Michael Joseph Jackson (born on August 29, 1958 – died on June 25, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter, dancer, composer, record producer, choreographer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur.
Also known as “The King of Pop“, Michael Jackson is considered one of the most influential musical artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries due to his contribution to the world of music, of dance, of fashion and the show. Thanks to his live performances and videos he popularized dance techniques such as moonwalk, toe stand, anti-gravity leans and robot dance, coming to be considered one of the best dancers in history.
Jackson has also often made headlines for his private life, including his change of appearance (from black he went white due to vitiligo), cosmetic surgery, his personal relationships and allegations of harassment, from which he was found not guilty in 2005, as well as for his humanitarian initiatives such as the creation of charities to protect children’s rights. and animals. Michael Jackson died in 2009, at the age of 50, of a heart attack following acute intoxication caused by the anesthetic propofol administered to him, to fail to alleviate his chronic insomnia, by Doctor Conrad Murray, who was later convicted of manslaughter.
The Biography of Michael Jackson
Childhood and relationship with his father (1958-1964)
Michael Joseph Jackson was born at 7:33 p.m. on August 29, 1958, at St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital in Gary, Indiana, the eighth of ten children in a modest African American family. Mother Katherine Esther Scruse, a Sears supermarket clerk, had been a devoted Jehovah’s Witness since 1963 and used to sing with her children. His father Joseph Jackson was a steel mill worker at United States Steel and in his youth had been the guitarist of the Falcons, an amateur R&B group. Michael had three sisters, Rebbie, Latoya, Janet, and six brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Brandon (Marlon’s twin brother, who died 24 hours after birth) and Randy.
The Jackson family lived for a long time in a small brick house on Bowmont Drive, at 2300 Jackson Street. Michael and his brothers grew up in a familiar environment where the Bible was the only instrument of formation, whose transgression implied severe punishments: according to various testimonies the Jackson brothers, especially Michael, were often mistreated by their father and forced to incessant trials as well as to physical violence. Michael’s relationship with his father will be the focus of media attention throughout his career.
Early career of Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5 (1964-1976)
Raised in a family dedicated to music, Michael came into contact with the world of entertainment from an early age. He sang for the first time in public, in front of his classmates and family members, during a Christmas performance in his kindergarten performing the song Climb Ev’ry Mountain a cappella, showing great mastery, despite his age, and receiving a standing ovation; after his mother discovered by chance his skills as a dancer, in 1964 he was aggregated by his father in the newly formed complex with his older brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine, who did not yet have a definitive name.
Michael was originally the percussionist, but later began sharing the role of vocalist with his brother Jermaine and, once Marlon was added, the group took the name The Jackson 5. After participating in various talent shows of the time, the Jackson 5 first signed to Steeltown, Gary’s record label, for which they released only a couple of singles, only to be brought to the attention of record producer Berry Gordy, head of Motown Records, who launched them in 1969.
When in January 1970 their debut single I Want You Back reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Michael became the youngest singer to reach number one on the US charts, at the age of 11 years and 5 months. With the release of the next three singles, ABC, “Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There“, the Jackson 5 became the first artists in history to debut with four consecutive singles at number one on Billboard, and the first group of internationally renowned teen idols. Following the group’s success, the Jackson family left Gary and moved to Encino, California, in May 1971.
To the enormous success with his brothers the young Michael began to alternate his solo career, and thanks to Motown he managed to record his first four solo studio albums: Got to Be There and Ben in 1972, Music & Mein 1973 and Forever, Michael in 1975, which were quite successful, selling more than 20 million copies worldwide. The song “Ben“, taken from the album of the same name, became the first number one single in his solo career, won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, being the main song of a film of the same name. Ben’s performance at the 1973 Oscars was one of the first solo performances of his career.
After their contract with Motown expired in 1976, the brothers signed with Epic Records. Motown challenged the deal, however, and filed legal proceedings, due to which the brothers had to change their name from The Jackson 5 to The Jacksons and lost Jermaine, who wanted to stay at the old label; to replace him was called Randy, the youngest son of the Jackson brothers.
The artistic maturation in the Jacksons and the solo affirmation with Off the Wall (1976-1981)
In 1976, Michael’s first song, “Blues Away”, was released on the album The Jacksons, but it was from 1978 that the singer, in addition to being the frontman of the Jacksons, also became the main author, with the collaboration of his brother Randy. For the album Destiny, Epic gave the Jackson brothers carte blanche for the first time, allowing them to write and compose every song, except for the launch single Blame It on the Boogie; The second single, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”, entered the Billboard Top 10 and became the most successful single in the group’s history
The same year he was cast as the scarecrow in the musical film The Wiz, directed by Sidney Lumet. The film’s soundtrack was curated by record producer Quincy Jones, whom Jackson had the opportunity to meet during the filming of the film, and to whom he asked to produce his first solo album for Epic.
” Off the Wall ” was released on August 10, 1979, and was a huge success becoming the first album in music history to place four singles on the Billboard Hot 100: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough“, “Rock with You“, “Off the Wall” and “She’s Out of My Life“. In the UK, the album broke the same record, with four tracks entering the Top 10 of the Official Singles Chart.
Off the Wall also peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200, remaining in the top 20 for 48 consecutive weeks and selling over 15 million copies in a short time, becoming at the time the best-selling album by an African American artist in history. The album to date has sold nearly 10 million copies in the United States and about 30 million worldwide. Jackson also became the first black artist to make it into a white chart, thus breaking racial barriers and helping to create unified charts. According to Rolling Stone magazine, with Off the Wall, Jackson:
|“It broke sales records for black artists and ushered in a new era never before seen in pop music. He invented modern pop as we know it.”|
The album also earned Jackson several awards: in 1980 he won three American Music Awards and a Grammy Award for his performance as Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. As stated later in his autobiography, despite all this success, Jackson was disappointed with the album’s results, which he said should have had a greater impact.
After the solo interlude, the singer returned to the studio with the brothers to record their new album Triumph. Composed almost entirely of Jackson, and driven by the singles Lovely One, This Place Hotel and Can You Feel It, it became the group’s first album to reach the top of the charts since 1971, being followed by a new successful national tour. Although the group enjoyed renewed popularity, the comparison with Off the Wall’s outstanding achievements was evident, giving a clear signal that Jackson was now on his way to a solo career.
Michael Jackson’s worldwide success with Thriller and performance at Motown 25 (1982-1984)
In 1982 Jackson was contacted by director Steven Spielberg, who invited him to take part in the making of an audiobook of the film E.T. the extra-terrestrial, known as E.T. Storybook, for which the singer recorded the song Someone in the Dark and also narrated the story of the film, for which he will receive a Grammy Award in 1984. The singer then spent most of the year with producer Quincy Jones at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles to record his new studio album.
On November 30, Thriller was released, the artist’s second solo album for Epic, which became his biggest commercial success. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for 37 weeks, more than any other studio album in chart history, and remained in the top ten for another 80 consecutive weeks, setting a second record.
It was the first album in history to place 7 singles on the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100: The Girl Is Mine, sung alongside Paul McCartney, Billie Jean, Beat It, want to Be Startin’ Somethin’, Human Nature, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) and the eponymous Thriller, while in the UK it broke the record of Off the Wall, placing five songs in the Top 10. Jackson became the first artist in history to reach #1 on four different American album and singles charts simultaneously, while also setting the record for a male artist to stay on the charts. With sales of over 20 million copies, Thriller was the best-selling album in the United States in both 1983 and 1984, making it the country’s first best-selling album for two consecutive years.
The album was the first to be certified triple diamond by the RIAA for sales of 34 million copies in the United States, more than any other studio album. It is also the best-selling album in the history of music globally, with over 100 million copies to its credit. The impact of the album in popular music was enormous, so much so that it changed the recording industry forever and became a real cultural phenomenon, being defined as follows:
|“More than just an album, Thriller has remained a global multimedia cultural phenomenon for both the 20th and 21st centuries, breaking down musical barriers and forever changing the frontiers of pop. The music in Thriller is so dynamic and singular that it defied any definition of rock, pop or soul that had been there before.”|
On March 10, 1983, with the airing of Billie Jean’s video, Michael Jackson became the first black artist to be broadcast on MTV, which until then had always refused to let black artists appear. The song remained for seven consecutive weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and for nine more at the top of the Hot R&B Chart, receiving a continuous and massive rotation on MTV.
Jackson’s popularity was constantly increasing, but the peak of fame was reached on March 25, 1983: that evening, in fact, the singer and his brothers performed at the concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the birth of Motown, the label that had launched them, entitled Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. For those who didn’t own cable TV or watch MTV, that was the first chance to see Jackson perform live. After performing with his brothers in a Jackson 5 medley, Michael was left alone on stage playing Billie Jean. During this performance, the singer launched the moonwalk for the first time, a step with which his dance style will be identified in the years to come.
During Jackson’s performance, chaos broke out among the audience in the hall. Journalist Christopher Smith, who was present, wrote:
|“The audience in the hall literally exploded with euphoria. I’m usually quite indifferent to the reactions of the audience, but that was a whole other thing. It was not a roar, but rather the sound of an entire auditorium starting to shout at the same time, as if by a sudden general fear. A couple of rows ahead of me I saw two women hugging violently, almost like in a tackle, always facing the stage. The whole audience was standing, as if to immerse themselves in the performance.”|
Another journalist present, Steven Ivory, said:
|“At the end of the performance, the recording of the show was temporarily interrupted to allow the entire production and the audience to resume calm. It was as if Jackson had thrown a “bomb of emotion” into the audience and left them stunned and unable to handle that flow of energy. From the loudspeakers a voice begged the audience to calm down and take their seats. People wiped away tears in their eyes, hugged each other. We had just attended a coronation ceremony.”|
The next day, Fred Astaire, one of Jackson’s idols, called the singer to congratulate him:
|“You move in a divine way. Man, you really put them with your ass on the ground last night! You are an enraged dancer. I’m like that too!”|
The event was watched on television by about 50 million viewers, ratings not seen in the United States since Elvis Presley and the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. The press called Jackson “the new Sinatra” and “as thrilling as Elvis.”
After its performance at Motown 25, Thriller’s sales increased exponentially, setting a record never before reached and never surpassed: after selling 32 million copies in 1983 alone, it was recognized as the best-selling album of all time by the Guinness Book of Records in February 1984. At its peak, Thriller sold over a million copies a week; Jackson’s journalist and biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, claimed that the album reactivated the music industry, which had been in decline since 1978:
|“At one point Thriller stopped selling as a leisure item – like a magazine, a toy, tickets to a blockbuster movie – and started selling as a staple food.”|
In October, Say Say Say, the second duet with Paul McCartney, was released, which stayed for six weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became Jackson’s seventh Top 10 single in a year, equaling the record held by the Beatles.
Since 1983, Jackson is also considered as the inventor of modern music videos, intended as a source through which artists could best promote their music, making videos with special effects, Hollywood sets and spectacular choreography, such as the video by Billie Jean, entered the collective imagination for the famous tiles that lit up under his feet, or that of Beat It with its choreography in West Side Story style.
On December 2, 1983, MTV broadcast the music video for Thriller for the first time worldwide. Shot by John Landis, with a duration of 13 and a half minutes and costing a million dollars, the video would become a milestone in the history of music. Les Garland, MTV’s director of programming, said that for the first time in the network’s history there were extraordinary peaks in listening:
|“In those days there was an average of 1.2 over twenty-four hours, but when we passed Thriller, we jumped to 8 or 10. We learned a lot about programming.”|
In 1989, Thriller was awarded by MTV viewers as “best music video in history”. In the 1999 “100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made” poll, MTV audiences again elected thriller video as “best music video of all time”. In 2001, VH1 also ranked him at number one on its “100 Greatest Videos of All Time” chart. The Guinness Book of Records listed it in 2006 as the “most successful music video of all time”.
In 2009 the video was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in Washington for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”, becoming the first and only music video to have received this honor and being called “the most famous music video of all time”. In 2010 Thriller was again voted “most influential video of all time” by Myspace users.
On January 16, 1984, at the American Music Awards, Jackson set a new record for victories, winning 8 awards out of 11 nominations, including the Award of Merit, becoming the youngest artist to receive the award at just 25 years old. On January 29, at the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson won 8 awards out of 12 nominations, again entering Guinness as “the artist with the most Grammy Awards won in a single year”. A few weeks later, the documentary The Making of Thriller was released, which at the time became the best-selling videotape in history, both in the music and film genres, with sales of over 10 million units.
Spot for Pepsi andVictory Tour, We Are the World and Captain EO (1984-1986)
On January 27, 1984, Jackson and his brothers shot a commercial for Pepsi-Cola at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The group was simulating a concert in front of thousands of fans, when Michael’s hair accidentally caught fire due to an unexpected pyrotechnic failure during Billie Jean’s performance. The singer suffered severe third-degree burns to his scalp and the base of his head that reached the skull and was forced to undergo some reconstructive plastic surgery to the latter, in order to hide some scars left after the accident.
The singer donated the compensation of one and a half million dollars received from Pepsi to the center for the treatment of large burns in which he had been hospitalized. The incident had an enormous impact on the media, and especially on Jackson’s health, who had to undergo scalp transplants for the next ten years and who continued to suffer from excruciating pain and migraines for the rest of his life. According to financial reports at the time, thanks to the partnership with Jackson, Pepsi recorded sales of $7.7 billion and an increase in its market share in 1984, while its historic rival Coca-Cola recorded a significant drop in sales. Being under contract with Pepsi, Jackson had to decline the invitation to perform as the main act at the closing ceremony of the XXIII Los Angeles Olympics, which had been sponsored by Coca-Cola.
On May 14, the singer was invited to the White House by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, to receive an award for supporting charities in the fight against alcohol and drugs, including the use of Beat It in a commercial on these issues. Time described Jackson’s influence at that point as something “that crosses every boundary of taste, style, and color,” while for the New York Times “in the world of music there is Michael Jackson, and then there are everyone else.” At that point Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry, about $2 for every album sold, and was making record profits. Dolls, clothing and gadgets modeled after her image appeared in North American stores in May 1984, selling out and creating an authentic industry.
In July, Victory, the Jacksons’ new album, was released, followed by a promotional tour of stadiums in the United States and Canada. The Victory Tour began on July 6 in Kansas City, ending on December 9 of the same year in Los Angeles, with a record six sold-out concerts at Dodger Stadium. During the tour, the attention of the public and the press was completely turned to Jackson, whose solo pieces from Off the Wall and Thriller made up half of the setlist.
The tour’s 55 concerts had a turnout of 3 million viewers, with total revenues of $75 million, making it the most successful tour in history at the time, surpassing the Rolling Stones’ previous record. Jackson donated all of his personal proceeds from the tour, $5 million, to charity. At the end of the tour, Michael announced his departure from the Jacksons in order to devote himself permanently to his solo career.
In January 1985, he co-wrote with Lionel Richie the charity single We Are the World to raise funds for the people of East Africa, affected at that time by a serious famine, recording it together with a supergroup of 44 other artists called USA for Africa. In the United States, the song sold more than seven million copies in less than four months, becoming the fastest-selling single ever, and remained at #1 on Billboard for a month, and also entered the rock and country charts.
“We Are the World” became, at the time, the best-selling single in history with over 22 million copies, and raised $80 million. At the 1986 Grammy Awards, the song won four awards. Despite being invited, Jackson was unable to attend Live Aid on July 13, 1985, as he was already busy with previous projects in the recording studio; We Are the World, sung by all participating artists, closed the Philadelphia concert.
In August, through his lawyer John Branca, Jackson purchased the ATV Music Publishing catalog for $47.5 million, which included the publishing rights to nearly 4,000 songs, including most of the Beatles’ material.
In 1986, Jackson struck a second advertising deal with Pepsi worth $50 million, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest personal sponsorship deal in history. The same year he starred in the 4D short film Captain EO, produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Just 17 minutes long, but costing between 17 and 30 million dollars, the film was made specifically by Disney as an attraction for its theme parks: Walt Disney World screened it at Epcot from September 12, 1986, Disneyland from September 18, 1986, Tokyo Disneyland from March 20, 1987, while Disneyland Paris would launch the attraction at its opening in April 1992. Captain EO has returned, for several periods of time, to all the Disneyland parks of the world after the untimely death of the artist.
On August 31, 1987, Bad was released, Jackson’s seventh solo album, third for Epic and last produced by Quincy Jones. Described by the press as “the most anticipated album ever”, Bad became the first album in history to debut at the top of the charts in 25 countries around the world, selling over 7 million copies in the first week of release. In the United States, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and remained in the Top 5 for 38 weeks, setting the record for a stay for an album.
Jackson wanted to perform the title track with Prince, however, the idea was discarded due to the Minneapolis rocker’s rejection. Ten singles were released from the album: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (duet with Siedah Garrett), Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror, Dirty Diana, Another Part of Me, Smooth Criminal, Leave Me Alone, Liberian Girl and Speed Demon; the top five finished at #1 on Billboard, setting a new Guinness record.
In the UK, Bad became the fastest-selling album ever, while seven singles entered the Top 10 of the Official Singles Chart, breaking the previous record held by Jackson himself. Bad was a huge commercial success, selling over 30 million copies in just a few years and becoming, at the time, the second best-selling album in the history behind Thriller. To date Bad has sold 45 million copies worldwide, 11 of them in the United States, and is the fifth best-selling album worldwide.
The video for the title track, set in a New York subway station, was shot by Martin Scorsese: with an 18-minute runtime and cost over $2 million, surpassed previous Thriller video records. The video also featured actor Wesley Snipes, then making his film debut, as Steven Spielberg, Dan Aykroyd, David Copperfield, Whoopi Goldberg, John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Lou Ferrigno, “Weird Al” Yankovic and other Hollywood celebrities they appeared in the video for Liberian Girl.
On September 12, 1987, the Bad World Tour, Jackson’s first solo tour, began in Tokyo; in Japan alone, all 14 initial concerts were sold out and recorded over 570,000 spectators, beating every previous Japanese record. At the end of May 1988 Jackson inaugurated the European tour in Italy, with two evenings at the Flaminio Stadium in Rome in front of 70,000 people, while on June 19 he performed in front of more than 60,000 fans in West Berlin, in the Reichstag square in front of the Berlin Wall; the Stasi, worried that the concert might gather thousands of GDR citizens at the border, considered it “one of the most threatening moments for the security of East Germany”.
In July Jackson performed 7 sold out concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium in front of over 504,000 spectators, setting a new Guinness Book of Records record for “the most successful concert series in history”; the total demand had been more than 2 million tickets, a figure such that at least 21 sold out concerts could be made. In the final leg of the European tour Jackson performed at the Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, in front of an audience of 225,000 people, the largest of his career, and the largest ever gathered by a foreign artist in the UK.
The tour ended in Los Angeles on January 27, 1989, with a total of 123 concerts in 15 countries, which recorded nearly 4.5 million viewers and grossed more than $125 million, making it the most successful tour in music history at the time. In 2019, the Bad World Tour was chosen by Vivid Seats and Consequence as the “best tour of all time” by a solo artist:
|“The Bad World Tour was the moment when Jackson conquered the world and truly became the King of Pop. It proved that a pop star could surpass the hottest bands on the planet and that a concert could be an elaborate theatrical production on a scale never seen before. Jackson set attendance and box office records while performing 123 times in 15 countries; his unique combination of distinctive singing, otherworldly dance and inimitable style made him a top-notch pop culture icon from then on.”|
In February 1988, Jackson published his autobiography Moonwalk. The book became the best seller of the year, with over 450,000 copies sold in a few days. On March 2, Jackson participated in the 1988 Grammy Awards where Bad received 5 nominations including Album of the Year, but only won the award for Best Engineered Recording.
On the night Jackson did not collect awards, but stole the show from every other artist present by performing a historic performance, considered one of the best in Grammy history, with The Way You Make Me Feel and Man in the Mirror, where he was accompanied by a gospel choir. A few days later the singer received two honorary degrees in Humanities, one from Fisk University and one from the United Negro College Fund; by 1985, he had donated over $450,000 to the foundation, granting scholarships to more than 130 young African Americans.
A short time later the singer bought for 17 million dollars the Neverland Ranch, which would be his official residence until 2005.
On September 7, Jackson received the MTV Video Vanguard Award for the following reason:
|“Michael Jackson changed the music video from a mere promotional tool in which artists played and sang, to a real work of art with a plot. His video or, as Jackson wanted to define, “short film”, “Thriller” influenced and changed the music video into what it is today.”|
In October, Moonwalker was released. The film was screened in several countries around the world, including Italy and grossed 67 million dollars, while in the United States it was released exclusively on home video in January 1989.
It topped the charts for 22 weeks, and sold over 800,000 copies in four months, surpassing The Making of Thriller and becoming the best-selling VHS ever in the country. The film was shot at the music video for Smooth Criminal, another video that became famous for its gangster setting, elaborate choreography and special effects including the scene in which Jackson and his dancers leaned forward at 45 degrees, defying the force of gravity. The step, called “45 Degree Lean” or even “antigravity lean”, and the technique to achieve it, were then patented by the artist. In 1989 Jackson became the first artist to earn more than $100 million in a year, earning $125 million solely from selling albums and singles, and the first Western person to appear on Soviet Union state television, where about 150 million people saw his Pepsi commercials.
In January, at the American Music Awards, Jackson received a new award in his honor for ”his pioneering contribution and efforts in the field of music video,” as well as Bad’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for Firsts, which became the world’s best-selling album for the third consecutive year, while in April he was first awarded the title of “King of Pop” at the Soul Train Awards, where Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Murphy presented him with 4 awards including the Award for Entertainer of the Year calling him “the true King of pop, rock and soul”.
In April 1990, he was received for the second time at the White House, where President George Bush Sr. awarded him the Artist of the Decade award: by the end of the 80s, Jackson had sold over 110 million copies with three albums, two of which had become the best-selling ever, and had had more number one singles than any other artist during the decade; Vanity Fair magazine called him “the most popular artist in the history of show business”. At the 1990 Grammy Awards, he received the award for best video of the year for Leave Me Alone, also becoming the artist with the most Grammys won in the 80s, 11.
