Michael Jackson - Biography
Michael Joseph Jackson (born
August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana), is an American singer,
songwriter, and record producer. Jackson began his career as the
lead singer of Motown act The Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s.
After beginning a full-fledged solo career in 1979, Jackson went on
to become the most successful African-American solo artist in music
history, and one of the most successful popular music singers of all
time. He is also known as The King of Pop or the King of
the Music Video. Jackson's successful career has gained him legions
of devoted fans, yet he has been dogged by media fascination with
his changing physical appearance and what some perceive as an
fond of children, and, apart from having his own, he has been good
friends with a number of other children, ranging from disadvantaged
children to child celebrities. Also he is generous in inviting
groups of children to his ranch, and through charities. However, he
has also repeatedly been accused of child molestation and May 2005
he was on trial for alleged child molestation and other offenses.
The trial was held in Santa Maria, California. On the 13th
June 2005 justice was done when the verdict was announced NOT
guilty on all counts.
Jackson has received numerous music
industry awards including 18 Grammys. Estimates of his album sales
worldwide range from 200 million to well over 300 million. His
Thriller video is considered one of the greatest music videos of
all time and a large step forward in artistic quality for music
videos. MTV and Rolling Stone magazine recently named four of
his songs ("Billie Jean" #5, The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" #9,
"Beat It" #23, and "Rock with You" #82) among the 100 greatest pop
songs of all time.
His hit album Thriller is
the biggest-selling album of all time worldwide with over 50 million
copies sold. The album is also the best-selling album containing
all-original material in terms of domestic US sales--26 million
copies sold. It is second to The Eagles' greatest hits collection
Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which has sold 28 million
Jackson was born the seventh of
nine children in Gary, Indiana to Joseph Jackson and Katherine
Jackson. The entire family--including older siblings Rebbie, Jackie,
Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, and Marlon, and younger siblings Randy and
Janet--lived in a tiny two-bedroom house, and Jackson's father
Joseph Jackson earned a meager living working in a steel mill.
Jackson and his sister LaToya both claimed that their father was
cruel and physically abusive to his children. Jackson broke down and
wept during a television interview when asked about this, and said
that even as an adult just meeting his father often made him
At the behest of their mother
Katherine but against Joseph's wishes, the Jackson children were
raised as Jehovah's Witnesses and practiced door-to-door
evangelization. Jackson continued to do so after becoming famous,
but then in disguise. His career and flamboyant style led to
friction with congregation elders. At one point, his sister LaToya
was shunned by Jehovah's Witnesses, and in 1987, he formally left
Due to Joseph Jackson's strict
religious beliefs, the Jackson kids were kept locked in their house
while he worked the night shift. However, the children would sneak
out of the house to their neighbours where they practiced singing
and playing music. Eventually, Joseph found out about their musical
abilities and decided to capitalize upon it in order to leave Gary
for sunny Los Angeles.
Jackson has been living at his 11
km˛ (2600 acres) Neverland Ranch in Santa Ynez, California, named
after the magical kingdom Neverland featured in the children's story
Peter Pan. In December 2003, he said that after it had been
searched by police (see below), it no longer felt like a home, and
is now a house he just visits. He lived for some time in Beverly
Hills in a $70,000-a-month rented home, but as of 2005 seems to live
at Neverland again.
Jackson feels a strong connection
to both children and animals. He says that they do not give the
complications that adult people often do, like negatively judging
him, and betraying him.
He says that, like Peter Pan, he
does not want to grow up. He says he compensates for his "lost
childhood", during which he always had to practice and perform.
Neverland contains a small zoo and amusement park. About once a week
he has been inviting a bus full of (especially sick and poor)
children there to have a day of fun.
His favourite pastimes include
playing with children, e.g. having water balloon and water gun
fights, and having rides with them in his golf carts (which children
are often allowed to drive themselves), small steam train, and the
other rides of the amusement park, and having long telephone
conversations with young friends. He has had sleepovers in the past
with children (who have reportedly been primarily boys), but stated
in 2005 that he now feels that it violates a social norm in the eyes
of many people, and places him in a vulnerable position with regard
to suspicions and allegations of sexual abuse. He has publicly
stated he will no longer have them with children not related to him.
