On August 29, 1958 Michael Joe Jackson was born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson in Gary, Indiana. He was the seventh of nine children. Katherine and Joseph's other children are Maureen "Rebbie" Jackson, Sigmund "Jackie" Jackson, Toriano "Tito" Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Steven "Randy" Jackson and Janet Jackson.
Michael Jackson began his musical career at the age of five as the lead singer of the Jackson 5. The group played local clubs and bars around Indiana and the Eastern USA. In 1968 Bobby Taylor of the music group “The Vancouvers” and Gladys Knight discovered the young group of singers. Very soon after that the group was signed to Motown Records and groomed for stardom by Berry Gordy and Suzanne DePasse.
The Jackson 5 and their family moved to Southern California where they soon became national stars when their first four singles, "ABC,” "I Want You Back,” "The Love You Save,” and "I'll Be There" became number one hits. No other debut artist or group placed their first four singles at the top of the charts. The Jackson 5 performed all over the world and sold almost 100 million albums worldwide.
Unfortunately, the hits stopped coming from the young group from Gary, Indiana at their label Motown. During that time Motown was heavily concentrating on their film division and many groups felt stagnant because of the lack of direction and control from the label. Fearing for his sons’ careers, father-manager Joseph Jackson took the Jackson 5 to Las Vegas in the mid seventies and created a family act at the MGM Grand Hotel to excellent reviews. The Las Vegas Show was tailored into a hit summer replacement show on network television that lasted two seasons.
Despite the success in Vegas and the Variety Show on CBS, the group felt that the lack of hits at Motown was damaging their careers. During the Motown era, The Jackson 5 made 14 albums and a multitude of top 40 hits. But the group, citing the need for artistic freedom, left Motown Records in 1976. Jermaine Jackson decided to stay with Motown Records with his father-in-law Barry Gordy that caused a temporary rift in the Jackson family. The Jackson 5 had incorporated their younger brother Randy Jackson into the act who became Jermaine Jackson's official replacement.
Unfortunately, lawsuits and copyright issues forced The Jackson 5 to relinquish their stage name. When they signed with Epic, the sister company of Columbia Records, The Jackson 5 became The Jacksons. The newly named Jacksons were a very successful group finally getting what they were denied at Motown, artistic control. The Jacksons made six albums between 1976 and 1984 and toured constantly to promote their albums globally.
Michael Jackson became an actor in the mid seventies when he won the role of the Scarecrow in “The Wiz.” The big budget feature also starred Diana Ross and was directed by Sidney Lumet. Michael Jackson moved to New York for the filming was a staple at “Studio 54” at the height of Disco culture.
The film, The Wiz opened with much fanfare, unfortunately had mixed reviews and was a financial disappointment at the box office. However, the film's musical director was Quincy Jones who produced a top 40 hit song from the film, “Ease On Down the Road”—a duet between Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. A partnership was born when Jackson asked Jones to produce his album and Jones accepted. The album was called “Off The Wall” and was released in 1979. The album was an international smash with four top ten singles. Two of the singles, “Don't Stop Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” reached number one. The album went on to sell an astonishing eleven million copies worldwide.
Nothing prepared the world for the “Thriller” phenomenon. Released on December 1st of 1982, record industry pundits predicted the album would sell two million copies. The first single, “The Girl is Mine" -- a duet with Paul McCartney was well received but criticized for being too popish. However, Billie Jean was a smash hit. The video for the song became the first video featuring an African American performer to be played on MTV. Another key moment came when Motown 25 was produced. Suzanne DePasse asked Michael and his brothers to perform on the seminal broadcast. Michael Jackson asked for a solo spot where he performed his hit single Billie Jean. The night of the broadcast an estimated fifty million people watched Michael Jackson perform. After that night, the “Thriller” album ceased to be an impulse buy for the consumer, but a staple that everyone had to have. Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones created a pop culture phenomenon. Michael Jackson became a musical and celebrity icon.