The same year he became a testimonial for the LA Gear for which he also appeared in some commercials.
After the promotion of Bad, Jackson planned to release Decade, a Greatest Hits album that was supposed to contain his greatest hits to date, and to devote himself primarily to a film career; The singer was approached by Steven Spielberg, with whom he had previously worked on the E.T. Storybook, to play the role of Peter Pan in Hook; both projects were however abandoned.
In March 1991, Jackson signed with Sony Music the most lucrative contract in music history, worth $900 million, touted by the media of the time as “the billion-dollar contract”.
On November 26, Dangerous was released, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 and 10 other countries, selling over 40 million copies globally, 8 of them in the United States, by virtue of which it became the most successful new jack swing album of all time.
The album’s launch single, “Black or White“, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in three weeks, making it the fastest song to top the charts since 1969, staying there for seven consecutive weeks and making Jackson the first artist in history to have number one songs on Billboard in three different decades and the first American artist to debut directly at number one in the UK since 1960, equaling Elvis Presley’s record.
The video for the song, which was 11 minutes long and cost $4 million, was filmed again by John Landis, with the participation of actor Macaulay Culkin and model Tyra Banks; the TV debut on November 14, 1991, was watched by over 500 million viewers, making it the music video with the largest audience. always, with a new record in Guinness. On November 27, Jackson performed in the TV special for the 10th anniversary of MTV’s in Black or White, accompanied by Slash of Guns N’ Roses, and In Will You Be There, accompanied by a gospel choir. Beginning that year, the MTV Video Vanguard Award was renamed the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, in honor of his contributions to music video culture.
In January 1992, the second single Remember the Time was released, accompanied by its video clip set in Ancient Egypt; costing 2 million dollars and shot by John Singleton, it featured actor Eddie Murphy, model and actress Iman and NBA player Magic Johnson. This was followed by That of In the Closet filmed by Herb Ritts, where Jackson dueted and danced with the model Naomi Campbell (on the album the voice was instead that of Princess Stephanie of Monaco) and that of Jam, in which appeared the basketball player Michael Jordan who played and danced with Jackson, while in that of Give In to Me featured Slash, Gilby Clarke and Teddy Andreadis, then members of Guns N’ Roses.
The video for Gone Too Soon included images of the singer in the company of Ryan White, a young student who became one of the symbols of the fight against HIV/AIDS and died in 1990, with whom Jackson had formed a great friendship. Proceeds from the single were donated to charity to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Three more tracks, “Who Is It“, “Heal the World” and “Will You Be There” were released from Dangerous, for a total of nine singles; seven of them entered the UK Top 10, equaling the record set by Bad.
In February, Jackson traveled to Africa to visit Gabon, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Egypt, in what he called “a homecoming”. Over 100,000 people welcomed him at Libreville airport, and Gabon President Omar Bongo awarded him the Medal of Honor, an honor hitherto reserved for heads of state, while in Côte d’Ivoire he was crowned “King” of the Sanwi” by the chief of the tribe, complete with a coronation ceremony.
On June 18, Dancing the Dream, a collection of poems, reflections and short stories written by the singer, was published in the United States. On June 24, at a press conference at London’s Heathrow Airport, Jackson introduced the Heal the World Foundation; inspired by the song of the same name, it was intended to help those most in need, especially children in war-stricken areas and the terminally ill. Through the foundation, Jackson immediately sent millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Bosnia affected by the civil war.
On June 27, the promotional tour for the album, the Dangerous World Tour, began in Munich, which became one of the greatest shows in the history of music. The final date of the European tour, held in Bucharest on October 1 in front of 90,000 fans, and broadcast live on HBO, was followed by over 250 million viewers, the largest audience in the history of cable television.
The TV rights were purchased by HBO for $20 million, the highest amount ever paid for a concert. The tour ended on November 11, 1993, in Mexico City, recording 4 million viewers and $136 million in receipts for 69 concerts in 26 countries. All proceeds from the tour were donated to charity through the Heal the World Foundation. By the end of 1992, Dangerous and Black or White had become the best-selling album and single of the year in the world, winning two awards at the Billboard Awards; Jackson also won an honorary award as “best-selling artist of the 80s”.
On January 17, 1993, Jackson attended the first inaugural ceremony of Bill Clinton’s presidency, performing in We Are the World at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., accompanied by other artists. Two days later he performed at the 42nd Presidential Gala, calling on the Clinton administration to invest more money in support of charities and HIV/AIDS research. Jackson performed Gone Too Soon, dedicating it to Ryan White, and Heal the World, receiving a standing ovation.
On January 24, the singer launched the Heal L.A. charitable foundation. together with former President Jimmy Carter, aimed at preventing drug use and managing medical and educational services for young people in the most disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles. The following day, at the American Music Awards, he won three awards including the first International Artist Award, which would bear his name in the following years.
On January 31, Jackson performed an iconic performance, during the Halftime Show of Super Bowl XXVII, recording the record of American television ratings with over 133.4 million viewers in the United States alone. The performance was followed by over 1 billion and 300 million people in another 85 countries, earning Jackson a new Guinness Record for “the performance with the largest television audience ever”. The success of his performance thus began the NFL’s tradition of inviting the world’s greatest artists to perform at halftime of the final.
On February 10, he gave an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey that was broadcast live from the Neverland Ranch worldwide, recording over 100 million viewers and becoming the most watched interview in television history.
On February 24, at the Grammy Awards, he received the Grammy Legend Award presented to him by his sister Janet, becoming at 34 the youngest artist to receive the award. On May 12, at the World Music Awards in Munich, he received the awards for Best Selling Pop Artist, Best Selling American Artist and a specially created award in his honor as World’s Best Selling Artist of the Era, while a week later, at the Guinness World Record Museum in Los Angeles, he received the first and only Lifetime Achievement Award, a lifetime achievement award for his “unprecedented world records in show business” and he was certified 8 different world records.
On August 23, 1993, while in Bangkok, a day before the inaugural concert of the second part of the Dangerous World Tour, he was accused by a man named Evan Chandler of alleged sexual harassment of his son Jordan, then thirteen years old, later regulating the charges extra-judicially. Due to the affair Jackson was forced to interrupt the tour early and any promotion of the album Dangerous, including the participation in the soundtrack of the film The Addams Family 2, for which he had already composed a song (Is This Scary, later transformed into Is It Scary) and began to record some scenes of the video (later transformed into Ghosts).
On May 26, 1994, in Santo Domingo, he married Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Elvis Presley. On September 8, the couple appeared on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to open the evening, throwing into a kiss that captured the attention of the press, and became one of the most iconic moments in the history of the award. Will You Be There, the lead track of the film Free Willy, won an MTV Movie Award for Best Song.
HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor (1995-2000)
On June 16, 1995, the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future – Book I was released, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and 19 other countries. The first album, HIStory Begins, was a Greatest Hits album of 15 Jackson hits, while the second, HIStory Continues, contained 15 previously unreleased tracks. HIStory has sold 30 million copies (60 million units) worldwide to date, 8 of them in the United States, figures making it the best-selling double album of all time.
The first single from HIStory’s unreleased album was the double-sideD A Scream/Childhood, which debuted at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, at the time the highest debut in chart history. Scream was a duet between Michael and his younger sister, Janet Jackson; the video for the song, shot in black and white and set in a spaceship, made its debut on ABC in front of 64 million viewers, winning a Grammy for Best Video the following year, and entering the Guinness to be the most expensive video clip in history, with over 7 million dollars invested.
The second single, “You Are Not Alone“, broke the record of its predecessor, becoming the first song in music history to enter directly at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was in turn included in Guinness. Later followed by Earth Song, a dramatic appeal for the preservation of the planet, which reached the top of the Official Singles Chart for six consecutive weeks and became Jackson’s most successful single in the UK, with over a million copies sold in the country.
The next single was “They Don’t Care About Us“, the lyrics of which created some controversy and whose two different videos were shot by Spike Lee, one of them in the Brazilian favelas, followed by the ballad Stranger in Moscow, while the last was the title track HIStory, released as a double A-side along with Ghosts in 1997. All six singles entered the Top 5 of the Official Singles Chart, making Jackson the first artist in history to have 6 singles from the same album in the top five positions in the UK; he also became the only artist to have placed 4th more singles in the Top 10 from 5 consecutive albums.
On September 7, he was honored with his sister Janet at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards for the video for Scream with the awards for Best Dance Video, Best Choreography and Best Art Direction against 11 nominations, record for a music video; Jackson opened the evening by performing a medley of old and new hits, accompanied by Slash. The performance was voted the best in the award’s history, winning MTV VMA’s Best Performance of All Time, Most Iconic VMA Performance and Best VMA Pop Performance awards.
In November Jackson performed on Europe’s largest television show, the German show Wetten Dass?, recording the highest ratings in the program’s history. At the end of the same month, he merged his music catalog with that of Sony, creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing; the singer earned between $95 million and $110 million from the deal and retained ownership of half of the company.
On December 6, Jackson collapsed on stage at the Beacon Theater in New York during rehearsals for a concert event for HBO, titled One Night Only, due to severe dehydration and extremely low blood pressure. According to the doctors who rescued him, Jackson was “15 minutes away from death.” While still hospitalized, his wife Lisa Marie Presley informed him that she had filed for divorce, which took place in January 1996.
In February, Jackson participated in the 1996 Brit Awards, performing earth song and sparking some controversy and the break-in on stage of Jarvis Cocker, singer of Pulp. After the performance, Jackson received a special Brit Award for Artist of a Generation. The prize was presented to him by Sir Bob Geldof, who presented it with these words:
|“He is probably the most famous person on the planet, may God help him. He has sold more records than anyone else on the planet, and has written some of the most glorious songs in pop music. When he sings, he does it with the voice of an angel. When his feet move, it seems to see God dancing.”|
In May, he performed Earth Song again at the World Music Awards in Munich, and set a new record for victories, receiving 5 awards: Best Selling Album Of All Time for Thriller, Best Selling Artist of 1996, Best Selling R&B Artist, Best Selling American Artist and Best Selling Artist Ever.
On July 16, 1996, Jackson was invited to perform in the Sultanate of Brunei by Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah, at the time the richest man in the world, on the occasion of the celebrations for his 50th birthday. The concert, with free admission, was performed in the presence of the royal family and an audience of 60,000 people. The sultan paid about $17 million for Jackson to perform on his birthday, the highest amount ever paid for a private concert. On the return journey Jackson stopped in South Africa, to meet Nelson Mandela; speaking with the singer, the South African president stated: “I can see who the world leader is. I’ve never seen so many journalists.”
