Michael Jackson (pictured) has captivated audiences in a career that spans over four decades and remains a towering influence on artists today even some six years since his unfortunate and sudden passing. Conceivably, Jackson should still be here with us yet we celebrate his life and lasting memory on his day of birth.
Jackson was born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Ind., as the eighth of 10 children his parents Joe and Katherine Jackson bore. Jackson’s parents had early aspirations of being entertainers, and under the father’s tutelage, Michael and his brothers would form the popular group The Jackson 5. As famously noted in an interview Jackson gave in in 2003, Joe Jackson allegedly lorded over the group with an iron fist in order to command their expert musical talents. Still, the group went on to sign with the legendary Motown label in 1969 and their fame skyrocketed from that point on.
Although the Jackson clan worked well as a unit, it was Michael who was pegged the star. In fact, the group’s debut album had the glowing endorsement of R&B legend Diana Ross. In 1972, Jackson’s solo career began with the release of his “Got To Be There” album, but it was his fifth studio record, “Off The Wall,” that would take Jackson’s career to heights far beyond what he achieved before.
The 1979 record, produced by Quincy Jones, was a polished affair that made the most out of Jackson’s impressive vocal talents and natural ability. The album sold 20 million worldwide to date.
The next album released in 1982, “Thriller,” hardly needs an introduction. Jones returned to the producer’s role and the magic was evident. Selling 65 million copies worldwide, it is the highest-selling album in history. It was such a gigantic success that Jackson didn’t release music until five years later with the high-charting “Bad” album in 1987.
Watch Jackson’s historic “Thriller” video here:
In the 1990s, Jackson dazzled with the albums “Dangerous” and “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1” – both of which sold extremely well.
Jackson’s studio production was down in many respects, but he still held sway as an entertainer with shows that sold out routinely around the world. The images of fans screaming and throwing themselves in to massive crowds just to get close to Jackson are forever etched in memory. His command of the stage and the audience has not been matched since.
Jackson’s ties to Africa are well-known via his humanitarian efforts, but his roots with the continent began very early in his career. In 1974, the Jackson 5 were billed for a tour across Africa that was cut short. The group remained largely in Senegal and were introduced to the culture of the nation.
One of Jackson’s biggest efforts to aid citizens in Africa was the 1985 star-studded single “We Are The World,” which featured a bevy of popular singers. It’s said to be the largest grossing single in history, making $60 million and benefitting countries in Africa suffering from famine.
In 1992, Jackson embarked on a non-performing tour of Africa as part of his efforts to bring awareness to the needs of those on the continent. In a 1992 magazine interview, Jackson called Africa “his home” and he was greeted robustly in every nation he visited.
Jackson was crowned a prince in Cote d’Ivoire of the Anyi people during this visit.
Jackson’s last release while he was alive was 2001’s “Invincible.” While the album didn’t sell as well as previous efforts, it still managed to gain 14 million sales worldwide. Since his passing in 2009, two posthumous albums, “Michael” in 2010 and “Xscape” of May this year, have been released.
Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a series of public indignities and embarrassing legal fights, including a pair of divorces. These instances would tap much of his formidable wealth due to legal fees and the such.
By 2005, Jackson was in dire straits but was able to remain afloat with the assistance of Bahrain’s Prince Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa.
In 2009, Jackson was set to perform a “swan song” series of shows in a final world tour titled “This Is It.” Tragically, Jackson would not live to see the fruits of his efforts as he suffered cardiac arrest on June 25th of that year. He died that morning.
Watch the trailer for “This Is It” here:
Jackson’s children, Paris, Michael Joseph Jr.,and Prince Michael II, were left in the care of his mother. A documentary for the “This Is It tour” was released in the fall of 2009 and was well-received by the viewing public.
Jackson’s caretaker, Dr. Conrad Murray, was charged with involuntary manslaughter regarding the pop star’s death in 2011. He received a four-year sentence, although he has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
While Jackson’s image has been hard to grasp by some, very few could deny that he was one of the world’s greatest entertainers. Stars, such as Usher, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, and countless others, owe a grand debt to the path Jackson laid before them.
Happy Birthday, Michael Jackson. Rest Powerfully In Peace.
See photos of Michael Jackson here: