Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American recording artist, entertainer, and philanthropist. Referred to as the King of Pop, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contribution to music, dance and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. The eighth child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5 in the mid-1960s, and began his solo career in 1971.
In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs including “Beat It“, “Billie Jean” and “Thriller“, were credited with transforming the medium into an art form and a promotional tool, and the popularity of these videos helped to bring the relatively new television channel MTV to fame. Videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” made him a staple on MTV in the 1990s. Through stage performances and music videos, Jackson popularized a number of dance techniques, such as the robot and themoonwalk. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style have influenced numerous hip hop, pop, contemporary R&B and rock artists. In 2010 Jackson was voted as “the number one global music icon” by music fans in an international poll of “the top five most iconic musicians worldwide” conducted by leading news source CNN and world music publication Songlines (magazine) ahead of The Beatles, Leslie Cheung, Elvis Presley, and Bob Marley.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous(1991) and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award); 26 American Music Awards (more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century”); 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career (more than any other male artist in theHot 100 era); and the estimated sale of over 800 million records worldwide. Jackson won hundreds of awards, which have made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of music. He was also a notable humanitarian and philanthropist, donating and raising hundreds of millions of dollars for beneficial causes and supporting more than 39 charities.
Aspects of Jackson’s personal life, including his changing appearance, personal relationships and behavior, have generated controversy. In 1993, he was accused of child sexual abuse, but the case was settled out of court and no formal charges were brought. In 2005, he wastried and acquitted of further sexual abuse allegations and several other charges after the jury ruled him not guilty on all counts. While preparing for his concert series This Is It, Jackson died on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. Before his death, Jackson had reportedly been administered drugs such as propofol and lorazepam. The Los Angeles County Coroner declared his death a homicide, and his personal physician pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief, and as many as one billion people around the world reportedly watched his public memorial service on live television. In March 2010, Sony Music Entertainment signed a US$250 million deal with Jackson’s estate to retain distribution rights to his recordings until 2017, and to release seven posthumous albums over the decade following his death.
Life and career
Early life and The Jackson 5 (1958–1975)
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, the eighth of ten children to an African American working-class family, in Gary, Indiana, an industrial suburb of Chicago. His mother, Katherine Esther Scruse, was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and his father, Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson, a steel mill worker who performed with an R&B band called The Falcons. Jackson had three sisters: Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet, and five brothers: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy. A sixth brother, Brandon, died shortly after birth.
Jackson had a troubled relationship with his father, Joe. Joseph acknowledged in 2003 that he regularly whipped Jackson as a child.Jackson stated that he was physically and emotionally abused during incessant rehearsals, though he also credited his father’s strict discipline with playing a large role in his success. Jackson first spoke openly about his childhood abuse in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast in February 1993. He admitted that he had often cried from loneliness and he would vomit on the sight of his father. Jackson’s father was also said to have verbally abused Jackson, saying that he had a fat nose on numerous occasions. In fact, Michael Jackson’s deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant especially with his father, and to remain child-like throughout his adult life are in many ways consistent with the effects of this chronic maltreatment he endured as a young child.
In an interview with Martin Bashir, later included in the 2003 broadcast of Living with Michael Jackson, Jackson acknowledged that his father hurt him when he was a child, but was nonetheless a “genius”, as he admitted his father’s strict discipline played a huge role in his success. When Bashir dismissed the positive remark and continued asking about beatings, Jackson put his hand over his face and objected to the questions. He recalled that Joseph sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, and that “if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you”.
In 1964, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers—a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine—as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine. Jackson later began performing backup vocals and dancing. When he was eight, Jackson began sharing the lead vocals with his older brother Jermaine, and the group’s name was changed to The Jackson 5. The band toured the Midwest extensively from 1966 to 1968, frequently performing at a string of black clubs known as the “chitlin’ circuit“, where they often openedstripteases and other adult acts. In 1966, they won a major local talent show with renditions of Motown hits and James Brown‘s “I Got You (I Feel Good)“, led by Michael.
The Jackson 5 recorded several songs, including “Big Boy“, for the local record label Steeltown in 1967, before signing with Motown Records in 1968. Rolling Stone magazine later described the young Michael as “a prodigy” with “overwhelming musical gifts,” writing that he “quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer.” The group set a chart record when its first four singles (“I Want You Back“, “ABC“, “The Love You Save“, and “I’ll Be There“) peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Between 1972 and 1975, Jackson released four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got to Be There and Ben, released as part of the Jackson 5 franchise, and producing successful singles such as “Got to Be There“, “Ben“, and a remake of Bobby Day‘s “Rockin’ Robin“. The group’s sales began declining in 1973, and the band members chafed under Motown’s strict refusal to allow them creative control or input. Although they scored several top 40 hits, including the top 5 disco single “Dancing Machine” and the top 20 hit “I Am Love“, the Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975.
Move to Epic and Off the Wall (1975–1981)
In June 1975, the Jackson 5 signed with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records and renamed themselves the Jacksons. Younger brother Randy formally joined the band around this time, while Jermaine left to pursue a solo career. They continued to tour internationally, releasing six more albums between 1976 and 1984, during which Jackson was the lead songwriter, writing hits such as “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)“, “This Place Hotel,” and “Can You Feel It“. In 1978, he starred as the scarecrow in the musical, The Wiz, a box-office disaster. It was here that he teamed up with Quincy Jones, who was arranging the film’s musical score. Jones agreed to produce Jackson’s next solo album, Off the Wall. In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty was not a complete success; he complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson’s second rhinoplasty and subsequent operations.
Jones and Jackson produced the Off the Wall album together. Songwriters for the album included Jackson, Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney. Released in 1979, it was the first album to generate four U.S. top 10 hits, including the chart-topping singles “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You“. It reached number three on theBillboard 200 and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In 1980, Jackson won three awards at the American Music Awards for his solo efforts: Favorite Soul/R&B Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. That year, he also won Billboard Year-End for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, also for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. Jackson again won at the American Music Awards in 1981 for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a much bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release. In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.
Thriller and Motown 25 (1982–83)
In 1982, Jackson contributed the song “Someone In the Dark” to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the record won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1984. In the same year he won another seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards (including the Award of Merit, the youngest artist to win it), making him the most awarded in one night for both award shows. These awards were thanks to the Thriller album, released in late 1982, which was the 1983’s best-selling album worldwide and became the best-selling album of all time in the United States, as well as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 110 million copies so far. The album topped the Billboard 200chart for 37 weeks and was in the top 10 of the 200 for 80 consecutive weeks. It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles, including “Billie Jean“, “Beat It,” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status in the United States. The album won also another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work. Jackson’s attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. He was also making record-breaking profits from sales of his recordings. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. The era saw the arrival of novelties like dolls modeled after Michael Jackson, which appeared in stores in May 1984 at a price of $12. Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that, “Thriller stopped selling like a leisure item—like a magazine, a toy, tickets to a hit movie—and started selling like a household staple.” In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform. In December 2009, the music video for “Thriller” was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, “Thriller” is the first music video ever to be inducted.