Jackson kept a chimpanzee, Bubbles,
in Neverland, which he valued highly, treating him more like a
friend than a pet. Bubbles was moved from the ranch after reaching
maturity because adult chimpanzees are very strong and can be
He likes climbing trees; he has
written several songs sitting in his favorite tree at Neverland,
which he calls Giving Tree, because, he says, it is so inspiring.
Jackson's celebrity friends have
included Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, Rick James, Usher, Marlon Brando,
comedians Steve Harvey and Chris Tucker and actress Elizabeth Taylor
and former child actors Emmanuel Lewis and Macaulay Culkin. Both
Taylor and Culkin are godparents to Jackson's children Prince
Michael and Paris. He is also friends with paranormalist Uri Geller.
He has also been friends with rabbi Shmuley Boteach, with whom
Jackson founded the now defunct "Heal the World" and "Heal the Kids"
foundations. (For the related song and video "Heal the World" see
below.) Michael is also the godfather of Lionel Richie's adopted
daughter Nicole Richie.
It has been rumored that Jackson
has used extensive plastic surgery to modify his appearance,
although he claims to have had only three operations: Two
rhinoplastic surgeries (the first of which he claims was to repair a
broken nose resulting from a dancing accident in 1978, and the
second to correct imperfections in the first surgery) and the
surgical creation of a cleft in his chin (Jackson often omits
mentioning the cleft when listing his cosmetic surgery, but he
confirms the surgery in his 1988 autobiography Moon Walk).
Some critics have characterized his plastic surgery and purported
"skin bleaching" as an attempt to hide his African-American
ancestry. Jackson has insisted, however, that he only uses heavy
makeup to mask the effects of vitiligo, a condition that causes
white patches on the skin.
Jackson's extensive use of plastic
surgery has now caused increased concerns for possible cartilage and
nose collapse. Surgeons agree that Jackson's nose structure could
easily collapse during an altercation.
Jackson's marriages and children
In 1994 Jackson married Lisa Marie
Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley; the marriage lasted less
than two years, ending in divorce. In 1996, he married Debbie Rowe,
with whom he had a son, Prince Michael, and a daughter, Paris
Katherine. They were divorced in 1999. Rowe later said that she let
Jackson have the children as a "gift". Rowe had given up her
parental rights to the children, but as of 2005 a family court case
is under way regarding visitation.
Around February 2002 Jackson had
another son, Prince Michael II, also called "Blanket", apparently
with a surrogate mother whose identity has not been disclosed. In
late 2002, Jackson stirred up controversy while staying in a hotel
in Berlin by briefly suspending him over the edge of the railing of
a balcony. In what Jackson explains as a security measure against
kidnapping, the children's faces are masked or veiled when they are
In December 2003 Jackson's parents
promised they would look after the three children if they were taken
away from their son. Reportedly the children have been interviewed
by social workers. In March 2004 it was confirmed there was an
unspecified family matter between Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe,
to be handled in mediation. In July 2004 news was released that
Jackson is to be the father of quadruplets, via artificial
insemination. The mother is said to be a "struggling actress".
Jackson however, strongly denied the allegations.
Rumors in 2003 claimed that Jackson
had another son, seventeen-year-old Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., who
apparently has an almost identical resemblance to Jackson as a young
man. The kid, however, was shown not to be Michael Jackson's son.
The Jackson 5 and Motown
Five of the Jackson brothers,
Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael, formed the Jackson 5, an
R&B musical act, in the mid 1960s. With Michael as the lead singer,
the group built up a following and a buzz by playing at clubs and
bars throughout the Midwest, and even winning an Amateur Night
competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. It is alleged
that they were beaten and abused by their father if they performed
poorly. The Jackson 5 signed their first recording contract with the
local Steeltown label in 1967, and had a regional hit with "Big
The Jackson 5 were discovered by
both Gladys Knight & the Pips and Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, who
brought them to Motown Records in 1968. Label head Berry Gordy
bought out the Jackson 5's Steeltown contract and signed the group
to Motown in March 1969. Gordy then moved the Jackson family to Los
Angeles, California, and proceeded to turn them into international
stars. In fall 1969, The Jackson 5 were presented to the public by
Diana Ross and were officially launched as the next big Motown act.
