: Thriller era Main articles: Thriller (album), We Are the World, and Captain EO

Jackson in a scene from the popular "Billie Jean" music video. The song hit number one on the Hot 100 and stayed there for seven weeks in early 1983. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest songs Jackson ever wrote.In November 1982, the storybook for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released. It included Jackson reading the story as well as one original song ("Someone in the Dark"). The album later won a Grammy for "Best Album for Children". On the first day of the following month, Jackson released his second Epic album, Thriller. Thriller became by far the biggest selling album of all time with worldwide sales reaching over 104 million copies.

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" 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.[22] Thriller spent 37 weeks at #1 and remained on the Billboard album chart for 122 weeks. It was eventually certified 27x Platinum in the U.S.[23]

In 1983, while performing "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever concert, Jackson debuted what can be regarded as his signature move: the moonwalk.[22] 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, and, 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 down upon the singer’s head and setting fire to his hair. He suffered second-degree burns and later wore a hairpiece when collecting Grammys that year.[24]

In February 1984, Jackson was nominated for twelve Grammy awards - of which he won eight[22] - breaking the record for the most Grammy awards won in a single year.[25] Seven were for Thriller and the other for the E.T.: The Extraterrestrial storybook. In 1984, he also won eight American Music Awards and the "Special Award of Merit" and three MTV Video Music Awards.

Thriller was a gigantic hit that made Michael Jackson the seminal icon of American culture at the time. At the age of 25, the New York Times called him a "musical phenomenon", further commenting that "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else".[26] Time magazine explained that "the fallout from Thriller has given the [music] business its best years since the heady days of 1978, when it had an estimated total domestic revenue of $4.1 billion."[27] Thriller also helped to bring music from African-American artists back into mainstream radio for the first time since the mid-1970s.[27]

The album dominated much of the world's conscience in its heyday; as one Soviet high school senior put it, "[Michael Jackson's] music is electrifying. His beat is the music of today."[27] The Kremlin disagreed with their citizen, denouncing Michael Jackson as a "great show-biz swindle known as 'The Thriller'" and accusing the singer of serving the Reagan administration by taking the American people's minds off the country's problems.[28] In May 1984, stores across the country started selling dolls of the superstar, who also became something of a sexual symbol, as he was described by TIME magazine: "Undeniably sexy. Absolutely safe. Eroticism at arm's length".[27] Additionally, Michael Jackson's rhinestone glove and Thriller jacket became iconic aspects of his outfits which American youth sported all too eagerly. As a sign of his stature at the time, Republican officials considered inviting Jackson to their national convention, in 1984, where they would renominate Reagan, but a change of plans left Ron Walker, the convention manager, stating that "We never thought we had a ghost of a chance."[29]

Jackson (middle) with the Reagans in 1984. This was Jackson's first trip to the White House; in his second, six years later, he would meet with then President George H. W. Bush.After reuniting with his brothers, he helped to write the Victory album. He then performed and starred in the Victory Tour, which started on July 6, 1984 and lasted for five months.[22] 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.[30]

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".[22] "We Are the World" became one of the top five best-selling singles of all time, selling over 20 million copies worldwide.

Controversy began when Jackson purchased shares in ATV Music Publishing (a company which owned the publishing rights to most of the Beatles' songs), making himself the majority shareholder. This move angered close friend and songwriter Paul McCartney, who had also made a bid for the company. Ironically, it had been McCartney who advised Jackson on the merits of song ownership.[31] Their creative co-writing ended after this event. Following this controversial business deal, tabloid stories of Jackson sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to stall the aging-process, and an allegation claiming Jackson attempted to purchase the bones of the Elephant Man inspired the pejorative sobriquet "Wacko Jacko". The name "Wacko Jacko," first used by British media, would come to be detested by Jackson.[32]

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.[33] 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 tomorrow-land 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. Two new songs featured in the film. These were "Another Part of Me", which later appeared on Bad, and "We Are Here To Change The World", which was officially released in 2004 as part of Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection.

