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        M I C H A E L   J A C K S O N

Born August 29, 1958, Gary, Indiana.

Since Michael Jackson made his first national television appearance with his brothers at the age of 11, he has evolved from a singing and dancing soul-music prodigy to the self-proclaimed but widely acknowledged "King of Pop." As a musician, he has ranged from Motown’s snappy dance fare and lush ballads to techno-edged New Jack Swing to work that incorporates both funk rhythms and hard-rock guitar. At his early-Eighties zenith, still riding the crest of his bestselling album to date, Thriller, spot lit in his trademark red zippered jacket and single white sequined glove, he was ubiquitous. A superb businessman, Jackson has exerted unparalleled control over his career since he and his brothers (sans Jermaine) left Motown for Epic Records in 1975. As a singer, dancer, and writer, Jackson’s talent is unassailable, and he created one of the most intriguing personas in popular music, at once childlike and obsessed with control.

With the passage of time, and especially since 1993, it is Jackson’s personality that has dominated headlines formerly dedicated to his prodigious artistic accomplishments and humanitarian efforts. His charity work was enormous and focused always on his highly publicized and self-admitted identification with children. Infatuated with Peter Pan and ET., Jackson seemed a kind of childlike extraterrestrial: benign (if in an eerie way), either sexless or sexually ambiguous, neither black nor white. Secluded by his celebrity, he appeared to touch down to earth only on stage or videotape; fanatically private, he generated endless gossip. In 1993 with allegations of child molestation, his career was rocked with scandal as gargantuan as his fame. Not since Shirley Temple has a child star so entranced the American public, and the massive public soul-searching the allegations against Jackson inspired were but one indication of the almost inestimable role he has played in shaping not only pop music but pop culture. Jackson returned to the tabloids in 1994 with the shocking announcement that he had wed Lisa Marie Presley, an act that led to even more speculation about his motives but that undeniably made him the son-in-law of the late Elvis Presley.

The Jackson 5’s lead singer and focal point, Michael became more popular than the group as the Eighties began. He had a string of solo hits in the early Seventies ("Got to Be There," #4, 1971; "Rockin’ Robin," #2, 1972; "Ben," #1, 1972) and played the Scarecrow in The Wiz in 1978. But it was with veteran producer Quincy Jones, whom he met while filming The Wiz, that Jackson began his amazing rise.

In 1979 the team’s Off the Wall made him the first solo artist to release four Top Ten hits from a single album. "Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough" (#1, 1979), "Rock with You" (#1, 1979), "Off the Wall" (#10,1980), and "She’s Out of My Life" (#10, 1980) presented the former boy wonder as a mature artist, funky enough for the dance floor and sweet enough for pop radio. In the album’s wake, the Jacksons’ Triumph sold a million copies and prompted a $5.5-million-grossing tour. Even at this early stage, Jackson and his brothers were exploring video.

In 1982 Jackson and Jones collaborated on a storytelling record of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The album, which was hastily withdrawn from the market due to a legal dispute, is now a prime Jackson collectable. That year, Diana Ross, one of Jackson’s early mentors, scored a #10 hit with "Muscles," written and produced by Jackson. Jackson had also begun an alliance with Paul McCartney, who had written "Girlfriend" for Off the Wall. The two reconvened to cowrite the duet "The Girl Is Mine" (#2, 1982).

It was 1983 that marked Jackson’s complete ascension. With Jones again producing, Thriller yielded, in addition to "The Girl Is Mine," two other hit singles by early 1983 -- "Billie Jean" (#1, 1983) and "Beat It" (#1, 1983) (with a guitar solo delivered gratis by Eddie Van Halen) -- and went on to become the best-selling album in history, with over 45 million copies sold worldwide. Charting at #1 in every Western country, it spent a record 37 weeks at U.S. #1. The first album ever to simultaneously head the singles and albums charts for both R&B and pop, it eventually generated an unprecedented seven Top Ten singles including "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" (#10, 1983), "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’" (#5, 1983), "Human Nature" (#7, 1983), and "Thriller" (#4, 1983). Of its record 12 Grammy nominations, it won eight in 1983, a historic sweep.