Time described Jackson’s influence at that point as “Star of records, radio, rock video. A one-man rescue team for the music business. A songwriter who sets the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on the street. A singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style and color too”. The New York Times wrote that, “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.
In March 1983, Jackson reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance which was taped for a Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an audience of 47 million viewers, and featured the Jacksons and a number of other Motown stars. It is best remembered for Jackson’s solo performance of “Billie Jean”. Wearing a distinctive black sequin jacket and golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his signature dance move, the moonwalk, which former Soul Train dancer and Shalamarmember, Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years before. The Jacksons’ performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley‘s and The Beatles‘ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times later wrote, “The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing.”
Pepsi, “We Are the World” and business career (1984–85)
On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi Cola commercial, overseen by executive Philip Dusenberry, from ad agency BBDO and Pepsi’s Worldwide Creative Director, Alan Pottasch at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In front of a full house of fans during a simulated concert, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, and he also had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter. Jackson never recovered from this injury. Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated his $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center inCulver City, California, which now has a “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in honor of his donation.
On May 14, 1984, Jackson was invited to the White House to receive an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson won eight awards during the Grammys that year. Unlike later albums, Thriller did not have an official tour to promote it, but the 1984 Victory Tour, headlined by The Jacksons, showcased much of Jackson’s new solo material to more than two million Americans. He donated all the funds (around $8 million) raised from the Victory Tour to charity. He also co-wrote the charity single “We Are the World” in 1985 with Lionel Richie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in the U.S. and Africa. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 30 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. In 1986, “We Are the World” won four Grammys (one for Jackson for Song of the Year). American Music Award directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, but recognised it with two special honors (one for the creation of the song and one for the USA for Africa idea). They are the only AMAs that Jackson won as non-solo artist.
In 1985, ATV Music, a music publishing company owning thousands of music copyrights, including the Northern Songs catalogue that contained the majority of the Lennon/McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles, was put up for sale. Jackson had become interested in owning music catalogs after working with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s: Jackson had learned McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people’s songs. McCartney’s attorney assured Jackson’s attorney that McCartney was not interested in bidding on ATV: McCartney reportedly said “It’s too pricey”. However, McCartney later changed his mind and tried to persuade John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono to join him in a joint bid. Ono declined, and McCartney pulled out. Jackson eventually beat the rest of the competition in negotiations that lasted 10 months, purchasing the catalog for $47.5 million.
Appearance, tabloids, Bad, autobiography and films (1986–87)
Jackson’s skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid 1980s, it gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he was bleaching his skin. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli‘s biography, in 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus; the vitiligo partially lightened his skin, and the lupus was in remission; both illnesses made him sensitive to sunlight. The treatments he used for his condition further lightened his skin tone, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear very pale. Jackson was also diagnosed with vitiligo in his autopsy. The structure of his face had also changed: several surgeons speculated that he had undergone various nasal surgeries, a forehead lift, thinned lips, and cheekbone surgery—although Jackson denied this and insisted that he only had surgery on his nose. Jackson claimed that he had only two rhinoplasties and no other surgery on his face, although at one point he mentioned having a dimple created in his chin.Jackson lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for “a dancer’s body”. Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy and speculated that he was suffering from anorexia nervosa; periods of weight loss would become a recurring problem later in life.
During the course of his treatment, Jackson made two close friends: his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and Klein’s nurse Debbie Rowe. Rowe eventually became Jackson’s second wife and the mother of his two eldest children. Long before becoming romantically involved with her, Jackson relied heavily on Rowe for emotional support. He also relied heavily on Klein, for medical and business advice. Recent claims by a male dermatology assistant that he and Jackson were sexually involved have notably drawn fury from those close to Jackson
Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything yousay, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, “I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,” people would say, “Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.
Jackson collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on the 17-minute 3-D film Captain EO, which debuted in September 1986 at both the original Disneyland and at EPCOT in Florida, and in March 1987 at Tokyo Disneyland. The $30 million movie was a popular attraction at all three parks. A Captain EO attraction was later featured at Euro Disneyland after that park opened in 1992. All four parks’ Captain EO installations stayed open well into the 1990s: Paris’ installation was the last one to close, in 1998. The attraction would later return to Disneyland after Jackson’s death in 2010.
In 1987, Jackson disassociated himself from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in response to their disapproval of the Thriller video. With the industry expecting another major hit, Jackson’s first album in five years, Bad (1987), was highly anticipated. It did not top Thriller as a commercial or artistic triumph, but Bad was still a substantial success in its own right.
The Bad album spawned seven hit singles in the U.S., five of which (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You“, “Bad“, “The Way You Make Me Feel“, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana“) reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This was a record for most number one Hot 100 singles from any one album, including Thriller. Although the title track’s video was arguably derivative of the video for the earlier single “Beat It“, the “Bad” video still proved to be one of Jackson’s iconic moments. It was a gritty but colorful epic set against the backdrop of the New York City subway system, with costuming and choreography inspired by West Side Story. As of 2008, the album had sold 30 million copies worldwide. Thanks to the Bad album, Bruce Swedien and Humberto Gatica won one Grammy in 1988 for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical and Michael Jackson won one Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for “Leave Me Alone” in 1989. In the same year, Jackson won an Award of Achievement at the American Music Awards because Bad is the first album ever to generate five number one singles in the US, the first album to top in 25 countries and the best-selling album worldwide in 1987 and in 1988. In 1988, “Bad” won an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single.
The Bad World Tour began on September 12 that year, finishing on January 14, 1989. In Japan alone, the tour had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record of 200,000 in a single tour. Jackson broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium. He performed a total of 123 concerts to an audience of 4.4 million people. The Bad Tour turned out to be the last of Jackson’s concert tours to include shows in the continental United States, although later tours did make it to Hawaii and Mexico.
Autobiography, changing appearance and Neverland (1988–1990)
In 1988, Jackson released his first and only autobiography, Moonwalk, which took four years to complete and sold 200,000 copies. Jackson wrote about his childhood, The Jackson 5, and the abuse he had suffered. He also wrote about his facial appearance, saying he had had two rhinoplastic surgeries and a dimple created in his chin. He attributed much of the change in the structure of his face to puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a change in hair style, and stage lighting. Moonwalk reached the top position on The New York Times best sellers’ list. The musician then released a film called Moonwalker, which featured live footage and short films that starred Jackson and Joe Pesci. The film was originally intended to be released to theaters but due to financial issues, the film was released direct to video. It debuted atop the Billboard Top Music Video Cassette chart, staying there for 22 weeks. It was eventually knocked off the top spot by Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues.
In March 1988, Jackson purchased land near Santa Ynez, California, to build Neverland Ranch at a cost of $17 million. He installed Ferris wheels, amenagerie, and a movie theater on the 2,700-acre (11 km2) property. A security staff of 40 patrolled the grounds. In 2003, it was valued at approximately $100 million. In 1989, his annual earnings from album sales, endorsements, and concerts was estimated at $125 million for that year alone. Shortly afterwards, he became the first Westerner to appear in a television ad in the Soviet Union.