1987–1990: Bad era Main article: Bad (album)

Michael Jackson in 1988 during the Bad era. Bad was probably the most anticipated album of all time, coming on the heels of Jackson's monster success with Thriller. It did not reproduce the achievements of Thriller, but it was still a major commercial success around the world, at one point becoming the second biggest selling album of all time.In 1987, Jackson released Bad; his third album for the Epic record label, and final album with producer Quincy Jones.[22] He initially wanted to make the album 30 tracks long, but Jones cut this down to 10. 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.[34] With the industry expecting another monster hit, the release was heavily anticipated as it was Jackson's first album in five years.[35] The album had over two million advance orders.[35]

Bad had lower sales compared to Thriller, but it was still a huge commercial success. In the U.S. it spawned seven hit singles,[22] 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 8x Platinum.[36] Musically, Bad featured ballads and light-hearted songs combined with a panoply of darker-themed and somber material, epitomized by the last track on the album, "Leave Me Alone", which has Jackson venting against the attention he received from the press.[35]

In September 1987, Jackson embarked upon his first solo world tour, the Bad World Tour, which was greeted with worldwide mania and record-breaking attendance figures. In Japan alone, Jackson had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, demolishing the previous record of 200,000 in a single tour.[37] The tour lasted sixteen months and saw Jackson perform in 123 concerts to over 4.4 million fans worldwide. Jackson insisted on a personal bus, plane, and helicopter to be available to him all at the same time throughout the tour.[38]

Jackson hired film director Martin Scorsese to direct the video for the album's title track.[39] 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.[40]

The success Jackson achieved during this period in his career led to him to be dubbed the "King of Pop",[41] a nickname which he continues to be referred to by fans and the media.[42] The nickname was allegedly 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, recognizing Michael Jackon's musical influence in the 1980s, the White House presented the singer with its own special "Artist of the Decade" award, delivered to Jackson by President George H. W. Bush, who commended Jackson for acquiring a "tremendous following", among other things.[43] This period saw Jackson enjoy "a level of superstardom previously known only to Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra."[44]

1991–1994: Dangerous era Main article: Dangerous (album) In November 1991, Michael Jackson released Dangerous, which, at roughly 30 million copies worldwide,[19] registered sales figures similar to those of Bad and became one of the most successful New jack swing albums of all time. Dangerous featured several major worldwide hits, including "Black or White", "Remember the Time", "In the Closet", "Give In To Me", and "Heal the World". Dangerous was heavily 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.[45]

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.[41] On November 14, 1991, the video for "Black or White" simultaneously premiered in 27 countries with an estimated audience of 500 million people, the largest viewing ever for a music video.[9]

On February 10, 1992, MTV kicked off its first global sweepstakes with "My Dinner with Michael". Winners from around the world attended a dinner party hosted by Michael Jackson on the set of his "In the Closet" music video. Later that year, a biopic, The Jacksons: An American Dream, debuted on ABC; it was based on the true story of the rise of The Jackson 5.

The year 1992 also witnessed one of Jackson's most high-profile international visits: a trip to Africa in which he visited several countries, among them Gabon and Egypt.[46] This was the singer's second arrival on the continent, his first having occurred as a 14-year-old with the Jackson 5.[46] His first stop to Gabon was greeted with a sizeable reception of more than 100,000 people in "spiritual bedlam", some of them carrying signs that read, "Welcome Home Michael".[46] In his trip to the Ivory Coast, Jackson visited the gold-mining village of Krindjabo, populated by the Agni tribe and located near the capital of Abidjan, and was crowned "King Sani" by a tribal chief.[46] He then thanked the dignitaries in French and English, signed official documents formalizing his kingship, and sat on a golden throne while presiding over ceremonial dances.[46] Jackson finished his stay in Africa by going to Egypt and promoting the Dangerous album. 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.[47]

1995–2000: HIStory era and Blood on the Dance Floor Main articles: HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix In June 1995, Jackson released HIStory: Past, Present And Future - Book I,[48] which went on to sell 18 million copies (36 million units) worldwide,[19] making it the greatest selling multiple-disc album of all time.[9] To promote the album, Jackson embarked on the successful HIStory World Tour,[48] which was attended by more than four and a half million people, a record for concert attendance outside of the United States that still stands.

