Michael Jackson: biography
Michael Jackson is the American musician, the most successful pop singer in the world’s history, dancer, actor, and song author. 1 billion copies of Jackson’s albums, singles, and collections was sold all over the globe.
Michael Jackson became the pop-music iconic figure in his lifetime. The singer was called “King of Pop” by his fans; in 2009, he gained the official title of the Legend of America and Music Icon.
The musician got into the Guinness Book of World Records 25 times; he won 13 Grammy Awards; there are hundreds of other music awards in his collection.
Childhood and youth
Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29 into the family of Joseph and Katherine Jackson who lived in the American town Gary, Indiana. The boy was the seventh child among the nine children of the couple. The star’s childhood can hardly be called happy: later, Jackson said the father was a tyrant who oppressed the children both morally and physically. In 1993, the singer described some brutal actions of that man at the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Once, the father put on a freaky-looking mask and went to Michael’s room through the window, screaming, when the boy was asleep – he did it in order to teach the children to close the windows before going to bed. After this, little Michael suffered from nightmares: he saw himself being kidnapped from his own bedroom. In 2003, Joseph Jackson himself admitted he was violent to his children sometimes.
The cruel upbringing played a terrible trick on Michael: on the one hand, it cultivated discipline which had a positive effect on his achievements but, on the other hand, traumatized his mind for all his life.
However, it was the father who introduced the boy to the stage: Joseph organized a music group “The Jackson 5” that consisted of five children of his. Michael was the youngest member, yet it never prevented him from getting attention for his unique performance manner and unusual dancing.
From 1966 to 1968, the group toured in the Midwest; in 1969, they signed the contract with the recording studio Motown Records. With this company, the singers had their hits released; the songs became popular later.
In 1970, the music family managed to rise to the national level: some of their singles topped the American Billboard Hot 100. Since 1973, the group’s success started decreasing, and they had to sign an agreement with another company under the stage name “The Jacksons.” Until 1984, the group made 6 albums and toured all over the country in their support.
Simultaneously with the family group performance, Michael Jackson released four albums and several solo singles that became popular: “Got to Be There,” “Rockin’ Robin,” and “Ben” that topped musical charts in 1972.
In 1987, the singer starred in the Broadway performance screen adaptation “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with Diana Ross. He met Quincy Jones at the movie set; later, this music director was the producer of the star’s most famous albums. The album “Off the Wall” (1979) presented Michael Jackson as the bright and original young singer and dancer. The hit songs “Don’t Stop 'Til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You” soared to the first positions in charts; 20 million copies of the album were sold.
In November 1982, the world’s bestselling album “Thriller” that went down in the history of music came out. The hits “The Girl is Mine,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” and “Thriller” are still immortal in American and other countries. This album held the music top spot for 37 recording weeks and brought Michael Jackson 8 Grammy Awards. Today, these results remain unbeaten.
In 1983, the musician’s track “Billie Jean” was released. The music video for the song came out almost immediately: Jackson combined dancing, special effects, complicated plots, and star cameo roles. The singer tried to promote the video on MTV but failed. Experts who study this period admit that Michael Jackson’s art non-acceptance was likely to be related to racial prejudice although MTV workers deny any racism manifestation.
Nevertheless, “Billie Jean” was the first music video of a black singer that got to the channel’s hot airtime. By spring 1983, the channel had experienced CBS Records pressure and aired “Billie Jean.” In a while, the music video for “Beat It” appeared. The musician and the channel started the long-time cooperation.
The “Thriller” got into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful music video. As music critics state, the 13-minutes “Thriller” is more like a full-scale short movie rather than a video accompanying a song. Before the instrumental bridge of the song starts, four minutes of the video pass; this time includes the movie inside the movie where Jackson transforms into a werewolf. While the song is being played, there is the voice-over characteristic of classic horror movies. The movie plot develops according to thriller canons and finishes with Michael Jackson’s legendary dance with zombies around.
This unique music video encouraged American video creators to enhance their products. Introducing short movies as the music videos was Michael Jackson’s trademark, but some elements of the pop king’s videos became an integral part of the American culture. They have frequently been cited, copied, and parodied by other singers, in movies, series, shows, flash mobs, and pranks.
Jackson’s live shows also revolutionized the sphere of music. The globally famous moonwalk was demonstrated first on March 25, 1983, at the “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” show where he sang “Billie Jean.” This performance changed the world of pop music: in addition to the qualitatively new choreographic movements, Michael brought the synchronized acting and opened the epoch of stage performances where artists reproduced the music videos onstage.