His success resulted in his being dubbed the “King of Pop“. The nickname was popularized by Elizabeth Taylor when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul.” President George H. W. Bush designated him the White House’s “Artist of the Decade”. From 1985 to 1990, he donated $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single “Man in the Mirror” went to charity. Jackson’s live rendition of “You Were There” at Sammy Davis Jr.’s 60th birthday celebration received an Emmy nomination.
Dangerous, Heal the World Foundation and Super Bowl XXVII (1991–93)
In March 1991, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for $65 million, a record-breaking deal at the time, displacing Neil Diamond‘s renewal contract with Columbia Records. He released his eighth album Dangerous in 1991. As of 2008, Dangerous had shipped seven million copies in the U.S. and had sold 32 million copies worldwide. The Dangerous album was co-produced by Teddy Riley, one of the pioneers of “new jack swing” and it turned out to be the best-selling album associated with that movement. In the United States, the album’s first single “Black or White” was its biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remaining there for seven weeks, with similar chart performances worldwide. The album’s second single “Remember the Time” spent eight weeks in the top five in the United States, peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.At the end of 1992, Dangerous was awarded 1992’s best-selling album worldwide and “Black or White” was awarded 1992’s best-selling single worldwide at the Billboard Music Awards. Additionally, he won an award as best-selling artist of the ’80s. In 1993, Jackson performed the song at the Soul Train Awards in a chair, saying he had suffered an injury in rehearsals. In the UK and other parts of Europe, “Heal the World” was the biggest hit from the album; it sold 450,000 copies in the UK and spent five weeks at number two in 1992.
Jackson founded the “Heal the World Foundation” in 1992. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson’s ranch to enjoy theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property. The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war, poverty, and disease. In the same year Jackson published his second book, the bestselling collection of poetry, Dancing the Dream. While it was a commercial success and revealed a more intimate side to Jackson’s nature, the collection was mostly critically unacclaimed at the time of release. In 2009, the book was republished by Doubleday and was more positively received by some critics in the wake of Jackson’s untimely death. The Dangerous World Tour grossed $100 million. The tour began on June 27, 1992, and finished on November 11, 1993. Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 67 concerts.He sold the broadcast rights to his Dangerous world tour to HBO for $20 million, a record-breaking deal that still stands.
Following the illness and death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, something that was still controversial at the time. He publicly pleaded with the Clinton Administration at Bill Clinton‘s Inaugural Gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research. In a high-profile visit to Africa, Jackson visited several countries, among them Gabon and Egypt. His first stop to Gabon was greeted with a sizable and enthusiastic reception of more than 100,000 people, some of them carrying signs that read, “Welcome Home Michael.” In his trip to Côte d’Ivoire, Jackson was crowned “King Sani” by a tribal chief. He then thanked the dignitaries in French and English, signed official documents formalizing his kingship and sat on a golden throne while presiding over ceremonial dances.
In January 1993, Jackson made a memorable appearance at the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII. The performance began with Jackson catapulting onto the stage as fireworks went off behind him. As he landed on the canvas, he maintained a motionless “clenched fist, standing statue stance”, dressed in a gold and black military outfit and sunglasses; he remained completely motionless for a minute and a half while the crowd cheered. He then slowly removed his sunglasses, threw them away and sang four songs: “Jam“, “Billie Jean”, “Black or White” and “Heal the World”. It was the first Super Bowl where the audience figures increased during the half-time show, and was viewed by 135 million Americans alone; Jackson’sDangerous album rose 90 places up the album chart. Jackson was given the “Living Legend Award” at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. “Black or White” was Grammy-nominated for best vocal performance. “Jam” gained two nominations: Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. The Dangerous album won a Grammy for Best Engineered – Non Classical, awarding the work of Bruce Swedien and Teddy Riley. In the same year, Michael Jackson won three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album (Dangerous), Favorite Soul/R&B Single (“Remember the Time“) and was the first to win the International Artist Award, for his global performances and humanitarian concerns. This award will bear his name in the future.
First child sexual abuse allegations and first marriage (1993–94)
Jackson gave a 90-minute interview to Oprah Winfrey in February 1993, his second television interview since 1979. He grimaced when speaking of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father; he believed he had missed out on much of his childhood years, admitting that he often cried from loneliness. He denied tabloid rumors that he had bought the bones of the Elephant Man, slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, or bleached his skin, stating for the first time that he had vitiligo. The interview was watched by an American audience of 90 million.Dangerous re-entered the album chart in the top 10, more than a year after its original release.
In the summer of 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Evan Chandler, a dentist. The Chandler family demanded payment from Jackson, and the singer initially refused. Jordan Chandler eventually told the police that Jackson had sexually abused him. Dr. Chandler was tape-recorded discussing his intention to pursue charges, saying, “If I go through with this, I win big-time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever … Michael’s career will be over”. Jordan’s mother was, however, adamant that there had been no wrongdoing on Jackson’s part. Jackson later used the recording to argue that he was the victim of a jealous father whose only goal was to extort money from the singer.
Later on that year, Jackson’s home was raided by the police, and Jackson even submitted to a 25-minute strip search. His friends said he never recovered from the humiliation. The investigation was inconclusive and no charges were ever filed. Jackson described the search in an emotional public statement, and proclaimed his innocence. On January 1, 1994, Jackson’s insurance carrier settled with the Chandlers out of court for $22 million. A Santa Barbara County grand jury and a Los Angeles County grand jury disbanded on May 2, 1994 without indicting Jackson. After which time the Chandlers stopped co-operating with the criminal investigation around July 6, 1994. The out-of-court settlement’s documentation specifically stated Jackson admitted no wrongdoing and no liability; the Chandlers and their family lawyer Larry Feldman signed it without contest. The Chandlers’ lawyer Mr. Feldman also explicitly stated “nobody bought anybody’s silence”. A decade after the fact, during the second round of child abuse allegations, Jackson’s lawyers would file a memo stating that the 1994 settlement was done without his consent.
In May 1994, Jackson married the daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley. They had first met in 1975, when a seven-year-old Presley attended one of Jackson’s family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and were reconnected through a mutual friend in early 1993. They stayed in contact every day over the telephone. As the child molestation accusations became public, Jackson became dependent on Presley for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and addiction to drugs. Presley explained, “I believed he didn’t do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it.” She eventually persuaded him to settle the allegations out of court and go into rehabilitation to recover.
Jackson proposed to Presley over the telephone towards the fall of 1993, saying, “If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?” They married in theDominican Republic in secrecy, denying it for nearly two months afterwards. The marriage was, in her words, “a married couple’s life … that was sexually active”. At the time, the tabloid media speculated that the wedding was a ploy to prop up Jackson’s public image. The marriage lasted less than two years and ended with an amicable divorce settlement.