The HIStory World Tour, the tour in support of the album, began on September 7, 1996, in Prague, in front of 150,000 people, ending on October 15, 1997, in Durban, in the presence of President Mandela. The tour included 82 concerts in 35 countries, totaling over 4.5 million viewers, and $165 million in box office, results that made it the most successful tour of Jackson’s career and, at the time, also in the history of music, beating the previous records of his own Bad World Tour. On November 14, 1996, during the Australian leg of the tour, the singer married for the second time, this time to his friend and former nurse Deborah Jeanne Rowe, in an impromptu ceremony at the hotel where they were staying in Sydney. On February 13, 1997, their eldest son, Prince Michael, was born.
On May 6 in Cleveland, Jackson and his brothers were inducted, as members of the Jackson 5, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson became, at just 38 years old, the youngest artist ever introduced. On May 20, an album of new material was released accompanied by remixes of singles from HIStory entitled Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, to date the best-selling remix album in history, with over 7 million copies sold.
The singles Ghosts and Is It Scary were part of a short film written by the singer and Stephen King entitled Michael Jackson’s Ghosts. Directed by Stan Winston, it boasted remarkable special effects and new choreography, and lasted more than 39 minutes, a record for a music video, included in Guinness; some music critics referred to the video as “the new Thriller“. The project cost $15 million, paid in full by Jackson. In May Jackson and Stan Winston presented the short film out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. At the end of the same year a popular poll and the Guinness Book of Records declared Jackson “the most famous man on the planet”.
In 1998, he devoted himself mainly to business, seeking partners and funds for the construction of an amusement park inspired by his favorite character, Peter Pan, called Peter Pan’s Neverland, and a chain of toy stores called Wonderworld of Toys, both in Japan; other floors included a second theme park with casinos in Detroit, called Thriller Theme Park, and another casino in southern Africa. The projects remained unfinished. On 3 April, his second daughter, Paris Katherine, was born. In May, Jackson attended the Southern African Economic Summit in Windhoek, Namibia, where he joined African leaders in a call for debt cancellation, and called for greater attention to the plight of poorer children.
On June 25 and 27, 1999, he organized two benefit concerts in Seoul and Munich, called Michael Jackson & Friends. The concerts, which were attended by a number of international artists along with Jackson, were broadcast live in the two countries and raised funds for the victims of the Kosovo War, the Nelson Mandela Children Foundation, the Red Cross and UNESCO. During the Munich show, Jackson was involved in a serious accident on stage: the singer was performing on a structure suspended several meters high, when due to a technical failure, he gave in and fell into a dive, crashing on stage with the singer still above.
Jackson insisted on ending the show as planned, but when he arrived behind the scenes he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. Due to the accident, Jackson would suffer from constant back pain for the rest of his life. On October 8, Jackson divorced Debbie Rowe, who left him custody of their two children. The same year he was listed with his sister Janet in the Guinness Book, for being the “most successful brothers in the history of music”, while the RIAA recognized him as “the best-selling pop and R&B artist of the century”.
At the 2000 World Music Awards in Monte Carlo, Prince Albert of Monaco presented him with the award for “Best Male Artist of the Millennium” for being “the best-selling male solo artist of all time”. That year Guinness recognized him as “the show person who had donated to charity and supported more charities than anyone else.”
Invincible and Number Ones (2001-2005)
On 6 March 2001, Jackson gave a humanitarian speech at the University of Oxford, where he was also awarded an honorary degree in Humanities and Pedagogy. On March 19, in New York, he attended his induction ceremony as a solo artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was inducted by the band Nsync, but was unable to perform due to a sprained ankle. Jackson not only became one of the few artists to be named for the second time, but at 42 he was also the youngest solo artist ever introduced.
On September 7 and 10, Jackson organized two special concerts event at Madison Square Garden in New York to celebrate his thirty years of solo career, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration – The Solo Years where, in addition to Jackson himself and a reunion with his brothers, countless other stars of music and film performed.
Tickets for the two concerts were among the most expensive ever; Jackson earned $7.5 million for each of the two nights, over $150,000 per minute. The event was broadcast on TV on November 13 of the same year by CBS and recorded the best ratings in the history of the network, becoming one of the most-watched TV specials in American history, with about 45 million viewers.
The morning after the second concert, Jackson was supposed to attend a meeting at the Twin Towers, but tired from the previous evening, he did not show up. Following the September 11 attacks, Jackson wrote a charity song in English and Spanish, What More Can I Give, which he recorded with 30 other internationally renowned artists, also organizing a benefit concert in tribute to the victims, United We Stand.
On October 30, 2001, Invincible was released, which debuted at #1 in the United States and 10 other countries, and has sold over 13 million copies worldwide to date. The first singles from the album were “You Rock My World“, which featured Chris Tucker, Michael Madsen and Marlon Brando, and “Cry“, while the song “Butterflies” was released only on radio.
Shortly before the release of Invincible, Jackson had informed Tommy Mottola, then president of Sony Music, that he had no intention of renewing the expiring contract with the record company: the abandonment of the singer would also have resulted in the loss of 50% of the Sony / ATV catalog, which at that time was worth more than a billion dollars.
In 2002, therefore, all singles, videos and further promotions for Invincible, in addition to the release of the single “What More Can I Give“, were canceled by Sony. According to the artist this would have been a retaliation for his decision to leave the label and to make the new album fail; a war ensued between Jackson and Sony with mutual accusations; his fan clubs organized protest demonstrations in front of Sony’s London and New York offices, in which the singer himself took part.
On January 9, 2002, at the American Music Awards he received the Artist of the Century award, for “his outstanding contributions to the world of music.” On February 21, her third child, Prince Michael II “Blanket”, was born through surrogacy. On April 24, Jackson performed at the Apollo Theater in New York, in a concert organized by former President Bill Clinton, to raise funds to encourage young people to vote. Jackson performed Dangerous, Black or White accompanied by Dave Navarro of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Heal the World, in what was the last official and complete performance of his career. The concert raised nearly $3 million.
In November 2002, Jackson arrived in Berlin to receive a Bambi Award for Pop Artist of the Millennium for being “the greatest living pop icon”, as well as for his humanitarian actions. Urged by thousands of his fans gathered under his hotel to show off his latest son Blanket, he decided to please them by briefly keeping the 9-month-old baby suspended off the balcony. This created several controversies among the media around the world who aired the images throughout the front pages of the news criticizing the artist. Shortly thereafter, Jackson sent a letter of apology for the Berlin incident in which he said it could never really endanger his son’s life.
In November 2003, Bad, Off the Wall and Thriller entered Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums, at numbers 202, 68 and 20 respectively.
The same month Jackson released a CD and DVD compilation of his most famous songs, Number Ones; in addition to all his singles reaching number one in the world, it also contained Break of Dawn from Invincible and the unreleased One More Chance. The album has sold more than 14 million copies.
On 19 November 2003, he was again charged with child molestation, undergoing a trial from which he was acquitted in full of all charges on 13 June 2005.
In November 2004, the Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection was published, containing several unpublished works; the same month Jackson was inducted by popular vote into the UK Hall of Fame, becoming one of the founding members as a “symbolic artist of the 80s”.
Financial difficulties, last performance at the World Music Awards, Thriller 25 and King of Pop (2006-2008)
After the trial, Jackson left the United States and in January 2006 settled with his children in Bahrain, a guest of Prince Abdu’llah, the second son of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
In February, Visionary: The Video Singles was released, containing 20 of his best-known singles accompanied by their respective videos. Thanks to the success of the collection, Jackson managed to place 19 singles in the UK Top 40 in 2006, breaking the previous 1955 record of 5 singles and achieving a new Guinness record, while in Spain 16 singles reached number one and the last 4 numbered second; several tracks achieved a much higher position than the original one.
On March 9, representatives of the California government ordered the closure of the Neverland Ranch due to some debts and unpaid salaries. Seven days later it was announced that the singer had shut down Neverland and fired some of his employees.
In April, he struck a deal with Sony and Fortress Investments: under the pact, Sony and Jackson would share an equal stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Left without a recording contract, the singer signed a contract with Two Seas Records, also announcing the founding of the Michael Jackson Company, Inc. to replace MJJ Productions.
In September the singer dissolved his collaboration with the new record company, because the contract had never been finalized, thus suspending the release of his charity single in favor of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, From the Bottom of My Heart. Around the same time Jackson moved with his children to Ireland, going to live incognito in County Westmeath. At Christmas of the same year, they returned to the United States, residing in Las Vegas for the next two years.
On 15 November 2006, Jackson was a guest of honor at the World Music Awards at the Earls Court Arena in London. There he received the Diamond Award from Beyonce, for selling more than 750 million copies with his albums, while Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of the Guinness Book of Records, gave him a special prize for Thriller and called him “undoubtedly the most famous living human being”. The journalist Charles Thomson, present at the event, described the reaction of the audience:
|“When Michael Jackson finally appeared to receive the Diamond Award, the place exploded. I saw Paul McCartney. I saw Madonna. I saw Prince. I saw George Michael. I have never seen in my life, neither before nor after that – another artist provokes the response that Michael Jackson elicited that evening – the most thunderous and prolonged I have ever seen. |
Usually, the artists are highly acclaimed when they enter the stage, then the audience calms down. Michael Jackson provoked hysteria, screams and tears. There was not a moment of calm from the moment he appeared on stage until he disappeared again behind the scenes. I have never seen a human being cause such chaos – it was deafening. For the duration of his speeches, I could barely hear a word of what he said. I saw bodies lifted by the crowd and rushed away in wheelchairs; it seemed to be at one of his concerts in the 80s. It was an unforgettable sight.”
After the award ceremony, Jackson performed briefly in We Are the World, accompanied by a boys’ choir. It was his last live performance in front of an audience.
During his stay in London, Jackson visited the headquarters of the Guinness Book of World Records, where he was recognized with 8 new world records, including those of “First artist to officially sell more than 100 million albums outside the United States” and “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time”.
In 2007, Jackson began work on a new studio album. The songs were recorded partly in Ireland and partly in Las Vegas, and Jackson collaborated with Chris Brown, Kanye West, Lenny Kravitz, Rodney Jerkins, Teddy Riley and Will.i.am, among others; Black frontman Eyed Peas called the album “an Off the Wall for the younger generation, with perfect pop songs”. The album’s release, scheduled for 2008, did not materialize.
On February 11, 2008, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the release of Thriller, a special reissue of the album was released with unreleased material, Thriller 25, which has sold over 5 million copies to date.
In May of the same year, Jackson sold a stake in the Neverland Ranch to Colony Capital. This company contacted AEG Live, a concert promoter, to talk about a concrete return of the singer to the scene. Colony Capital was intent on recouping the money spent on Neverland, so AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips contacted Dr. Tohme, at the time the singer’s manager, a businessman with a far from clear past.
On August 29, 2008, Jackson’s 50th birthday, a new collection entitled King of Pop was released, an anthology in which the fans themselves voted to decide which songs to be included, so the album came out with a different compilation for each country. King of Pop was not released in the United States but reached the Top 10 in 17 other countries, selling about 6 million copies. That year, the albums Off the Wall and Thriller were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, while Rolling Stone magazine placed Jackson at #25 on its list of the 100 Greatest Voices of All Time and #35 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The announcement of This Is It (2009)
|“These will be my final shows performances in London. I’ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it, this is really it, this is the final curtain call. I’ll see you in July!”|
On March 5, 2009, Jackson held a press conference at the O2 Arena in London, attended by over 2,000 fans and more than 350 journalists, which was broadcast live worldwide by major networks. Jackson announced his return to the stage with a residency show at the O2 Arena itself, which would begin on July 13, 2009, called This Is It, also stating that it would be his last live performances.
