Michael Jackson Biography
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Pushed into music at age five by his father, Michael Jackson's superstar career began as the lead vocalist of the Jackson 5 in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. After limited success opening for top performers like Gladys Knight and the Pips the Jacksons eventually relocated to Los Angeles in 1968 at the request of Motown record label executive Berry Gordy with whom the Jackson signed and lived while further developing their act. By the following year they released their first album and its title single "I Want You Back" hit #1 on the Billboard charts in January 1970.
Jackson went solo at age 13 while continuing to perform and tour with his brothers as well. After several #1 solo hits, he parted ways with Gordy and his family and continued to build upon his solo career which eventually reached a level of virtually unprecedented success. His unique and novel dance moves and videos, particularly the John Landis-directed "Thriller", propelled Jackson's iconic status within the pop world. "Thriller" was so successful that it yielded seven top-10 tracks, won eight Grammy awards out of 12 nominations, and remained on the Billboard list for a whopping 80 weeks with 37 of them in the top spot. "Bad" was Jackson's follow-up album and while it enjoyed considerable success it was simply not in the same league as "Thriller" which is believed to epitomize the pinnacle of his career.
Michael Jackson was born in 1958, in Gary, Indiana; he has eight siblings. He was singing with four of his older brothers in the Jackson Five by the age of four. He modeled his dance moves and vocal style on James Brown. By 1968, Motown Records had signed the Jackson Five. By 1972, Michael was the lead singer and definitely the star of the group, and was also recording as a solo artist. Photos of him at that time show a handsome boy with strong, masculine facial features. His skin is a fairly dark brown, his eyebrows are somewhat thick, and his nose is broad.
The early 1980s marked his meteoric rise to superstardom, with albums like Thriller (1982). In 1984 he won eight Grammies for songs like the following:
- "Billie Jean"
- "Beat It"
- "The Girl is Mine"
In 1983, he signed the largest individual sponsorship deal in history with Pepsi Cola. His Victory Tour in 1984 elevated him to cult status. Some of his mannerisms and quirks were imitated by his fans: the sequined glove and the moon walk, for example. But at the same time, he was starting to change in appearance. In the video of Thriller, it is obvious that his brows and nose are thinner, his hair gently wavy, his jaw and chin more delicate. By 1984, he was wearing heavy make-up and his nose was much narrower and rather pointed. By the 1990s, his brows were winged, his lips were reduced in size, his hair was straight; his appearance was somewhat Hispanic but definitely feminine. Strangest of all, his skin was now white. Spokespersons for the star said that this change was the result of a medical condition called vitiligo, which causes African-American skin to lose pigment.
In 1993, Jackson was accused of molesting a thirteen-year-old boy, but the matter was settled out of court. He became quite reclusive, hiding away in a world of his own at Neverland, his private estate. He was briefly married to Lisa-Marie Presley, but in 1997 he married Debbie Rowe, had two children with her, and then the couple divorced, leaving Michael with custody of their children and another one by an unknown woman. His behavior was becoming increasingly strange, as he was reported to sleep in a hyperbaric chamber. He constantly protected himself from the sun, wore a surgical mask, and by this time, had had so many plastic surgeries that his nose seemed in danger of falling off. He confessed to an addiction to painkillers. His career was in decline, partly because of his lifestyle changes, but mostly because the songs themselves were not as good. In 2002, he and Sony began to quarrel. Pepsi dropped him, due to the rumors of child molestation and his admission of addiction. Currently, he is on trial for another charge of child molestation.
Both as an artist and as a person, Michael Jackson seems a mass of contradictions. His high, distinctive singing voice and his almost balletic dancing ability are completely unique in the world of pop music. At his best, his taste in material is original, a seamless, highly polished fusion of diverse stylings. Yet he seems not to realize how ridiculous and self-aggrandizing some of his public appearances seem, for example, at the 1996 BRIT Awards as a self-proclaimed Messiah. His self-confident persona in such tracks as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" seems at odds with the shy, child-like, whispery waif that he resembles in interviews.In a 1992 interview with Oprah Winfrey and in a 2003 interview with Martin Bashir, he blamed his father for much of his eccentricities, saying that he was pushed into a grueling routine at such a young age that he had no childhood. He also said that his father ridiculed his appearance, calling him names such as "Big Nose". Some experts theorize that this verbal abuse "induc[ed] him to internalize self-loathing racial stereotypes", and drastically change his appearance. His parents and siblings appear strongly supportive of him in his recent legal problems, but in all likelihood, the public will never know the dynamics of the unusual family during his formative years. It is unfortunate that someone with the incredible talent of Michael Jackson should have suffered such a degree of personal problems, whether caused by his fame or not. As Brown remarks, it is doubtful whether "Michael Jackson will be remembered for the shame or the art".
The London portion of Jackson's final tour, scheduled for July 2009, sold out in mere hours. Unfortunately he passed away suddenly at the age of 50. Jackson's death has been ruled a homicide.