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).[49]. 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. The music video for "Scream" is currently the most expensive music video ever made.[50] "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. The video caused mild controversy in the U.S. as a result of media skepticism regarding the relationship between Jackson and his wife Lisa Marie Presley as well as displays of semi-nudity.

"Earth Song" was the third single released from HIStory and was accompanied by one of the most expensive and lavish videos of Jackson's career. The song topped the U.K. singles chart for six weeks over Christmas in 1995 and sold one million copies there, making it his most successful U.K. single, surpassing the success of Billie Jean. At the 1996 BRIT Awards, Jackson performed the track "Earth Song", dressed in white and surrounded by children and an actor portraying a rabbi. During the performance it was alleged that Jackson was making Christ-like poses while being lifted into the air by a crane. Pulp lead singer Jarvis Cocker and his friend Peter Mansell mounted a stage invasion in protest. Cocker leapt onstage, pretended to expose his rear and danced around. In the ensuing scuffle to remove Cocker from the stage, it was claimed that up to three children received minor injuries.[51] The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), who ran the awards, qualified this by stated that "We are extremely concerned that Jarvis Cocker's actions last night resulted in injury to three children who were performing with Michael Jackson".[51] Cocker responded, "My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing".[51] A spokesperson for Jackson and Sony said that "Michael feels sickened, saddened, shocked, upset, cheated [and] angry".[51] Cocker's actions were met with mixed reactions from the British press.

"They Don't Care About Us" was the fourth single released from HIStory and caused controversy over anti-Semitic lyrics. The song contained the lyrics "Jew me, sue me" and "kick me, kike me." After significant pressure from the Jewish community, later releases changed the verse to the same-sounding "do me, sue me" and "kick me, hike me" or censored it with a thumping sound.

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;[48] it sold six million copies worldwide and became the greatest selling remix album ever, reaching #1 in Britain. The album's five original songs were named "Blood On The Dance Floor", "Is It Scary", "Ghosts", "Superfly Sister", and "Morphine". 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".[52] The short film, written by Michael Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston, features many special effects and dance moves choreographed to original music written by Jackson.[53] The music video for "Ghosts" is over 35 minutes long and is currently the World's Longest Music Video.[54] Jackson dedicated the album to Elton John, who reportedly helped him through his addiction to painkillers, notably morphine.

2001–2003: Invincible era Main article: Invincible (album) In October 2001, Invincible was released[55] and debuted at number-one in thirteen countries.[47] Invincible went on to sell nearly 8 million copies worldwide.[19] 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;[41] 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 cancelled. As a result of this, Jackson made allegations about Mottola not supporting its African American artists.[41] Jackson referred to Mottola as a "devil" and a "racist" who used black artists for his own personal gain.[41] He cited that Mottola called Jackson's colleague Irv Gotti a "fat nigger".[56][57] Sony issued a statement stating that they found the allegations strange since Mottola was once married to biracial pop star Mariah Carey. Carey herself seemed nonchalant about Jackson's claims when asked about them by Larry King on Larry King Live.[58]

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. Later, the show aired on November 13, 2001.[55] It featured performances by Mýa, Usher, Whitney Houston, 'N Sync, the Jacksons, Slash, and a number of other artists.[59]

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.

2003–2006: Trial, acquittal, and aftermath Main articles: People v. Jackson, Post trial lawsuits against Michael Jackson, and I Have This Dream In November 2003, Michael 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.[60] On the album's scheduled release date, while Michael 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 the Neverland Ranch and issued an arrest warrant for Jackson on new charges of child molestation.[61] Jackson was accused of sexual abuse by Gavin Arviso, who appeared in the Living with Michael Jackson documentary earlier that year.

After being acquitted of the allegations, Jackson relocated to the Gulf island of Bahrain, where he reportedly bought a house formerly owned by a Bahrain MP.[62] Jackson allegedly spent his time in the Gulf writing new music, including a charity single dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina entitled, "I Have This Dream". Ciara, Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Keyshia Cole, James Ingram, Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine, Shanice, the Reverend Shirley Caesar and The O'Jays all reportedly lent their voices to the charity song. After many delays, the single was not released, despite being announced on September 13, 2005. At the time, Jackson's spokesperson Raymone Bain said the list included Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, James Brown and Lenny Kravitz. It later appeared that these artists were no longer participating.[63] The charity single remains unreleased.