“Thriller” released seven top ten singles. “Beat It," the video and number one song was one of the most played videos on MTV until the “Thriller” video. The “Thriller” video cost nearly a million dollars to make and boasted filmmaker John Landis as director. The video was almost 15 minutes in length. This was the first video that networks like MTV and Showtime had to pay for the honor of broadcasting it and it was the first video of its kind to be sold in stores with documentary footage–“The Making of Thriller.”
After all was said and done, “Thriller” became the biggest selling album of all times. Jackson won an astonishing eight Grammy Awards -- a feat that has only recently been tied.
As of this writing, some reports have “Thriller” approaching the sixty million-unit mark.
The years between 1984 and 1986 proved to be fruitful for Michael Jackson. He reunited with his brothers and recorded the album, “Victory.” The Jacksons toured the United States with the Victory Tour and Michael Jackson gave his proceeds to charity. In 1984, Jackson purchased the ATV catalog for forty-seven million dollars. Under the guidance of Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie wrote an international anthem with the release of the song, “'We Are The World” which was performed by 44 of the world's most popular recording artists. "We Are The World" single and album raised funds for the charity “USA For Africa” raising money and worldwide awareness for famine in East Africa.
Michael then teamed up with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola for the production of the 3-D movie “Captain EO” for Disneyland. The thirty-minute film, which ended its run in 1998, was the most expensive short film ever produced at twenty-seven million dollars.
In 1987, Jackson released his third solo album, “Bad” with a Martin Scorsese directed short film. Bad went on to have five number one singles and spawned an eighteen-month tour, which grossed more than two hundred million dollars. After his world tour, Jackson wrote his memoirs with an assist from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis called “Moonwalker.” Michael Jackson ended the 1980s by being named MTV's “Artist of The Decade.”
In the beginning of the 1990s Michael Jackson signed what was called the largest contract with a recording label in history. However, scandal and tabloid gossip threatened to derail his career. In 1991 Michael recorded his fourth solo album, 'Dangerous'. He supported the album with a tour that took him to Eastern Europe for the first time. Jackson performed his first live concert for world audiences from Bucharest Romania. During this time he launched his own charity, “Heal the World Foundation” that was dedicated to improving the lives of children and the environment around the world.
Jackson's career was interrupted by unfounded allegations of misconduct with a minor. He was never charged but the investigation caused a firestorm of adverse publicity and media intrusion into the life of a celebrity that had never happened before. Jackson interrupted his tour to go into seclusion after it was announced that he had a dependency to pain killers resulting from an accident filming a Pepsi commercial. Michael Jackson came back to the United States and ended the media firestorm by settling with his accuser without admitting guilt. Thus ended a dark period in the entertainer's life.
However, the media firestorm returned in full force when Michael Jackson eloped with Lisa Marie Presley in a secret ceremony in the Dominican Republic in 1994.
In 1995, Michael Jackson released his greatest hits’ album, HIStory that contained 15 original songs. The first single, "Scream" -- a duet with his superstar sister Janet Jackson -- debut at number five making it the first single to ever debut that high. The next single that Michael Jackson released from the History album was You Are Not Alone, which debuted at number 1 making Jackson the first artist to debut at the top of the charts in America. During this time, Jackson's marriage to Lisa Marie Presley ended before he embarked on his HIStory tour in 1996. On November 14, 1996, Michael married Debbie Rowe and their first child "Prince" Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., was born on February 13, 1997.
Michael Jackson released the HIStory remix album, "Blood On the Dance Floor" in 1997. To support the album, Jackson produced the short film Ghosts that played to theaters all over the world before it became a home video in the European and Asian markets.
Following his world tour, Michael and his 2nd wife Debbie Rowe had another child April 3, 1998, named Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. The Jackson's ended their marriage in October 1999.
In 2001, Jackson celebrated his thirty years of solo stardom with sold out performances at Madison Square Garden. The television special drew forty-five million viewers. In October of 2001, Michael Jackson released his seventh solo album, Invincible, an album that debut at number one in more than fourteen countries.