In 1984, the pop singer and Paul McCartney recorded the song “Say Say Say” that immediately became a hit.
Critics call Jackson the king of music videos, yet not all his works were welcomed by the audience. In 1987, the 19-minute music video “Bad” came out and received ambiguous reviews from fans. Since that moment, the music video contained the different choreography: dancing became more sexual and vulgar as Jackson started touching himself, especially his chest and crotch, as the element of the show.
The artist’s fans did not appreciate this novelty; “Time” called this music video shameful. As the musician admitted in Oprah’s interview, these movements were spontaneous because, according to Michael Jackson, that music demanded such freedom.
In 1988, the musician won back his fans’ love with his new song “Smooth Criminal” where Jackson presented his novel movement that was later named the “anti-gravity lean.” In this difficult element, the musician was supposed to lean forward to the floor and get straightened without bending his legs. The shoes for this chorographical trick were invented; Jackson got the US patent № 5255452.
In the same year, the movie about another well-known element by Jackson, “moonwalk,” came out. The movie’s box office was $67 million. Next year, the movie was released on film; 800 copies were sold.
In 1990, Michael Jackson got the Artist of the Decade award, also known as MTV Video Vanguard Award, for his achievements in the 1980s. In 1991, this award was renamed in honor of Michael Jackson. In the same year, the controversial music video “Black or White” was presented and watched by 500 million people – it was the recording number for a music video in those times. The video encouraged people to be tolerant of all nationalities and starred people of various ethnic background. However, the full music video contained some scandalous elements that the audience considered to be the propaganda of violence. The musician apologized and had the video edited.
In 1991, the actress Elizabeth Taylor called Michael Jackson the true king of pop, rock, and soul music at the Soul Train Music Award ceremony. Since that time, the title of the King of Pop became permanent. In 1992, Michael Jackson’s book “Dancing the Dream” came out.
Before 1992, the artist released two more albums: “Bad” and “Dangerous.” The singles “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Black or White,” “Remember the Time,” and “Will You Be There” came out.
In 1993, the song “Give in to Me” was presented; critics called it the darkest, creepiest, and eeriest song in the musician’s discography. In this case, Michael Jackson switched from pop-music traditions to which the artist’s fans got used to hard rock and heavy metal genres.
In 1993, Michael Jackson visited Moscow for the first time and gave a concert. Impressed by the trip, he promised to create a song about the capital of Russia.
In 1996, Jackson drew his attention to the racial problems again and recorded the protest song against the racial inequality, American values, and ideology “They Don’t Care About Us.” The single was scandalous even before the premiere and provoked many rumors. In America, the song reached the 30th position since the media misinterpreted the controversial song lines. In Europe, “They Don’t Care About Us” topped music charts and obtained the golden status.
The music video shooting was also associated with challenges. The first shooting took place in Brazil, but the musician was not satisfied with the final results. The video was remade to become more brutal: prison, genocide, abuse, and beating scenes were added. With all that, American TV channels refused to broadcast the music video, and the premiere of the new version never took place in the USA. The song became the hymn of activists for equal rights. “They Don’t Care About Us” is often sang by antiracist movement members during meetings and protests.
From 1993 to 2003, three new albums came out. In 1995, the double album “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I” that was supposed to be a part of the trilogy was presented. It contained 15 new songs and the most popular hits.
The song “Scream” became the first single of the new album. Michael recorded it together with his sister Janet Jackson. The singer also fulfilled his promise and presented the song about Moscow “Stranger in Moscow” in 1996. The double album also included the ecology-themed song “Earth Song” the music video for which was made in four continents. Except for the traditional problem of human rights, Jackson drew public attention to the problem of environment protection and unpunished poaching.
In 1996, the musician went to Moscow again and gave another concert at the Central Dynamo Stadium. Jackson met the composer Igor Krutoy and Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov.
In 2001, the new album “Invincible” was presented; in 2003, the song collection “Number Ones” came out. The long interval between the new albums was explained by the conflict Jackson and the recording company had. “Sony” was not willing to continue financing the prolonged process.
In 2004, the singer presented his song collection “Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection” consisting of 5 disks. The musician’s top-ranked hits and unedited songs were included in this collection.
In 2009, the Pop King planned to release a new album but never managed to do it. In summer 2009, he was going to tour with his “This Is It Tour” and give ten concerts, yet the call for the tickets was so great that organizers planned additional 40 shows.
In his short life, Michael Jackson starred in more than 20 movies. At 20, the musician debuted in the fantastic movie “The Wiz” by Sidney Lumet. Later, he appeared in short movies, for instance, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Captain EO.”