Ticket demand was so high that the 10 stages initially announced became 50, which sold out, postponing the tour’s end date to March 6, 2010. Over 750,000 tickets sold out in less than three hours, making it the fastest ticket sales in history. Sales of Jackson’s albums soared after the press conference. Overnight, sales of Off the Wall had increased by 200%, Bad by 110%, Dangerous by 165% and Thriller 25 by 155%.
To accompany the announcement of the residency there was the publication of Michael Jackson The Collection, released on June 20, 2009, a box set containing the 5 most important albums of his solo career at Epic / Sony Music: Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and Invincible. Curiously, they were absent from the HIStory and Blood On The Dance Floor compilation.
Jackson rehearsed concerts at the Staples Center in Los Angeles under the direction of Kenny Ortega, with whom he had worked during his previous tours.
2009: Sudden Death
On June 25, 2009, 18 days before the start of the London concerts, while in a rented villa in Holmby Hills in Los Angeles, Jackson died of cardiac arrest following acute intoxication with propofol, a powerful anesthetic administered to him by a doctor under contract with AEG, the company producing the London concerts, Conrad Murray. In recent years the singer suffered from chronic insomnia and some doctors gave him this anesthetic to try in a fallacious way to make him rest, since anesthetics do not induce sleep, as stated by some witnesses at the trial that followed. (Dispute: propofol is a hypno inducer and not an anesthetic, used under anesthesia to put the patient to sleep, so this last sentence is wrong).
Michael Jackson’s death has been called “the biggest media event ever” and many websites crashed under the weight of ongoing research into the artist. The public funeral ceremony held on July 7 at the Staples Center was attended by an estimated audience of between 2.5 and 3 billion people worldwide, making it the most-watched television broadcast and streaming-online event in history.
On September 3, a private funeral ceremony was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, the cemetery of the celebrities, where Jackson’s body was buried.
Sales of his albums exceeded 8 million copies in the United States and over 30 in the rest of the world, making Jackson the best-selling artist of 2009.
On October 28, Sony released a documentary film containing footage of rehearsals for the London concerts, Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Despite the limited number of two weeks (but the deadline was extended in several countries due to the extraordinary turnout), it became the highest-grossing film for a documentary or concert film, grossing over $261 million worldwide.
Jackson’s inheritance (about $1 billion with about $500 million in debt) went to his mother Katherine, three children, and charities. Nothing to the father, because of the disagreements between the two.
Posthumous publications about Michael Jackson
In 2011, Sony signed a $250 million contract with attorney John Branca and music impresario John McClain, administrators of the singer’s assets. This agreement, described as the second most lucrative in the history of music (after that of Jackson himself with Sony in 1991), provided for the distribution until 2017 of at least 10 new projects related to Jackson including the publication of unreleased songs, films and video games.
That contract was renewed in December 2017. As part of the deal, Sony will collaborate on additional projects that the Michael Jackson Estate could produce. While the terms of the agreement, including its assessment, have not been revealed, some sources say it is extended for another seven years. Although the additional projects have not been stated, they also appear to include the additional posthumous albums implicated in the original 10-album contract. This agreement has been criticized by some supporters and family members of the artist, since Jackson in life did not want to have anything more to do with Sony Music, after what happened with Invincible.
Single, album and documentary inspired by This Is It (2009)
On October 12, 2009, almost four months after the singer’s death, an unreleased single was released on the radio that took the name of the same tour that Jackson was supposed to undertake in July, namely This Is It. The song actually dates back to the 1980s. On October 26, The Music That Inspired The Movie: Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released, containing the songs that would be performed during the tour, plus the new song This Is It, three demos and the poem Planet Earth, recited by Jackson himself.
Michael and Xscape(2010-2014)
The singer’s first posthumous album, titled Michael, was released on December 10, 2010. It consisted of ten unreleased tracks recorded by Jackson at different times in his career. The album’s first single was “Hold My Hand”, written and sung as a duet with Akon.
The song quickly climbed the charts of 13 countries and reached the fourth position of the most downloaded singles of the year. Despite the success of the launch single, the album did not achieve the success hoped for by Sony; the failure was mainly due to the boycott of this posthumous work by many fans of the artist who accused the record company of speculating on his death and of having published in the album three songs sung by an imitator and not from Jackson. Many family members and friends of the artist also questioned the authenticity of some of the songs.
The second posthumous album, Xscape, was released on May 14, 2014. The release of the album was anticipated by the single Love Never Felt So Good, in duet with Justin Timberlake, which entered the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, making Jackson the only artist in history to enter it in five different decades. The album was a worldwide success, ranking in the Top 5 of 14 countries and selling over three million copies in the first two months. This was followed by the singles “A Place with No Name and “Slave to the Rhythm“, presented via a “hologram” by Jackson during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, where Xscape was nominated for “Best R&B Album of the Year”.
Immortal, Bad 25 and Off The Wall reissue (2011-2016)
On November 21, 2011, the compilation Immortal was released, Michael Jackson soundtrack: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil, a tribute tour to Jackson in the world’s largest arenas, which began on October 2, 2011, in Montreal and ended on August 31, 2014 in Guadalajara. The tour became the most profitable production in Cirque du Soleil’s history and one of the ten most successful music tours in history, with over $371 million in box office receipts and an audience of over 3.7 million viewers on 501 dates.
On September 18, 2012, Bad 25 was released, marking the 25th anniversary of the album Bad. In addition to the reissue of the album, a DVD was released containing Jackson’s concert at Wembley Stadium in London on 16 July 1988 during the Bad World Tour. Director Spike Lee, Jackson’s friend and former collaborator, also made Bad 25, a documentary about the creation of the album.
On February 26, 2016, the album Off the Wall was re-released as a special edition, along with a documentary made again by Spike Lee, entitled Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall.
3D Thriller, Scream, MJ the Musical and other activities (2017-ongoing)
On September 4, 2017, at the 74th edition of the Venice Film Festival, John Landis presented the video of Thriller restored and reproduced in 3D, accompanied by the documentary Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
On September 29, Scream, a compilation consisting of 13 songs by Jackson on the Halloween theme, was released. The CD also contains a poster that gives access to an AR (augmented reality) experience via the Shazam application that can be downloaded on smartphones. Also, on the occasion of the Halloween party, on October 27 the CBS television network aired a computer graphics cartoon film called Michael Jackson’s Halloween, inspired by the singer.
On July 6, 2018, Drake’s single Don’t Matter to Me was released, containing some samples from an unreleased Jackson song. On August 29 of the same year, however, to celebrate the artist’s 60th birthday, a mash-up of various Jackson songs by Mark Ronson entitled Michael Jackson X Mark Ronson: Diamonds Are Invincible was released.
In 2020, a Broadway musical was announced, directed by Christopher Wheeldon starring Ephraim Sykes (later replaced by Myles Frost) as Jackson, which chronicles the singer’s life and career and is titled MJ the Musical. The first date was initially scheduled for 6 July 2020 but was later postponed to 6 December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Jackson’s personal life
Michael Jackson was married twice: his first marriage was to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s only daughter, in May 1994, from which he divorced in January 1996. The two returned to dating between 1997 and 1999.
In November 1996, he remarried, this time to a nurse named Deborah Jeanne Rowe, commonly known as Debbie. The couple divorced in 1999 and the two remained on good terms. His wife left him custody of the children.
Michael Jackson has three children: the eldest son Prince Michael Jackson was born on February 13, 1997; about a year later, on April 3, 1998, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson was born; Jackson had both children with Deborah Rowe. On February 21, 2002, she had her third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, whom he nicknamed Blanket, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Jackson never declared the identity of the surrogate mother.
His first girlfriend was actress Tatum O’Neal and, over the years, he has also been credited with flirting with singers Diana Ross and Whitney Houston, with model and actress Brooke Shields, and, despite the age difference, with actress Liz Taylor, who was actually simply the singer’s best friend.
As for Diana Ross, Jackson himself stated in his autobiography that he had a platonic love for the singer since he was a child. In addition, in his will, the artist arranged for Diana Ross to become guardian of his children, in case her mother Katherine passed away.
Jackson has also been credited with the paternity of his other alleged children; the most famous of these is Omer Bhatti, actually of a Pakistani father and Norwegian mother, a close family friend and protégé of Jackson, who attended the funeral sitting next to the artist’s family.
Charity, activism and animalism
Jackson was also an activist and philanthropist. He entered the Guinness Book of Records as the artist who has supported multiple charities and is estimated to have donated over $400 million to charity. He has also received many other humanitarian awards, including two honorary degrees in Humanities from Fisk University and the United Negro College Fund in 1988, and an honorary degree in Humanities and Pedagogy from the University of Oxford in 2001.
In 1984, after suffering third-degree burns while filming a Pepsi commercial, the singer decided not to sue and donated his compensation, estimated at around $1.5 million, to Brotman Medical Center in Culver City demanding that a burn center be created that was named Michael Jackson Burn Center in honor of the singer’s donation.
That same year he donated all of his personal earnings from the Victory Tour, over $5 million, to charity. In 1986, Jackson donated $1.5 million to establish Michael Jackson Scholarships at the United Negro College Fund, helping hundreds of students attend college. Thanks to this, in 1988 the UNCF awarded the artist during their 44th annual gala with the highest honor, the Fredrick D. Patterson Award.
During the 80s, the artist continued to give donations to many charities including UNESCO, the NAACP, the Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. On 16 July 1988, before a concert at Wembley Stadium, Jackson met the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Diana Spencer and handed them a £150,000 cheque for The Prince’s Trust and a £100,000 cheque for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
In 1992, he founded the Heal the World Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, hunger, violence, disease and pollution around the world; the entire proceeds of the Dangerous World Tour were donated to the foundation. Numerous activities: donations of supplies and gift packages for the children of Sarajevo affected by the war, distribution of vaccines, distribution of thousands of dollars in toys, food and food in various hospitals, financing for a liver transplant to a Hungarian child. In Italy, we remember the donation made by the association to the Partita del Cuore of the National Singers. Many donations remain unknown.
In 1993, he co-founded Heal L.A. with former President Jimmy Carter, an association aimed at preventing drug use and managing medical and educational services for young people in the most disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles.
In 1999, he organized two benefit concerts, Michael Jackson & Friends, to raise funds for victims of the Kosovo War, the Red Cross, the Nelson Mandela Children Foundation and UNESCO.
In 2001, with the help of Rabbi and writer Shmuley Boteach, he founded Heal the Kids, an association that aimed to help children in need and their families. In October of the same year he organized the United We Stand benefit concert, for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
Jackson also wrote some pieces whose proceeds went to charity; We Are the World in 1985 for the hungry people of East Africa, Heal the World in 1991 and Earth Song in 1995, whose profits went to the Heal the World Foundation, and What More Can I Give in 2001 for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
Other charitable projects remained unfinished, such as the songs From the Bottom of My Heart, written to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and I Have This Dream, or the charity Go For Your Dreams created in 2003 and whose project was abandoned upon the arrival of new harassment allegations.
