Remembering the King of Pop
The Early Years
Michael Joseph Jackson was born to Joseph Walter Jackson and Katherine Esther on August 29th, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. Michael was child number 7 of 9 with an upbringing in a strict home with the musical influence of his father who was a member of an R&B band named the Falcons, which was also comprised of his uncle, Luther Jackson.
At a very early age, Michael had memories of being physically and emotionally abused by his father and did not speak out about that abuse until the early 90’s when he was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Later, Michael’s brother Marlon substantiated the claims of abuse by their father. Michael was often physically abused by his father in ways of long hours in the studio rehearsing to beatings and emotional abuse by being called names. In addition to his claims of abuse, Michael told accounts of a time where his father crawled into the open bedroom window in the middle of the night wearing a disguise to scare his children and he screamed and ranted. Joe later stated that he did this to show his kids how unsafe it is to leave your bedroom window open at night making it possible for a predator to come in and kidnap the children. This would later prove to be a very traumatic experience for Michael as he recounted years of sleepless nights due to continued nightmares and claims that the insignificant sight of his father would make him vomit on several occasions. In later interviews, Michael stated that his father was so strict about their rehearsals and performance that he would sit in a chair with a belt in-hand and if they messed up, he would tear them up really bad.
It could be easily stated that Michael got the start to his famous career in 1964 at the age of 5 when he and his father would be a part of the group, “the Jackson Brothers” which was a band formed in conjunction with his brother’s, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie. Later, Michael would join doing back-up vocals for the band and dancing when he was 8, and then Michael along with his brother Jermaine would take over the rule vocals, renaming the group the “Jackson 5.”
Throughout the mid-60’s the Jackson 5 would tour all throughout the Midwest tirelessly and later in 1966, the band was awarded the win of a large local talent show when the band did a cover of James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, which Michael took over the rule vocals on.
Two years later, the Jackson 5 would make it to the big-time in 1968 with signing for the major record label, Motown Records. already popular music magazines like Rolling Stone were already recognizing the individual talents of Michael at such a young age. After several single billboard hits such as “ABC” and “I’ll Be There”, the Jackson 5 wanted more creative control and Motown strictly refused this creative control and so the Jackson 5 left the record label in 1975.
Making a Move
After the Jackson 5 left Motown, they were closest signed to a new contract with CBS Records in conjunction with what would later be called Epic Records. This move was followed by several legal hearings and the group was forced to rename themselves, The Jacksons. Over the next 8 years, the Jacksons continued touring internationally and released 6 more albums. Michael was not only the rule voice of The Jacksons, he was also the dominant songwriter for the group.
Michael was cast as the scarecrow in the 1978 musical, The Wiz. The music produced for The Wiz was composed by Quincy Jones who later became very close friends and a business partner with Michael. During the filming of The Wiz, Quincy agreed that he would produce Michael’s next solo album. This was the jumping off point for Michael, if he was going to be an already bigger pop sensation and world-wide entertainer Quincy was the man who was going to make it happen. In 1979, “Off The Wall” was released and cited as being the first album ever to spin 4 top 10 hits. This record has sales that are reported as 20 million copies sold all over the world.
At this point, Michael is 22 years old and in 1980, was the recipient of many AMA awards in addition as Billboard Music Awards and Grammy’s. This broke a record for Michael and the music industry as he was reported to have the highest royalties ever, earning 37% of the actual profit of each album sold. Michael felt great about the success and felt very obtain about his future in the music industry, but he was determined to out-do himself on his next album. In 1982, Michael released his new album, “Thriller”. His determination to out-do “Off The Wall” had paid off as “Thriller” would be the album that catapulted his career and also broke many musical records such as being the best selling album of all time. From that album, there were 7 singles that topped the charts for 80 weeks in a row and old over 190 million copies. To join the “Thriller” album, Michael collaborated with John Landis to create a documentary called “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller”, which would sell out quickly as a reported 350,000 copies being sold in the first 2 weeks.
Michael had reached the peak of his career and it is often the belief of many people, that once you get this high, there is nowhere to go but down. However, Michael was making money not only with his music but other business ventures in addition. The merchandising of Michael Jackson memorabilia was off the charts and it was stated that he would be the next “Elvis”, many times over. How fortuitous considering that his first wife would be the first child of the “King of Rock and Roll”.
Going past the astonishing record sales of “Thriller”, there were also many pop culture changes made due to this album and within the music industry in addition. With the release of this album, the impact that it had on the music industry would be undying. I sincerely believe that no one could have expected the enormous success and the contribution to change that “Thriller” and Michael would have on the industry in addition as the American pop-culture as a whole. There were many different avenues of the music industry that benefited from the album, such as MTV. already though MTV had basically made its debut and was quickly becoming part of mainstream TV, the coverage that MTV gave to the videos for “Thriller” would prove to be a wise move on the part of the decision makers at MTV. The release of “Thriller” also paved the way for new and upcoming artists that had a style and flair that had never been touched before, artists like Prince. In so many different ways, Michael was almost single-handedly responsible for reviving the music industry all together.