The King of Pop also played in the movies “Men in Black II,” “Moonwalker,” and “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts.” The 2009 movie “Michael Jackson's This Is It” was his last work.
As the singer became popular, he gained big money and started spending a significant part of it on altering his appearance. Since the mid-1980s, Michael Jackson began to change dramatically: his skin was getting whiter, and the shape of his nose, mouth, chin, and cheekbones was transformed. Soon, no one could recognize the features of that black boy with a broad nose and full lips in the adult Jackson.
Rumors had it that the King of Pop tried to get rid of his Afro-American appearance and become white. Journalists guesstimated that the racism Michael encountered at the beginning of his music career made an influence: studios and TV channels did not want to cooperate with the black singer.
Jackson denied the rumors about the intentional change of skin color and explained that he had the skin pigmentation disorder. According to the musician, stress and injuries catalyzed the progressing genetic disease, vitiligo. The musician’s words were proved by photos where his irregular pigmentation was seen. To cover the different color of his skin, Jackson wore a special dark make-up for his shows. However, he had to switch to the white make-up when the light fragments on his skin became predominant. The disease also made the singer avoid the sun, show as less skin as possible when choosing clothes, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
As Jackson claimed, the face surgery was the necessity: he had severe skull burns during the Pepsi ad shooting. The musician officially confirmed there were only three plastic surgery operations that absolutely changed the musician’s appearance: two nose operations and one chin operation that brought him a dimple. According to Michael, other changes were the result of aging and becoming a vegetarian.
Doctors state the musician had a lip reduction surgery, forehead lift procedure, and changing the shape of cheeks and eyelid operations. In the 2000s, the plastic surgeon Arnold Klein performed the next plastic surgery on Jackson’s nose to let him breathe normally again – the doctor confessed he did it to journalists later.
Michael Jackson’s extravagance caused as much frenzy as his songs. Each step of the eccentric personality was discussed in the media.
As the singer demonstrated the famous dance move with touching his crotch in the music video “Bad,” a scandal erupted. Besides, the renewed choreography obtained moves when Jackson embraced his chest and touched his body. Later, these were called the Pop King’s trademark, but the first moments provoked the fans’ and critics’ ambiguous reaction.
In 2002, the child-on-the-balcony scandal took place. Michael Jackson appeared with his newly born son on a Berlin hotel balcony, placed him behind the balcony rails, and started swinging him in front of his fans. Jackson and the baby were on the fourth floor, and the danger was apparent. As the pictures of the “caring father” resonated all over the world, Jackson gave a speech and admitted his behavior was utterly wrong.
The Pop King’s life was always marked with scandals, the major of which made an end to his music career and health: the corruption of minors accusation scandal. In 1993, the singer was accused of sexual activity to 13-year-old Jordan Chandler who was the musician’s friend and often spent time at Jackson’s rancho “Neverland.” As the boy’s father claimed, Michael Jackson made his son touch his genitals.
The police conducted the investigation and even demanded the musician to demonstrate his genitals for comparing with the boy’s statements. However, no legal process followed: both sides negotiated a settlement. Chandler’s family was paid $22 million.
Ten years later, a similar accusation was made to Michael. At this time, the parents of the “Neverland” 13-year-old frequenter Gavin Arvizo were the accusers; they claimed the boy and other children slept in the same room with Jackson who encouraged them to drink alcohol and then touched their bodies.
The singer rejected all the accusations and claimed the Arvizo were just squeezing money from him. The legal process lasted for four months and caused a hype. 2200 publishing houses and channels had their correspondents accredited to report on the case details. In 2005, the jury decided Jackson was not guilty for lack of evidence.
Despite the positive outcome, lawyers’ services cost Jackson a fortune, and the very process compromised the singer’s health. Michael Jackson had to take strong anti-depressants. After the musician’s death, Jordan Chandler confessed his father who committed suicide had made him slander Jackson for money.
In 1994, Michael Jackson surprised the whole world as he secretly married Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter. The event was a sensation. Some people believed it was the step to restore the singer’s reputation, others saw the touching alliance of two famous music families. Whatever this marriage was, it lasted only for a year and a half.
In November 1996, Jackson married Debbie Rowe who used to be a nurse. The singer had two children in this marriage: the son Prince Michael Joseph Jackson was born in 1997; the next year, the Pop King’s daughter Paris Michael Jackson was born. Michael and Debbie Rowe broke up in 1999.
In 2002, a surrogate mother gave birth to the singer’s third child Prince Michael Jackson II.