HIStory, second marriage and fatherhood (1995–99)
In 1995, Jackson merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony’s music publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson retained half-ownership of the company, earned $95 million upfront as well as the rights to even more songs. He then released the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The first disc, HIStory Begins, was a 15-track greatest hits album, and was later reissued as Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I in 2001, while the second disc, HIStory Continues, contained 15 new songs. The album debuted at number one on the charts and has been certified for seven million shipments in the US. It is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 20 million copies (40 million units) sold worldwide. HIStory received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
The first single released from the album was the double A-side “Scream/Childhood“. “Scream” was a duet, performed with Jackson’s youngest sisterJanet. The song fights against the media, mainly for what the media made him out to be during his 1993 child abuse allegations. The single had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at number five, and received a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals”. “You Are Not Alone” was the second single released from HIStory; it holds the Guinness World Record for the first song ever to debut at number one on theBillboard Hot 100 chart. It was seen as a major artistic and commercial success, receiving a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance”. In late 1995, Jackson was rushed to a hospital after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance; the incident was caused by a stress-related panic attack. “Earth Song” was the third single released from HIStory, and topped the UK singles chart for six weeks over Christmas 1995; it sold a million copies, making it Jackson’s most successful single in the UK. The track “They Don’t Care About Us” became controversial when the Anti-Defamation League and other groups criticized its allegedly anti-Semitic lyrics. Jackson quickly put out a revised version of the song without the offending lyrics. In 1996, Jackson won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for “Scream” and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.
The album was promoted with the successful HIStory World Tour. The tour began on September 7, 1996, and finished on October 15, 1997. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans, and grossed up a total of $165 million. The show, which visited five continents and 35 countries, became Jackson’s most successful in terms of audience figures.During the tour, Jackson married his longtime friend Deborah Jeanne Rowe, a dermatology nurse, in an impromptu ceremony in Sydney, Australia. Rowe was approximately six months pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time. Originally, Rowe and Jackson had no plans to marry, but Jackson’s mother Katherine persuaded them to do so. Michael Joseph Jackson Jr (commonly known as Prince) was born on February 13, 1997; his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born a year later on April 3, 1998. The couple divorced in 1999, and Jackson got full custody of the children. The divorce was relatively amicable, but a subsequent custody suit was not settled until 2006.
In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which contained remixes of hit singles from HIStory and five new songs. Worldwide sales stand at 6 millioncopies as of 2007, it is the best selling remix album ever released. It reached number one in the UK, as did the title track. In the US, the album was certified platinum, but only reached number 24. Forbes placed his annual income at $35 million in 1996 and $20 million in 1997. Throughout June 1999, Jackson was involved in a number of charitable events. He joined Luciano Pavarotti for a benefit concert in Modena, Italy. The show was in support of the non-profit organization War Child, and raised a million dollars for therefugees of Kosovo, as well as additional funds for the children of Guatemala. Later that month, Jackson organized a set of “Michael Jackson & Friends” benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. Other artists involved included Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti. The proceeds went to the “Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund”, the Red Cross and UNESCO.
Label dispute, Invincible and third child (2000–03)
At the turn of the century, the American Music Awards honored Jackson as Artist of the ’80s. Throughout 2000 and 2001, Jackson worked in the studio with Teddy Riley and Rodney Jerkins, as well as other collaborators. These sessions would result in the album Invincible, released in October 2001. Invincible was Jackson’s first full-length album in six years, and it would be the last album of new material he released while still alive. The release of the album was preceded by a dispute between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s. Once he had the licenses, he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and he would also be able to keep all the profits. However, due to various clauses in the contract, the revert date turned out to be many years away. Jackson discovered that the attorney[who?] who represented him in the deal was also representing Sony. Jackson was also concerned about the fact that for a number of years, Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in their music catalog venture. Jackson feared that Sony might have a conflict of interest, since if Jackson’s career failed he would have to sell his share of the catalog at a low price. Jackson sought an early exit from his contract. Just before the release of Invincible, Jackson informed the head of Sony Music Entertainment,Tommy Mottola, that he was leaving Sony. As a result, all singles releases, video shootings and promotions concerning the Invincible album were suspended.
In September 2001, two 30th Anniversary concerts were held at Madison Square Garden to mark the singer’s 30th year as a solo artist. Jackson appeared onstage alongside his brothers for the first time since 1984. The show also featured performances by Mýa, Usher, Whitney Houston, ‘N Sync, Destiny’s Child, Monica, Luther Vandross, and Slash, among other artists. The second of the two shows took place the night before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 9/11, Jackson helped organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The concert took place on October 21, 2001, and included performances from dozens of major artists, including Jackson, who performed his song “What More Can I Give” as the finale. Jackson’s solo performances were omitted from the televised version of the benefit concert, although he could still be seen singing background vocals. This omission happened because of contractual issues related to the earlier 30th Anniversary concerts: those concerts were boiled down into a two-hour TV special entitled “Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration: The Solo Years” which debuted in November 2001.
In spite of the events preceding its release, Invincible came out in October 2001 to much anticipation. Invincible proved to be a hit, debuting atop the charts in 13 countries and going on to sell approximately 13 million copies worldwide. It received double-platinum certification in the US. However, the sales for Invincible were lower than those of his previous releases, due in part to a lack of promotion, no supporting world tour and the label dispute. The album also came out at a bad time for the music industry in general. The album cost$30 million to record, not including promotional expenditures. Invincible spawned three singles, “You Rock My World“, “Cry” and “Butterflies“, the latter without a music video. Jackson alleged in July 2002 that Mottola was a “devil” and a “racist” who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own personal gain. He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a “fat nigger“. Sony refused to renew Jackson’s contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the United States.
In 2002, Michael Jackson won his 22nd American Music Award for Artist of the Century. In the same year, Jackson’s third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed “Blanket”) was born. The mother’s identity is unknown, but Jackson has said the child was the result of artificial insemination from a surrogate mother and his own sperm. On November 20 of that year, Jackson brought his newborn son onto the balcony of his room at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, as fans stood below, holding him in his right arm, with a cloth loosely draped over the baby’s face. The baby was briefly extended over a railing, four stories above ground level, causing widespread criticism in the media. Jackson later apologized for the incident, calling it “a terrible mistake”. Sony released Number Ones, a compilation of Jackson’s hits on CD and DVD. In the US, the album was certified triple platinum by the RIAA; in the UK it was certified six times platinum for shipments of at least 1.2 million units.
Second child sexual abuse allegations (2003–05)
Beginning in May 2002, Jackson allowed a documentary film crew, led by British TV personality Martin Bashir, to follow him around just about everywhere he went. Bashir’s film crew was with Jackson during the “baby-dangling incident” in Berlin. The program was broadcast in March 2003 as Living with Michael Jackson, and painted an extraordinarily unflattering portrait of the singer.
In a particularly controversial scene, Jackson was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with a young boy. As soon as the documentary aired, the Santa Barbara county attorney’s office began a criminal investigation. Jackson was arrested in November 2003, and was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts ofadministering an intoxicating agent in relation to the 13 year old boy shown in the film. Jackson denied the allegations, saying the sleepovers were not sexual in nature. The People v. Jackson trial began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months, until the end of May. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts.After the trial, in a highly publicized relocation he moved to the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah.