The group's first four singles, "I Want You Back" from 1969, and
"ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There" from 1970 all became
#1 hits in the US. Later hits included "Mama's Pearl" & "Never Can
Say Goodbye" (1971), "Lookin' Through the Windows" (1972), "Get It
Together" (1973) and "Dancing Machine" (1974). Most of the Jackson 5
hits were produced by The Corporation™, a collective of songwriters
and record producers including Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo
Mizell, and Deke Richards.
With Motown Records, the Jackson 5
made 14 albums, and Michael also recorded four albums as a solo
artist. Among Michael's early solo hits were "Got to Be There"
(1971, his solo debut); and "Rockin' Robin", "I Wanna Be Where You
Are", and the #1 hit "Ben" (all 1972).
The Jacksons and Epic Records
In 1976, the Jackson brothers
signed a deal with CBS Records, first joining the Philadelphia
International division and later moving over to Epic Records. The
new deal with CBS provided more creative freedom and larger
royalties that they were not allowed at Motown. By leaving Motown
behind, they lost the rights to use the "Jackson 5" name and logo.
Additionally Jermaine, who had married Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel,
opted to remain at Motown for a full-time solo career. Now known as
The Jacksons, and featuring younger brother Randy in Jermaine's
place, the brothers continued their successful career, touring
internationally and releasing 6 albums between 1976 and 1984. Hits
during this period included "Enjoy Yourself" & "Show You The Way To
Go" (1976), "Find Me A Girl" (1977), "Blame It On The Boogie"
(1978), "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)" (1979), "Can You Feel
It?" & "Heartbreak Hotel" (1980) and "Torture" & "State of Shock"
Jackson starred in the film The
Wiz alongside mentor Diana Ross in 1978. It was here that he met
Quincy Jones, the music producer for The Wiz, who would later
produce Michael's three most acclaimed solo albums, Off the Wall,
Thriller and Bad. Off the Wall, released in
1979, produced a record four Top 10 hits and sold seven million
copies in the United States.
album cover to 1979's Off the Wall. The
more familiar album cover features a shot of Jackson's feet.
Off The Wall to Thriller
Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off
the Wall was a worldwide hit and spawned the #1 hit singles and
music videos "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". A
ballad, "She's Out Of My Life" reached the top 10 in 1980.
In the 1980s, Jackson released a
progression of solo albums of slickly-produced synthesizer-heavy
pop. In what was perhaps the "Golden Age" of the video clip, some of
Jackson's videos were virtually short films with considerable plots,
impressive special effects, and featuring Jackson's distinctive
His Thriller album was
released in 1982, produced 7 Top 10 hit singles, broke records and
quickly became the world's best selling album (as of 2003 it has
sold over 50 million copies). The "Billie Jean" music video,
released to promote Thriller, became the first video by a
black artist to be aired on MTV, and the "Thriller" short film,
included with The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller,
became the world's best selling home video at the time.
"Billie Jean" and "Thriller", as
well as "Beat It", were the three music videos released from the
album, and have since become three of MTV's most significant videos
in history, placing highly on several MTV and VH1 countdowns, and
receiving substantial airplay on MTV2 to this day. The album's other
singles were "Human Nature" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)", both
of which were also hits, despite neither having music videos.
While performing "Billie Jean"
during the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special on
television on May 16, 1983, Jackson publicly performed the moonwalk
(later his signature dance move) for the first time, stunning TV
audiences. In January 1984 at the American Music Awards, Jackson was
nominated for 9 awards and won a record 8 awards (tied by Whitney
Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1994). In February at
the Grammy Awards Jackson was nominated for 12 awards and won a
record-breaking 8 awards (now equaled by Carlos Santana's 1999
Supernatural) – 7 for Thriller and 1 for his narrative on
The E.T. Storybook. In May, Thriller was certified by
the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest selling popular music
album of all time. In addition in 1984, he was also awarded the H.