In his will, he also left an unspecified sum of money in favor of various charities.
Jackson was also an animal rights activist. In 1983, he saved a dozen monkeys from experiments. One of these, Bubbles, went to live with him in the villa of Encino first and in Neverland later, along with dozens of other animals. He also won two Genesis Awards for his efforts to raise awareness of animal issues, in 1988 for the video for Man in the Mirror and in 1996 for the video for Earth Song, respectively.
Health problems of Michael Jackson
The autopsy performed at the disappearance of the singer definitively confirmed that Jackson suffered from vitiligo, a disease that causes the loss of skin color, making the epidermis of the individual lighter and that came to almost destroy his pigmentation completely. Being bleached in most of the body, from 1984 Jackson underwent some skin-uniforming therapies (depigmentation by monobenzone or hydroquinone) with his trusted dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein. Jackson also suffered from systemic or possibly discoid lupus erythematosus.
These pathologies cause high photosensitivity to sunlight (to protect himself from the sun’s rays he often went around with an umbrella, sunglasses, gloves and surgical mask) and skin damage (in particular lupus), especially to the face, as well as alopecia.
The other diseases that were attributed to him have always been denied. In addition, the second and third-degree burns to the scalp, suffered during the accident on the set of the Pepsi commercial, caused him pains that afflicted him throughout his life leading him to have to use painkillers for a long time, becoming addicted to them for many years, and undergoing surgeries such as tissue expansion of the scalp.
In 1999 he had an accident on stage while performing Earth Song over a bridge-like structure, raised several meters above the ground, which quickly crashed and caused back problems that would last for the rest of his life. During the tours and trial, Jackson also suffered from stress and insomnia. It was precisely to try to cure insomnia, which had become chronic, that he agreed to be given several benzodiazepines and propofol, the anesthetic that caused his death in 2009.
First scandals about Michael Jackson
Beginning in 1983, soon after the success of Thriller, many rumors and gossip began to circulate regarding Jackson’s private life; among the first were those according to which the singer was taking hormones to maintain his high voice, that he had undergone castration and that he was undergoing a sex change operation: the latter entry began to circulate as early as 1977. In 1985, Jackson won at an auction to ATV Music Publishing which held the publishing rights to about 250 Beatles songs; days earlier, Paul McCartney had unsuccessfully asked Yōko Ono to join forces to buy it.
According to newspapers, this compromised his friendship with Paul McCartney, while Jackson wrote in his autobiographical book Moonwalk that it was McCartney himself who gave him the idea. Sometime later the rumor spread that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber and that he had tried to buy the skeleton of Joseph Merrick, the elephant man, news always denied by the artist.
The news, apparently, had been spread by his then manager, Frank Di Leo, who was then fired at the end of Bad’s promotion. Around the same time, Jackson began filling his Encino mansion with exotic animals and mannequins that, as the singer himself told Rolling Stone magazine, helped him fight loneliness.
These rumors caused quite a stir in the mass media of the time, and the British tabloids gave him the nickname “Wacko Jacko” (Jack the Mad), soon detested by the singer.
Jackson’s skin color, black for the entire duration of his youth, began to lighten from year to year, starting in the early 80s and in 1986 he was diagnosed with a rare and acute form of vitiligo but Jackson did not declare it publicly until 1993, during the famous interview with Oprah, and for this reason the media of the time criticized Jackson for the alleged desire to “whiten” his skin by creating this urban legend that will accompany him throughout his life. Rolling Stone magazine at the time branded many of these scandals as “publicity stunts”:
|“Like everything else in Michael’s Wonderful World, it’s also part of his marketing approach. It is a packaged enigma. The calculated exploitation of Michael’s eccentricities is a cunning move that has helped him stay on the front pages without any new products.”|
|(Rolling Stone, 1987)|
|Allegations of plagiarism|
|Michael Jackson was accused of plagiarism by some artists, including singer Al Bano in 1992: the Italian singer believed that the 1991 song Will You Be There was a plagiarism of I cigni di Balaka, a song by Al Bano and Romina Power from 1987. Initially, the experts agreed with Al Bano but finally established that both singers were inspired by an Indian folk song, not protected by copyright (Bless You for Being an Angel). Another song accused of plagiarism was “You Are Not Alone“, written by R. Kelly. The song was accused of being copied from 1993’s If We Can Start All Over by Belgian brothers Eddy and Danny Van Passel.|
The 1993 accusations
On August 23, 1993, while Jackson was in Bangkok for a leg of the Dangerous World Tour, he was accused for the first time of sexual harassment of a minor: Evan Chandler, a dentist from Beverly Hills, accused him of sexual abuse of his son Jordan (called Jordie or Jordy), then thirteen years old. Chandler formalized the charge in civil and not criminal proceedings, with the aim of obtaining monetary compensation from Jackson.
Following the allegations, Pepsi-Cola, the singer’s sponsor at the time, terminated the contract due to the negative media impact that had overwhelmed Jackson’s image, who was forced to cancel half of the dates of the Dangerous World Tour and then suspend it altogether. A few days after the tour ended, Jackson admitted that he had become addicted to painkillers and decided to go to a rehabilitation clinic.
On December 22, Jackson responded via satellite from Neverland declaring himself “totally innocent.” On January 25, 1994, the accuser was paid an unspecified sum of money, estimated at around $20 million. Jackson’s lawyers had to come to an agreement because revealing the defense at the court hearing would have prejudiced a possible criminal trial.
The singer did not sue Chandler for extortion, but demanded that his total extraneousness to the facts for which he was accused be put in black and white in the document that was later filed in court. The out-of-court resolution of the civil case in no way prevented the family from proceeding with a further criminal case.
Only later did we learn of phone calls proving Jackson’s innocence: in them Evan Chandler spoke with his lawyer saying that he wanted to destroy his wife, a friend of the singer, and Jackson himself because he had not lent him money, also declaring that he did not care about the impact that this action could have on his son. In the following years, Jordan Chandler himself sued his father for attempted murder, even obtaining a restraining order against him in 2005 after refusing to testify against Jackson in the trial that saw him involved at the time.
According to some rumors never confirmed and according to the testimonies reported in the 2019 documentary, Square One, the boy himself would have admitted to some university friends, following the second accusation made against Jackson by the Arvizo family, that he had never suffered harassment from the artist, praising Jackson and stating that he never believed that the singer could ever harm a child. On November 5, 2009, five months after Jackson’s death, the boy’s father was found dead, after shooting himself with a gun in his New Jersey apartment.
The 2003 allegations about Michael Jackson and the trial
Beginning in May 2002, Michael Jackson allowed a television crew headed by British journalist Martin Bashir to follow him wherever he went. In February 2003, Living with Michael Jackson was aired: in one scene, Jackson was seen hand in hand with Gavin Arvizo, then thirteen-year-old cancer patient, in which the singer admitted to having shared with him the bedroom, but not the bed.
This caused some protests among Jackson’s detractors because of the previous allegations. Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir’s editing of the documentary and accused him of showing it in a distorted manner. This was also demonstrated during the trial that the singer had to undergo for child molestation, as the clips cut by Bashir were projected in the courtroom.
After the documentary aired, the Santa Barbara County Attorney’s Office began a criminal investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Child Protection Service (DCFS) came to the conclusion that the allegations of harassment were unfounded. The same conclusion was reached by the FBI, which had opened an investigation. Initially, the family of the young man involved in the documentary defended Jackson; he later told investigators that the singer had instead behaved improperly but, according to them, only after and not before the broadcast of the documentary, causing some doubt about the veracity of the accusations.
However, on November 19, 2003, while Jackson was in Las Vegas filming the video for the previously unreleased One More Chance, Santa Barbara police raided the Neverland Ranch and sent the singer an arrest warrant for alleged child sexual abuse. Jackson was arrested on seven counts of alleged child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in Arvizo.
The Trial of Michael Jackson began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted until the end of May 2005. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of all charges. During the proceedings, it was discovered that Janet Arvizo, Gavin’s mother, had already been sued in court for tax fraud against the state. There were numerous witnesses who showed how the woman had tried to extort money from the state, insurance companies and other famous people.
On November 15, 2001, the woman filed a request for access to the social assistance allowance, saying she had no source of income. Ten days earlier, however, the woman and her family had collected $ 152,000 from JC Penney, following a complaint for mistreatment initiated against the chain of department stores, during which Gavin Arvizo had already testified to the false under oath. After Jackson’s trial and acquittal, Janet Arvizo was tried and convicted of tax fraud.
Leaving Neverland (posthumous accusation)
In January 2019, the documentary Leaving Neverland directed by British director Dan Reed was presented at the Sundance Film Festival. In it Wade Robson, James Safechuck, and their families described their relationships with Jackson. Despite their past testimonies, in which they had claimed that Jackson was innocent, Safechuck and Robson retracted, accusing the singer of sexually abusing them when they were children; however, no material evidence was presented that Jackson had actually abused them. The alleged abuses allegedly took place at Jackson’s residence, the Neverland Ranch and his own in Century City, both California.
The documentary caused a sensation all over the world and many controversies between innocentists and guilty: it generated a negative wave, on the one hand against Jackson, on the other against the channels that had broadcast the documentary. This caused a re-examination of his artistic legacy and as a human being but also with a return of interest in him: many of his songs and albums fell into some charts of the world.
From the airing of the documentary many inconsistencies have emerged that would cast doubt on the veracity of the facts and the credibility of Jackson’s accusers.
Entrepreneur and record producer
Michael Jackson was an entrepreneur and record producer. In 1985 he purchased for $47.5 million the ATV Music Publishing catalog, comprising the publishing rights to nearly 4,000 songs, including most of the Beatles’ material, about 250 tracks. Ten years later, Sony Music paid Jackson an estimated $95 million to $110 million for half of the rights, forming a joint venture with the artist called Sony/ATV, of which Jackson held 50%.
Over the years the Sony/ATV catalog has expanded to include half a million songs including titles by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Eminem and other artists, to reach the value of over a billion dollars. In 2016, the owners of the Michael Jackson Estate sold Jackson’s 50% rights to Sony Music, which is now the sole owner of the catalog, for $750 million.
Jackson co-produced all of his adult solo albums, from Off the Wall in 1979 onwards, and in the early ’90s he founded his own record label, MJJ music, through which he co-produced all of his albums from 1991 onwards and the soundtracks for the 1993 films Free Willy and Free Willy 2. of 1995, in which he had collaborated. He also produced the debut album of the group formed by his nephews, 3T, entitled Brotherhood of 1995, of his sister Rebbie Jackson entitled Yours Faithfully and of the singer Tatyana Ali entitled Kiss the Sky, both of 1998.
Known primarily as a pop singer, Jackson, during his solo career, has been an interpreter of various musical styles. Initially inspired by the soul of Motown, he then cultivated other genres such as rhythm and blues, funk, dance, rock, new jack swing, contributing thanks to his works a contribution to the spread of black music among large slices of the public.