Michael was also solely responsible for introducing a new style of dance to the world and most famously remembered for his identifying characteristics “moonwalk.” When he first performed the moonwalk, he was taking part of Motown’s 25th anniversary television special which was being viewed by over 50 million people, which is where the soon-to-be king of pop would be compared to greats such as Elvis and the Beatles. I was too young to remember any of the performances by Elvis or the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, but Michael’s performance at Motown’s 25th was compared to those performances. I would just have to imagine that for Michael, that would have been a highlight in his career and a great compliment.
Sadly, in 1984, while Michael was filming a commercial for Pepsi, his hair caught on fire caused by the pyrotechnics on the set and he suffered second degree burns from this accident. The commercial was being filmed in front of a very large crowd at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A., and Michael was rushed to the Brotman Medical Center for treatment. Pepsi made a settlement out of court with Michael for $1.5 Million dollars which he then turned around and granted the complete settlement to the Medical Center that treated his injuries which allowed the Brotman Medical Center to be able to offer top-notch treatment and as a tribute to this charity, the Medical Center renamed their burn center after Michael.
Michael was a firm believer in charity and as such, he was awarded by the then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, for his efforts in supporting charity and the rehabilitation of people who needed assistance in alcohol and drug rehabilitation. As part of Michael’s charitable character, he then decide to collaborate with Lionel Richie and write what was to become the best selling single of all time, “We Are the World”. The proceeds of this single were sent to aid the poor in the U.S. and Africa. A total of 39 musical artists took part in the recording of “We Are the World”, selling over 20 million copies and most of the proceeds were sent to famine relief.
As a child of the 80’s, I can ingemination following all of Michael’s triumphs and successes during this point in his career and he was already definable as the “King of Pop”.
The Next Two Decades
During the mid-80’s, Michael started becoming the target of the media in a negative light. The tabloids started running stories on Michael that made claims that he slept in a hyperbaric chamber in order to avoid aging. Michael denied all of this clearly and easily dismissed any talk of it, however, others who liked to believe the tabloids under the false pretense that the tabloids tell the ugly truth about celebrities and the lives they live, the story was far from dying off and in fact, to this day, there is a good majority of people who nevertheless believe this story to be true.
Moving past this story, Michael collaborated with film director Francis Ford Coppola to make an all 3-D film of science fiction called “Captain EO.” This film would later be used chiefly by Disney Studios as part of their theme park allurement to the Epcot Center for the next 8 years.
Admittedly, Michaels eccentric behavior became more distinct over the years, starting with the buy of a chimpanzee he called “Bubbles”. This gave plenty of fuel to the tabloids and one of Michael’s mistakes was to continue to dispel these stories that were being made up and ran in the weekly rags. Finally, Michael came to the realization that he should no longer try to deny the stories because doing so would increase the rags or tabloids capital and that is the last thing he wanted to contribute to. When Michael made this decision, this did not stop the tabloids from continuing to make up their own stories including an accusation that Michael purchased the remains of the “Elephant Man”, which Michael vehemently continued to deny. Because of all of the bad tabloid press, Michael earned the nickname “Whacko Jacko”, which he later began to resent and despise.
In the early 80’s, Michael’s physical turn up started making some drastic changes and his skin started to lighten up and this is where the tabloids and press alike started to make claims that he was bleaching his skin. The sad truth behind what was causing this condition would later be diagnosed in the mid 80’s as vitiligo and lupus. Fortunately for Michael, he was able to remiss from lupus but it was apparent that the vitiligo was here to stay. Both of these diseases made Michael very sensitive to the sun, compiled with the treatments he had to go undergo for both conditions, this made his skin already lighter, almost resembling a Caucasian turn up. It seemed the more he tried to cover it up, the paler it made him look. Over the past years, Michael had been becoming very conscious about his turn up and was later diagnosed as having dysmorphic disorder and in this disorder, people who suffer from it are not already aware of how other people perceive them in a true light. They feel as though everyone else is always judging them negatively on a physical level, when in actuality, most people are not. This is one of the inner conditions of anorexia nervosa.
Despite Michael’s increasingly unhealthy set-backs, he knew that the music industry did not take a rest or sleep while he was trying to deal with his physical issues and they were anxiously awaiting the release of his next album, “Bad”. already then, Michael was aware that it was going to be hard to top “Thriller”, the “Bad” album had a substantial success and an additional 7 hit song that topped the charts with 5 of those songs reaching the number one identify. This portion of his success once again helped him gain the holder of another record of having the most singles hit number one from the same album. He started a world tour promoting the “Bad” album in 1987 and finished this tour early 1989. Prior to going on tour, he had spent the past 4 years working on an autobiography called “Moon Walk”, which took us by his life story of his traumatic childhood, the experience he had in the family band and he also recounted everything behind his plastic surgeries which he contributed mostly to puberty, weight loss and his dietary changes. The book was released in 1988, and in that same year, Michael purchased some character on the outskirts of Santa Ynez in California which would later be known as “Neverland Ranch”, once again showing his eccentric side.