Claude Hodson Medal of Freedom at the NAACP Image Awards, feted at
the White House by President Ronald Reagan with the Presidential
Special Achievement Award and in November was awarded a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"We are the World" to Dangerous
Inspired by Band Aid, he was
instrumental in organizing the single "We Are the World" (co-written
with Lionel Richie) in 1985. "We Are the World" was sung by 44
different singers including Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper, Diana
Ross, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and sold 7 million copies in the
United States, becoming the best selling single of all time
(eclipsed by Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" in 1997), to raise
money for USA for Africa – a charity working to raise awareness
about and help starving people in Africa.
Jackson starred in the George
Lucas/Francis Ford Coppola 3-D film Captain Eo in 1986, which
was shown in Disney theme parks until 1998. Minute for minute it was
the most expensive film ever produced at the time, costing an
estimated US $17 million to make. The film contained the songs "We
Are Here To Change The World" and "Another Part Of Me".
In 1987, Jackson released Bad
and began his first solo world tour. He performed to sold out
audiences at each concert. The following year Jackson released a
silly, playful movie entitled "Moonwalker" and a serious, personal
autobiography titled Moon Walk. At one time Bad was the No2
biggest selling album of all time.
Bad was another smash
success for Jackson. Its singles and music videos "I Just Can't Stop
Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man In The Mirror",
"Dirty Diana", "Another Part Of Me", "Smooth Criminal" and "Leave Me
Alone" provided Jackson with another string of hits. The album's
only relatively unsuccessful single, "Liberian Girl", remains to
this day as one of Jackson's least seen music videos and least heard
singles. Nonetheless, he made history by becoming the first artist
to generate 6 number one singles off of one album. Of the 7 singles
released in the USA, the first 5 went to #1 on the Billboard Hot
100 charts, "Another Part Of Me" peaked at #11 (#1 on
Billboard's R&B charts) and "Smooth Criminal" went to #7.
However, despite the success of its singles, Bad's album sales were
disappointing. While Thriller sold 25 million copies in America, Bad
only sold 8 million. Jackson had hoped Bad would outsell Thriller.
Jackson was awarded a record
breaking $890 million contract by Sony and released an album
Dangerous in 1991. During the Dangerous world tour
Jackson announced the creation of his Heal the World Foundation.
Dangerous contained the singles and music videos "Who Is It",
"Give In To Me", "Gone Too Soon" (a tribute to young AIDS victim
Ryan White), and "Will You Be There", which would later become the
theme song to the movie Free Willy. But the album's most
successful and memorable singles and videos were "Jam", "Remember
The Time", "Black Or White", "In The Closet", and "Heal The World".
As was becoming the standard for Jackson, the album's music videos
were among the most costly, creative, and innovative of their time.
"Give In To Me" featured Slash from Guns n' Roses in its video. The
video for "Heal The World", to correspond to Jackson's charity of
the same name, featured children and adults from throughout the
world. "Will You Be There" showed Jackson singing in front of scenes
from Free Willy. Several of the other videos had complex
storylines and dance sequences, and featured cameo appearances by
celebrities. The video for "Jam" showed Jackson and Michael Jordan
playing basketball and dancing together, while "Remember The Time"
was set in a Egyptian palace and starred Eddie Murphy as the king of
the palace who was trying to entertain his wife, played by Iman.