His eclectic approach to the various styles can already be seen from his first album as an adult, Off the Wall, produced by Quincy Jones, which ranges from funk and pop disco of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, Workin’ Day and Night and Get on the Floor, to soul, soft rock, jazz, rhythm and blues and ballads like She’s Out of My Life or Girlfriend.
With the album Thriller, also produced by Jones, Michael fine-tuned the musical insights of Off the Wall; the dance, rock and funk songs (Baby Be Mine, P.Y.T., Billie Jean, want to Be Startin’ Somethin’) were characterized by greater interpretative force, while pop songs and ballads (The Lady in My Life, Human Nature, The Girl Is Mine) were lighter and introspective. In Billie Jean Jackson sang about a fan who claimed to have had a child with him, while in Want to Start In Somethin’ he criticized media and gossip pressures.
The song Beat It, dedicated to street violence, was also one of the first rock/pop crossovers to climb the charts, while the title track Thriller was dedicated to the supernatural, a theme that would later characterize the songs of later times. In 1985, Jackson co-wrote, along with Lionel Richie for charity, the song We Are the World. From that date, the humanitarian themes would also be at the center of his texts and his artistic activity.
In Bad, the third and final album with Quincy Jones at the production, the musical blend of Thriller was revisited, but inserting songs that could better climb the pop charts individually. In Dirty Diana, another song contaminated by rock, Jackson imagined facing a “cursed” love; then there was the love ballad I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, while Man in the Mirror resumed the themes of altruism and charity already present in We Are the World; Smooth Criminal evoked a fictional episode of kidnapping and murder in noir style, a style already used by Jackson in the song Heartbreak Hotel of the album Triumph.
With the album Dangerous, released in 1991, Jackson managed to capture larger slices of the public, with songs mostly dedicated to social issues. The album’s early tracks are new jack swing songs, including Jam and Remember the Time. Why You Want to Trip on Me talks about problems such as world hunger, disease, poverty and drugs, while Black Or White rails against all forms of racism.
But there are also more daring songs such as In the Closet, a song dedicated to love, desire, loneliness and private life, while the song Dangerous re-addressed the theme of damned love already present in Dirty Diana. Other songs such as Will You Be There, Heal the World and Keep the Faith instead are closer to the gospel and are dedicated to both the humanitarian and personal problems of Jackson himself; Finally, Gone Too Soon is a ballad dedicated to a very young friend of the singer, Ryan White, a victim of AIDS. The album Dangerous reveals the incursions of rap and hip-hop music, whose popularity was growing.
The double album HIStory focuses on Jackson’s problems with audience and press and, according to Joe Vogel, an expert on Jackson’s work, the album packs a whirlwind of emotions, from the passionate anger of Scream to the vulnerability of Childhood.
With the new jack swing-funk-rock songs Scream, D.S, This Time Around and Tabloid Junkie and with the R&B ballad You Are Not Alone, Jackson criticizes the injustices and isolation that his success has brought him and takes particular issue with the media, as he had already done with the song Leave Me Alone; in the song They Don’t Care About Us, talks about the problems related to racism, violence and injustice; in the ballad Stranger in Moscow he talks about loneliness and the media personality into which he was transformed; the song Earth Song is a dramatic appeal to save the planet from destruction.
Other tracks include the ballads Childhood, which is about lost childhood, Little Susie, which is about the death of a little girl caused by loneliness, and Smile, a cover in homage to Michael’s idol, Charlie Chaplin. Music critic Joe Vogel defines the title track History as an epic and grandiose piece, where all the injustices and tragedies of life are amended and redeemed by the power of music.
In the remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, a collection containing five unreleased tracks and eight remixes, the pieces range from the themes of revenge, as in the title track, to drug addiction in Morphine and again to the distortion of Jackson’s image by the media, a theme also addressed in the video that accompanies Ghosts, a short film with which Jackson challenges the society that had labeled him a monster and eccentric. In the film, children are able to overcome appearances and labels much more quickly than adults who judge without knowing the truth.
The Invincible album contains soul tracks like Cry and The Lost Children, dance like You Rock My World, ballads like Speechless, Whatever Happens, Break of Dawn and Butterflies, and R&B tracks like Unbreakable, 2000 Watts, Threatened, Heartbreaker and Invincible, where you they mix hip hop, pop and rap.
Artistic heritage and cultural influence of Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson has been a source of inspiration and influence for numerous other international artists, including Adele, Madonna, Prince, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Jamiroquai, Lady Gaga, George Michael, Justin Timberlake, Rita Ora, Justin Bieber, Simply Red, The Weeknd, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, R.E.M. , Lene Marlin, Green Day, Anastacia, Usher, Maroon 5, Spike Lee, Alicia Keys, Wyclef Jean, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Jason Derulo, Omarion, Zac Efron, Ciara, Jaden Smith, BTS and of course Janet Jackson.
Ballet dancers such as Mikhail Barysnikov and Roberto Bolle have repeatedly praised Jackson and called him “inimitable” and “a point of reference also for classical dance”, while Fred Astaire repeatedly praised Jackson for his dance steps and called him “the greatest dancer of all time” and indicated him as his “moral heir”.
Videos of several of his songs, including those of Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller, have turned music videos into a form of short film and a promotional tool. Their popularity also led to the success of the MTV music network.
In 1984 Time music critic Jay Cocks wrote:
|“Jackson crosses all boundaries of taste, style and color. It’s the biggest and most important thing since the Beatles, the hottest solo phenomenon since Elvis Presley. And he’s the most popular black singer ever.”|
In the same year, New York Times music critic Jon Pareles praised Jackson by writing,
|“In the music world there’s Michael Jackson, and then there’s everything else”|
On July 13, 2009, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, Jon Pareles himself stated that:
|“Jackson was a suffering and creative genius, destined to leave an imprint even higher than that of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. His musical DNA is present in every style.”|
According to BET, Jackson:
|“He is simply the greatest entertainer of all time, he revolutionized music video by bringing dance steps like the moonwalk to the world. His sound, style, footsteps and artistic legacy continue to inspire artists of all genres.”|
Steve Huey of AllMusic described Jackson as:
|“An unstoppable colossus, possessing all the qualities to dominate the charts at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance steps, stunning musical versatility and a charge of stellar power.”|
In 2003 Tom Utley, music critic for the Daily Telegraph described him as “extremely important” and a “genius”.
In 2009 the Baltimore Sun published an article titled “7 Ways Michael Jackson Changed the World”. Author Jill Rosen wrote that:
|“Jackson’s legacy is as enduring as it is multifaceted, because it has influenced music, dance, fashion, video and the concept of fame.”|
On July 7, 2009, during Jackson’s funeral, Motown founder Berry Gordy proclaimed him “the greatest entertainer who ever lived”, while actress Queen Latifah called him “the greatest star on Earth.” Danyel Smith, editor of Vibe, also called Jackson “The Greatest Star.”
On June 25, 2009, the day of Jackson’s death, paleontologists discovered in Navarre the fossil of an unknown species of lobster, named “Mesoparapylocheles Michaeljacksoni” in honor of the singer. In July, the Lunar Republic Society, which promotes exploration on the Moon, named a crater “Michael Jackson.”
In May 2010, two U.S. librarians discovered that Jackson’s influence extended to undergraduate studies, with references to him in studies involving music, popular culture, chemistry, medicine, law, psychology, and engineering.
On December 19, 2014, the British Council of Cultural Relations called Jackson’s life “one of the 80 most important cultural moments of the 20th century.”
During his career Michael Jackson has been influenced by several artists, including Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Diana Ross, Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, The Beatles, David Ruffin, Bob Fosse, Marcel Marceau, Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson, Bee Gees, Queen, Judi Garland, Chuck Berry, America, Vincente Minnelli, Mavis Staples, and Stevie Wonder.
As reiterated several times, however, his greatest inspiration and idol was James Brown (who, in turn, considered Michael his heir). In 2003, during the BET Awards ceremony, Jackson had the opportunity to present Brown with the prestigious BET Lifetime Achievement Award, a special recognition intended for personalities who have changed the way of conceiving music, thus speaking of his idol:
|“I couldn’t refuse to give this award tonight because no one has influenced me more than this man by my side. Ever since I was a six-year-old, he was the one I looked to more than any other entertainer, and I still do today.”|
Michael Jackson had an absolute ear. He could sing bass, baritone and tenor, but he wanted to sing as a tenor; he could go down to a low C with a vibrato, and then went up to the G above the high C. Its extension was at least 3 and a half octaves.
Jackson was also a beatboxer, as demonstrated on several tracks on the albums Dangerous, HIStory, Blood on the Dance Floor, Invincible and Michael, during interviews (including those with Oprah Winfrey in 1993, in which he performed on the beatboxes of the song Who Is It, and Diane Saywer in 1995, in which he performed in those of Tabloid Junkie) and in the live performances of Billie Jean of the HIStory World Tour.
The dance style of Michael Jackson
|“- What do you think about when you dance? “Thinking is the most wrong thing you can do when you dance.”|
Another thing that made Michael Jackson famous was his own style of dance, which generated numerous imitators, parodies and flash mobs. Some steps invented by Jackson date back to the early seventies, when he was still performing with the Jackson 5, and later perfected, such as the robot dance conceived at the age of 15, in 1974, for the song Dancing Machine, while other moves, which he later improved, were invented by James Brown.
In the early eighties, he perfected a technique that allowed him to make fast pirouettes on the heels through the use of centrifugal force enterprise from the arms, with which he was able to perform from three to eight pirouettes. This dance step was used in numerous live performances, especially during performances by Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Man in the Mirror, Dirty Diana and Scream.
In 1983, on the occasion of the performance on the television program Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, he launched his iconic step on the tips of his feet that later became his logo (the toe stand), and the dance step that would make him famous all over the world: the moonwalk (in Italian: “walk on the moon”) presented on the notes of Billie Jean.
Many consider the artist as the inventor of the move, even if, as Jackson himself has stated, it is inspired by a technique used by the black street boys of the ghettos; moreover, it was brought to the stage in the thirties by Cab Calloway. Over the years he has increasingly perfected the moonwalk, to the point of improving it on his tours. The last time Jackson performed this step was in 2001, during the two Michael Jackson concerts: 30th Anniversary Special.
Also, in 1983 he choreographed Thriller, making famous the step that imitates the movement of zombies. He then invented the sidewalk, or a lateral step based on the same principle as the reworked moonwalk. Jackson will perform the sidewalk together with the moonwalk in several of his choreographies already in the 1984 Victory Tour, where he had also presented a fusion between the two, creating a circular movement based on the same moonwalk.
In 1988 he gave another proof of his skills as a choreographer and dancer with the Antigravity Lean, or the antigravity movement of the smooth criminal video, in which the singer leaned forward 45 degrees. In the video he used ropes, while to do everything in live performances he used modified shoes, of which he held the patent, that allowed a hook that sprang from under the stage to hook the heel of his moccasins. As with the moonwalk, Jackson was not the inventor of the pass, which can already be seen in a 1927 Buster Keaton film called Your Forever, and in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but it was he who improved it and made it famous.
