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Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Born August 29, 1958
Died June 25, 2009
Occupation Singer/Songwriter

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Over a four-decade career, his contributions to music, dance and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture. Jackson influenced artists across many music genres; through stage and video performances, he popularized complicated dance moves such as the moonwalk, to which he gave the name, as well as the robot. He is the most awarded individual music artist in history.

The eighth child of the Jackson family, Jackson made his public debut in 1964 with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon as a member of the Jackson 5 (later known as the Jacksons). Jackson began his solo career in 1971 while at Motown Records. He became a solo star with his 1979 album Off the Wall. His music videos, including those for "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" from his 1982 album Thriller, are credited with breaking racial barriers and transforming the medium into an artform and promotional tool. He helped propel the success of MTV and continued to innovate with videos for the albums Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995). Thriller became the best-selling album of all time, while Bad was the first album to produce five U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles.

From the late 1980s, Jackson became a figure of controversy and speculation due to his changing appearance, relationships, behavior and lifestyle. In 1993, he was accused of sexually abusing the child of a family friend. The lawsuit was settled out of civil court; Jackson was not indicted due to lack of evidence. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges. In both cases, the FBI found no evidence of criminal conduct on Jackson's behalf in either case. In 2009, while preparing for a series of comeback concerts, This Is It, Jackson died from an overdose of propofol administered by his personal physician, Conrad Murray, who was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter.

Jackson is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with estimated sales of over 400 million records worldwide. He had 13 Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles (more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era) and was the first artist to have a top-ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades. His honors include 15 Grammy Awards, 6 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe Award and 39 Guinness World Records, including the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time". Jackson's inductions include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Dance Hall of Fame (the only recording artist to be inducted) and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. In 2016, his estate earned $825 million, the highest yearly amount for a celebrity ever recorded by Forbes.

Music career

Michael was born in Gary, Indiana on August 29, 1958, the fifth son of Katherine and Joe Jackson. His mother was a Jehovah's Witness and his father a former boxer turned steelworker who played guitar on the side. Harboring aspirations of musical stardom, Joe shepherded his sons into a musical act around 1962. At that point, it was just the three eldest children -- Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine -- but Michael joined them in 1964 and soon dominated the group. Stealing moves from James Brown and Jackie Wilson, Michael became the epicenter of the Jackson 5 as they earned accolades at local talent shows and went on to play soul clubs throughout the Midwest, working their way toward the East Coast in 1967 where they won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater. Returning to Gary, the group cut a pair of singles for the local imprint Steeltown in 1968 -- "(I'm A) Big Boy," "We Don't Have to Be Over 21" -- but their big break arrived when they opened for Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers at Chicago's Regal Theater. Impressed, Taylor brought them to the attention of Berry Gordy, Jr., who signed the group to Motown in March 1969 and then sent them out to Los Angeles, where he helped mastermind their national launch.

"I Want You Back," a song written and produced by Motown's new crew the Corporation, saw release in October 1968 when Michael Jackson was just 11 years old. By January 1970, "I Want You Back" rocketed to number one on both the pop and R&B charts, and the Jackson 5 became a sensation, crossing over from R&B to AM pop radio with ease. Two more hits followed --" ABC" and "The Love You Save," both exuberant bubblegum soul -- before "I'll Be There" revealed Michael's facility with ballads. All three of these sequels went to number one and, striking while the iron was hot, Motown spun Michael off into a solo act. His first solo single, "Got to Be There," arrived at the end of 1971, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and then a cover of Bobby Day's chestnut "Rockin' Robin" peaked at two in early 1972. Later that year, "Ben," the title theme ballad to an exploitation movie about a killer rat, earned Jackson his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (he would lose).

Not long afterward, the careers of both Michael and the Jackson 5 slowed, victims of shifting tastes, adolescence, and creative battles with their label. One last hit for Motown arrived in 1974 -- "Dancing Machine," a single that brought the group in line with the disco explosion -- before the group departed Motown for Epic in 1975. With the new label came a new name, along with a slight lineup change: Jermaine stayed at Motown to pursue a solo career and younger brother Randy took his place. Following a pair of albums produced by Philly soul mainstays Gamble & Huff, Michael emerged as the group's creative director on 1978's Destiny, co-writing their 1979 smash "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" with Randy. By that point, Michael had already made a considerable solo impression by starring as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, Sidney Lumet's 1978 musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Working on the soundtrack -- a record highlighted by his duet with Diana Ross on "Ease on Down the Road" -- he met producer Quincy Jones, a titan of jazz and pop in the '50s and '60s who had yet to score a smash in the '70s. The pair hit it off and decided to work on Jackson's next solo endeavor, but first the Jackson 5 released Destiny, which raised the profile of both the band and Michael himself.

All this was preamble to Off the Wall, the 1979 album that definitively established Michael Jackson as a force of his own. Collaborating with producer Jones and songwriter Rod Temperton, Jackson consciously attempted to appeal to multiple audiences with Off the Wall, turning the album into a dazzling showcase of all his different sounds and skills. Anchored by a pair of number one hits -- the incandescent "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" -- the record turned into a smash, peaking at four on the Billboard 200, selling millions of copies as it raked in awards, but losing the grand prize of Album of the Year at the Grammys, leaving Jackson with the lingering impression that he needed to cross over into the pop mainstream with greater force. Before he could do that, he had to complete one more Jackson 5 album: 1980's Triumph, a record with three hit singles ("Lovely One," "This Place Hotel," "Can You Feel It") whose title seemed to allude to Michael's solo success and certainly benefitted from his heightened stardom.

After Triumph, Jackson reunited with producer Jones and songwriter Temperton to create the sequel to Off the Wall, crafting a record that deliberately hit every mark in the musical mainstream. Paul McCartney was brought in to underscore Michael's soft rock leanings, Eddie Van Halen pushed Jackson into metallic hard rock, and the remainder of the album glided from disco to pop to soul in an effortless display of his range. "The Girl Is Mine," the first single from Thriller, didn't suggest its adventure -- Jackson played it safe by releasing the McCartney duet as the album's lead -- but the second single, "Billie Jean," forged ahead into new, unnameable territory. "Billie Jean" was a pop explosion, topping the charts in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. Some of its success can no doubt be credited to its striking music video, the first to break the fledgling MTV's then-unspoken racial barrier; after Jackson, the network began playing more Black acts. Some of the single's success is due to his sensational performance on Motown's 25th anniversary special (Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever) in 1983, a performance aired on May 16, 1983 where Jackson unveiled his signature moonwalk dance -- a move that made it appear as if he was gliding backward -- and announced himself to the world as a mature talent. "Beat It," accompanied by an equally cinematic video, turned into an equally huge smash on MTV and helped push Thriller into the stratosphere. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "Human Nature," and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" kept Thriller at number one and its last single was an extravaganza, with Jackson letting director John Landis turn the song into a short musical horror film. By the time the album wrapped up its two-year run on the charts, it had racked up 37 weeks at number one and sold 29 million copies, becoming the biggest-selling album ever.

Even as Thriller was something of a pop perpetual motion machine, selling records of its own accord, Jackson worked hard. He once again teamed with Paul McCartney, singing "Say Say Say" for McCartney's 1983 album Pipes of Peace, and he reunited with the Jackson 5 for 1984's Victory, supporting the album with an international tour. Prior to its launch, Jackson suffered a serious accident while filming a Pepsi commercial designed to accompany the tour. During the shoot, pyrotechnics burned Jackson's head, sending him to the hospital with second-degree burns to his scalp; as he recovered, he started using pain killers for the first time.

Jackson earned accolades for his philanthropic work, especially his collaboration with Lionel Richie on the 1985 charity single "We Are the World," but along with these positive notes, wild stories began to circulate in the tabloids. Some further bad press accompanied his acquisition of the Lennon and McCartney songwriting catalog in 1985, a move that severed his partnership with Paul McCartney. Jackson also flirted with becoming a movie star, working with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 3D film Captain EO, shown only at Disney's IMAX theaters starting in 1986. Once this appeared, he started work on the task of following up Thriller.

Working once again with Quincy Jones, Jackson refined the Thriller template for 1987's Bad. Like Thriller, the first single was an adult contemporary number -- "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," a duet with then unknown Siedah Garrett -- before it cranked out hits: "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," and "Dirty Diana" all reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1987 and 1988, with "Another Part of Me" just missing the Top Ten and "Smooth Criminal" peaking at seven. Bad didn't dominate the charts in other countries but its singles reached the Top Ten internationally with some regularity, aided in part with a globe-spanning tour -- the first solo tour of Michael Jackson's career. The Bad World Tour broke records across the globe and in its wake, he started calling himself "The King of Pop," a nickname that was something of a retort to Elvis Presley being known as "The King of Rock & Roll." Once the tour wrapped up, Jackson returned to his new home -- a Santa Ynez ranch that he purchased in March 1988 and renamed Neverland, playing up his Peter Pan fixation.

Jackson renewed his deal with Sony -- the corporation that purchased Epic/CBS -- in 1991 and then set to work on his next album. This time, he decided to part ways with Quincy Jones, choosing to work with a variety of collaborators, chief among them Teddy Riley, who helped usher Michael into the realm of new jack swing. "Black or White," the album's first video, caused some controversy, which helped generate initial press and sales and sent the single to number one. "Remember the Time" and "In the Closet" also made it into the Billboard Top Ten in early 1992, but subsequent singles "Jam" and "Heal the World" stalled in the low 20s, while "Who Is It" made it to 14. Jackson's period of massive success was starting to end and, as it did, Jackson entered a rough personal period. In 1993, a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of molestation. Over the next two years, the case played out in public and in the justice system, eventually settling out of court for undisclosed terms in 1995; no charges were ever filed. During all this, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley in May 1994; their marriage lasted just 19 months.

Jackson rebooted his career in 1995 with HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book 1, a double-disc set divided into an album of hits and an album of new material. Preceded by a double-A-sided single containing the ballad "Childhood" and "Scream," a duet with his sister Janet, the album underperformed compared to its predecessors but still generated big hits, highlighted by "You Are Not Alone," the first single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The subsequent singles "They Don't Care About Us" and "Stranger in Moscow" underperformed in the U.S. but were Top Ten singles in the U.K., and HIStory also did well in other global international markets, aided in part by the lengthy accompanying global tour. In 1997, Jackson followed HIStory with Blood on the Dance Floor, an album that topped the U.K. charts but only reached 24 in the U.S.

By that point, Jackson had married his nurse, Debbie Rowe, who would soon become to the mother of two children: Prince Michael Jackson, Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Over the next couple of years, Jackson raised his family and performed at charitable events, starting work on a comeback planned for 2001. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act that year (the Jackson 5 had previously been inducted) and he staged two major 30th anniversary concerts in September 2001 to kick off the promo campaign for his new album, Invincible. Produced in large part by Rodney Jerkins, Invincible consciously evoked Off the Wall with its single "You Rock My World," which reached ten prior to the album's October release. Invincible entered the charts at number one in the U.S. and U.K., but it didn't have staying power and never generated another hit single.

Soon, music took a backseat to Jackson's personal life. He had a third child, Prince Michael Jackson II in 2002, but the birth was overshadowed by erratic public appearances and legal problems, including an arrest in November 2003 for child molestation; in June 2005 he was acquitted on all counts. As the case played out, Sony released the first-ever single-disc collection of Jackson's peak, Number Ones, in 2003; it had a new song, "One More Chance." Over the next few years, many catalog releases materialized: the 2004 box set The Ultimate Collection, the 2006 double-disc set The Essential Michael Jackson, a collectors box called Visionary in 2006, and his catalog saw deluxe reissues in 2008.

Jackson planned a major comeback for 2009 with a major tour called This Is It featuring a long run of shows at London's O2 Arena. As he was in the midst of rehearsals in Los Angeles, he collapsed at home on the afternoon of June 25, 2009. Rushed to the UCLA Medical Center, Jackson was pronounced dead of a cardiac arrest at the age of 50. An extensive investigation later named his death a homicide due to prescription drugs; Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

It didn't take long for posthumous releases to begin to hit the shelves. Motown released The Remix Suite in October of 2009, and then a film documenting the 2009 concert rehearsals was released as This Is It, along with a soundtrack. Next came a DVD set called Vision, and 2010 brought Michael, a collection of outtakes, most dating from Invincible. In 2012, the 25th anniversary of Bad brought an expanded reissue of the 1987 album. Epic released Xscape in 2014, a record where L.A. Reid and Timbaland reworked demos recorded between Thriller and Invincible. Preceded by the single "Love Never Felt So Good" -- an electronic duet with Justin Timberlake that went to the Top Ten -- Xscape earned gold certification. In 2016, Off the Wall received a deluxe reissue highlighted by an accompanying documentary directed by Spike Lee. Scream, a loosely Halloween-themed compilation, followed in 2017.

Connection to The Beatles

Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson

Jackson first became famous as the lead singer of the Jackson 5. The group's first single, released toward the end of 1969, was "I Want You Back," which became a #1 hit in 1970. The enthusiasm of the group brought almost inevitable comparisons with the Beatles and the songs "ABC" and "The Love You Save," each followed a Beatles single ("Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road") as the #1 single in America.

Paul and Michael in the studio

Michael in the studio with Paul.

While Jackson had been acquainted with both Paul McCartney and George Harrison in the late '70s (a radio show featured both Jackson and Harrison as guests in a 1979 episode) Jackson's formal connection with the Beatles began in 1981 when he and McCartney began recording a few duets together: "The Girl Is Mine," "Say Say Say" and "The Man," the former on Jackson's Thriller in 1982 album and the later two on McCartney's Pipes of Peace album in 1983.

Early publicity material suggested that "The Girl Is Mine" was to be the big hit on the forthcoming Thriller album but while the single was commercially successful, it was met with critical dismissal. Subsequently, singles such as "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" topped the charts and Thriller became the biggest album of all time, catapulting Jackson to heights of fame not seen since the Beatles.

In 1984, Jackson purchased the rights to The Beatles' songs, which were put up for auction by Sir Lew Grade. While Paul McCartney encouraged Jackson to look into song publishing as a source of revenue (Jackson and his brother Randy had published their own music but never considered buying music from other writers) the purchase caused a rift between the two stars. McCartney described the Jackson purchase as "dodgy," and criticized choices Jackson made regarding the songs' use in commercials and not giving McCartney and the estate of John Lennon an increase in his royalty rate for their songs.

During the period during which Jackson owned the Beatles' songs, he released only one recording of a Lennon/McCartney song: "Come Together," which was first used in his direct-to-video release Moonwalker (in which Sean Lennon has a role) and later ended up on the compilation HIStory: the Past Present and Future: Book 1. A series of deals with Sony Music left the Beatles songs ultimately in the hands of the conglomerate.

After Jackson's death in 2009, McCartney bid tribute to him on his website insisting that while they drifted apart, they never really had a falling out as some interpreted.

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