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 Vancouver” 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.
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.
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.
“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 honour of broadcasting it and it was the first video of its kind to be sold in stores with documentary footage–“The Making of Thriller.”
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 catalogue 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 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.
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. Michael then embarked on his HIStory world tour in 1996.
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 theatres 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 debuts 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 organised around the world, with several websites posting information regarding the manoeuvrings 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 endeavours. 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 catalogue bought the Acuff/Rose catalogue, perhaps the premiere country music publishing catalogue in the world.
Jackson produced a television special featuring his home movies which were a rating 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.
st 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 organisation 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 denied the allegations and maintained his complete innocence. His fans from all over the world came to Santa Maria Courthouse to support him and those who couldn't hold candlelight vigils in support and prayer for his good being.
On June 13, 2005, Michael Jackson was acquitted of ALL the criminal charges against him. The Jury didn't find the evidence against him credible. Because of faith, immeasurable inner strength, and never ending love and support from friends, family and his devoted fans, Michael Jackson had persevered and was found innocent of all the charges. But the trial took a toll on Michael's health and well-being and shortly after, Jackson left the USA and spent time recovering and regrouping overseas in places like Dubai, Bahrain, and Ireland.
Jackson was also awarded framed certificates by the Guinness World Records organisation that officially recognised him as the most successful entertainer of all time. Jackson received many certificates, among them were certificates for: "The Biggest Selling Album of all Time, Thriller with over 104 million sales", "Youngest Vocalist to top the US Singles Chart at age 11", "First Vocalist to enter the US singles chart at number one with 'You are Not Alone', and "Highest paid entertainer of all time ($125 million in 1989 Forbes list)".
In November of 2006, Michael gave an exclusive interview from Ireland, with Billie Bush and announced that he would be releasing his next album with the help of producer Will.i.Am, of the Black Eyed Peas.
The end of 2006 also saw Michael Jackson finally return to United States soil. Jackson landed in Las Vegas, Nevada in December reportedly to further plan out his return to entertainment.
Jackson left Vegas briefly, travelling to Augusta, Georgia to attend the funeral of his life-long inspiration, James Brown who passed away on Christmas day of that year. According to the Reverend Al Sharpton who also attended the funeral service, in his last conversation with James Brown, Brown expressed his desire to see Jackson return to the music scene with great music that everyone could enjoy. Jackson spoke highly of Brown in his brief eulogy, referring to him has the "master" of his craft and crediting him for inspiring him to become an entertainer.
In the latter part of 2007, Jackson appeared on the cover of Ebony Magazine, who released a photo shoot and interview with the King of Pop in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Thriller. He also did a photo shoot in Lamo Vogue fashion magazine. Michael's self-imposed exile was over and it was clear he was planning something special. Starting with.
Then in March 2009, to the delight of his fans, Michael Jackson announced a series of concerts at London’s O2 Arena. 750 thousand tickets sold in four hours after going on sale in March 2009. Sadly, Jackson’s “This Is It” tour never materialised. Just weeks before he was to open in London, Michael was taken from us and the world was in a state of shock and grief.
On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died from cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. A 911 call was received shortly after noon, and he was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. Medications administered by his doctor as an intravenous sleep aid was subsequently cited as a contributing factor. The world received news of Jackson’s death with shock. Spontaneous gatherings took place in the streets all over the world to mourn his death.
Michael Jackson's physician, Dr Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter nearly two and a half years after Jackson’s death and was sentenced to 4 years in the LA county Jail. He will only serve 2 years of his sentence, due to overcrowding.
Jackson’s life was celebrated at a memorial service at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on July 7, 2009, attended by his family and children, Paris Prince and Blanket. Those who paid tribute by speaking or singing included Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jackson’s brothers and sisters, and most movingly of all, his young daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson.
Michael Jackson will also be remembered for his generous humanitarian efforts around the world, especially for children's causes. His recorded donations are listed at over $300 Million in the "Guinness Book of World Records", but those who knew him stated it was much more than that, because of the many anonymous donations he gave to help others in need throughout his lifetime.
One thing that remained a constant in his life was his love and devotion to his fans and of course the fans devotion to Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson has become much more than an entertainer to the world, 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.
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