Final years (2006–09)
In March 2006, the main house at the Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure. There were numerous reports around that time that Jackson was having financial problems. Jackson had been deliquent on his repayments of a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings, even though those holdings were reportedly making him as much as $75 million a year. Bank of America sold the debt toFortress Investments. Sony reportedly proposed a restructuring deal which would give them a future option to buy half of Jackson’s stake in their jointly owned publishing company (leaving Jackson with a 25% stake). Jackson agreed to a Sony-backed refinancing deal in April 2006, although the exact details were not made public. Jackson did not have a recording contract in place with Sony or any other major record label at the time.
In the spring of 2006, there was an announcement that Jackson had signed a contract with a Bahrain-based startup called Two Seas Records. However, nothing ever came of that deal, and the CEO of Two Seas, Guy Holmes, later stated that the deal had never been finalized.Throughout 2006, Sony repackaged 20 singles from the 1980s and 1990s as the Michael Jackson: Visionary series, which subsequently became a boxed set. Most of those singles returned to the charts as a result. In September 2006, Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe confirmed reports that they had settled their long-running child custody suit. The terms were never made public. Jackson continued to be the custodial parent of the couple’s two children. In October 2006, Fox News entertainment reporter Roger Friedman said that Jackson had been recording at a studio in rural Westmeath, Ireland. It was not known at the time what Jackson might be working on, or who might be paying for the sessions, since his publicist had recently issued a statement claiming that he had left Two Seas.
In November 2006, Jackson invited an Access Hollywood camera crew into the studio in Westmeath, and MSNBC broke the story that he was working on a new album, produced bywill.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. Jackson performed at the World Music Awards, in London on November 15, 2006, and accepted a Diamond Award for selling over 100 millionrecords. Jackson returned to the United States after Christmas 2006 to attend James Brown‘s funeral in Augusta, Georgia. He gave one of the eulogies, saying that “James Brown is my greatest inspiration.” In the spring of 2007, Jackson and Sony teamed up to buy yet another music publishing company: Famous Music LLC, formerly owned by Viacom. This deal gave him the rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck, among others. Jackson recorded extensively during this period in New York with songwriter and producer will.i.am and also in Las Vegas with producers Akon and RedOne. In March 2007, Jackson gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Tokyo, where he said, “I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old, and as Charles Dickens would say, ‘It’s been the best of times, the worst of times.’ But I would not change my career … While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me.”
In September 2007 Jackson was reportedly still working with will.i.am, but the album was apparently never completed. However, in 2008, Jackson and Sony released Thriller 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Thriller. This album featured the previously unreleased song “For All Time” (an outtake from the original sessions) as well as remixes, where Jackson collaborated with younger artists who had been inspired by his work. Two of the remixes were released as singles with only modest success: “The Girl Is Mine 2008” (withwill.i.am) and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ 2008” (with Akon). The first single was based on an early demo version, without Paul McCartney. The album itself was a hit, however. In anticipation of Jackson’s 50th birthday, Sony BMG released a series of greatest-hits albums called King of Pop. Slightly different versions were released in various countries, based on polls of local fans. King of Pop reached the top 10 in most countries where it was issued, and also sold well as an import in other countries (such as the United States.)
In the fall of 2008, Fortress Investments threatened to foreclose on Neverland Ranch, which Jackson used as collateral for loans running into many tens of millions of dollars. However, Fortress opted to sell Jackson’s debts to Colony Capital LLC. In November, Jackson transferred Neverland Ranch’s title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC, which was a joint venture between Jackson and Colony Capital LLC. This deal cleared Jackson’s debt, and he reportedly even gained an extra $35 million from the venture. At the time of his death, Jackson still owned a stake in Neverland/Sycamore Valley, but it is unknown how large that stake was. In September 2008, Jackson entered negotiations with Julien’s Auction House to display and auction a large collection of memorabilia amounting to approximately 1390 lots. The auction was scheduled to take place between April 22 and April 25. An exhibition of the lots opened as scheduled on April 14, but the actual auction was eventually cancelled at Jackson’s request.
In March 2009, Jackson held a press conference at London’s O2 arena and announced a series of comeback concerts titled “This Is It.” The shows would be Jackson’s first major series of concerts since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997. Jackson suggested possible retirement after the shows; he said it would be his “final curtain call”. The initial plan was for 10 concerts in London, followed by shows in Paris, New York City and Mumbai. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates alone would earn the singer approximately £50 million. The London residency was increased to 50 dates after record breaking ticket sales: over one million were sold in less than two hours. Jackson rehearsed in Los Angeles in the weeks leading up to the tour under the direction of choreographer Kenny Ortega. Most of these rehearsals took place at the Staples Center, which was owned by AEG. The concerts would have commenced on July 13, 2009, and finished on March 6, 2010. Less than three weeks before the first show was due to begin in London and with all concerts being sold out, Jackson died after suffering cardiac arrest.
Jackson’s first posthumous single was a song entitled “This Is It” which Jackson cowrote in the 1980s with Paul Anka. It was not on the set lists for the concerts, and the recording was based on an old demo tape. The surviving brothers reunited in the studio for the first time since 1989 to record backing vocals. On October 28, 2009, a documentary film about the rehearsals entitled Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released. Even though it ran for a limited two-week engagement, it became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time, with earnings of more than $260 million worldwide. Jackson’s estate received 90% of the profits. The film was accompanied by a compilation album of the same name. Two versions of the new song appear on the album, which also featured original masters of Jackson’s hits in the order in which they appear in the movie, along with a bonus disc with previously unreleased versions of more Jackson hits as well as a spoken word poem entitled “Planet Earth”. At the 2009 American Music AwardsJackson won four posthumous awards, two for him and two for his album Number Ones, bringing his total American Music Awards total to 26.
Death and memorial
On June 25, 2009, Jackson was passed out in his bed at his rented mansion at 100 North Carolwood Drive in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. Attempts at resuscitating him by Conrad Murray, his personal physician, were unsuccessful. Los Angeles Fire Departmentparamedics received a 911 call at 12:22 (PDT, 19:22 UTC), arriving three minutes later at Jackson’s location. He was reportedly not breathing and CPR was performed. Resuscitation efforts continued en route to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and for an hour after arriving there at 1:13 (20:13 UTC). He was pronounced dead at 2:26 local time (21:26 UTC). Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief.
The news spread quickly online, causing websites to slow down and crash from user overload. Both TMZ and the Los Angeles Times suffered outages. Google initially believed that the input from millions of people searching for “Michael Jackson” meant that the search engine wasunder attack. Twitter reported a crash, as did Wikipedia at 3:15 p.m. PDT (6:15 p.m. EST). The Wikimedia Foundation reported nearly a million visitors to Jackson’s biography within one hour, probably the most visitors in a one-hour period to any article in Wikipedia’s history.AOL Instant Messenger collapsed for 40 minutes. AOL called it a “seminal moment in Internet history”, adding, “We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth.”