Michal Jackson’s biographers argue the musician suffered from physical distress, underweight, and painkiller addiction long before his death. These statements are confirmed by medics who provided the musician with anesthetics. Jackson’s surgeon Arnold Klein confirmed the pop singer overused prescription medicines but marked the musician’s physical and mental condition was good: he danced for the doctor’s patients and did not look like he was dying.
On June 25, 2009, the singer spent the morning in the rented house in western Los Angeles. The singer’s private doctor Conrad Murray made a Propofol injection and left. Two hours later, he found Michael Jackson lying on the bed, his eyes and mouth wide-open. The doctor tried to revive him, but all attempts were futile. At 12:21 p.m., emergency service workers were sent for.
The medical team arrived in less than 4 minutes and found the breathless body. The doctors still continued to reanimate the musician for several hours but failed to bring him back to life. The Pop King’s death happened at 14.26; the cause of death was the medicine overdose.
The media were discussing the star’s suicide, deliberated murder, and the doctor’s tragic negligence. The investigation confirmed the latter version. Jackson’s doctor lost his license; he was accused of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
On June 25, some musicians recorded the song “Better on the Other Side” in memory of Michael Jackson: The Game, Diddy, Chris Brown, DJ Khalil, Mario Winans, Polow da Don, Usher, and Boyz II Men. The American rapper the Game created the song lyrics.
On July 7, 2009, the mourning ceremony took place in Los Angeles. The family memorial service in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Hall of Liberty was followed by the Staples Center public ceremony broadcast live. The news about Michael Jackson’s death broke the records of Internet pages views and overloaded search engines: Internet “traffic jams” were registered.
Michael Jackson’s funeral was shrouded in mystery. The location of the body was kept secret; the Internet was full of rumors that the pop star’s body had been buried on August 8 or 9. Later, the media informed the ceremony took place at the end of August in Forrest Lawn, Los Angeles; there were also speculations that the ceremony would be held only in September. Finally, the musician was buried on September 3.
Is Michael Jackson alive?
The secrets accompanying the funeral caused the rumor that Michael Jackson was alive and just imitated his death to make an end to the life in front of cameras and enjoy his buzz-free life. Those who support this theory provide hundreds of arguments in favor of their opinion.
Fans are confused by the facts that Jackson was buried in a closed casket, the date of the ceremony was always being shifted, and the singer’s body was delivered in the crypt. In official documents, the Forest Lawn Cemetery is mentioned as the place of temporary burial spot, and it is unknown where the musician’s body really is today. The proved facts pertaining to the investigation have not been announced; it is known, however, that the house cameras disappeared for some reason and failed to record the moment of his death. Moreover, the autopsy report was inaccurate, the family refused to have a DNA test performed, and the police never commented on Jackson’s death clearly.
As the singer’s fans noticed, the news about his death appeared several times in that year, but Michael refuted these rumors. The further events also look suspicious: Jackson’s personal things were purchased by an anonymous collector at the private auction, and the deceased musician’s finances are managed by Michael’s unknown friend. In addition, fans often saw their favorite singer in England, Mexico, Bahrain, and other countries; sometimes people saw him in different places simultaneously.
After the pop legend’s death, his music career continued. “Sony” and Jackson’s family signed an agreement to release 10 albums where unpublished and old songs would be included. Fans’ and musical critics’ reaction was ambiguous.
In 2010, the first post-mortem album “Michael” came out. The reviews on the new work were both positive and negative, yet fans admitted the album turned out to be better than they had expected. Several singles and music videos were presented.
In 2011, the remix album “Immortal” with 15 hit songs was out. Some songs were the soundtracks to the Cirque du Soleil show “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.” The performance included the acrobatic acts and dances styled after Michael Jackson. The choreographers who had cooperated with Jackson and created popular dances worked on the Cirque du Soleil program.
In May 2014, the second post-mortem album “Xscape” containing 8 songs was released. On May 18, the “live” performance took place at the Billboard ceremony: Jackson’s holographic image made with the help of the Pepper's ghost technology appeared and “performed” the recorded composition “Slave to the Rhythm.” Fans’ reviews were ambivalent. Some of them did not believe they saw the hologram and were sure it was Michael Jackson’s double.
- “Got to Be There”
- “Music & Me”
- “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I”
- “Forever, Michael”
- “Off the Wall”
- “Men in Black II”
- “Michael Jackson's This Is It”
- “The Wiz”
- “Miss Robinson”
- “Michael Jackson's Ghosts”
- “Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller”