When Joseph and Catherine Jackson, both devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave birth to their seventh child, fifty years ago, they probably never imagined how famous the small boy was going to turn out.
Together with the rest of the other eight children, they were locked up in the house while Joseph worked his night shift, as a way for enforcing strict rules; but they managed to escape once in a while to the neighbors to practice music.
For all his strictness on his children which rather bordered on child abuse, Joseph realized one major thing about his children. They could sing and they could dance.
In his children, Joseph saw the opportunity to realize his own dream of becoming a musician, resulting in the birth of the Jackson 5 a big success in resulting in Motown Records signing them in the process also cosigning Michael Jackson, the most talented member of the family band to a life of musical success.
His older brother, Jackie, told Gerri Hershey in Rolling Stone, “It was sort of frightening. He was so young. I don’t know where he got it. He just knew.”
Their association with Motown launched the brothers to dizzy heights of musical success although they eventually parted in 1975 due to Motown’s description of lack of creativity on the part of band members.
He later teamed up with Epic Records and Quincy Jones to release a solo album Off the wall, which sold eight million copies worldwide and made him the first solo artist to release four Top 10 hits from a single album.
Off the wall also presented him as a mature artist whose funk rhythms and pop melodies appealed equally to blacks and whites.
In the album’s wake, the Jacksons’ Triumph (1980) sold a million copies and prompted a $5.5 million-grossing tour, later winning him three Grammies in 1980.
Even at this early stage, Jackson and his brothers were exploring video, and the short film that accompanied Triumph’s title track was an imaginative, technically advanced effort.
Jimmy Guterman in The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Records of All Time, 1992 said that Off The wall also remains -- with the exception of his three breakthrough cuts on Thriller -- the only time he has presented himself believably as an adult.
King of Pop
In 1982, Michael Jackson released Thriller; the best selling album of all time with over forty million copies sold and cemented his place in the history of music as the King of Pop.
With the help of MTV, the singles of the thriller album like “Beat it”, “Billie Jean” and the title track “Thriller”.
According to the Rolling Stone, Thriller also broke through MTV’s de facto color line; where videos by black artists had rarely been shown, Michael’s “Beat It,” costing $160,000, received extensive play.
The New York Times called him a “musical phenomenon”, saying that “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.
In 1983, in “Billie Jean” during the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special on television Jackson performed the moon-walk, which turned out to be his signature dance routine for the first time, stunning TV audiences of over 47 million.
The New York Times led the applause, “The moon-walk 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” in 1985, Jackson and a host of other celebrities released “We Are The World”, a single whose proceeds went towards charity in Africa and the US which sold over 20 million copies. In 1987, he released “Bad” which had hit singles like “Man in The Mirror”, “Bad”, and “The Way You Make Me Feel”, which sold over 25 million copies.
During the world tour to promote the album “Bad,” he broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium.
According to Wikipedia, Jackson’s success resulted in his being dubbed the “King of Pop”, a nickname conceived by actress and friend Elizabeth Taylor when she presented Jackson with an “Artist of the Decade” award in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul”
Black or White
“Dangerous”, released in 1991 was Jackson’s last album for ten years until “Invincible” in 2001 where his stature had been publicly battered by the various controversies of his life.
Apart from the singles “Remember the Time”, “In the Closet”, “Heal the World”, “Who Is It”, and “Will You Be There”, “Black or White” which was the most successful and most controversial underlined the rumors that began in the late eighties that Jackson was uncomfortable with his black skin and many other features on his face like the shape of his nose, eyes and chin which he is alleged to have altered through plastic surgery in order to look more “white”.
In 1993, Jackson in a rare interview with Oprah Winfrey, a huge prime-time audience tuned in to hear Jackson discuss his evolving appearance (which he attributed to a skin pigmentation deficiency and “only two” plastic surgery procedures), and admitted that he had been affected by childhood abuse by his own father.
With a deteriorating public image, Jackson shocked the world when he married Lisa Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter in May 1994, although the marriage lasted only eighteen months.
The Dark Years
In 1993, in the most damaging blow to Jackson’s image, the pop star was accused of child molestation by a 13 year old, and even though he was never charged the allegations continued to dogged him until ten years later when similar accusations landed him a trial of which he was subsequently acquitted on all counts.
All through the nineties, despite the release of “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I”, “Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix”, and “Invincible”, Michael never really recovered to the best of his eighties success.
In 2005, Jackson moved to Bahrain after the bad publicity of the trial and is said to be struggling against a mountain of debts.
His father had good words for him “He wasn’t ever really interested in money. I’d give him his share of a night’s earnings and the next day he’d buy ice cream or candy for all the kids in neighborhood.”
In spite of the many controversies of his life, Michael Jackson talent and zeal has never been lost on anyone. “Michael’s a natural. He’s a very hard worker and a super performer.
But most of all, he’s a real human being,” said Stevie Wonder. Enid Jackson, like many other Jackson fans, says, “He’s giving the world a gift, his talent, and, in return, the world tries to crucify him.”