2006–present: Visionary and new album Main articles: Visionary: The Video Singles and Michael Jackson's 2007 album 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.[64]

Sony officially released the Visionary box set in the US on November 14, 2006.[65] Jackson also 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 US".[66]

Michael Jackson was awarded the Diamond Award on November 15, 2006, for selling over 100 million albums, at the World Music Awards. This was his second public appearance at an awards show since the trial of 2005.[67] Despite tabloid rumors prior to the event,[68][69][70] he did not perform "Thriller", instead joining a choir on stage for a verse of "We Are the World".

Following the death of James Brown, more than 8000 people – including family, friends and fans – watched as several artists, including Jackson, paid tribute to the 'Godfather of Soul' during his public funeral-turned-concert on December 30, 2006.[71] Reverend Al Sharpton, who was close to Brown, delivered his sermon at the funeral, in which he stated that in the last conversation he had with Brown, he had said that artists like Jackson needed to continue to make positive music for all people.[71]

In the fourth quarter of 2007, Jackson is expected to release a comeback album. There have been reports of collaborations with (of The Black Eyed Peas),[72] Teddy Riley,[73] DJ Whoo Kid,[73] Akon,[72] Chris Brown and 50 Cent.[72] 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.[74] Consequently, Jackson formed The Michael Jackson Company which will oversee both his finances and the release of his new album.[74] There may also be plans for a world tour to support the album.[75] This would be his first tour since 1997. Work began on the album in May 2006.

Influence As the biggest solo star since Elvis Presley,[27] Michael Jackson has had a notable impact on music and culture throughout the world while also tearing down social barriers and paving the way for modern pop music and the concept of the modern pop star in his own country.[76] He has been described as an "extremely important figure in the history of popular culture."[77] a person with "planetary influence,"[76] and is one of the most famous living humans.

Music videos and MTV

Jackson dancing with zombies in the revolutionary "Thriller" music video.Michael Jackson is widely regarded as being the first artist to elevate music videos to a meaningful art form,[76] setting off new trends of story-telling, mini-movies, and choreographed dance sequences that dominate the genre to this day. The concept of the short film, epitomized by 1983's "Thriller" but also seen in other Jackson videos such as "Ghosts", "Bad", "Smooth Criminal", and "Remember the Time", would largely remain unique to him, but the group-scene dancing pioneered by "Beat It" and popularized by "Thriller" has been a staple of music videos ever since. The dance sequence from "Thriller" has captivated popular culture worldwide, being replicated everywhere from Indian movies to Western wedding ceremonies.[78][79]

Central to Michael Jackson’s success with music videos was the relatively young music channel MTV, created in 1981, which put Jackson’s videos in heavy rotation throughout the 1980s. Before the fruitful relationship materialized, however, Jackson struggled against the channel just to have his videos aired. In 1983, when Jackson came out with "Billie Jean", his first video from Thriller, MTV rarely aired videos by African-American performers and promptly refused Jackson’s requests for a running.[80] Upon hearing the news, CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff went livid, denouncing MTV and warning, "I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy".[80] Yetnikoff's harsh stance and rhetoric worked; MTV retreated and started giving "Billie Jean" heavy coverage, laying the groundwork for a dynamic partnership with Jackson that would last for years. When the 14-minute long music video for "Thriller" came out in December 1983, it took MTV by storm, running as often as twice within an hour at its height. True to its name, the video also had the feeling of a psychological thriller, reportedly scaring viewers across the United States, especially young children. "Thriller" marked the beginning of a new era in music videos and is often cited as the greatest music video of all time.[1]

Michael Jackson is often credited for putting MTV, initially a struggling cable channel, on the map "with pioneering videos such as "Thriller", "Billie Jean", and "Beat It"."[4] In response to Jackson's influence, MTV shifted its musical focus as time went on, going from rock videos to more and more pop and R&B showings.[81]

Legacy of Thriller Released in 1982, Thriller became the most commercially successful album of all time and one of the most critically acclaimed, single-handedly transforming Jackson into his generation's Elvis or the Beatles and making him the "late 20th century's pre-eminent pop icon".[80] It remains Jackson's most celebrated musical achievement and has acquired a prominent position in American culture. In the 1980s, it was an indelible part of American life, as described by TIME magazine, "The numbers, which are incredible, are also becoming indelible. How many Beatles were there? How many homers did Babe Ruth hit? How many Grammy Awards did Michael Jackson win on Feb. 28? How many copies of Thriller have been sold? Well, the Grammys are easy".[27]

The second track released from the album and Jackson's highest-selling single ever, "Billie Jean", has been described as "one of the most sonically eccentric, psychologically fraught, downright bizarre things ever to land on Top 40 radio".[80] Jackson's earlier solo work in Off the Wall had revealed a disco-funk combination, but "Billie Jean," edged onwards by a "pulsing, cat-on-the-prowl bass figure, whip-crack downbeat and eerie multi-tracked vocals ricocheting in the vast spaces between keyboards and strings",[80] featured a new and revolutionary sound, one that made Jackson's idiosyncratic vocals a staple of pop music and established a sleek, post-soul tune "whose echoes can be heard to this day".[80] Apart from the title track and the accompanying music video, the album's other memorable single was "Beat It", which Jackson described as "the type of rock song that I would go out and buy, but also something totally different from the rock music I was hearing on Top Forty radio".[82] The song was a crossover hit, buoyed by a "watch-my-fingers-fly guitar solo provided by Eddie Van Halen".[82]

Apart from establishing Jackson's iconic status and a new pop sound, Thriller revolutionized the music industry, which was watching in anticipation as the juggernaut comfortably and steadily broke record after record. Gil Friesen, President of A&M Records, stated that "the whole industry has a stake in this success".[27] At its height, Thriller was an industry in and of itself, with the Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller, a videotape describing the secrets behind the new music video that was released in the Christmas of 1983, going on to sell 350,000 copies by March 1984.[27]

The main influence Thriller had on the industry involved raising the importance of the album as a means of musical distribution. After Thriller, which, by posting seven top ten Hot 100 hits, had shattered traditional notions of how many singles an album could release before falling in popularity,[1] record companies took an interest in following Michael Jackson's approach of releasing high-profile albums once every few years. Although the importance of singles relative to albums had started to wane before the 1980s, Thriller firmly established the album as the dominant force in the music industry, a status it retains to this day.

TIME magazine summed up the impact of Thriller as follows: "For a record industry stuck on the border between the ruins of punk and the chic regions of synthesizer pop, Thriller was a thorough restoration of confidence, a rejuvenation. Its effect on listeners, especially younger ones, was nearer to a revelation".[27] Additionally, Thriller marked the return of black music to commercial radio for the first time in years, leading Quincy Jones to the following characterization of the doors opened by Michael Jackson: "No doubt about it, he's taken us right up there where we belong. Black music had to play second fiddle for a long time, but its spirit is the whole motor of pop. Michael has connected with every soul in the world".[27] By overcoming what some have called the "apartheid of pop", Jackson paved the way for the success of future acts, most immediately and notably Prince, who had been confined to low levels of airplay before Thriller opened the floodgates.[83]

Style and performance

Michael Jackson performing "Billie Jean" at Motown 25 in May 1983. Jackson's on-stage mannerisms, from the moonwalk to his crotch-grabbing pelvic thrusts, have been the subject of endless imitation.Among the most celebrated aspects of Michael Jackson's career have been his dance, fashion, and vocal styles, which have given rise to impersonators all over the world. In 1984, TIME magazine wrote the following on the singer's notable style: "His high-flying tenor makes him sound like the lead in some funked-up boys choir, even as the sexual dynamism irradiating from the arch of his dancing body challenges Government standards for a nuclear meltdown. His lithe frame, five-fathom eyes, long lashes might be threatening if Jackson gave, even for a second, the impression that he is obtainable".[27]

