King of Pop Forever – RIP Michael Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana, into a working class family. The son of a steel mill employee Joseph Jackson and Katherine Esther, he was the seventh of nine children who were all singers. Michael is referred to as the “King of Pop” and cited as one of the world’s most famous men.

Jackson’s childhood was full of bitter memories from his father’s abusive way of raising his children. Some specific events were told by Michael in interviews. He could not forget the incessant rehearsals together with some of his siblings. His father would hold a belt in one hand, whipping anyone of them, especially him when he made a mistake.

There was one instance when he was held upside down by one leg and beaten brutally on his back, and these and even more mental and physical abuses have affected Michael’s formative years, probably explains many of his later  problems. He was on record as saying that he would become physically sick and ‘regurgitate’ whenever he saw his father.

At age five, Michael already showed musical talent in school. At age 6, he and brother Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers which was then composed of Jackie, Tito and Jermaine. Michael played the congas while Marlon the tambourine. From time to time the two would perform back-up vocals and dancing. The group’s name was then changed to The Jackson 5, and now at age 8, Michael with Jermaine assumed lead vocals.

The Jackson 5 signed with Motown Records in 1968, and his talent had already been recognized and he was described by Rolling Stone magazine as a ‘prodigy’. By that time Michael already danced and sang on their shows together with his brothers, and was especially noticed because of his extraordinary dancing and singing styles.

The first attempt of the group to hit the chart was a success. The singles “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” topped at no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Then Michael was given the break to release solo albums starting in 1972. The hits “Got To Be There” and “Ben” were contained in the two albums with the same titles. However, in 1975 the brothers decided to leave Motown because of the company’s refusal to allow them to have more creative control over their works.

From Motown the Jackson Five moved to CBS Records, Epic Records Division in 1975. The group’s name was changed to The Jacksons. Michael became the group’s lead songwriter who made hits such as “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”,”This Place Hotel”, and “Can You Feel It” all the way from 1976 to 1984.

Michael’s talent as songwriter was made even more prominent in the album which he co-produced with Quincy Jones, titled “Off the Wall”. Other songwriters in this alum were Rod Temperton of Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. After its release in 1979, the album was able to generate four US top 10 hits, the first-ever in history.

The singles “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” paved the way for “Off The Wall” to reach Number 3 on the Billboard 200. The album had 7 million sales in the US and sold over 20 million copies internationally.

For his solo efforts Michael received three awards at the American Music Records, including Favorite Soul/R&B album; Favorite Male Soul/R&B artist; and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” in 1980. In that same year he also won Top Black Artist, Top Black Album and a Grammy Award.

In 1982, Michael released his second album “Thriller” and that was even more successful. Seven of the songs were included in the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit singles and the album remained in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for 80 consecutive weeks: specifically at No. 1 for 37 of those weeks. The singles “Billie Jean”, “Beat it”, and “Woman Be Startin’ Somethin'” were the best sellers, and the album was given a Double Diamond status in the US and cited as the best-selling album of all time.

While doing a commercial with Pepsi-Cola in 1984, Michael suffered second degree burns to his scalp when his hair accidentally caught fire. Pepsi Cola paid Michael 1.5 million dollars which he used to found the Michael Jackson Burn Center to help people with severe burns. He co-wrote the charity single “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie, and also recorded two hit singles with Paul McCartney, “The Girl Is Mine” and “Say, Say, Say”.

Starting in the early 80s, Michael’s medium-brown color gradually grew paler, and later he was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus, conditions that made him sensitive to sunlight. The conditions gave rise to speculation, particularly when observable changes in his physical appearance became apparent due to weight loss.

Another album was released in 1987 titled “Bad” with substantial commercial success, but it did not achieve the success of “Thriller” – that was a very hard act to follow. ‘Bad’ contained the hit singles “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man In The Mirror”, and “Dirty Diana”. There was also a “Bad Tour” from September 1987 to January 1989 that broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended the show, and another Guinness Record for $125 million gross sales.

He was able to dish out several other albums including “Dangerous” in 1991, with the hit single “Black Or White” being the biggest hit, and then followed the Dangerous World Tour in June 1992 and the HIStory World Tour in 1996. In between these big events were controversies and accusations about sexual abuse, his addiction to drugs, his marriage and fatherhood.

All stuff that a successful artist of his appearance and with his childhood problems would be expected to be accused of, but for which there was very little evidence.

He married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, who gave him much needed emotional support, but they divorced less than two years later. In the HIStory tour, Michael married dermatologist nurse Deborah Jeanne Rowe who gave him two children, Michael, Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine. They divorced in 1999 with Michael taking full custody of the children, and he fathered a third child, Prince Michael, who was born in 2002.

Michael’s involvement in charitable institutions and events was widespread. Aside from those previously mentioned, he supported Warchild for refugees of Kosovo, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Red Cross and UNESCO, and others.

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