About the series: The list of 25 top Hoosier musicians includes subjective selections by Indianapolis Star reporter David Lindquist. For this list, a “Hoosier” is defined as someone who helped shape the cultural identity of Indiana or someone whose identity was shaped by the state.
This is the conclusion of a series that looks at the top 25 musicians, ranked in order, in Indiana history. The list includes representatives of blues, pop, country, hip-hop, R&B, rock, classical, jazz, Broadway and punk rock styles.
25. Scrapper Blackwell
24. Bob Flanigan
23. Bobby Helms
22. Lisa Germano
21. Rusty Redenbacher
20. Crystal Gayle
19. Charlie Fuqua
18. Steve Wariner
17. Dale Lawrence
16. Yank Rachell
15. Paul Mahern
14. Kenny Aronoff
13. Joshua Bell
12. Janet Jackson
11. J.J. Johnson
10. Axl Rose
9. Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds
8. Hoagy Carmichael
7. Freddie Hubbard
6. John Hiatt
5. John Mellencamp
4. Bill Monroe
3. Wes Montgomery
2. Cole Porter
1. Michael Jackson
'King of Pop' specialized in joyful dance hits, empathetic ballads
. Michael Jackson
A new era of superstars dawned when Michael Jackson sold more than 40 million copies of 1982 album "Thriller," which continues to hold steady as the top-selling recording of all time.
Gary, Ind., native Jackson (1958-2009) earned his "King of Pop" nickname by making joy-infused dance hits and empathetic ballads. Within a career packed with honors, awards and superlatives, Jackson was named "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006.
May 16 will mark the 30th anniversary of a television broadcast that brought Jackson's greatness into clear focus for an audience of millions. As part of a special titled "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever," he performed smash single "Billie Jean" and complemented his lyrics with a memorable look (black fedora, one sequined glove and sequined socks) and unforgettable moves (the back-sliding "moonwalk" dance).
"Thriller" was bookended by significant-selling albums "Off the Wall" (20 million copies in 1979) and "Bad" (30 million in 1987). In 1985, Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote landmark charity single "We Are the World."
"The Daniels house was full of Michael Jackson's music for all the years our girls were growing up, and I think Cheri may have been a bigger fan than any of our daughters," Gov. Mitch Daniels said following Jackson's death. "His music will live a long time, and Indiana will always be proud of the Jackson family."
Jackson's singing career began in Gary, where he spent his earliest years in a white house roughly the size of a two-car garage -- 2300 Jackson St. Nine children of Joseph and Katherine Jackson lived in the house, and sons Michael, Tito, Marlon, Jackie and Jermaine became the dynamic Jackson 5 singing group. The quintet made its live debut at Gary nightclub Mr. Lucky's in 1964.
Seven years later, the chart-topping Jackson 5 returned to record TV special "Goin' Back to Indiana" at Gary's West Side High School. Michael Jackson made a high-profile visit to Gary in 2003, receiving a ceremonial key to the city and greeting crowds of well-wishers at City Hall and at Roosevelt High School. "Thank you for a magical day I'll remember for the rest of my life," he said.
Despite Jackson's faults (he paid $22 million to the family of a 13-year-old boy who accused the singer of sexual abuse), he remains globally loved.
Following Jackson's death, The Indianapolis Star published an editorial that framed the singer's complicated life: "From prodigy to tragedy, Michael Jackson lived inescapably in the public domain, the quintessential superstar turned staple tabloid fodder, the object of near-religious worldwide devotion and the butt of a million standup jokes."
Howard Stringer -- former CEO of Sony Corporation, home to Jackson's solo recordings on the Epic label -- focused on Jackson's musical achievements: "(He) was a brilliant troubadour for his generation, a genius whose music reflected the passion and creativity of an era. His artistry and magnetism changed the music landscape forever. We have been profoundly affected by his originality, creativity and amazing body of work."
Essential songs: “Billie Jean,” “I Want You Back,” “Man in the Mirror” (See the accompanying Spotify playlist).
He said it: "My motto has been ‘Heal the World,’ ‘We are the World,’ ‘Earth Song,’ ‘Save Our Children,’ ‘Help Our Planet.’ And people want to persecute me for it, but it never hurts, because the fan base becomes stronger. And the more you hit something hard, the more hardened it becomes -- the stronger it becomes. And that’s what’s happened: I’m resilient. I have rhinoceros skin. Nothing can hurt me. Nothing,” Jackson, quoted in Interview magazine in 2003.