Jackson's dancing abilities were always an important part of his life, and ones that he honed through constant training and dedication, manifested, according to TIME, by "[shutting] himself up at the house in a room that has no mirrors—"Mirrors make you pose," he has said—and [cutting] loose to his own music or to the Isley Brothers' Showdown, practicing what Dancer Hinton Battle calls "moves that kill. It's the combinations that really distinguish him as an artist. Spin, stop, pull up leg, pull jacket open, turn, freeze. And the glide, where he steps forward while pushing back. Spinning three times and popping up on his toes. That's a trademark, and a move a lot of professionals wouldn't try. If you go up wrong, you can really hurt yourself".[27] Jackson has been described as an "avant-garde dancer" that allowed his techniques to acquire meaning through the "theatrical context" surrounding them.[84] His dancing abilities, sometimes compared to past greats like Fred Astaire and Rudolf Nureyev,[77] have contributed strongly to his perceived status as one of the greatest performers of all time.

Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" outing at Motown 25 on May 16, 1983 is widely regarded as one of the greatest performances of all time, despite the fact that Jackson lip-synched the song. More than 50 million viewers tuned in to see the special and Jackson perform his most popular song at the time.[80] It marked a new height in his popularity, pushed forward by the publicly-dubbed "moonwalk," an illusory move designed to create the impression that the dancer is walking backwards. The moonwalk became Jackson's signature dance move and he would replicate it in all future performances of "Billie Jean." Jackson did not invent the move, but he was responsible for perfecting it, making it a household name, and enshrining it into the psyche of American culture, which witnessed kids and people of all age groups trying to do the move after the Motown special as well as earning a fitting peroration from the New York Times: "The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing".[84]

Michael Jackson's outfits, everything from the sequined white glove, which has led to some dubbing him as "The Gloved One", to the jacket in the "Thriller" music video, have been essential components of his image and performance. The "Jheri-curled hair and single-gloved, zippered-jacket look" became a favorite for many people across the United States in the 1980s.[85] Jackson has also made the fedora hat something of a trademark in his exhibitions, and many modern artists pay tribute to the look.

Themes and genres Michael Jackson's musical palette has covered everything from disco and pop to rock and R&B. Jackson's musical themes have been equally varied, featuring material on typical pop subjects like love and joy as well as more mature works on social justice and his convoluted relationship with the media. Jackson's solo career with Motown in the 1970s was largely unimaginative, dominated as it was by label-backed songwriters and producers intent on giving the young performer typical ballads and other similarly-styled melodious tracks. In his two-decade career with Epic, however, Jackson displayed extensive creativity, gradually evolving from compositions with mild, non-controversial messages to songs dealing with increasingly solemn and darker themes, a reflection of his personal struggles and his status as an international icon.[86]

Off the Wall and Thriller showcased a Michael Jackson primarily focused on making dance hits and ballads with catchy tunes and rhythms. While this preoccupation would continue in his future work, it would also be colored by various shifts and improvisations. Even in this early material, however, Jackson displayed notable paradoxes, mixing the melodious and comfortable sounds of "Lady in My Life" with the haunting and terrorized environments of "Billie Jean" and "Beat It", where women accused him of fathering their children and the outside world seemed strange and hostile.[87] Bad was accused by some of not delivering the exciting lyrics evident in Thriller, being more intent on consolidating a traditional pop sound and defeating the records of Jackson's previous releases.[87] The album left clues for future projects, however, mentioning in the tense intro to "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" that "A lot of people misunderstand me....because they don't know me at all".[87] Bad included Jackson's first major inspirational song, "Man in the Mirror", which was praised for its message and captivating sound and also criticized as, among other things, "pure pabulum."[87]

Jackson's work in the 1990s was characterized by more introspective material. Some have argued that the Dangerous album represented Jackson at a "near peak" in terms of musical quality and creativity.[88] Several things remained the same, with the title track to Dangerous ensuring another song about a "predatory lover",[89] but more and more of Jackson's music in the decade, like "Black or White", "Heal the World", "They Don't Care About Us", and "Earth Song", started addressing sociopolitical issues around the world. The music in Dangerous, described as a "a sonic machine world" with "synthetic basslines, swooshing scratched records, [and] clanking metallic noises", reflected old influences while absorbing new trends, made all the more pressing by Jackson's habit of releasing albums once every four or so years, time periods that allowed for significant development in the sound of pop music.[89]