Michael was truly named the “King of Pop” by his long time friend, Actress Elizabeth Taylor, when she was the presenter for the “Artist of the Decade” award. Michael continued to donate a lot of funding to college funds and charity. The complete proceeds from “Man in the Mirror” for example, went to charity.
Starting a Family and the End to a bright 30 years
For the sake of argument and out of respect for Michael’s family, this article is not going to focus too much on the allegations of child molestation and court appearances that he had to confront during the early 90’s and later allegations. I am focusing on the artist he was and the many contributions he made to the music industry in addition as his life in general. I will observe that because of the stress of the allegations and the health issues that Michael faced, he became very dependent on pain killers and also dependent on the sustain of close friends to make it by this period in his life.
In early 1993, Michael was reacquainted with Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley. They remained in continued contact and became very close and as more problems arose for Michael, he became very dependent on Lisa for sustain and she, thinking that she could save him from the world and himself, took to him quickly and began to fall in love with Michael. On 1994, Michael and Lisa were married after a phone proposal and they were wed in the Dominican Republic at a private ceremony. Not much was truly known about the relationship by the general public, but the marriage was dissolved after 2 years and they remained close friends.
Michael returned focus to his career after all of his legal matters had presumably been settled and continued on with a world tour in 1996 for the album “HIStory”, and ended the tour in the fall of 1997. During his touring in Australia, Michael fell in love and married his dermatology nurse, Deborah Jeanne Rowe and they had a son named Michael Joseph Jackson, jr. and a daughter they named Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. The associate divorced in 1999 and the custody of the children was signed over to Michael. Deborah decided to relinquish custody of the children as an amicable arrangement for the betterment of the children and they remained friends.
Michael continued with his business and music ventures releasing a new album in 2001, “Invincible” which would also prove to be the meaningful development of his 30 years as a solo artist. In celebration of this achievement, there was an anniversary celebration at Madison Square and there were several celebrity musical performers there to celebrate with him. “Invincible” sold over 10 million copies worldwide and became another successful notch on Michael’s career achievement belt.
In 2001, Michael decided to surrogate another child and the identity of the mother was never released but Prince Michael Jackson II was born in 2002. Following the birth of his third child, in 2005, Michael decided to move his residence to the Persian Gulf. Sony continued to release new compilations of Michael’s music from the 80’s and 90’s with the release of “Visionary: The Video Singles”. This was a 2-disc collection with one being a DVD of the videos and then the other disc was a CD of the songs.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Thriller”, Michael decided to release “Thriller 25” which was made up of original material from the album in addition as some re-mixes along with a song never released. This album sold millions of copies in several countries and in the U.S., almost 700,000 copies were sold making this album the best selling album of 2008.
Michael was making a reappearance and getting ready for a 50-day performance in France to leg up his career reappearance and reportedly by people who were working on the tour with him and his friends, he was noted as highly vigorous and looking great.
Unexpectedly by most, on June 25th, 2009, Michael passed out in his home in the Holmby Hills area of L.A. His personal physician was with him and continued to attempt CPR until the fire department and ambulance arrived. The L.A. Fire Department received the 911 call just after noon and upon arrival to the home, approximately 3 minutes after the 911 call, they arrived to see that he was not breathing and that his physician was performing CPR. The paramedics stated that he was in cardiac arrest at the time of their arrival and was rushed to Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where they continued to work on Michael for over an hour.
Michael Joseph Jackson was distinct dead around 2:30 p.m. PDT on June 25, 2009. Michael was 50 years old and he is survived by his siblings and 3 children. His family was reported to be at his side before he was distinct dead and there has been much speculation by the media as to the cause of death. The medical staff reported that there was no foul play noted, however, the family is requesting, at this time a 2nd autopsy to address their unanswered questions. They are grief stricken and cannot figure out why this happened.
Many of us could look at Michael’s history from an impartial perspective and with a little bit of medical knowledge it would be easy to come to the conclusion that with his health issues and the addiction to many prescription medications over the years, not to mention the demanding work he put himself by for his career and his fans, it could be a safe bet that he had damage to his heart and other organs in his body and they just could not fight the demands of his life anymore.
Whether you were a fan or not of Michael, this really was a shock to most people and all that anyone can do from this point is have hope for the family that is left behind. Having hope that they receive answers to their questions and that they can put Michael to rest and take care of his children, keeping his memory alive for them.