Around 15% of Twitter posts—or 5,000 tweets per minute—reportedly mentioned Jackson after the news broke, compared to the 5% recalled as having mentioned the Iranian elections or the flu pandemic that had made headlines earlier in the year. Overall, web traffic ranged from 11% to at least 20% higher than normal. MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET) aired marathons of Jackson’s music videos. Jackson specials aired on multiple television stations around the world. The British soap opera EastEnders added a last-minute scene, in which one character tells another about the news, to the June 26 episode. Jackson was the topic of every front-page headline in the daily British tabloid The Sun for about two weeks following his death. During the same period, the three major U.S. networks’ evening newscasts—ABC’s World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News—devoted 34% of their broadcast time to him. Magazines including Time published commemorative editions. A scene that had featured Jackson’s sister La Toya was cut from the film Brüno out of respect toward Jackson’s family.
Jackson’s memorial was held on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, preceded by a private family service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park’s Hall of Liberty. Jackson’s casket was present during the memorial but no information was released about the final disposition of the body. While some unofficial reports claimed a worldwide audience as high as one billion people, the U.S. audience was estimated by Nielsen to be 31.1 million, an amount comparable to the estimated 35.1 million that watched the 2004 burial of former president Ronald Reagan, and the estimated 33.1 million Americans who watched the 1997 funeral for Princess Diana.
Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson, and Shaheen Jafargholi performed at the event. Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinsongave eulogies, while Queen Latifah read, “We had him,” a poem written for the occasion by Maya Angelou. The Reverend Al Sharpton received a standing ovation with cheers when he told Jackson’s children, “Wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway.” Jackson’s 11-year-old daughter, Paris Katherine, cried as she told the crowd, “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine … I just wanted to say I love him … so much.” Reverend Lucious Smith provided a closing prayer. On August 24, several news outlets quoted anonymous sources as stating that the Los Angeles coroner had decided to treat Jackson’s death as a homicide; this was later confirmed by the coroner on August 28. At the time of death, Jackson had been administered propofol, lorazepam and midazolam. Law enforcement officials conducted a manslaughter investigation of his personal physician, Conrad Murray. On February 8, 2010, Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Jackson was entombed on September 3, 2009, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
On June 25, 2010, the first anniversary of Jackson’s death, fans came to Los Angeles to pay their tribute to him. They visited Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his family’s home, as well as Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Many of the fans were carrying sunflowers and other tribute items to drop off at the sites. Members of the Jackson family and close friends arrived to pay their respects. Katherine returned to Gary, Indiana to unveil a granite monument constructed in the front yard of the family home. The memorial continued with a candlelight vigil and a special performance of “We Are the World.” On June 26, there was a protest march in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division at the old Parker Center building and a petition with thousands of signatures demanding justice was delivered. The Jackson Family Foundation in conjunction with Voiceplate presented “Forever Michael”, an event bringing together Jackson family members, celebrities, fans, supporters and the community to celebrate and honor his legacy. A portion of the proceeds ere presented to some of Jackson’s favorite charities. Katherine also introduced her new book “Never Can Say Goodbye.”
After his death, Jackson became the best-selling artist of 2009 in the United States selling over 8.2 million albums and had sold 35 millionalbums worldwide in the 12 months that followed his death. Following this surge in sales, Sony announced that they had extended their relationship with his material. The distribution rights held by Sony Music were due to expire in 2015. On March 16, 2010, Sony Music Entertainment, in a move spearheaded by its Columbia/Epic Label Group division, signed a new deal with the Jackson estate to extend their distribution rights to his back catalogue until at least 2017, as well as to obtain permission to release ten new albums with previously unreleased material and new collections of released work. The first new album is reportedly due out in November 2010, and the final album before December 2017. The deal was unprecedented in the music industry as it is the most expensive music contract pertaining to a single artist in history; it reportedly involved Sony Music paying $250 million for the deal, with the Jackson estate getting the full sum as well as its share of royalties for all works released. Video game developer Ubisoft announced it would release a new dancing-and-singing game featuring Michael Jackson for the 2010 holiday season. The game entitled Michael Jackson: The Experience will be among the first to use Kinect and PlayStation Move, the respective motion-detecting camera systems for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 due out later that year.
Jackson’s music took root in R&B, pop and soul. He had been influenced by the work of contemporary musicians such as Little Richard, James Brown,Jackie Wilson, Diana Ross, David Ruffin, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Isley Brothers, and the Bee Gees. While Little Richard had a substantial influence on Jackson, James Brown was Jackson’s greatest inspiration. In reference to Brown, Jackson declared: “Ever since I was a small child, no more than like six years old, my mother would wake me no matter what time it was, if I was sleeping, no matter what I was doing, to watch the television to see the master at work. And when I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I had never seen a performer perform like James Brown, and right then and there I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown.”
The young Michael Jackson owed his vocal technique in large part to Diana Ross. In October 1969, it was decided[why?][by whom?] that Jackson would live with Ross. Not only a mother figure to him, she was often observed in rehearsal as an accomplished performer. He later expressed: “I got to know her well. She taught me so much. I used to just sit in the corner and watch the way she moved. She was art in motion. I studied the way she moved, the way she sang – just the way she was.” He told her: “I want to be just like you, Diana.” She said: “You just be yourself.” But Jackson owed part of his enduring style—especially his use of the oooh interjection—to Ross. From a young age, Jackson often punctuated his verses with a sudden exclamation of oooh. Diana Ross had used this effect on many of the songs recorded with The Supremes.
Musical themes and genres
Unlike many artists, Jackson did not write his songs on paper. Instead he would dictate into a sound recorder, and when recording he would sing the lyrics from memory. In most of his songs, such as “Billie Jean“, “Who Is It“, and “Tabloid Junkie“, he would beatbox and imitate the instruments using his voice instead of playing the actual instruments, along with other sounds. Jackson noted that it is easier to sing a drum line, or sing a bass, instead of playing a drum line or a bass with an instrument. Several critics have said that Jackson’s distinct voice is able to replace any instrument convincingly. Steve Huey of Allmusic said that, throughout his solo career, Jackson’s versatility allowed him to experiment with various themes and genres. As a musician, he ranged from Motown’s dance fare and ballads totechno and house-edged new jack swing to work that incorporates both funk rhythms and hard rock guitar.
According to Huey, Thriller refined the strengths of Off the Wall; the dance and rock tracks were more aggressive, while the pop tunes and ballads were softer and more soulful.Notable tracks included the ballads “The Lady in My Life”, “Human Nature” and “The Girl Is Mine“; the funk pieces “Billie Jean” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’“; and the disco set “Baby Be Mine” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)“. With Thriller, Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone commented that Jackson developed his long association with the subliminal theme of paranoia and darker imagery. Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted this is evident on the songs “Billie Jean” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. In “Billie Jean”, Jackson sings about an obsessive fan who alleges he has fathered a child of hers. In “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” he argues against gossip and the media. “Beat It” decried gang violence in an homage to West Side Story, and was Jackson’s first successful rock cross-over piece, according to Huey. He also observed that the title track “Thriller” began Jackson’s interest with the theme of the supernatural, a topic he revisited in subsequent years. In 1985, Jackson co-wrote the charity anthem “We Are the World“; humanitarian themes later became a recurring theme in his lyrics and public persona.