HIStory, arguably Jackson's most conflictive album, revealed a "furious" pop icon worn by years of superstardom,[86] with Jon Pareles of the New York Times writing that "It has been a long time since Michael Jackson was simply a performer. He's the main asset of his own corporation, which is a profitable subsidiary of Sony".[86] The album featured Jackson using profanity and other controversial lyrics, which forced him to modify some of the words to "They Don't Care About Us". Edged onwards by a quasi-messianic flair, he also railed against the media in "Tabloid Junkie," singing, "With your pen you torture me/You'd crucify the Lord" and that "Just because you read it in a magazine/ Or see it on a TV screen/ Don't make it factual".[86] HIStory mostly encompassed reflective compositions, presenting only one conventional love song, "You Are Not Alone".[86]

Recognition, influence on other artists Michael Jackson holds the world record as the most awarded recording artist in history. Throughout his four-decade career, he has received numerous honors and awards, including the World Music Award's Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, the American Music Award's Artist of the Century Award,[90] and the Bambi's Pop Artist of the Millennium Award.[91] He is a double-inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (once as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997 and as a solo artist in 2001)[44] and an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[92] At his height, he was characterized as "an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the tools to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility, and loads of sheer star power".[1] In 1990, Vanity Fair magazine named him the "Most Popular Artist in the History of Show Business".[93] Jackson's work has influenced a wide variety of artists, including Mariah Carey,[94] Usher,[95] Britney Spears,[94] Justin Timberlake,[96] Omarion,[97] Ne-Yo,[98] and Chris Brown,[99] among others.

Personal life Michael Jackson's personal life has been under the spotlight for decades. His marriages and children, his physical appearance, his humanitarian efforts, and accusations of child molestation have all witnessed a variety of media coverage all over the world.

Marriages and children Main article: Michael Jackson marriages and children 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.[100] They divorced less than two years later, although still remain friends.[101] Jackson's second wife Debbie Rowe spoke about the couple's post-marriage friendship amidst "stories about Michael having an affair with his ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley",[101] saying that: "They have a relationship, and what people don't understand is his relationship with her is separate from his relationship with me. They're friends, they're very good friends... [and] I am glad that they have a relationship together. I am glad to see them together; they have a lot in common."[101]

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".[102] The paternity of Michael Jackson's children has been heavily debated by the public. Both Jackson and Rowe have always maintained that his first two children were conceived naturally.

In November 2002, Jackson travelled to Berlin to accept an award for his humanitarian efforts. He was surrounded by fans outside his room at the Hotel Adlon who were chanting in approval of the singer. According to the pop star, they also called out to see his baby. In response, Jackson brought his son onto the balcony, holding him in his right arm with a cloth loosely draped over the baby's face in order to protect his identity from the media. Jackson briefly extended the baby over the railing of the balcony. This raised concern as some perceived his actions as child endangerment, although Jackson has vehemently denied these tabloid rumours, saying that he was holding the baby tightly. Jackson said that the media was wrong in their comments about him being irresponsible with his children, "I love my children," he explained. "I was holding my son tight. Why would I throw a baby off the balcony? That's the dumbest, stupidest story I ever heard."[103]

The controversial documentary Living with Michael Jackson aired in February 2003 in the UK (on the 3rd) and in the US (on the 6th). The documentary included interviews with Jackson which included information on his private life.[104] British journalist Martin Bashir and his film crew filmed Jackson for 18 months, also capturing his controversial behavior in Berlin. One particular part of the documentary, which stirred controversy and raised a significant level of concern, showed Jackson holding hands with a then 13-year-old cancer victim Gavin Arviso, and admitting to sharing his bedroom with him (but not in the same bed) as well as sharing his bed (non-sexually) with other children.

Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir and complained that the film gives a distorted picture.[105] In response to the media scrutiny, two specials were aired: Michael Jackson: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See and Michael Jackson's Private Home Movies.[106] Michael Jackson: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See which aired later in February showed uncut footage of the Living with Michael Jackson documentary. The Michael Jackson's Private Home Movies aired in April was a 2-hour special with footage of Michael Jackson's home videos and included commentary by Jackson.