Thriller also broke through MTV’s de facto color line; where videos by black artists had rarely been shown, Michael’s "Beat It," costing a then exorbitant $160,000, received extensive play. The "Thriller" video, with a voice-over by horror movie stalwart Vincent Price and state-of-the-art special effects, was directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers). In May, performing solo and with his brothers on NBC’s 25 Years of Motown special, Michael popularized his distinctive Moonwalk dancestep; his "Billie Jean" was the only non-Motown song in the show. Later in 1983, while another duet with McCartney -- "Say Say Say" from Paul’s Pipes of Peace, topped the charts for six weeks, Jackson announced a $5 million sponsorship deal with Pepsi Cola.

While filming a 1984 Pepsi commercial Jackson was seriously injured when a pyrotechnic effect went awry, setting his hair on fire. The singer was hospitalized and underwent surgery for scalp burns; he later received facial laser surgery. Rumors about other reconstructive work began shortly before the release of Thriller and would build in coming years. Among the procedures he has been rumored to have undergone are a facelift, a purported nose surgery, and the lightening of his skin with chemicals. His autobiography admitted only to a nose job.

After receiving a Presidential Award from Ronald Reagan in June 1984, Jackson joined his brothers on a supporting tour for the Jacksons’ Victory (from which Michael’s duet with Mick Jagger, "State of Shock," reached #3). The highly publicized tour, which Jackson undertook reluctantly, was plagued by mismanagement (boxing promoter Don King was in charge, much to Jackson s displeasure, and his parents were co producers) and internal strife (at one point, several of the Jackson brothers, their parents, and numerous other parties had retained their own lawyers). Jackson donated his revenues to children’s charities. Nonetheless, the shows were considered spectacular, brimming with high-tech special effects. Jackson ended the year by receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1985 Jackson co wrote with Lionel Richie "We Are The World," the theme song for USA for Africa, to benefit famine relief. The all-star recording reached #1. Disneyland and Disney World were chosen as sites to present "Captain En," a 15-minute 3D sci-fi film starring Jackson. Jackson’s relationship with McCartney soured later that year as, bidding against both Paul and Yoko Ono, Jackson secured the ATV music publishing catalogue for $47.5 million. Among ATV’s holdings were more than 250 Lennon/McCartney songs.

Shortly after signing a second contract with Pepsi in 1986 for $15 million, Jackson released Bad in 1987. Its 17-minute title track video was directed by Martin Scorsese. Bad generated five #1s in 1987-88: "I Just Can’t Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," and "Dirty Diana." The Bad Tour -- over a year long -- became (according to Epic Records) the biggest-grossing tour in history and one of the most expensive (Jackson’s entourage included 250 people). Bad sold a reported 22 million copies worldwide, and Epic Records asserts it was the second-best-selling album of the Eighties, after Thriller. Its U.S. sales were only seven million, however.

With 1988 came Jackson’s long-awaited, heavily illustrated, and brief autobiography, Moonwalk, in which he claimed that his father, Joseph Jackson, had hit him as a child. Generally, however, the book (edited by Jacqueline Onassis) was considered unrevealing. (A second volume of his writings, Dancing the Dream, was published in 1992 to less enthusiastic response.)

By the end of the Eighties, Jackson had moved from the Encino, California, family home to Neverland, an estimated $28-million, 2700-acre California ranch complete with ferris wheel, an exotic menagerie, a movie theater, and a security staff of 40. There Jackson -- famous for clean living (he did not smoke, drink, or use drugs, and was rarely seen in the company of a woman) -- hosted an endless series of parties for children, many of them disabled, critically ill, or underprivileged.

His popularity seemingly unassailable, Jackson signed a $28 million deal with L.A. Gear sportswear to be its spokesperson, but the idea proved a failure and Jackson was dropped after one commercial. At the start of the Nineties, however, Jackson’s popularity was massive enough to land him the biggest contract awarded an entertainer up to that time. Jackson signed a $65-million deal with Sony Corporation in 1991 that promised him an unprecedented share of the profits from his next six albums, his own record label, a role in developing video software products, and a chance to star in movies. Reportedly he would receive more than $120 million an album if each could match the sales of Thriller. In 1991 Jackson hosted Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth wedding at Neverland.