In Bad, Jackson’s concept of the predatory lover can be seen on the rock song “Dirty Diana“. The lead single “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” is a traditional love ballad, while “Man in the Mirror” is an anthemic ballad of confession and resolution.“Smooth Criminal” was an evocation of bloody assault, rape and likely murder. Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine states that Dangerous presents Jackson as a very paradoxical individual. He comments the album is more diverse than his previousBad, as it appeals to an urban audience while also attracting the middle class with anthems like “Heal the World“. The first half of the record is dedicated to new jack swing, including songs like “Jam” and “Remember the Time“. The album is Jackson’s first where social ills become a primary theme; “Why You Wanna Trip on Me”, for example, protests against world hunger, AIDS, homelessness and drugs. Dangerous contains sexually charged efforts such as the multifaceted love song, “In the Closet“. The title track continues the theme of the predatory lover and compulsive desire. The second half includes introspective, pop-gospel anthems such as “Will You Be There“, “Heal the World” and “Keep the Faith”; these songs show Jackson opening up about various personal struggles and worries. In the ballad “Gone Too Soon“, Jackson gives tribute to his friend Ryan White and the plight of those with AIDS.
HIStory creates an atmosphere of paranoia. Its content focuses on the hardships and public struggles Jackson went through just prior to its production. In the new jack swing-funk-rock efforts “Scream” and “Tabloid Junkie”, along with the R&B ballad “You Are Not Alone“, Jackson retaliates against the injustice and isolation he feels, and directs much of his anger at the media. In the introspective ballad “Stranger in Moscow“, Jackson laments over his “fall from grace”, while songs like “Earth Song“, “Childhood“, “Little Susie” and “Smile” are all operatic pop pieces. In the track “D.S.“, Jackson launched a verbal attack against Tom Sneddon. He describes Sneddon as an antisocial, white supremacist who wanted to “get my ass, dead or alive”. Of the song, Sneddon said, “I have not—shall we say—done him the honor of listening to it, but I’ve been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot”. Invincible found Jackson working heavily with producer Rodney Jerkins.It is a record made up of urban soul like “Cry” and “The Lost Children”, ballads such as “Speechless“, “Break of Dawn” and “Butterflies” and mixes Hip-Hop, pop and R&B in “2000 Watts”, “Heartbreaker” and “Invincible”.
Jackson sang from childhood, and over time his voice and vocal style changed noticeably. Between 1971 and 1975, Jackson’s voice descended from boy soprano to high tenor.Jackson first used a technique called the “vocal hiccup” in 1973, starting with the song “It’s Too Late to Change the Time” from The Jackson 5‘s G.I.T.: Get It Together album.Jackson did not use the hiccup technique— somewhat like a gulping for air or gasping— fully until the recording of Off the Wall: it can be seen in full force in the “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” promotional video. With the arrival of Off the Wall in the late 1970s, Jackson’s abilities as a vocalist were well regarded. At the time, Rolling Stone compared his vocals to the “breathless, dreamy stutter” of Stevie Wonder. Their analysis was also that “Jackson’s feathery-timbred tenor is extraordinarily beautiful. It slides smoothly into a startlingfalsetto that’s used very daringly”. 1982 saw the release of Thriller, and Rolling Stone was of the opinion that Jackson was then singing in a “fully adult voice” that was “tinged by sadness”.
A distinctive deliberate mispronunciation of “come on”, used frequently by Jackson, occasionally spelt “cha’mone” or “shamone”, is also a staple in impressions and caricatures of him. The turn of the 1990s saw the release of the introspective albumDangerous. The New York Times noted that on some tracks, “he gulps for breath, his voice quivers with anxiety or drops to a desperate whisper, hissing through clenched teeth” and he had a “wretched tone”. When singing of brotherhood or self-esteem the musician would return to “smooth” vocals. When commenting on Invincible, Rolling Stone were of the opinion that—at the age of 43—Jackson still performed “exquisitely voiced rhythm tracks and vibrating vocal harmonies”. Nelson George summed up Jackson’s vocals by stating “The grace, the aggression, the growling, the natural boyishness, the falsetto, the smoothness—that combination of elements mark him as a major vocalist”.
Music videos and choreography
Referred to as the King of Music Videos, Steve Huey of Allmusic observed how Jackson transformed the music video into an art form and a promotional tool through complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and famous cameo appearances; simultaneously breaking down racial barriers. Before Thriller, Jackson struggled to receive coverage on MTV, allegedly because he was African American. Pressure from CBS Records persuaded MTV to start showing “Billie Jean” and later “Beat It”, leading to a lengthy partnership with Jackson, also helping other black music artists gain recognition. MTV employees deny any racism in their coverage, or pressure to change their stance. MTV maintains that they played rock music, regardless of race. The popularity of his videos on MTV helped to put the relatively young channel “on the map”; MTV’s focus shifted in favor of pop and R&B. His performance on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever changed the scope of live stage show; “That Jackson lip-synced ‘Billie Jean’ is, in itself, not extraordinary, but the fact that it did not change the impact of the performance is extraordinary; whether the performance was live or lip-synced made no difference to the audience” thus creating an era in which artists re-create the spectacle of music video imagery on stage. Short films like Thriller largely remained unique to Jackson, while the group dance sequence in “Beat It” has frequently been imitated. The choreography in Thriller has become a part of global pop culture, replicated everywhere from Indian films to prisons in the Philippines. The Thrillershort film marked an increase in scale for music videos, and has been named the most successful music video ever by the Guinness World Records.
In the 19-minute music video for “Bad“—directed by Martin Scorsese—Jackson began using sexual imagery and choreography not previously seen in his work. He occasionally grabbed or touched his chest, torso and crotch. When asked by Oprah in the 1993 interview about why he grabbed his crotch, he replied, “I think it happens subliminally” and he described it as something that was not planned, but rather, as something that was compelled by the music. “Bad” garnered a mixed reception from both fans and critics; Time magazine described it as “infamous”. The video also featured Wesley Snipes; in the future Jackson’s videos would often feature famous cameo roles. For “Smooth Criminal“, Jackson experimented with an innovative “anti-gravity lean” in his performances, for which he was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,255,452. Although the music video for “Leave Me Alone” was not officially released in the US, in 1989, it was nominated for four Billboard Music Video Awards, winning three; the same year it won a Golden Lion Award for the quality of the special effects used in its production. In 1990, “Leave Me Alone” won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form.
The MTV Video Vanguard Artist of the Decade Award was given to Jackson to celebrate his accomplishments in the art form in the 1980s; the following year the award was renamed in his honor. “Black or White” was accompanied by a controversial music video, which, on November 14, 1991, simultaneously premiered in 27 countries with an estimated audience of 500 million people, the largest viewing ever for a music video. It featured scenes construed as having a sexual nature as well as depictions of violence. The offending scenes in the final half of the 14-minute version were edited out to prevent the video from being banned, and Jackson apologized. Along with Jackson, it featured Macaulay Culkin, Peggy Lipton andGeorge Wendt. It helped usher in morphing as an important technology in music videos.