Unfortunately, due to record industry politics, the album was abandoned in mid 2002 after the hit single Butterflies. Fans from around the world protested Michael Jackson's treatment by his label. Many demonstrations were organized around the world, with several websites posting information regarding the maneuverings of Sony's mishandling of the Invincible Project.
As for Jackson, he hired several high-powered attorneys to look into possibly suing Sony for breach of contract regarding royalty and other mismanagement issues. Jackson went on the offensive publicly denouncing Sony Music Head, Tommy Mottola as racist and a devil, which caused a firestorm of publicity and increased media scrutiny regarding his alliance with the Reverend Al Sharpton and his music initiative for economic justice for minority recording industry artists.
Even throughout the new round of negative publicity regarding the war with his label, Jackson was still able to expand his artistic and business endeavors. Michael Jackson took a cameo role in Men In Black II and created a massive buzz with audience and industry pundits alike about his potential in film. He created Neverland Films with MDP, an independent film company based in Canada. And the Sony/ATV catalog bought the Acuff/Rose catalog, perhaps the premiere country music publishing catalog in the world.
Unfortunately, a new round of negative publicity surrounded Jackson in late 2002. Michael Jackson teamed with Martin Bashir to do a documentary and interview about his life. Bashir and his television crew filmed Jackson for almost a year with the purpose of piercing the preconceived images the world press had formed about the reclusive superstar.
Bashir was with Jackson in Germany for The Bambi Awards when crowds of fans congregated at the hotel where Michael Jackson was staying with his children. Jackson showed the crowd his youngest son from the balcony of his suite. The incident was caught on tape by the media, which dubbed Jackson's mistake as the "baby dangling" escapade. Jackson apologized for his behavior, however many pundits questioned his ability as a father and whether he should even have custody of his children.
Bashir exploited this angle in his documentary which aired in January and February of 2003.
Jackson fought back with his own documentary which showed video footage of Bashir's manipulative conduct with Jackson. Bashir was showered with criticism based on his deceptive journalistic practices by the world press.
The rest of 2003 was a whirlwind of appearances and awards.
Jackson produced a television special featuring his home movies which was a ratings success. He also received the Key to the City by the Mayor of Gary, Indiana. He received the Key to the City of Las Vegas from the Mayor of Las Vegas later in 2003.
In August 2003, Michael Jackson won the BMI Urban Awards for the song Butterflies. He also celebrated his birthday with his fans in Los Angeles at the Orpheum Theater.
Michael Jackson threw a charity event for the organization Oneness at his Neverland Valley Ranch. Later, Oneness presented Michael Jackson with the Power of Oneness Award that September.
In October, Michael attended the Radio Music Awards where he received their Humanitarian Award. He also finally released the video and single "What More Can I Give" at the show, the proceeds going to several charities.
Michael Jackson and Sony Records released the compilation CD: Number Ones in November 2003. Jackson had released the single, "One More Chance" and the song was having major success on all major charts around the world.
On the album scheduled release date, while Michael Jackson was in Las Vegas, Nevada filming the video for "One More Chance," Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department raided Michael Jackson's Neverland Estate. Michael Jackson subsequently was arrested and charged with Child Abuse.
Jackson vehemently denies these current allegations and maintains his complete innocence.
His fans throughout the world held candlelight vigils in support and prayer for his well being.
Michael Jackson's career has spanned almost four decades earning him millions of fans across the globe and an iconic place in pop culture as well as legendary status in music history. He set the bar for music video production values, and his tireless pursuit of perfection in the recording studio has influenced a whole generation of artists and dancers seeking to emulate his music and his dancing.
Michael Jackson has become more than an entertainer, he is a part of our cultural heritage and he will continue to blaze a trail in music that others can only hope to follow. His musical contribution and legacy will never be challenged or forgotten.
Michael J. Jackson may be going through the darkest period of his life. But the one thing that is a constant in his life is his devotion to his fans and of course the fans devotion to Michael Jackson.