Magic Johnson played the king's chief guard. Jackson's singing and
dancing is the thing that finally makes Iman's character happy, in
the seven-minute long video. Jackson and Naomi Campbell played
lovers in "In The Closet". Again, Michael had high hopes, and
planned to sell 100 million copies of Dangerous. But after a
relatively small stay in the top 10, the album fell out and sold 7
million in the US and 29 million worldwide. This was hardly bad as
it made the Dangerous album the second biggest selling album of all
time taking over in unit sales of his previous album Bad, but it was
certainly nowhere near 100 million. Until the first allegations came
forth in 1993 Dangerous was outselling Thriller 2 to 1 and was set
to overtake Thriller within a year as the biggest selling album of
Black Or White
Of all the album's groundbreaking
and popular videos, "Black Or White" probably remains the most aired
and most remembered today. The original video is over ten minutes
long, and premiered simultaneously on November 14, 1991, on MTV,
VH1, BET, and ABC, becoming one of the most-watched music video
premieres in history. The original video begins with Macaulay Culkin
playing a young Jackson fan whose father (played by George Wendt)
tells him to turn his music down. Culkin's character, instead,
decides to bring his speakers into the living room and cranks the
speakers to full blast, which sends the father flying through the
roof, in a manner somewhat similar to that used in an earlier
Twisted Sister music video. He ends up landing in the middle of some
exotic location. The music to "Black Or White" then starts, and
Jackson proceeds to take viewers on a trip around the world, from
country to country and culture to culture. As the song ends, the
video features a morphing effect, whereby the faces of several
different people of different ethnicities' (including Tyra Banks and
voice actor Cree Summer) are morphed one into another, as a symbol
of global unity. Although this was not the first music video
to feature morphing technology — former 10cc members Godley & Creme
used morphing even more extensively in the 1985 video to their song
"Cry", though in a less technologically polished way — it was the
first exposure many people had to the technology, and this effect
amazed those who saw the video for the first time. Thanks in part to
"Black Or White", as well as the development of computer technology,
the morphing effect has since become somewhat common in music videos
today, and can now be done much cheaper than in the early 1990s. The
original video for "Black Or White" then continued, even after the
song itself ended, for another four minutes. The last four minutes
depicted Jackson doing his infamous crotch-rubbing, smashing store
windows, and destroying a car with a metal crowbar. It finally ended
with a cameo appearance by Bart and Homer Simpson. However,
Jackson's rampage and crotch grabbing caused a good deal of
controversy with many parents of young children who watched the
video's premiere. MTV and other music video stations decided to cut
out the last four minutes of the video for all subsequent airings,
and Jackson issued an apology statement to anyone who had been
offended. To date, the final four minutes of the "Black Or White"
video has only since re-aired in America on MTV2 between the hours
of 1 AM and 4 AM, as part of their special uncensored airing of the
"Most Controversial Music Videos" of all time, however the extended
version is available on Jackson's DVDs. A few years ago, VH1 Europe
aired them in daytime but now cuts them out.
The "Black Or White" video was
mocked by the American comedy show In Living Color in a
notoriously pungent parody that tackled Jackson's well-known skin
color issues and American race relations. In it, the Jackson
impersonator sang that he was not sure whether he was black or
white, and was immediately arrested at the end when he struck a
car's shatterproof windshield with a sledgehammer. Genesis also
poked fun at the infamous section of "Black Or White" in their video
for "I Can't Dance".
HIStory to Invincible
History, a double-disc
album, was released in 1995. Its first disc had fifteen of his
greatest hits and second disc contained fifteen new songs. The album
produced two new hit singles and videos in America: "Scream", a duet
with his sister Janet, whose futuristic music video, with a seven
million dollar price tag, is the most expensive music video ever
made; and "You Are Not Alone", the first song to ever debut at
number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart and whose video
had a cameo from Jackson's then-wife, Lisa Marie Presley. The
album's other singles and videos, "Childhood", "Earth Song",
"Stranger In Moscow", and "They Don't Care About Us" had limited
success in America, and performed far better in Europe. "Earth Song"
is an emotional plea for taking care of our environment. "Childhood"
is notable for having been the theme song to Free Willy 2.
"They Don't Care About Us" caused a stir when it was released due to
controversial lyrics which were considered by some to be
anti-Semitic. This caused American MTV and VH1 to ban the song's
music video, even though it garnered heavy airplay on many of
America's Boxnetworks. The lyrics "Jew me, sue me/ Kick me, kike me"
were modified on the album's official release in response to the
criticism. Apart from the video for "Scream," singles and videos
from HIStory nowadays garner little airplay in America,
making the album a failure overall by Jackson's standards, though it
has sold over 18 million double albums as of 2004. It was branded a
failure very quickly. Executives and Jackson hoped it would stay at
#1 throughout the summer, yet it only spent 2 weeks at the top with
unspectacular sales. On the other hand, the album spawned his
biggest hit ever in the UK, "Earth Song" stayed at the top of the
chart for six weeks and sold over a million copies.