Humanitarian efforts In 1992, Jackson founded the "Heal the World Foundation" (named after his humanitarian single "Heal the World"). The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson's Neverland Ranch, located outside Santa Ynez, California, to go on theme park rides which Jackson had built on the property after he purchased it in 1988.

In late 2002, Jackson's Heal the World Foundation had net assets of just US$3,542 and reported $2,585 in expenses, mostly for management fees. The foundation was suspended in California since April 2002 for supposedly failing to file annual statements required of tax-exempt organizations, according to John Barrett, spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board. The "Heal the World Foundation spread millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war and disease," thanks to the efforts of Michael Jackson, but the forced closure of the Foundation leaves many of these children without aid.[107]

Physical appearance Main article: Physical appearance of Michael Jackson Jackson's skin color was a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth; his skin had been becoming paler gradually since 1982. This change became so noticeable that it gained widespread media coverage, with some tabloids claiming that he was bleaching his skin. The structure of his face has changed as well, and a number of surgeons claim that Jackson had undergone multiple nasal surgeries as well as a forehead lift, thinned lips and cheekbone surgery.[108]

However, on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1993, Jackson revealed that the change in his skin color was due to the disease vitiligo.[109] In the interview, Jackson became quite emotional, saying that: "I'm a black American, I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity... I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of my skin, it's something that I cannot help, OK? But when people make up stories that I don't want to be what I am it hurts me... It's a problem for me that I can't control."[109] Jackson also responded to tabloid rumors about the amount of plastic surgery he had had done, saying that he's had "Very, very little. I mean you can count on my two fingers," and furthermore said that "I've never had my cheekbones done, never had my eyes done, never had my lips done and all this stuff, they just go too far."[109] Further, Jackson wrote in his 1988 autobiography Moon Walk that he only had two rhinoplastic surgeries and the surgical creation of a cleft in his chin, while attributing the noticeable change in the structure of his face to puberty and diet.[110]

Child molestation charges Main articles: 1993 child molestation allegations against Michael Jackson and People v. Jackson Jackson was reported to be allowing children to sleepover at his Neverland ranch. This practice came under much media and public scrutiny, in 1993, when allegations of child molestation were brought against Jackson by a child who had stayed with him on several occasions. That year, Jordan Chandler, the son of former Beverly Hills dentist Evan Chandler, represented by civil lawyer Larry Feldman, accused Jackson of child sexual abuse. On December 22, Jackson responded to the allegations via satellite from his Neverland compound and claimed to be "totally innocent of any wrongdoing." On January 25, 1994, Jackson settled out of court with the accuser for an undisclosed sum, reported to be US$20 million, and was not charged.[111]

On December 18, 2003, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit that felony, all regarding the same boy, (Gavin Arvizo), under 14. The felony complaint stated that Jackson had committed seven lewd acts and two acts of administration of an intoxicating agent to enable the former accusations. Jackson denied these allegations, saying that the sleepovers were in no way sexual in nature. Jackson's friend, Elizabeth Taylor, defended him on Larry King Live, saying that she'd been there when they "were in the bed, watching television. There was nothing abnormal about it. There was no touchy-feely going on. We laughed like children, and we watched a lot of Walt Disney. There was nothing odd about it."[112]

The People v. Jackson trial began in Santa Maria, California, on January 31, 2005, and lasted until the end of May 2005, with Jackson being acquitted on all counts in June. It was one of the largest and most documented trials in world history. About 2,200 media credentials to over 30 news organizations from around the world were issued to cover the trial, more than what was given for the trials of O. J. Simpson and Scott Peterson combined.[81] Jackson's popularity outside the United States ensured a distinctly international crowd of reporters.[81] On top of the media, Santa Maria was also flooded with Jackson fans, 1,200 of whom heard and celebrated the ten not guilty verdicts right outside the courthouse.[113]

The District Attorney of Santa Barbara County in California, Tom Sneddon, has led two efforts against Jackson involving child molestation.[114] The first incident, in 1993, resulted in no charges and the second, at the end of 2003, culminated in a trial two years later in which Jackson was acquitted on all counts. These repeated prosecutions have led some to believe that Sneddon was motivated by a "mission" against Jackson, which had no relevance to either case.[114]



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