“Remember the Time” was an elaborate production, and became one of his longest videos at over nine minutes. Set in ancient Egypt, it featured groundbreaking visual effects and appearances by Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson, along with a distinct complex dance routine. The video for “In the Closet” was Jackson’s most sexually provocative piece. It featured supermodel Naomi Campbell in a courtship dance with Jackson. The video was banned in South Africa because of its imagery.
The music video for “Scream“, directed by Mark Romanek and production designer Tom Foden, is one of Jackson’s most critically acclaimed. In 1995, it gained 11 MTV Video Music Award Nominations—more than any other music video—and won “Best Dance Video”, “Best Choreography”, and “Best Art Direction”. The song and its accompanying video are a response to the backlash Jackson received from the media after being accused of child molestation in 1993. A year later, it won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form; shortly afterwards Guinness World Records listed it as the most expensive music video ever made at a cost of $7 million.
“Earth Song” was accompanied by an expensive and well-received music video that gained a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form in 1997. The video had an environmental theme, showing images of animal cruelty, deforestation, pollution and war. Using special effects, time is reversed so that life returns, wars end, and the forests re-grow. Released in 1997 and premiering at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Michael Jackson’s Ghosts was a short film written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. The video for Ghosts is over 38 minutes long and holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s longest music video.
Legacy and influence
Jackson throughout his career transformed the art of the music video and paved the way for modern pop music. Daily Telegraph writer Tom Utley described Jackson in 2003 as “extremely important” and a “genius.” For much of his career, he had an “unparalleled” level of worldwide influence over the younger generation through his musical and humanitarian contributions. Jackson’s music and videos, such asThriller, fostered racial diversity in MTV’s roster, helped to put the relatively new channel into public awareness, and steered the channel’s focus from rock to pop music and R&B, shaping the channel into a form that proved enduring. Jackson’s work continues to influence numerous hip hop, rock, pop and R&B artists, including Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Usher, Green Day, Britney Spears, Madonna,Justin Timberlake, Ludacris to name a few.
Allmusic’s Steve Huey describes Jackson as “an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the skills to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility and loads of sheer star power”. In the mid-1980s,Time magazine’s pop music critic, Jay Cocks, noted “Jackson is the biggest thing since The Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever”. In 1990, Vanity Fair cited Jackson as the most popular artist in the history of show business. In 2007, Jackson said, “Music has been my outlet, my gift to all of the lovers in this world. Through it, my music, I know I will live forever.”
Shortly after Jackson’s death, on June 25, 2009, MTV briefly returned to its original music video format to celebrate and pay tribute to his work. The channel aired many hours of Jackson’s music videos, accompanied by live news specials featuring reactions from MTV personalities and other celebrities. The temporary shift in MTV’s programming culminated the following week in the channel’s live coverage of Jackson’s memorial service. At the memorial service on July 7, 2009, founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy proclaimed Jackson as “the greatest entertainer that ever lived.”
In 2010, two university librarians found that Jackson’s influence extended into academia, and was detectable in scholarly literature pertaining to a range of subject matter. The two researchers combed through various scholars’ writings, and compiled an annotated bibliography of those writings that appeared to meet at least one of several criteria. Among these criteria were appearance in a peer-reviewed journal, and the provision of insight into the nature of “popular icons including Jackson”. The bibliography located references to Jackson in research reports concerning music, popular culture, and an array of other topics. The bibliographers identified as their most peculiar finding an argument that certain aspects of chemistrycan be effectively taught by altering and imitating elements of Jackson’s singing. One of the research librarians later reflected that “the fact that someone would take a Michael Jackson song and co-opt it as a means to convey chemistry concepts just shows the pervasiveness of Jackson’s influence”.
Honors and awards
Michael Jackson was inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1984. Throughout his career he received numerous honors and awards, including the World Music Awards‘ Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, the American Music Award‘s Artist of the Century Award and the Bambi Pop Artist of the Millennium Award. He was a double-inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997 and later as a solo artist in 2001. Jackson was also an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. His awards include many Guinness World Records (eight in 2006 alone), 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and theGrammy Lifetime Achievement Award), 26 American Music Awards (24 only as a solo artist, including the “Artist of the Century”, but not the poll of “Artist of the ’80s”)—more than any artist—, 13 number one singles in the US in his solo career—more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era—and estimated sales of up to 800 million records worldwide, making him the world’s best selling male solo pop artist. On December 29, 2009, the American Film Institute recognized Jackson’s passing as a “moment of significance” saying, “Michael Jackson’s sudden death in June at age 50 was notable for the worldwide outpouring of grief and the unprecedented global eulogy of his posthumous concert rehearsal movie This is It.” On Aug. 15, 2010 Michael Jackson inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame of National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York. Doing so he became the first ever figure from the world of pop music to be inducted. Michael’s Brother Marlon accepted the honor for Michael’s behalf. He said that he wished that Michael could have accepted it himself and added, “I’m proud of him for what he accomplished in his life. That he’s being recognized for his ability, his musical ability and dance ability, makes me feel good inside. He would’ve appreciated this.” Michele Riggi, president of the dance museum’s board of directors said that Michael was qualified to be a part of the hall of fame for the impact his innovative dancing had on the world. “The moonwalk, I mean, he was the first to do that, and all his dance moves, from his robot dances to the moonwalk to all his gyrations and song and dance together, were such a unique style. Along with his music and dance, he was a complete person and so worthy of being inducted.”
His total lifetime earnings from royalties on his solo recordings and music videos, revenue from concerts and endorsements have been estimated at $500 million; some analysts have speculated that his music catalog holdings could be worth billions of dollars. This speculation however is contradicted by financial documents obtained by the Associated Press, which showed that as of March 31, 2007, Jackson’s 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog (his most prized asset) was worth $390.6 million and Michael Jackson’s net worth was $236 million. Billboard has estimated that Jackson has generated at least $1 billion in revenue in the year following his death.
- List of awards received by Michael Jackson
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of best-selling music artists in the United States
- List of unreleased Michael Jackson material
- List of honorific titles in popular music
- Records and achievements of Michael Jackson
- Got to Be There (1972)
- Ben (1972)
- Music & Me (1973)
- Forever, Michael (1975)
- Off the Wall (1979)
- Thriller (1982)
- Bad (1987)
- Dangerous (1991)
- HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995)
- Invincible (2001)
|1978||The Wiz||Scarecrow||Sidney Lumet|
|1986||Captain EO||Captain EO||Francis Ford Coppola|
|1997||Michael Jackson’s Ghosts||Maestro/Mayor/Ghoul/Skeleton||Stan Winston|
|2002||Men in Black II||Agent M (cameo)||Barry Sonnenfeld|
|2004||Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls||Agent MJ (cameo)||Bryan Michael Stoller|
|2009||Michael Jackson’s This Is It||Himself||Kenny Ortega|