Michael Jackson

  • Singer and songwriter born in 1958 from Gary Indiana. Died in 2009 from cardiac arrest caused by an overdose of the sedative propofol. His physician went to prison as Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide.
  • Michael was the eighth of ten children. His father was a crane operator who played guitar for local band to supplement his income. When Michael was six years old, he joined a band that his father created, The Jackson Brothers. Initially, Michael was a back-up musician, playing tambourine and congas, but soon he was sharing lead vocals with his brother Jermaine. Their name was changed to the Jackson 5, and in 1965 they won a local talent contest. Over the next two years, the group toured in the midwest, and they also performed on the east coast, winning a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in New York. They signed to a local record label in 1968, and after releasing several singles, they were signed to Motown Records.
  • By now, Michael had become the focal point of the Jackson 5, recognized as a prodigy with supreme talent. Their first Motown album was released in late 1969, and they released ten albums between then and 1975. They had four singles top the Hot 100 (ABC knocked the Beatles’ Let It Be out of the top spot), and three singles reached #2 on the the chart. For more on the Jackson 5, see my post from July 29, 2020.
  • While maintaining his role in the Jackson 5, Michael began a solo career in 1972. Between 1972 and 1975, he released four solo albums, and seven singles from these album charted on the Hot 100, including Ben (#1 on the chart), Rockin’ Robin (#2) and Got To Be There (#4).
  • In 1975, Michael and his brothers moved to Epic as their label. Michael became the main songwriter for the band, now called The Jacksons. The band had ten singles in the top 10 on the R&B chart between 1975 and 1989, including their best sellers Enjoy Yourself and Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground). 
  • In 1978, Jackson performed in the film The Wiz, playing the role of the Scarecrow. While the film was a failure, his time in New York City during its filming was influential, as he frequented the Studio 54 nightclub and heard early hip hop music. The hip hop beat would influence much of his solo work after that.
  • Michael resumed his solo career with the release of Off the Wall in 1979. It would be the first of five albums that would become some of the biggest selling albums of all time. Off the Wall was certified 9x platinum, with worldwide sales of over 20 million copies. Two singles from the chart reached #1 on the Hot 100 – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Rock With You. Jackson won his first of 13 Grammy awards for Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance.
  • His 1982 album Thriller was legendary. Its worldwide sales of over 66 million copies made it the best selling album of all time, and it was the second best selling album of all time in the U.S., certified 33x platinum (3x diamond – only the Eagles Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has sold more copies in the U.S.). It spent 37 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart, the most of any album ever. The album won eight Grammy awards in 1984, a record for the most Grammy awards in a single year. The album is in the Grammy Hall of Fame as well as the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Rolling Stone ranked it at #12 on their list of the Greatest Albums of All Time. The singles Beat It and Billie Jean both topped the Hot 100, while The Girl Is Mine (a duet with Paul McCartney), Wanna Be Startin’ Something and the title track all were in the top 5. The video for the song Thriller became a phenomenon in itself – it was the first music video ever inducted into the National Film Registry. This album truly made Michael Jackson “The King of Pop.”
  • His next album, 1987’s Bad, was certified 10x platinum with worldwide sales of over 35 million. Five singles reached #1 on the Hot 100 chart – I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana. Four years later, his Dangerous album was released. It was 8x platinum, with the single Black and White topping the Hot 100, and Remember the Time, In the Closet and Will You Be There each reaching the top 10.
  • His final two albums released before his death were HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1 in 1995 and Invincible in 2001. They were certified 8x and 2x platinum respectively, The former included his final #1 hit, You Are Not Alone.
  • During the 90s and 00s decades, Jackson dealt with many legal, health and financial issues. In March 2009, he announced a comeback concert tour titled This Is It. Fifty concerts in London were planned, followed by performances in Paris, New York City and Mumbai. Over 1 million tickets for the London shows were sold in less than two hours. Less than three weeks before the first show, Jackson died due to a cocktail of medications that his physician administered to him. The memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles was open to the public, for up to 8,750 people to attend. 1.6 million people applied for tickets – those attending were selected at random. Over 31 million people streamed the event on the internet.
  • When you discuss who is the greatest musical artist ever, Michael Jackson is in the conversation. He was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1997 and as a solo artist in 2001. He was awarded the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and five of his recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. My September 30, 2008 blog on “The Greatest Artists of All Time” ranked him at #4. Rolling Stone ranked him at #35 – much much too low. While the Thriller video is his most famous, my favorite video is Billie Jean. Check it out!

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