In 1997 Jackson released Blood
on the Dance Floor, a remix album of several of the tracks off
of HIStory, which also included 5 new songs and has since
become the biggest-selling remix album of all time. The album only
had one single and official music video, the title track, which
failed to catch on in America, and again proved a far more popular
hit in Europe. However, Jackson also produced "Ghosts", a 40-minute
short film, which was shown in several movie theaters and uses the
songs "Ghosts" and "2 Bad" in the film. The short film "Ghosts" is
occasionally played as an hour-long special, with space made for
commercials, on MTV and VH1, especially during the Halloween season.
Four years later, Jackson was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame in 2001 as a solo artist.
Jackson's 2001 album Invincible,
the most expensive album ever produced, debuted at number one on the
U.S. charts, selling 2 million copies in the United States and 12
million worldwide. While the numbers seemed impressive, the sales
figures were nonetheless disappointing, considering Jackson's
previous success and the cost of the album. As opposed to his
earlier albums which each spawned at least six singles, most of
which were generally worldwide smashes, Invincible produced
only the singles "You Rock My World" and "Butterflies" in America.
"Cry" was also issued as a third single in Europe. "You Rock My
World" managed the top ten in America, but only for a week, and its
big-budget, 14-minute music video received only sparse airplay on
MTV, VH1, MTV2, and BET, usually in a shortened, 5-minute version.
"Butterflies" was a top 20 hit in America as well as a #2 hit on the
R&B charts, but did not reach the top 10, despite a popular radio
remix featuring rapper Eve; the song's relative lack of success also
allowed no budget for a music video.
In June 2002, Jackson was inducted
for his work as a songwriter to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In
November 2002 Jackson received in Berlin Germany's Millennium Bambi
2002 award, in recognition of his status as the world's "greatest
living pop icon". The awards recognize outstanding personalities and
performances in various fields, including show business, film,
politics and sport.
"One More Chance"
On November 21, 2003, Jackson
released a new song, "One More Chance," written by R. Kelly. It was
the only new track on his Number Ones greatest hits album.
"One More Chance" went on to become the #1 track on Billboard's
R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart for three straight weeks. The song
was also featured as a montage video on the CBS TV special "Michael
Jackson Number Ones." The special was then released on DVD as "The
In late 2002, Jackson's most recent
album, Invincible, had disappointing sales figures. Jackson
blamed his record label and industry executives, most notably the
legendary producer Tommy Mottola, whom Jackson likened to Satan.
Jackson recorded the song What
More Can I Give featuring various celebrities on vocals in an
attempt to raise funds for disaster relief following the September
11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. However, the song was never released. One
possible reason was that producer Marc Schaffel has worked as a
producer of homosexual pornography (his house was searched by the
police in 2004; it is not clear whether this was related to
In October 2002 various
international banks claimed that Jackson was tens of millions of
dollars in debt. That same month, concert promoter Marcel Avram sued
Jackson in a court in Santa Maria, California, claiming that he
reneged on a deal to perform on a series of millennium concerts
crossing the International Date Line on the evening of December 31,
1999 - January 1, 2000. Jackson lost the case, and is appealing.
He has been involved in a legal
dispute with his former financial adviser, Union Finance and
Investment Corp. of South Korea, who claim that Jackson owes the
firm $12 million in fees and expenses and that Jackson's extravagant
spending may lead to his bankruptcy.
Jackson owns 50% of Sony/ATV Music
Publishing, with a music catalogue that includes publishing rights
to songs by the Beatles, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and others.
In March 2005 he indicated that some sort of battle was going on
regarding this. Jackson also owns Mijac Music, which holds his own
Jackson's Official Website
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