Michael Jackson album in studio
- 1972 –Got to Be There
- 1972 – Ben
- 1973 –Music & Me
- 1975 –Forever, Michael
- 1979 –Off the Wall
- 1982 –Thriller
- 1987 –Bad
- 1991 –Dangerous
- 1995 –HIStory: Past, Present and Future – Book I
- 2001 –Invincible
Posthumous studio albums
- 2010 –Michael
- 2014 –Xscape
Videography and filmography
- 1978 –The Wiz(VHS,DVD,Blu-Ray Disc) **
- 1983 –Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller(VHS)
- 1988 –Moonwalker(VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray)
- 1988 –Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues(VHS)
- 1993 –Dangerous – The Short Films(VHS e DVD)
- 1995 –Video Greatest Hits – HIStory(VHS e DVD)
- 1997 –HIStory on Film, Volume II(VHS e DVD)
- 2003 –Number Ones(DVD)
- 2004 –The One(DVD)
- 2005 –Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour(DVD)
- 2006 –Visionary: The Video Singles(20DualDisc)
- 2009 –Michael Jackson’s This Is It(DVD e Blu-Ray)
- 2010 –Michael Jackson’s Vision(3 DVD)
- 2012 –Michael Jackson Live at Wembley July 16, 1988(DVD)
** (only the most popular media are reported leaving out the less widespread ones such as Laserdisc and VCD)
Filmography of Michael Jackson
- 1978 – The Wiz, plays the Scarecrow, directed by Sidney Lumet
- 1983 – Michael Jackson’s Thriller (short film), plays himself, directed by John Landis
- 1986 – Captain EO, as Captain EO, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by George Lucas
- 1987 – Bad (short film), plays Daryl, directed by Martin Scorsese
- 1988 – Moonwalker, plays himself, directed by Jerry Kramer
- 1997 –Michael Jackson’s Ghosts(medium-length film), plays The Maestro; The Mayor; Ghoul; Super Ghoul; Skeleton; directed byStan Winston
- 2002 – Men in Black II (cameo), as Agent M, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
- 2003 – Living with Michael Jackson (documentary), directed by Martin Bashir
- 2003 – Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies (documentary), directed by Brad Lachman
- 2004 –Miss Cast Away, plays Agent MJ, directed by Bryan Michael Stoller
- 2009 –Michael Jackson’s This Is It(documentario-film concerto), diretto daKenny Ortega
- 2011 –The Life of an Icon(documentario), diretto da Andrew Eastel
- 2012 – Bad 25 (documentary), directed by Spike Lee
- 2016 –Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall(documentary-concert), directed by Spike Lee
- 2017 – Michael Jackson’s Thriller 3D (original 1983 video/short film restored in HD and converted to 3D) directed by John Landis
- 2017 – Michael Jackson’s Halloween (featured only as vocals in the songs), directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé and Kyung Ho Lee
- 2019 –Neverland Firsthand: Investigating the Michael Jackson Documentary(documentary), directed by Eli Pedraza
- 2019 –Michael Jackson: Chase the Truth(documentary), directed by Jordan Hill
- 2019 – Square One (documentary), directed by Danny Wu
- 1976/1977-The Jacksons TV Show
- 1991 – The Simpsons (*) (lends his voice to the character in the episode Daddy-zzo to tie)
- February 10, 1993 – Michael Jackson Talks to… Oprah Live (worldwide live interview from Neverland)
(*) In the episode in question (Pa-crazy to tie) Jackson does not appear, but in the original version doubles Leon Kompowsky, who introduces himself to Homer Simpson with the name of the famous artist, revealing only at the end his identity. In the credits he is credited under the pseudonym John Jay Smith.
Major television appearances and performances of Michael Jackson
A partial list of the artist’s most famous television performances as a soloist. A more detailed list can be found in the entry Videography of Michael Jackson.
- March 25, 1983 – Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (performs with the Jacksons in a medley: I Want You Back, The Love You Save, Never Can Say Goodbye, I’ll Be There, solo in Billie Jean)
- March 2, 1988 – Grammy Awards 1988 (performs in The Way You Make Me Feel and in Man in the Mirror with a gospel choir)
- November 18, 1991 – MTV’s 10th Anniversary Special (performs Black or White with Slash and Will You Be There with a gospel choir)
- January 19, 1993 – 42nd Presidential Gala (performs in Gone Too Soon and Heal the World)
- January 31, 1993 – Super Bowl XXVII (performs in a medley during the halftime show: Jam, Billie Jean, Black or White and Heal the World)
- September 7, 1995 – MTV Video Music Awards 1995 (opens the evening by performing in a medley: Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, The Way You Make Me Feel, Scream, Black or White with Slash, Billie Jean, Dangerous and You Are Not Alone)
- February 19, 1996 – BRIT Awards 1996 (performs Earth Song)
- April 20, 2002-American Bandstand 50th anniversary (performs in Dangerous). It is the last full performance of his career to be broadcast on television.
- April 24, 2002 – A Night at the Apollo (concert organized by the Democratic National Committee to raise funds to entice young people to vote) (performs Dangerous, Black or White with Dave Navarro and Heal the World). It was the last complete public performance of his career by him; for rights reasons, only a snippet of Dangerous’s performance was aired on television.
- November 15, 2006 – World Music Awards 2006 (performs briefly in We Are the World). It is the last live public performance of his career by him.
Michael Jackson tour
With The Jackson 5
- May 2, 1970 – December 30, 1970, The Jackson 5 First National Tour
- February 2, 1971 – October 15, 1971, The Jackson 5 Second National Tour
- December 27, 1971 – October 5, 1972, The Jackson 5 US Tour
- November 2, 1972 – November 12, 1972, The Jackson 5 European Tour
- March 2, 1973 – December 1975, The Jackson 5 World Tour
- February 13, 1976 – February 19, 1976, The Jackson 5 Final Tour
- May 19, 1977– May 24, 1977, The Jacksons Tour
- January 22, 1978 – January 13, 1978, Goin’ Places Tour
- January 22, 1979 – September 26, 1980, Destiny World Tour
- July 8, 1981 – September 26, 1981, Triumph Tour
- July 6, 1984 – December 9, 1984, Victory Tour
- September 12, 1987 – January 27, 1989, Bad World Tour
- June 27, 1992 – November 11, 1993, Dangerous World Tour
- September 7, 1996– October 15, 1997, HIStory World Tour
- June 25, 1999 – June 27, 1999, Michael Jackson & Friends
- September 7, 2001– September 10, 2001, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration – The Solo Years
- July 13, 2009 – March 6, 2010, This Is It (canceled due to the sudden death of the singer)
Michael Jackson-inspired tours
- October 2, 2011– August 31, 2014, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World TourCirque du Soleil
- May 23, 2013 – ongoing, Michael Jackson: One Cirque du Soleil
Related video games
Some video games inspired by Michael Jackson have been produced, the first three in particular are taken from the film Moonwalker:
- Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker(Arcade 1990)
- Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker(console 1990)
- Michael Jackson: The Experience(2010)
Jackson also makes a cameo towards the end of the game Space Channel 5 (1999) under the name Space Michael and appears as the unlockable protagonist in his sequel Space Channel 5: Part 2 (2002). In addition to lending his voice to the character, he also wrote a piece with his danceable beatboxes in the game.
In 2000, he appeared as an unlockable character in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2. Jackson, as revealed by Emmanuel Valdez, one of the developers of the game, has worked assiduously with the developers to render his virtual counterpart also lending the moves to the character thanks to the motion capture technique.
Unfinished projects of Michael Jackson
In 1993, Jackson appeared as the protagonist in a rare footage for a SEGA flight simulator called Advanced Star Fighter Training that was supposed to be released the same year for the Sega Mega Drive console but was eventually canceled upon the arrival of the first accusations.
According to conflicting sources, Jackson would have composed part of the soundtrack of the game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for Mega Drive; many of the tracks of the game are in fact similar to some of his songs: that of the IceCap Zone level is very similar to Smooth Criminal and Who Is It, that of Carnival Night Zone to Jam, and the final track to Stranger in Moscow.
However, his name does not appear in the credits. Roger Hector, director of SEGA’s development division, stated that Jackson did indeed compose part of the soundtrack, but the company decided to cancel the project in progress due to allegations of pedophilia received by the artist at the time.
Keyboardist Brad Buxer, who collaborated with Jackson on the backing tracks for the game, stated instead that it would be Jackson himself who asked not to be included in the credits, because he was dissatisfied with the sound that produced the console: “At the time, console games did not allow optimal sound reproduction, and Michael found this frustrating. He didn’t want to be associated with a product that devalued his music.”
Michael Jackson awards
Michael Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a soloist and once as a member of the Jackson 5; he has also been inducted into 10 other Halls of Fame, including the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame, the only dancer from the music industry. Since November 20, 1984, his name has been among the celebrities of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Jackson has won hundreds of awards, making him the most-awarded musical artist in history.
These include 39 Guinness World Records certifications, including that of “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time”, 15 Grammy Awards (including two Lifetime Achievement Grammys) out of 38 nominations, 40 Billboard Awards, 26 American Music Awards, 16 World Music Awards, 15 MTV Video Music Awards, 12 Soul Train Music Awards, 6 BRIT Awards, and a Golden Globe. He was also awarded as an artist “of the Decade“, “of a Generation“, “of the Century” and “of the Millennium“.
Considered the most commercially successful musical artist of all time by the Guinness Book of Records, the estimated sale of all his albums and singles is around one billion copies worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists in the history of music. His sixth studio album, Thriller, is the best-selling album in music history, having surpassed 100 million copies globally, 34 million of them in the United States alone, making it the best-selling and most certified studio album in the country.
His other recording projects, including Off the Wall, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory are also listed among the best-selling albums in the world, while Blood on the Dance Floor is cataloged as the best-selling remix album in the world. During his solo career, Jackson had 14 number-one singles in the United States, more than any other male artist of the Hot 100 Era, as well as being the first artist in history to enter the Billboard Hot 100 directly at number one.
As the lead member of the Jackson 5, Jackson became the youngest singer to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as being one of only three artists in the world, along with Paul McCartney and Phil Collins, to have sold over 100 million copies worldwide as both a solo artist and a member of a band. In 1997 a popular poll declared him “the most famous man on the planet”, while in 2006 the Guinness Book of Records elected him “undoubtedly the most famous living human being”. In 2000, the Guinness Book of Records recognized the support of 39 different charities, more than any other entertainer.
Jackson also boasts several posthumous records: in 2010 he became the most downloaded artist on the Internet of all time, in 2014 the only artist in history to have entered the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades, while in 2016 he became the artist, living or deceased, with the highest earnings in history, for earning more than 825 million dollars in a single year.
Since his death, Jackson has dominated Forbes’ list of the world’s richest missing celebrities for eleven years, the last eight of them consecutively, with earnings of more than $2.5 billion. In 2021, he became the first artist in history to have singles in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 in seven consecutive decades.