In 1991 Jackson released Dangerous, which was recorded for $10 million. Coproduced by New Jack Swing creator Teddy Riley, the album featured material ("Heal the World," "Who Is It") that recalled his work with Quincy Jones, with whom he had parted ways shortly after Bad. Riley toughened and updated Jackson’s sound, stripping off some of the studio gloss of his previous works. With the $1.2-million video for the single "Black or White," Jackson demanded that MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET) announce him as "the King of Pop" (a fact he would later deny in a live televised interview with Oprah Winfrey). Hoping to outdistance Bad’s sales, he prepared for a spectacular world tour. Also in 1992, he embarked on a five-nation African tour; there, however, he was widely criticized for his aloof behavior. That same year, with his personal fortune estimated at $200 million, Jackson established the Heal the World Foundation to raise awareness of children-related issues, including abuse.

With 1993 came Jackson’s crisis. The year, however, began auspiciously. Appearing in January at the NAACP Image Awards, the American Music Awards, and the preinaugural gala for President Clinton, he also reached 91 million viewers in his halftime performance at Super Bowl XXVII, the most widely viewed entertainment event in TV history. And he announced the start of a $1.25-million program to provide drug prevention and counseling services to Los Angeles children following that city’s riots. In a February TV interview with a less than incisive Oprah Winfrey, he said that his increasingly pale complexion was the result of vitiligo, a skin disease, and that he was a victim of abuse at the hands of his father, Joseph. He tried to dispel such long-standing rumors as the one that he once tried to buy the bones of the Elephant Man or had slept in a hyperbaric chamber. He also said that he was dating movie actress Brooke Shields, who had been a companion during the Thriller period. The interview was one of the most-watched television programs in history. In March he formed Michael Jackson Productions Inc., an independent film company that would give a share of its profits to his Heal the World Foundation. In June he debuted his MJJ/Epic record label, releasing the Free Willy soundtrack.

Scandal erupted on August 17 when a Beverly Hills psychiatrist approached the Los Angeles Police after a 13-year-old patient claimed that Jackson had fondled him. Later specific charges, brought by the boy’s father, were that Jackson had at his house sexually abused the boy earlier in the year. After the father obtained a ruling to deny Jackson contact with the son, the police raided Neverland, seizing videotapes and other possible evidence (nothing incriminating turned up). Traveling to Bangkok for the Dangerous Tour, Jackson denied the charges, his security consultant maintaining that the boy’s father had attempted to extort $20 million to start a production company (he added that Jackson received at least 25 such extortion threats a year). With Pepsi supporting him and his retinue denying a suicide attempt, Jackson turned 35 at the end of August. Shortly thereafter Jackson canceled his second Singapore show, claiming migraine headaches.

In September Jackson’s sister La Toya reported that he used to spend the night with young boys in his room. Jackson then pulled out of a deal to contribute the title track to the movie Addams Family Values and, after his alleged victim filed a civil suit for seduction and sex abuse, canceled the rest of the Dangerous Tour, maintaining that pressure from the charges had left him addicted to painkillers. Pepsi then ended its ten-year partnership with the star.

Toward the end of the year, business continued, with Sony announcing that Dangerous sales had topped 20 million and Jackson signing a $70-million, five-year deal with EMI Music to administer his ATV catalogue. But in December, back in the U.S., Jackson in a four-minute televised speech confronted his accusers and decried the extensive examination of his body that the police had conducted as part of their investigation.

On January 25, 1994, lawyers for Jackson and the alleged victim announced a private settlement of the boy’s case for undisclosed terms. One day earlier, following a criminal investigation into Jackson’s claims that the boy’s father was part of an extortion plot against him, the D.A. declined to file charges. In February a Santa Barbara grand jury convened to begin hearing testimony in the case, suggesting that criminal investigation was continuing, despite the settlement of the civil case. Eventually the criminal investigation was dropped for lack of testimony. In August 1994 a statement issued by MJJ Productions vented two months of rumors that Jackson had married 26-year-old Lisa Marie Presley, who had been estranged from her husband, with whom she had two children. In June 1995 Jackson released his first solo double-CD set, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book One, consisting of 15 old and 15 new tracks. The video for the first new single, "Scream," a duet with his sister Janet (which entered the singles chart at #4), was estimated to be the most expensive in history, at $4 million.


1972 -- Got to Be There (Motown); Ben 1973 -- Music and Me
1975 -- Forever, Michael; The Best of Michael Jackson
1979 -- Off the Wall (Epic) 1982 -- Thriller
1987 -- Bad
1991 -- Dangerous
1995 -- HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book One



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