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This article’s lead section may not adequately summarize its contents. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of the article’s key points. (February 2012)
Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 summit in 2011.
Born Mark Elliot Zuckerberg
May 14, 1984 (age 27)
White Plains, New York, U.S.
Residence Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard University (Dropped out)
Occupation CEO of Facebook
(24% shareholder in 2010)
Known for Co-founding Facebook in 2004;
becoming world’s youngest
billionaire as of 2008
Net worth US$ 17.5 billion (2011)
Relatives Randi, Donna and Arielle
Awards TIME Person of the Year 2010
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known for co-creating the social networking site Facebook, of which he is chief executive. It was co-founded as a private company in 2004 by Zuckerberg and classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while they were students at Harvard University. Zuckerberg was named four times in Time 100 respectively in 2009 as one of the 100 influential people of the world, in 2010 as Time magazine’s Person of the Year, in 2011 as one of the 100 influential people of the world and in 2012 in “The All-Time TIME 100 of All Time” by Joel Stein in Time. As of 2011, his personal wealth was estimated to be $17.5 billion making him one of the world’s youngest billionaires.
Zuckerberg was born in 1984 in White Plains, New York to Karen, a psychiatrist, and Edward Zuckerberg, a dentist. He and his three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Zuckerberg was raised Jewish and had his bar mitzvah when he turned 13; he has since described himself as an atheist.
At Ardsley High School, Zuckerberg had excelled in the classics before transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in his junior year, where he won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and classical studies (on his college application, Zuckerberg listed as non-English languages he could read and write: French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek) and was a fencing star and captain of the fencing team.
In college, he was known for reciting lines from epic poems such as The Iliad.
At a party put on by his fraternity during his sophomore year, Zuckerberg met Priscilla Chan, a Chinese-American fellow student originally from the Boston suburbs, and they began dating in 2003. In September 2010, Zuckerberg invited Chan, by then a medical student at the University of California, San Francisco, to move into his rented Palo Alto house.
Zuckerberg studied Mandarin Chinese in preparation for the couple’s visit to China in December 2010.
On Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, he listed his personal interests as “openness, making things that help people connect and share what’s important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism”.
Zuckerberg sees blue best because of red–green colorblindness; blue is also Facebook’s dominant color.
Zuckerberg began using computers and writing software as a child in middle school. His father taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the 1990s, and later hired software developer David Newman to tutor him privately. Newman calls him a “prodigy,” adding that it was “tough to stay ahead of him.” Zuckerberg also took a graduate course in the subject at Mercy College near his home while he was still in high school. He enjoyed developing computer programs, especially communication tools and games. In one such program, since his father’s dental practice was operated from their home, he built a software program he called “ZuckNet,” which allowed all the computers between the house and dental office to communicate by pinging each other. It is considered a “primitive” version of AOL’s Instant Messenger, which came out the following year.
According to writer Jose Antonio Vargas, “some kids played computer games. Mark created them.” Zuckerberg himself recalls this period: “I had a bunch of friends who were artists. They’d come over, draw stuff, and I’d build a game out of it.” However, notes Vargas, Zuckerberg was not a typical “geek-klutz,” as he later became captain of his prep school fencing team and earned a classics diploma. Napster co-founder Sean Parker, a close friend, notes that Zuckerberg was “really into Greek odysseys and all that stuff,” recalling how he once quoted lines from the Roman epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil, during a Facebook product conference.
During Zuckerberg’s high school years, under the company name Intelligent Media Group, he built a music player called the Synapse Media Player that used artificial intelligence to learn the user’s listening habits, which was posted to Slashdot and received a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine. Microsoft and AOL tried to purchase Synapse and recruit Zuckerberg, but he chose instead to enroll at Harvard University in September 2002.
By the time he began classes at Harvard, he had already achieved a “reputation as a programming prodigy,” notes Vargas. He studied psychology and computer science as well as belonging to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.
In his sophomore year, he wrote a program he called CourseMatch, which allowed users to make class selection decisions based on the choices of other students and also to help them form study groups. A short time later, he created a different program he initially called Facemash that let students select the best looking person from a choice of photos. According to Zuckerberg’s roommate at the time, Arie Hasit, “he built the site for fun.” Hasit explains:
We had books called Face Books, which included the names and pictures of everyone who lived in the student dorms. At first, he built a site and placed two pictures, or pictures of two males and two females. Visitors to the site had to choose who was “hotter” and according to the votes there would be a ranking.
The site went up over a weekend, but by Monday morning the college shut it down because its popularity had overwhelmed Harvard’s server and prevented students from accessing the Internet. In addition, many students complained that their photos were being used without permission. Zuckerberg apologized publicly, and the student paper ran articles stating that his site was “completely improper.”
Around the time of Facemash, however, students were requesting that the university develop an internal website that would include similar photos and contact details. According to Hasit, “Mark heard these pleas and decided that if the university won’t do something about it, he will, and he would build a site that would be even better than what the university had planned.”
Main articles: Facebook, History of Facebook, and Timeline of Facebook
Zuckerberg at World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (January 2009)
President Barack Obama and Zuckerberg talk before a private meeting where Obama dined with technology business leaders in Woodside, California, February 17, 2011. (Also pictured, from left: Carol Bartz of Yahoo!, Art Levinson of Genentech, Steve Westly of The Westly Group, and Eric Schmidt of Google.)
Founding and goals
Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room on February 4, 2004.
An earlier inspiration for Facebook may have come from Phillips Exeter Academy, the prep school from which Zuckerberg graduated in 2002. It published its own student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” which students referred to as “The Facebook.” Such photo directories were an important part of the student social experience at many private schools. With them, students were able to list attributes such as their class years, their proximities to friends, and their telephone numbers.
Once at college, Zuckerberg’s Facebook started off as just a “Harvard thing” until Zuckerberg decided to spread it to other schools, enlisting the help of roommate Dustin Moskovitz. They first started it at Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, Penn, Brown, and Yale, and then at other schools that had social contacts with Harvard.
Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, California, with Moskovitz and some friends. They leased a small house that served as an office. Over the summer, Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel who invested in the company. They got their first office in mid-2004. According to Zuckerberg, the group planned to return to Harvard but eventually decided to remain in California.
They had already turned down offers by major corporations to buy out Facebook. In an interview in 2007, Zuckerberg explained his reasoning:
It’s not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.
He restated these same goals to Wired magazine in 2010: “The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open.”
Earlier, in April 2009, Zuckerberg sought the advice of former Netscape CFO Peter Currie about financing strategies for Facebook.
On July 21, 2010, Zuckerberg reported that the company reached the 500 million-user mark.
When asked whether Facebook could earn more income from advertising as a result of its phenomenal growth, he explained:
I guess we could … If you look at how much of our page is taken up with ads compared to the average search query. The average for us is a little less than 10 percent of the pages and the average for search is about 20 percent taken up with ads … That’s the simplest thing we could do. But we aren’t like that. We make enough money. Right, I mean, we are keeping things running; we are growing at the rate we want to.
In 2010, Steven Levy, who authored the 1984 book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, wrote that Zuckerberg “clearly thinks of himself as a hacker.”
Zuckerberg said that “it’s OK to break things” “to make them better.”
Facebook instituted “hackathons” held every six to eight weeks where participants would have one night to conceive of and complete a project.
The company provided music, food, and beer at the hackathons, and many Facebook staff members, including Zuckerberg, regularly attended.
“The idea is that you can build something really good in a night”, Zuckerberg told Levy. “And that’s part of the personality of Facebook now … It’s definitely very core to my personality.”
Vanity Fair magazine named Zuckerberg number 1 on its 2010 list of the Top 100 “most influential people of the Information Age”.
Zuckerberg ranked number 23 on the Vanity Fair 100 list in 2009.
In 2010, Zuckerberg was chosen as number 16 in New Statesman’s annual survey of the world’s 50 most influential figures.
In a 2011 interview with PBS after the death of Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg said that Jobs had advised him on how to create a management team at Facebook that was “focused on building as high quality and good things as you are.”
Main article: Wirehog
A month after Facebook launched in February 2004, i2hub, another campus-only service, created by Wayne Chang, was launched. i2hub focused on peer-to-peer file sharing. At the time, both i2hub and Facebook were gaining the attention of the press and growing rapidly in users and publicity. In August 2004, Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Adam D’Angelo, and Sean Parker launched a competing peer-to-peer file sharing service called Wirehog, a precursor to Facebook Platform applications.
Platform and Beacon
On May 24, 2007, Zuckerberg announced Facebook Platform, a development platform for programmers to create social applications within Facebook. Within weeks, many applications had been built and some already had millions of users. It grew to more than 800,000 developers around the world building applications for Facebook Platform.
On November 6, 2007, Zuckerberg announced a new social advertising system called Beacon, which enabled people to share information with their Facebook friends based on their browsing activities on other sites. For example, eBay sellers could let friends know automatically what they have for sale via the Facebook news feed as they list items for sale. The program came under scrutiny because of privacy concerns from groups and individual users. Zuckerberg and Facebook failed to respond to the concerns quickly, and on December 5, 2007, Zuckerberg wrote a blog post on Facebook taking responsibility for the concerns about Beacon and offering an easier way for users to opt out of the service.
In 2007, Zuckerberg was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
On July 23, 2008, Zuckerberg announced Facebook Connect, a version of Facebook Platform for users.
Main article: Criticism of Facebook
Main article: ConnectU
Harvard students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra accused Zuckerberg of intentionally making them believe he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com (later called ConnectU).
They filed a lawsuit in 2004 but it was dismissed on a technicality on March 28, 2007. It was refiled soon thereafter in federal court in Boston. Facebook counter sued in regards to Social Butterfly, a project put out by The Winklevoss Chang Group, an alleged partnership between ConnectU and i2hub. On June 25, 2008, the case settled and Facebook agreed to transfer over 1.2 million common shares and pay $20 million in cash.
In November 2007, confidential court documents were posted on the website of 02138, a magazine that catered to Harvard alumni. They included Zuckerberg’s social security number, his parents’ home address, and his girlfriend’s address. Facebook filed to have the documents removed, but the judge ruled in favor of 02138.
A lawsuit filed by Eduardo Saverin against Facebook and Zuckerberg was settled out of court. Though terms of the settlement were sealed, the company affirmed Saverin’s title as co-founder of Facebook. Saverin signed a non-disclosure contract after the settlement.
Pakistan criminal investigation
In June 2010, Pakistani Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Azhar Sidiqque launched a criminal investigation into Zuckerberg and Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes after a “Draw Muhammad” contest was hosted on Facebook. The investigation also named the anonymous German woman who created the contest. Sidiqque asked the country’s police to contact Interpol to have Zuckerberg and the three others arrested for blasphemy. On May 19, 2010, Facebook’s website was temporarily blocked in Pakistan until Facebook removed the contest from its website at the end of May. Sidiqque also asked its UN representative to raise the issue with the United Nations General Assembly.
Main article: Paul Ceglia
On June 30, 2010, Paul Ceglia, the owner of a wood pellet fuel company in Allegany County, upstate New York, filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, claiming 84% ownership of Facebook and seeking monetary damages. According to Ceglia, he and Zuckerberg signed a contract on April 28, 2003, that an initial fee of $1,000 entitled Ceglia to 50% of the website’s revenue, as well as an additional 1% interest in the business per day after January 1, 2004, until website completion. Zuckerberg was developing other projects at the time, among which was Facemash, the predecessor of Facebook, but did not register the domain name thefacebook.com until January 1, 2004. Facebook management dismissed the lawsuit as “completely frivolous”. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told a reporter that Ceglia’s counsel had unsuccessfully sought an out-of-court settlement.
Pursuant to the contract, Ceglia agreed to pay Zuckerberg $1,000 for StreetFax and $1,000 for PageBook. The contract also refers to The Face Book, a project that was to be completed by January 2004. Ceglia offered a receipt for $1,000, dated six months after the contract, to prove he paid Zuckerberg, but it was not the full amount due, and the contract did not specify what occurs in the event of a default.
In an interview with ABC World News, Zuckerberg stated he was confident he had never signed such an agreement. At the time, Zuckerberg worked for Ceglia as a code developer on a project named “StreetFax”. Judge Thomas Brown issued a restraining order on all financial transfers concerning ownership of Facebook until further notice; in response, Facebook removed the case to federal court and asked that the state court injunction be dissolved. According to Facebook, the injunction would not affect their business and lacked any legal basis.
Depictions in media
The Social Network
A movie based on Zuckerberg and the founding years of Facebook, The Social Network was released on October 1, 2010, and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. After Zuckerberg was told about the film, he responded, “I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive.” Also, after the film’s script was leaked on the Internet and it was apparent that the film would not portray Zuckerberg in a wholly positive light, he stated that he wanted to establish himself as a “good guy”.
The film is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, which the book’s publicist once described as “big juicy fun” rather than “reportage.”
The film’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin told New York magazine, “I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling”, adding, “What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?”
Upon winning the Golden Globes award for Best Picture on January 16, 2011, producer Scott Rudin thanked Facebook and Zuckerberg “for his willingness to allow us to use his life and work as a metaphor through which to tell a story about communication and the way we relate to each other. Sorkin, who won for Best Screenplay, retracted some of the impressions given in his script:
“I wanted to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight, if you’re watching, Rooney Mara’s character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary, and an incredible altruist.”
On January 29, 2011, Zuckerberg made a surprise guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, which was being hosted by Jesse Eisenberg. They both said it was the first time they ever met.
Eisenberg asked Zuckerberg, who had been critical of his portrayal by the film, what he thought of the movie. Zuckerberg replied, “It was interesting.” In a subsequent interview about their meeting, Eisenberg explains that he was “nervous to meet him, because I had spent now, a year and a half thinking about him …” He adds, “Mark has been so gracious about something that’s really so uncomfortable … The fact that he would do SNL and make fun of the situation is so sweet and so generous. It’s the best possible way to handle something that, I think, could otherwise be very uncomfortable.”
Jeff Jarvis, author of the book Public Parts, interviewed Zuckerberg and believes Sorkin has made too much of the story up. He states, “That’s what the internet is accused of doing, making stuff up, not caring about the facts.”
According to David Kirkpatrick, former technology editor at Fortune magazine and author of The Facebook Effect:The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, (2011), “the film is only “40% true … he is not snide and sarcastic in a cruel way, the way Zuckerberg is played in the movie.” He says that “a lot of the factual incidents are accurate, but many are distorted and the overall impression is false,” and concludes that primarily “his motivations were to try and come up with a new way to share information on the internet.”
Although the film portrays Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook in order to elevate his stature after not getting into any of the elite final clubs at Harvard, Zuckerberg himself said he had no interest in joining the final clubs. Kirkpatrick agrees that the impression implied by the film is “false.”
Karel Baloun, a former senior engineer at Facebook, notes that the “image of Zuckerberg as a socially inept nerd is overstated … It is fiction …” He likewise dismisses the film’s assertion that he “would deliberately betray a friend.”
Zuckerberg voiced himself on an episode of The Simpsons, “Loan-a Lisa”, which first aired on October 3, 2010. In the episode, Lisa Simpson and her friend Nelson encounter Zuckerberg at an entrepreneurs’ convention. Zuckerberg tells Lisa that she does not need to graduate from college to be wildly successful, referencing Bill Gates and Richard Branson as examples.
On October 9, 2010, Saturday Night Live lampooned Zuckerberg and Facebook. Andy Samberg played Zuckerberg. The real Zuckerberg was reported to have been amused: “I thought this was funny.”
Stephen Colbert awarded a “Medal of Fear” to Zuckerberg at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010, “because he values his privacy much more than he values yours.”
Use of other social networks
Zuckerberg created an account with Google+ soon after the social network was unveiled, saying he sees it as a “validation for his vision” of online social networking.
By July 2011, Zuckerberg had become the most followed user on Google+, outranking Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
As of March 6, 2012, his ranking has dropped to 184 on the service, behind Page and Brin.
His public profile is minimal with one photo and a bio that reads “I make things”.
Zuckerberg has maintained a private account on Twitter under the username “zuck”, though in 2009 he revealed that the public account “finkd” also belonged to him.
Zuckerberg donated an undisclosed amount to Diaspora, an open-source personal web server that implements a distributed social networking service. He called it a “cool idea.”
Zuckerberg founded the Start-up: Education foundation. On September 22, 2010, it was reported that Zuckerberg had arranged to donate $100 million to Newark Public Schools, the public school system of Newark, New Jersey. Critics noted the timing of the donation as being close to the release of The Social Network, which painted a somewhat negative portrait of Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg responded to the criticism, saying, “The thing that I was most sensitive about with the movie timing was, I didn’t want the press about The Social Network movie to get conflated with the Newark project. I was thinking about doing this anonymously just so that the two things could be kept separate.”
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker stated that he and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to convince Zuckerberg’s team not to make the donation anonymously.
On December 9, 2010, Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett signed a promise they called the “Giving Pledge”, in which they promised to donate to charity at least half of their wealth over the course of time, and invited others amongMichael Jackson
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other people named Michael Jackson, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation).
Jackson at the White House in 1984
Birth name Michael Joseph Jackson
Also known as Michael Joe Jackson, MJ, King of Pop
Born August 29, 1958
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
Died June 25, 2009 (aged 50)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres R&B, pop, rock, soul, dance, funk, disco, new jack swing
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, composer, dancer, choreographer, record producer, actor, businessman, philanthropist
Years active 1964–2009
Labels Motown, Epic, Legacy, MJJ Productions
Associated acts The Jackson 5
Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Often referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contribution to music, dance, and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971.
In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, were credited with transforming the medium into an art form and a promotional tool, and the popularity of these videos helped to bring the relatively new television channel MTV to fame. Videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” made him a staple on MTV in the 1990s. Through stage performances and music videos, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style influenced numerous hip hop, post-disco, contemporary R&B, pop and rock artists.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and History (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first (and currently only) dancer from the world of pop and rock ‘n’ roll. Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award); 26 American Music Awards (more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century”); 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career (more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era); and the estimated sale of over 750 million records worldwide. Jackson won hundreds of awards, which made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. He was also one of the world’s most prominent humanitarians and philanthropists; personally, and through his Heal the World Foundation, he donated more than 300 million dollars in charity, and held the Guinness World Record for having supported the most charities out of any pop star.
Aspects of Jackson’s personal life, including his changing appearance, personal relationships, and behavior, generated controversy. In 1993, he was accused of child sexual abuse, but the case was settled out of court and no formal charges were brought. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges after the jury found him not guilty on all counts. While preparing for his concert series titled This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide, and his personal physician was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief, and as many as one billion people around the world reportedly watched his public memorial service on live television. In March 2010, Sony Music Entertainment signed a $250 million deal with Jackson’s estate to retain distribution rights to his recordings until 2017, and to release seven posthumous albums over the decade following his death.
The wealthy to donate 50% or more of theirEarly life and The Jackson 5 (1958–1975)
Jackson’s childhood home in Gary, Indiana, showing floral tributes after his death
Jackson (center) as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1972
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, the eighth of ten children in an African American working-class family who lived in a small 3-room house in Gary, Indiana, an industrial city near Chicago. His mother, Katherine Esther Scruse, was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and his father, Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson, was a steel mill worker who performed with an R&B band called The Falcons. Jackson had three sisters: Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet, and five brothers: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy. A sixth brother, Brandon, died shortly after birth.
Jackson had a troubled relationship with his father, Joe. Joseph acknowledged in 2003 that he regularly whipped Jackson as a boy. Jackson stated that he was physically and emotionally abused during incessant rehearsals, though he also credited his father’s strict discipline with playing a large role in his success. Jackson first spoke openly about his childhood abuse in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast in February 1993. He admitted that he had often cried from loneliness and he would vomit on the sight of his father. Jackson’s father was also said to have verbally abused Jackson, saying that he had a fat nose on numerous occasions. In fact, Michael Jackson’s deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant especially with his father, and to remain child-like throughout his adult life are in many ways consistent with the effects of this chronic maltreatment he endured as a young child.
In an interview with Martin Bashir, later included in the 2003 broadcast of Living with Michael Jackson, Jackson acknowledged that his father hurt him when he was a child, but was nonetheless a “genius”, as he admitted his father’s strict discipline played a huge role in his success. When Bashir dismissed the positive remark and continued asking about beatings, Jackson put his hand over his face and objected to the questions. He recalled that Joseph sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, and that “if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you”.
In 1964, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers—a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine—as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine. Jackson later began performing backup vocals and dancing. When he was eight, Jackson began sharing the lead vocals with his older brother Jermaine, and the group’s name was changed to The Jackson 5. The band toured the Midwest extensively from 1966 to 1968, frequently performing at a string of black clubs known as the “chitlin’ circuit”, where they often opened stripteases and other adult acts. In 1966, they won a major local talent show with renditions of Motown hits and James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, led by Michael.
The Jackson 5 recorded several songs, including “Big Boy”, for the local record label Steeltown in 1967, before signing with Motown Records in 1968. Rolling Stone magazine later described the young Michael as “a prodigy” with “overwhelming musical gifts,” writing that he “quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer.” The group set a chart record when its first four singles (“I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There”) peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Between 1972 and 1975, Michael released four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got to Be There and Ben, released as part of the Jackson 5 franchise, and producing successful singles such as “Got to Be There”, “Ben”, and a remake of Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin”.
The Jackson 5 “became a cutting-edge example of black crossover artists… five working-class black boys with afros and bell bottoms, and they really didn’t have to trade any of that stuff in order to become mainstream stars.”
The group’s sales began declining in 1973, and the band members chafed under Motown’s strict refusal to allow them creative control or input. Although they scored several top 40 hits, including the top 5 disco single “Dancing Machine” and the top 20 hit “I Am Love”, the Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975.
Move to Epic and Off the Wall (1975–81)
In June 1975, the Jackson 5 signed with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records and renamed themselves the Jacksons. Younger brother Randy formally joined the band around this time, while Jermaine left to pursue a solo career. They continued to tour internationally, releasing six more albums between 1976 and 1984, during which Michael was the lead songwriter, writing hits such as “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”, “This Place Hotel”, and “Can You Feel It”. In 1978, he starred as the scarecrow in the musical, The Wiz, a box-office disaster. It was here that he teamed up with Quincy Jones, who was arranging the film’s musical score. Jones agreed to produce Jackson’s next solo album, Off the Wall. In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty was not a complete success; he complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson’s second rhinoplasty and subsequent operations.
Jones and Jackson produced the Off the Wall album together. Songwriters for the album included Jackson, Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney. Released in 1979, it was the first solo album to generate four U.S. top 10 hits, including the chart-topping singles “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You”. It reached number three on the Billboard 200 and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In 1980, Jackson won three awards at the American Music Awards for his solo efforts: Favorite Soul/R&B Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. That year, he also won Billboard Year-End for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, also for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. Jackson again won at the American Music Awards in 1981 for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a much bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release. In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.
Thriller and Motown 25 (1982–83)
In 1982, Jackson contributed the song “Someone In the Dark” to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the record won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1984. In the same year he won another seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards (including the Award of Merit, the youngest artist to win it), making him the most awarded in one night for both award shows. These awards were thanks to the Thriller album, released in late 1982, which was 1983’s best-selling album worldwide and became the best-selling album of all time in the United States, as well as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 110 million copies so far. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart for 37 weeks and was in the top 10 of the 200 for 80 consecutive weeks. It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles, including “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status in the United States. The album won also another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work. Jackson’s attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. He was also making record-breaking profits from sales of his recordings. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. The era saw the arrival of novelties like dolls modeled after Michael Jackson, which appeared in stores in May 1984 at a price of $12. Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that, “Thriller stopped selling like a leisure item—like a magazine, a toy, tickets to a hit movie—and started selling like a household staple.” In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform. In December 2009, the music video for “Thriller” was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, “Thriller” is the first music video ever to be inducted.
Time described Jackson’s influence at that point as “Star of records, radio, rock video. A one-man rescue team for the music business. A songwriter who sets the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on the street. A singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style and color too”. The New York Times wrote that, “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.
In March 1983, Jackson reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance which was taped for a Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an audience of 47 million viewers, and featured the Jacksons and a number of other Motown stars. It is best remembered for Jackson’s solo performance of “Billie Jean”. Wearing a distinctive black sequin jacket and golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his signature dance move, the moonwalk, which former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years before. The Jacksons’ performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley’s and The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times later wrote, “The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing.”
Pepsi, “We Are the World” and business career (1984–85)
Jackson with a Knott’s Berry Farm Snoopy mascot in April 1984
On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi Cola commercial, overseen by executive Phil Dusenberry, from ad agency BBDO and Pepsi’s Worldwide Creative Director, Alan Pottasch at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In front of a full house of fans during a simulated concert, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, and he also had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter. Jackson never recovered from this injury. Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated his $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, which now has a “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in honor of his donation. Dusenberry later recounted the episode in his memoir, Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising.
On May 14, 1984, Jackson was invited to the White House to receive an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson won eight awards during the Grammys that year. Unlike later albums, Thriller did not have an official tour to promote it, but the 1984 Victory Tour, headlined by The Jacksons, showcased much of Jackson’s new solo material to more than two million Americans. He donated all the funds (around $8 million) raised from the Victory Tour to charity. He also co-wrote the charity single “We Are the World” in 1985 with Lionel Richie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in the U.S. and Africa. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 30 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. In 1986, “We Are the World” won four Grammys (one for Jackson for Song of the Year). American Music Award directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, but recognized it with two special honors (one for the creation of the song and one for the USA for Africa idea). They are the only AMAs that Jackson won as non-solo artist.
Jackson at the White House South Portico with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, 1984
In 1984, ATV Music Publishing, which had the copyrights to nearly 4000 songs, including the Northern Songs catalog that contained the majority of the Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles, was put up for sale by Robert Holmes à Court. Jackson had become interested in owning music catalogs after working with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s: Jackson had learned McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people’s songs. In 1981, McCartney was offered the ATV music catalog for £20 million ($40 million). According to McCartney, he contacted Yoko Ono about making a joint purchase by splitting the cost equally at £10 million each, but Ono thought they could buy it for £5 million each. When they were unable to make the joint purchase, McCartney let the offer fall through, not wanting to be the sole owner of the Beatles’ songs.
According to a negotiator for Holmes à Court in the 1984 sale, “We had given Paul McCartney first right of refusal but Paul didn’t want it at that time.” Also, an attorney for McCartney assured Jackson’s attorney, John Branca, that McCartney was not interested in bidding: McCartney reportedly said “It’s too pricey”. But there were several other companies and investors bidding. In September 1984, Jackson was first informed about the sale by Branca and sent a bid of $46 million on November 20, 1984. Jackson’s agents thought they had a deal several times, but encountered new bidders or new areas of debate. In May 1985, Jackson’s team walked away from talks after having spent over $1 million on four months of due diligence and on the negotiations.
In June 1985, Jackson and Branca learned that Charles Koppelman’s and Marty Bandier’s The Entertainment Co. had made a tentative agreement with Holmes à Court to buy ATV Music for $50 million. But in early August, Holmes à Court’s team contacted Jackson and talks resumed. Jackson raised his bid to $47.5 million and it was accepted because he could close the deal more quickly, having already completed due diligence of ATV Music. He also agreed to visit Holmes à Court in Australia, where he would appear on the Channel Seven Perth Telethon. Jackson’s purchase of ATV Music was finalized August 10, 1985.
Appearance, tabloids, Bad, films, autobiography and Neverland (1986–90)
See also: Michael Jackson’s health and appearance
Jackson’s skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid 1980s, it gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he might be bleaching his skin. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography, in 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus; the vitiligo partially lightened his skin, and the lupus was in remission; both illnesses made him sensitive to sunlight. The treatments he used for his condition further lightened his skin tone, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear very pale. Jackson was also diagnosed with vitiligo in his autopsy. By the mid 1990s several surgeons speculated that he had undergone various nasal surgeries, had fat removed around the eyes, a forehead lift, thinned lips, and cheekbone surgery—although Jackson denied this and insisted that he only had surgery on his nose. Jackson claimed that he had only two rhinoplasties and no other surgery on his face, although at one point he mentioned having a dimple created in his chin. Jackson lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for “a dancer’s body”. Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy and speculated that he was suffering from anorexia nervosa; periods of weight loss would become a recurring problem later in life.
During the course of his treatment, Jackson made two close friends: his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and Klein’s nurse Debbie Rowe. Rowe eventually became Jackson’s second wife and the mother of his two eldest children. Long before becoming romantically involved with her, Jackson relied heavily on Rowe for emotional support. He also relied heavily on Klein, for medical and business advice.
Jackson two years after he was diagnosed with vitiligo, here in the early stages of the disease
Jackson became the subject of increasingly sensational reports. In 1986, the tabloids ran a story claiming that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process; he was pictured lying down in a glass box. Although the claim was untrue, according to tabloid reports that are widely cited, Jackson had disseminated the fabricated story himself. When Jackson bought a chimpanzee called Bubbles from a laboratory, he was reported to be increasingly detached from reality. It was reported that Jackson had offered to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick (the “elephant man”) and although untrue, Jackson did not deny the story. Although initially he saw these stories as opportunities for publicity, he stopped leaking untruths to the press as they became more sensational. Consequently the media began making up their own stories. These reports became embedded in the public consciousness, inspiring the nickname “Wacko Jacko”, which Jackson came to despise. Responding to the gossip, Jackson remarked to Taraborrelli:
Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, “I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,” people would say, “Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.”
Jackson wore a gold-plated military style jacket with belt in the Bad era
Jackson collaborated with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 17-minute 3-D film Captain EO, which debuted in September 1986 at both the original Disneyland and at EPCOT in Florida, and in March 1987 at Tokyo Disneyland. The $30 million movie was a popular attraction at all three parks. A Captain EO attraction was later featured at Euro Disneyland after that park opened in 1992. All four parks’ Captain EO installations stayed open well into the 1990s: Paris’ installation was the last one to close, in 1998. The attraction would later return to Disneyland in 2010 after Jackson’s death.
In 1987, Jackson disassociated himself from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in response to their disapproval of the Thriller video. With the industry expecting another major hit, Jackson’s first album in five years, Bad (1987), was highly anticipated. It did not top Thriller as a commercial or artistic triumph, but Bad was still a substantial success in its own right.
The Bad album spawned seven hit singles in the U.S., five of which (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana”) reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This was a record for most number one Hot 100 singles from any one album, including Thriller. Although the title track’s video was arguably derivative of the video for the earlier single “Beat It”, the “Bad” video still proved to be one of Jackson’s iconic moments. It was a gritty but colorful epic set against the backdrop of the New York City Subway system, with costuming and choreography inspired by West Side Story. As of 2008, the album had sold 30 million copies worldwide. Thanks to the Bad album, Bruce Swedien and Humberto Gatica won one Grammy in 1988 for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical and Michael Jackson won one Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for “Leave Me Alone” in 1989. In the same year, Jackson won an Award of Achievement at the American Music Awards because Bad is the first album ever to generate five number one singles in the US, the first album to top in 25 countries and the best-selling album worldwide in 1987 and in 1988. In 1988, “Bad” won an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single.
The Bad World Tour began on September 12 that year, finishing on January 14, 1989. In Japan alone, the tour had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record of 200,000 in a single tour. Jackson broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium. He performed a total of 123 concerts to an audience of 4.4 million people. The Bad Tour turned out to be the last of Jackson’s concert tours to include shows in the continental United States, although later tours did make it to Hawaii.
Front view: Jackson wearing the costume on a June 2, 1988 performance in Vienna, Austria
In 1988, Jackson released his first and only autobiography, Moonwalk, which took four years to complete and sold 200,000 copies. Jackson wrote about his childhood, The Jackson 5, and the abuse he had suffered. He also wrote about his facial appearance, saying he had had two rhinoplastic surgeries and a dimple created in his chin. He attributed much of the change in the structure of his face to puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a change in hair style, and stage lighting. Moonwalk reached the top position on The New York Times best sellers’ list. The musician then released a film called Moonwalker, which featured live footage and short films that starred Jackson and Joe Pesci. The film was originally intended to be released to theaters but due to financial issues, the film was released direct-to-video. It saw a theatrical release in Germany, though. It debuted atop the Billboard Top Music Video Cassette chart, staying there for 22 weeks. It was eventually knocked off the top spot by Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues.
In March 1988, Jackson purchased land near Santa Ynez, California, to build Neverland Ranch at a cost of $17 million. He installed Ferris wheels, a menagerie, and a movie theater on the 2,700-acre (11 km2) property. A security staff of 40 patrolled the grounds. In 2003, it was valued at approximately $100 million. In 1989, his annual earnings from album sales, endorsements, and concerts was estimated at $125 million for that year alone. Shortly afterwards, he became the first Westerner to appear in a television ad in the Soviet Union.
His success resulted in his being dubbed the “King of Pop”. The nickname was popularized by Elizabeth Taylor when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul.” President George H. W. Bush designated him the White House’s “Artist of the Decade”. From 1985 to 1990, he donated $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single “Man in the Mirror” went to charity. Jackson’s live rendition of “You Were There” at Sammy Davis Jr.’s 60th birthday celebration received an Emmy nomination.
Dangerous, Heal the World Foundation and Super Bowl XXVII (1991–93)
In March 1991, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for $65 million, a record-breaking deal at the time, displacing Neil Diamond’s renewal contract with Columbia Records. He released his eighth album Dangerous in 1991. As of 2008, Dangerous had shipped seven million copies in the U.S. and had sold 32 million copies worldwide. The Dangerous album was co-produced by Teddy Riley, one of the pioneers of “new jack swing” which convinced Michael to feature a rapper on his album for the first time, the act worked and it turned out to be the best-selling album associated with that movement. In the United States, the album’s first single “Black or White” was its biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remaining there for seven weeks, with similar chart performances worldwide. The album’s second single “Remember the Time” spent eight weeks in the top five in the United States, peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. At the end of 1992, Dangerous was awarded 1992’s best-selling album worldwide and “Black or White” was awarded 1992’s best-selling single worldwide at the Billboard Music Awards. Additionally, he won an award as best-selling artist of the ’80s. In 1993, Jackson performed the song at the Soul Train Music Awards in a chair, saying he had suffered an injury in rehearsals. In the UK and other parts of Europe, “Heal the World” was the biggest hit from the album; it sold 450,000 copies in the UK and spent five weeks at number two in 1992.
Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation in 1992. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson’s ranch to enjoy theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property. The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war, poverty, and disease. In the same year Jackson published his second book, the bestselling collection of poetry, Dancing the Dream. While it was a commercial success and revealed a more intimate side to Jackson’s nature, the collection was mostly critically unacclaimed at the time of release. In 2009, the book was republished by Doubleday and was more positively received by some critics in the wake of Jackson’s untimely death. The Dangerous World Tour grossed $100 million. The tour began on June 27, 1992, and finished on November 11, 1993. Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 67 concerts. He sold the broadcast rights to his Dangerous world tour to HBO for $20 million, a record-breaking deal that still stands.
Following the illness and death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, something that was still controversial at the time. He publicly pleaded with the Clinton Administration at Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research. In a high-profile visit to Africa, Jackson visited several countries, among them Gabon and Egypt. His first stop to Gabon was greeted with a sizable and enthusiastic reception of more than 100,000 people, some of them carrying signs that read, “Welcome Home Michael.” In his trip to Côte d’Ivoire, Jackson was crowned “King Sani” by a tribal chief. He then thanked the dignitaries in French and English, signed official documents formalizing his kingship and sat on a golden throne while presiding over ceremonial dances.
In January 1993, Jackson made a memorable appearance at the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII. The performance began with Jackson catapulting onto the stage as fireworks went off behind him. As he landed on the canvas, he maintained a motionless “clenched fist, standing statue stance”, dressed in a gold and black military outfit and sunglasses; he remained completely motionless for a minute and a half while the crowd cheered. He then slowly removed his sunglasses, threw them away and sang four songs: “Jam”, “Billie Jean”, “Black or White” and “Heal the World”. It was the first Super Bowl where the audience figures increased during the half-time show, and was viewed by 135 million Americans alone; Jackson’s Dangerous album rose 90 places up the album chart. Jackson was given the “Living Legend Award” at the 35th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. “Black or White” was Grammy-nominated for best vocal performance. “Jam” gained two nominations: Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. The Dangerous album won a Grammy for Best Engineered – Non Classical, awarding the work of Bruce Swedien and Teddy Riley. In the same year, Michael Jackson won three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album (Dangerous), Favorite Soul/R&B Single (“Remember the Time”) and was the first to win the International Artist Award, for his global performances and humanitarian concerns. This award will bear his name in the future.
First child sexual abuse allegations and first marriage (1993–94)
Main article: 1993 child sexual abuse accusations against Michael Jackson
Jackson gave a 90-minute interview to Oprah Winfrey in February 1993, his second television interview since 1979. He grimaced when speaking of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father; he believed he had missed out on much of his childhood years, admitting that he often cried from loneliness. He denied tabloid rumors that he had bought the bones of the Elephant Man, slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, or bleached his skin, stating for the first time that he had vitiligo. The interview was watched by an American audience of 90 million. Dangerous re-entered the album chart in the top 10, more than a year after its original release.
In the summer of 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Dr. Evan Chandler, a dentist. The Chandler family demanded payment from Jackson, and the singer initially refused. Jordan Chandler eventually told the police that Jackson had sexually abused him. Dr. Chandler was tape-recorded discussing his intention to pursue charges, saying, “If I go through with this, I win big-time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever … Michael’s career will be over”. Jordan’s mother was, however, adamant that there had been no wrongdoing on Jackson’s part. Jackson later used the recording to argue that he was the victim of a jealous father whose only goal was to extort money from the singer.
Later that year, on December 20, Jackson’s home was raided by the police, and Jackson submitted to a 25-minute strip search. Jordan Chandler had reportedly given police a description of Jackson’s intimate parts, notably claiming that his bleach-damaged penis was circumcised; the strip search revealed, to the contrary, that Jackson was actually uncircumcised, a fact confirmed in his autopsy. His friends said he never recovered from the humiliation of the strip search. The investigation was inconclusive and no charges were ever filed. Jackson described the search in an emotional public statement, and proclaimed his innocence. On January 1, 1994, Jackson’s insurance carrier settled with the Chandlers out of court for $22 million. A Santa Barbara County grand jury and a Los Angeles County grand jury disbanded on May 2, 1994 without indicting Jackson. After which time the Chandlers stopped co-operating with the criminal investigation around July 6, 1994. The out-of-court settlement’s documentation specifically stated Jackson admitted no wrongdoing and no liability; the Chandlers and their family lawyer Larry Feldman signed it without contest. The Chandlers’ lawyer Mr. Feldman also explicitly stated “nobody bought anybody’s silence”. A decade after the fact, during the second round of child abuse allegations, Jackson’s lawyers would file a memo stating that the 1994 settlement was done without his consent.
Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, in 1994
In May 1994, Jackson married the daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley. They had first met in 1975, when a seven-year-old Presley attended one of Jackson’s family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and were reconnected through a mutual friend. According to a friend of Presley’s, “their adult friendship began in November 1992 in L.A.” They stayed in contact every day over the telephone. As the child molestation accusations became public, Jackson became dependent on Presley for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and addiction to drugs. Presley explained, “I believed he didn’t do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it.” She eventually persuaded him to settle the allegations out of court and go into rehabilitation to recover.
Jackson proposed to Presley over the telephone towards the fall of 1993, saying, “If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?” They married in the Dominican Republic in secrecy, denying it for nearly two months afterwards. The marriage was, in her words, “a married couple’s life … that was sexually active”. At the time, the tabloid media speculated that the wedding was a ploy to prop up Jackson’s public image. The marriage lasted less than two years and ended with an amicable divorce settlement. In a 2010 interview with Oprah, Presley admitted that they spent four more years after the divorce “getting back together and breaking up”, until she decided to stop.
HIStory, second marriage and fatherhood (1995–99)
In 1995, Jackson merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony’s music publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson retained half-ownership of the company, earned $95 million upfront as well as the rights to even more songs. He then released the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The first disc, HIStory Begins, was a 15-track greatest hits album, and was later reissued as Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I in 2001, while the second disc, HIStory Continues, contained 15 new songs. The album debuted at number one on the charts and has been certified for seven million shipments in the US. It is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 20 million copies (40 million units) sold worldwide. HIStory received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
Michael Jackson at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival
The first single released from the album was the double A-side “Scream/Childhood”. “Scream” was a duet, performed with Jackson’s youngest sister Janet. The song fights against the media, mainly for what the media made him out to be during his 1993 child abuse allegations. The single had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at number five, and received a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals”. “You Are Not Alone” was the second single released from HIStory; it holds the Guinness World Record for the first song ever to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was seen as a major artistic and commercial success, receiving a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance”. In late 1995, Jackson was rushed to a hospital after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance; the incident was caused by a stress-related panic attack. “Earth Song” was the third single released from HIStory, and topped the UK Singles Chart for six weeks over Christmas 1995; it sold a million copies, making it Jackson’s most successful single in the UK. The track “They Don’t Care About Us” became controversial when the Anti-Defamation League and other groups criticized its allegedly antisemitic lyrics. Jackson quickly put out a revised version of the song without the offending lyrics. In 1996, Jackson won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for “Scream” and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.
The album was promoted with the successful HIStory World Tour. The tour began on September 7, 1996, and finished on October 15, 1997. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans, and grossed up a total of $165 million. The show, which visited five continents and 35 countries, became Jackson’s most successful in terms of audience figures. During the tour, Jackson married his longtime friend Deborah Jeanne Rowe, a dermatology nurse, in an impromptu ceremony in Sydney, Australia. Rowe was approximately six months pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time. Originally, Rowe and Jackson had no plans to marry, but Jackson’s mother Katherine persuaded them to do so. Michael Joseph Jackson Jr (commonly known as Prince) was born on February 13, 1997; his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born a year later on April 3, 1998. The couple divorced in 1999, and Jackson got full custody of the children. The divorce was relatively amicable, but a subsequent custody suit was not settled until 2006.
Jackson at Perth Airport in 1996
In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which contained remixes of hit singles from HIStory and five new songs. Worldwide sales stand at 6 million copies as of 2007, it is the best selling remix album ever released. It reached number one in the UK, as did the title track. In the US, the album was certified platinum, but only reached number 24. Forbes placed his annual income at $35 million in 1996 and $20 million in 1997. Throughout June 1999, Jackson was involved in a number of charitable events. He joined Luciano Pavarotti for a benefit concert in Modena, Italy. The show was in support of the nonprofit organization War Child, and raised a million dollars for the refugees of Kosovo, FR Yugoslavia, as well as additional funds for the children of Guatemala. Later that month, Jackson organized a set of “Michael Jackson & Friends” benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. Other artists involved included Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti. The proceeds went to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Red Cross and UNESCO.
Label dispute, Invincible and third child (2000–03)
At the turn of the century, the American Music Awards honored Jackson as Artist of the ’80s. Throughout 2000 and 2001, Jackson worked in the studio with Teddy Riley and Rodney Jerkins, as well as other collaborators. These sessions would result in the album Invincible, released in October 2001. Invincible was Jackson’s first full-length album in six years, and it would be the last album of new material he released while still alive. The release of the album was preceded by a dispute between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s. Once he had the licenses, he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and he would also be able to keep all the profits. However, due to various clauses in the contract, the revert date turned out to be many years away. Jackson discovered that the attorney who represented him in the deal was also representing Sony. Jackson was also concerned about the fact that for a number of years, Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in their music catalog venture. Jackson feared that Sony might have a conflict of interest, since if Jackson’s career failed he would have to sell his share of the catalog at a low price. Jackson sought an early exit from his contract. Just before the release of Invincible, Jackson informed the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, that he was leaving Sony. As a result, all singles releases, video shootings and promotions concerning the Invincible album were suspended.
In September 2001, two 30th Anniversary concerts were held at Madison Square Garden to mark the singer’s 30th year as a solo artist. Jackson appeared onstage alongside his brothers for the first time since 1984. The show also featured performances by Mýa, Usher, Whitney Houston, ‘N Sync, Destiny’s Child, Monica, Luther Vandross, and Slash, among other artists. The second of the two shows took place the night before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 9/11, Jackson helped organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The concert took place on October 21, 2001, and included performances from dozens of major artists, including Jackson, who performed his song “What More Can I Give” as the finale. Jackson’s solo performances were omitted from the televised version of the benefit concert, although he could still be seen singing background vocals. This omission happened because of contractual issues related to the earlier 30th Anniversary concerts: those concerts were boiled down into a two-hour TV special titled Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration: The Solo Years which debuted in November 2001.
In spite of the events preceding its release, Invincible came out in October 2001 to much anticipation. Invincible proved to be a hit, debuting atop the charts in 13 countries and going on to sell approximately 13 million copies worldwide. It received double-platinum certification in the US. However, the sales for Invincible were lower than those of his previous releases, due in part to a lack of promotion, no supporting world tour and the label dispute. The album also came out at a bad time for the music industry in general. The album cost $30 million to record, not including promotional expenditures. Invincible spawned three singles, “You Rock My World”, “Cry” and “Butterflies”, the latter without a music video. Jackson alleged in July 2002 that Mottola was a “devil” and a “racist” who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own personal gain. He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a “fat nigger”. Sony refused to renew Jackson’s contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the United States.
In 2002, Michael Jackson won his 22nd American Music Award for Artist of the Century. In the same year, Jackson’s third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed “Blanket”) was born. The mother’s identity is unknown, but Jackson has said the child was the result of artificial insemination from a surrogate mother and his own sperm. On November 20 of that year, Jackson brought his newborn son onto the balcony of his room at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, as fans stood below, holding him in his right arm, with a cloth loosely draped over the baby’s face. The baby was briefly extended over a railing, four stories above ground level, causing widespread criticism in the media. Jackson later apologized for the incident, calling it “a terrible mistake”. Sony released Number Ones, a compilation of Jackson’s hits on CD and DVD. In the US, the album was certified triple platinum by the RIAA; in the UK it was certified six times platinum for shipments of at least 1.2 million units.
Second child sexual abuse allegations and acquittal (2003–05)
Further information: Living with Michael Jackson and People v. Jackson
Beginning in May 2002, Jackson allowed a documentary film crew, led by British TV personality Martin Bashir, to follow him around just about everywhere he went. Bashir’s film crew was with Jackson during the “baby-dangling incident” in Berlin. The program was broadcast in March 2003 as Living with Michael Jackson, and painted an extraordinarily unflattering portrait of the singer.
In a particularly controversial scene, Jackson was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with a young boy. As soon as the documentary aired, the Santa Barbara county attorney’s office began a criminal investigation. Jackson was arrested in November 2003, and was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in relation to the 13 year old boy shown in the film. Jackson denied the allegations, saying the sleepovers were not sexual in nature. The People v. Jackson trial began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months, until the end of May. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts. After the trial, in a highly publicized relocation he moved to the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah. Bahrain was also where the family intended to send Jackson if he was convicted (though Jackson did not know about the plan), according to a statement by Jermaine Jackson printed in The Times of London in September 2011.
Closure of Neverland, final years and This Is It (2006–09)
Jackson with his children in Disneyland Paris, 2006
In March 2006, the main house at the Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure. There were numerous reports around that time that Jackson was having financial problems. Jackson had been delinquent on his repayments of a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings, even though those holdings were reportedly making him as much as $75 million a year. Bank of America sold the debt to Fortress Investments. Sony reportedly proposed a restructuring deal which would give them a future option to buy half of Jackson’s stake in their jointly owned publishing company (leaving Jackson with a 25% stake). Jackson agreed to a Sony-backed refinancing deal in April 2006, although the exact details were not made public. Jackson did not have a recording contract in place with Sony or any other major record label at the time.
In early 2006, there was an announcement that Jackson had signed a contract with a Bahrain-based startup called Two Seas Records. However, nothing ever came of that deal, and the CEO of Two Seas, Guy Holmes, later stated that the deal had never been finalized. Throughout 2006, Sony repackaged 20 singles from the 1980s and 1990s as the Michael Jackson: Visionary series, which subsequently became a box set. Most of those singles returned to the charts as a result. In September 2006, Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe confirmed reports that they had settled their long-running child custody suit. The terms were never made public. Jackson continued to be the custodial parent of the couple’s two children. In October 2006, Fox News entertainment reporter Roger Friedman said that Jackson had been recording at a studio in rural Westmeath, Ireland. It was not known at the time what Jackson might be working on, or who might be paying for the sessions, since his publicist had recently issued a statement claiming that he had left Two Seas.
In November 2006, Jackson invited an Access Hollywood camera crew into the studio in Westmeath, and MSNBC broke the story that he was working on a new album, produced by will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. Jackson performed at the World Music Awards, in London on November 15, 2006, and accepted a Diamond Award for selling over 100 million records. Jackson returned to the United States after Christmas 2006 to attend James Brown’s funeral in Augusta, Georgia. He gave one of the eulogies, saying that “James Brown is my greatest inspiration.” In the spring of 2007, Jackson and Sony teamed up to buy yet another music publishing company: Famous Music LLC, formerly owned by Viacom. This deal gave him the rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck, among others. Jackson recorded extensively during this period in New York with songwriter and producer will.i.am and also in Las Vegas with producers Akon and RedOne. In March 2007, Jackson gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Tokyo, where he said, “I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old, and as Charles Dickens would say, ‘It’s been the best of times, the worst of times.’ But I would not change my career … While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me.”
In September 2007, Jackson was reportedly still working with will.i.am, but the album was apparently never completed. However, in 2008, Jackson and Sony released Thriller 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Thriller. This album featured the previously unreleased song “For All Time” (an outtake from the original sessions) as well as remixes, where Jackson collaborated with younger artists who had been inspired by his work. Two of the remixes were released as singles with only modest success: “The Girl Is Mine 2008” (with will.i.am) and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ 2008” (with Akon). The first single was based on an early demo version, without Paul McCartney. The album itself was a hit, however. In anticipation of Jackson’s 50th birthday, Sony BMG released a series of greatest-hits albums called King of Pop. Slightly different versions were released in various countries, based on polls of local fans. King of Pop reached the top 10 in most countries where it was issued, and also sold well as an import in other countries (such as the United States.)
In the fall of 2008, Fortress Investments threatened to foreclose on Neverland Ranch, which Jackson used as collateral for loans running into many tens of millions of dollars. However, Fortress opted to sell Jackson’s debts to Colony Capital LLC. In November, Jackson transferred Neverland Ranch’s title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC, which was a joint venture between Jackson and Colony Capital LLC. This deal cleared Jackson’s debt, and he reportedly even gained an extra $35 million from the venture. At the time of his death, Jackson still owned a stake in Neverland/Sycamore Valley, but it is unknown how large that stake was. In September 2008, Jackson entered negotiations with Julien’s Auction House to display and auction a large collection of memorabilia amounting to approximately 1,390 lots. The auction was scheduled to take place between April 22 and April 25. An exhibition of the lots opened as scheduled on April 14, but the actual auction was eventually cancelled at Jackson’s request.
In March 2009, Jackson held a press conference at London’s O2 Arena and announced a series of comeback concerts titled This Is It. The shows would be Jackson’s first major series of concerts since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997. Jackson suggested possible retirement after the shows; he said it would be his “final curtain call”. The initial plan was for 10 concerts in London, followed by shows in Paris, New York City and Mumbai. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates alone would earn the singer approximately £50 million. The London residency was increased to 50 dates after record breaking ticket sales: over one million were sold in less than two hours. Jackson rehearsed in Los Angeles in the weeks leading up to the tour under the direction of choreographer Kenny Ortega. Most of these rehearsals took place at the Staples Center, which was owned by AEG. The concerts would have commenced on July 13, 2009, and finished on March 6, 2010. Less than three weeks before the first show was due to begin in London and with all concerts being sold out, Jackson died after suffering cardiac arrest. Some time before his death, it was widely stated that he was starting a clothing line with Christian Audigier; due to his death, the current status of the label remains unknown.
Jackson’s first posthumous single was a song titled “This Is It” which Jackson cowrote in the 1980s with Paul Anka. It was not on the set lists for the concerts, and the recording was based on an old demo tape. The surviving brothers reunited in the studio for the first time since 1989 to record backing vocals. On October 28, 2009, a documentary film about the rehearsals titled Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released. Even though it ran for a limited two-week engagement, it became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time, with earnings of more than $260 million worldwide. Jackson’s estate received 90% of the profits. The film was accompanied by a compilation album of the same name. Two versions of the new song appear on the album, which also featured original masters of Jackson’s hits in the order in which they appear in the movie, along with a bonus disc with previously unreleased versions of more Jackson hits as well as a spoken-word poem titled “Planet Earth”. At the 2009 American Music Awards Jackson won four posthumous awards, two for him and two for his album Number Ones, bringing his total American Music Awards to 26.
Death and memorial
Main articles: Death of Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson memorial service
Michael Jackson’s Tomb in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
On June 25, 2009, Jackson died while in his bed at his rented mansion at 100 North Carolwood Drive in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. Attempts at resuscitating him by Conrad Murray, his personal physician, were unsuccessful. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics received a 911 call at 12:22 (PDT, 19:22 UTC), arriving three minutes later at Jackson’s location. He was reportedly not breathing and CPR was performed. Resuscitation efforts continued en route to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and for more than an hour after arriving there at 1:13 (20:13 UTC). He was pronounced dead at 2:26 local time (21:26 UTC). Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief.
The news spread quickly online, causing websites to slow down and crash from user overload. Both TMZ and the Los Angeles Times suffered outages. Google initially believed that the input from millions of people searching for “Michael Jackson” meant that the search engine was under DDoS attack, and blocked searches related to Michael Jackson for 30 minutes. Twitter reported a crash, as did Wikipedia at 3:15 p.m. PDT (22:15 UTC). The Wikimedia Foundation reported nearly a million visitors to Jackson’s biography within one hour, probably the most visitors in a one-hour period to any article in Wikipedia’s history. AOL Instant Messenger collapsed for 40 minutes. AOL called it a “seminal moment in Internet history”, adding, “We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth.”
Around 15% of Twitter posts—or 5,000 tweets per minute—reportedly mentioned Jackson after the news broke, compared to the 5% recalled as having mentioned the Iranian elections or the flu pandemic that had made headlines earlier in the year. Overall, web traffic ranged from 11% to at least 20% higher than normal. MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET) aired marathons of Jackson’s music videos. Jackson specials aired on multiple television stations around the world. The British soap opera EastEnders added a last-minute scene, in which one character tells another about the news, to the June 26 episode. Jackson was the topic of every front-page headline in the daily British tabloid The Sun for about two weeks following his death. During the same period, the three major U.S. networks’ evening newscasts—ABC World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News—devoted 34% of their broadcast time to him. Magazines including Time published commemorative editions. A scene that had featured Jackson’s sister La Toya was cut from the film Brüno out of respect toward Jackson’s family.
Jackson’s memorial was held on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, preceded by a private family service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park’s Hall of Liberty. Jackson’s casket was present during the memorial but no information was released about the final disposition of the body. While some unofficial reports claimed a worldwide audience as high as one billion people, the U.S. audience was estimated by Nielsen to be 31.1 million, an amount comparable to the estimated 35.1 million that watched the 2004 burial of former president Ronald Reagan, and the estimated 33.1 million Americans who watched the 1997 funeral for Princess Diana.
Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson, and Shaheen Jafargholi performed at the event. Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson gave eulogies, while Queen Latifah read “We had him”, a poem written for the occasion by Maya Angelou. The Reverend Al Sharpton received a standing ovation with cheers when he told Jackson’s children, “Wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway.” Jackson’s 11-year-old daughter, Paris Katherine, cried as she told the crowd, “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine … I just wanted to say I love him … so much.” Reverend Lucious Smith provided a closing prayer. On August 24, several news outlets quoted anonymous sources as stating that the Los Angeles coroner had decided to treat Jackson’s death as a homicide; this was later confirmed by the coroner on August 28. At the time of death, Jackson had been administered propofol, lorazepam and midazolam. Law enforcement officials conducted a manslaughter investigation of his personal physician, Conrad Murray. On February 8, 2010, Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Jackson was entombed on September 3, 2009, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Tribute of fans from all over the world in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park on his first anniversary of death
On June 25, 2010, the first anniversary of Jackson’s death, fans traveled to Los Angeles to pay their tribute to him. They visited Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his family’s home, as well as Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Many of the fans were carrying sunflowers and other tribute items to drop off at the sites. Members of the Jackson family and close friends arrived to pay their respects. Katherine returned to Gary, Indiana to unveil a granite monument constructed in the front yard of the family home. The memorial continued with a candlelight vigil and a special performance of “We Are the World”. On June 26, there was a protest march in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division at the old Parker Center building and a petition with thousands of signatures demanding justice was delivered. The Jackson Family Foundation in conjunction with Voiceplate presented “Forever Michael”, an event bringing together Jackson family members, celebrities, fans, supporters and the community to celebrate and honor his legacy. A portion of the proceeds were presented to some of Jackson’s favorite charities. Katherine also introduced her new book “Never Can Say Goodbye”.
After his death, Jackson became the best-selling albums artist of 2009; in the United States selling over 8.2 million albums and a total of 35 million albums worldwide in the 12 months that followed his death. Following this surge in sales, Sony announced that they had extended their relationship with his material. The distribution rights held by Sony Music were due to expire in 2015. On March 16, 2010, Sony Music Entertainment, in a move spearheaded by its Columbia/Epic Label Group division, signed a new deal with the Jackson estate to extend their distribution rights to his back catalogue until at least 2017, as well as to obtain permission to release ten new albums with previously unreleased material and new collections of released work. On November 4, 2010 Sony announced the release of Michael, the first posthumous album set to be released on December 14, with the promotional single released to the radios on November 8, titled “Breaking News”. The deal was unprecedented in the music industry as it is the most expensive music contract pertaining to a single artist in history; it reportedly involved Sony Music paying $250 million for the deal, with the Jackson estate getting the full sum as well as its share of royalties for all works released. Video game developer Ubisoft announced it would release a new dancing-and-singing game featuring Michael Jackson for the 2010 holiday season. The game titled Michael Jackson: The Experience will be among the first to use Kinect and PlayStation Move, the respective motion-detecting camera systems for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 due out later that year.
On November 3, 2010, the theatrical performing company Cirque du Soleil announced that it would launch “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” in October 2011 in Montreal, while a permanent show will reside in Las Vegas. The 90-minute US$57M production will combine Jackson’s iconic musical oeuvre and choreography with the Cirque’s signature artistry, dance and aerial displays involving 65 artists. The tour was written and directed by Jamie King and centers on Jackson’s “inspirational Giving Tree – the wellspring of creativity where his love of music and dance, fairy tale and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature are unlocked.” On October 3, 2011, the accompanying compilation soundtrack album Immortal was announced to have over 40 Jackson’s original recordings re-produced by Kevin Antunes.
In April 2011, Jackson’s longtime friend and billionaire businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, chairman of Fulham F.C., unveiled a statue of Jackson outside the club’s stadium, Craven Cottage. Fulham fans were however bemused by the statue and failed to understand the relevance of Jackson to the club. Al Fayed however defended the statue and told the fans to ‘go to hell’ if they didn’t appreciate the statue.
One of many identical statues, positioned throughout Europe to promote HIStory
Jackson’s music took root in R&B, pop and soul. He had been influenced by the work of contemporary musicians such as Little Richard, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Diana Ross, David Ruffin, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Isley Brothers, the Bee Gees and the West Side Story dancers, to whom he made a tribute in “Beat It” and in the “Bad” video. According to David Winters, who met and befriended Jackson while choreographing the 1971 Diana Ross TV Special “Diana!”, (which was also Jackson’s first solo debut outside of The Jackson 5), Jackson watched West Side Story almost every week and it was his favorite film. While Little Richard had a substantial influence on Jackson, James Brown was Jackson’s greatest inspiration. In reference to Brown, Jackson declared: “Ever since I was a small child, no more than like six years old, my mother would wake me no matter what time it was, if I was sleeping, no matter what I was doing, to watch the television to see the master at work. And when I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I had never seen a performer perform like James Brown, and right then and there I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown.”
The young Michael Jackson owed his vocal technique in large part to Diana Ross. Not only a mother figure to him, she was often observed in rehearsal as an accomplished performer. He later expressed: “I got to know her well. She taught me so much. I used to just sit in the corner and watch the way she moved. She was art in motion. I studied the way she moved, the way she sang – just the way she was.” He told her: “I want to be just like you, Diana.” She said: “You just be yourself.” But Jackson owed part of his enduring style—especially his use of the oooh interjection—to Ross. From a young age, Jackson often punctuated his verses with a sudden exclamation of oooh. Diana Ross had used this effect on many of the songs recorded with The Supremes.
Musical themes and genres
Unlike many artists, Jackson did not write his songs on paper. Instead he would dictate into a sound recorder, and when recording he would sing the lyrics from memory. In most of his songs, such as “Billie Jean”, “Who Is It”, and “Tabloid Junkie”, he would beatbox and imitate the instruments using his voice instead of playing the actual instruments, along with other sounds. Jackson noted that it is easier to sing a drum line, or sing a bass, instead of playing a drum line or a bass with an instrument. Several critics have said that Jackson’s distinct voice was able to replace any instrument convincingly. Steve Huey of Allmusic said that, throughout his solo career, Jackson’s versatility allowed him to experiment with various themes and genres. As a musician, he ranged from Motown’s dance fare and ballads to techno and house-edged new jack swing to work that incorporates both funk rhythms and hard rock guitar.
According to Huey, Thriller refined the strengths of Off the Wall; the dance and rock tracks were more aggressive, while the pop tunes and ballads were softer and more soulful. Notable tracks included the ballads “The Lady in My Life”, “Human Nature” and “The Girl Is Mine”; the funk pieces “Billie Jean” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”; and the post-disco set “Baby Be Mine” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”. With Thriller, Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone commented that Jackson developed his long association with the subliminal theme of paranoia and darker imagery. Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted this is evident on the songs “Billie Jean” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. In “Billie Jean”, Jackson sings about an obsessive fan who alleges he has fathered a child of hers. In “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” he argues against gossip and the media. “Beat It” decried gang violence in an homage to West Side Story, and was Jackson’s first successful rock cross-over piece, according to Huey. He also observed that the title track “Thriller” began Jackson’s interest with the theme of the supernatural, a topic he revisited in subsequent years. In 1985, Jackson co-wrote the charity anthem “We Are the World”; humanitarian themes later became a recurring theme in his lyrics and public persona.
One of Jackson’s signature pieces, “Thriller”, released as a single in 1984, utilizes cinematic sound effects, horror film motifs and vocal trickery to convey a sense of danger.
A single from the album Bad, released 1988, “Smooth Criminal” features digital drum sounds, keyboard-created bass lines and other percussion elements designed to give the impression of a pulsing heart.
“Black or White”
The lead single from Dangerous, the danceable hard rock song “Black or White” was one of Jackson’s most successful recordings. It contains many features of Jackson’s vocal style, including the vocal hiccup he is known for.
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In Bad, Jackson’s concept of the predatory lover can be seen on the rock song “Dirty Diana”. The lead single “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” is a traditional love ballad, while “Man in the Mirror” is an anthemic ballad of confession and resolution. “Smooth Criminal” was an evocation of bloody assault, rape and likely murder. Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine states that Dangerous presents Jackson as a very paradoxical individual. He comments the album is more diverse than his previous Bad, as it appeals to an urban audience while also attracting the middle class with anthems like “Heal the World”. The first half of the record is dedicated to new jack swing, including songs like “Jam” and “Remember the Time”. The album is Jackson’s first where social ills become a primary theme; “Why You Wanna Trip on Me”, for example, protests against world hunger, AIDS, homelessness and drugs. Dangerous contains sexually charged efforts such as the multifaceted love song, “In the Closet”. The title track continues the theme of the predatory lover and compulsive desire. The second half includes introspective, pop-gospel anthems such as “Will You Be There”, “Heal the World” and “Keep the Faith”; these songs show Jackson opening up about various personal struggles and worries. In the ballad “Gone Too Soon”, Jackson gives tribute to his friend Ryan White and the plight of those with AIDS.
HIStory creates an atmosphere of paranoia. Its content focuses on the hardships and public struggles Jackson went through just prior to its production. In the new jack swing-funk-rock efforts “Scream” and “Tabloid Junkie”, along with the R&B ballad “You Are Not Alone”, Jackson retaliates against the injustice and isolation he feels, and directs much of his anger at the media. In the introspective ballad “Stranger in Moscow”, Jackson laments over his “fall from grace”, while songs like “Earth Song”, “Childhood”, “Little Susie” and “Smile” are all operatic pop pieces. In the track “D.S.”, Jackson launched a verbal attack against Tom Sneddon. He describes Sneddon as an antisocial, white supremacist who wanted to “get my ass, dead or alive”. Of the song, Sneddon said, “I have not—shall we say—done him the honor of listening to it, but I’ve been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot”. Invincible found Jackson working heavily with producer Rodney Jerkins. It is a record made up of urban soul like “Cry” and “The Lost Children”, ballads such as “Speechless”, “Break of Dawn” and “Butterflies” and mixes hip-hop, pop and R&B in “2000 Watts”, “Heartbreaker” and “Invincible”.
Jackson sang from childhood, and over time his voice and vocal style changed noticeably. Between 1971 and 1975, Jackson’s voice descended from boy soprano to high tenor. His vocal range as an adult was F2-E♭6. Jackson first used a technique called the “vocal hiccup” in 1973, starting with the song “It’s Too Late to Change the Time” from The Jackson 5’s G.I.T.: Get It Together album. Jackson did not use the hiccup technique— somewhat like a gulping for air or gasping— fully until the recording of Off the Wall: it can be seen in full force in the “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” promotional video. With the arrival of Off the Wall in the late 1970s, Jackson’s abilities as a vocalist were well regarded. At the time, Rolling Stone compared his vocals to the “breathless, dreamy stutter” of Stevie Wonder. Their analysis was also that “Jackson’s feathery-timbred tenor is extraordinarily beautiful. It slides smoothly into a startling falsetto that’s used very daringly”. 1982 saw the release of Thriller, and Rolling Stone was of the opinion that Jackson was then singing in a “fully adult voice” that was “tinged by sadness”.
A distinctive deliberate mispronunciation of “come on”, used frequently by Jackson, occasionally spelled “cha’mone” or “shamone”, is also a staple in impressions and caricatures of him. The turn of the 1990s saw the release of the introspective album Dangerous. The New York Times noted that on some tracks, “he gulps for breath, his voice quivers with anxiety or drops to a desperate whisper, hissing through clenched teeth” and he had a “wretched tone”. When singing of brotherhood or self-esteem the musician would return to “smooth” vocals. When commenting on Invincible, Rolling Stone were of the opinion that—at the age of 43—Jackson still performed “exquisitely voiced rhythm tracks and vibrating vocal harmonies”. Nelson George summed up Jackson’s vocals by stating “The grace, the aggression, the growling, the natural boyishness, the falsetto, the smoothness—that combination of elements mark him as a major vocalist”.
Music videos and choreography
Referred to as the King of Music Videos, Steve Huey of Allmusic observed how Jackson transformed the music video into an art form and a promotional tool through complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and famous cameo appearances; simultaneously breaking down racial barriers. Before Thriller, Jackson struggled to receive coverage on MTV, allegedly because he was African American. Pressure from CBS Records persuaded MTV to start showing “Billie Jean” and later “Beat It”, leading to a lengthy partnership with Jackson, also helping other black music artists gain recognition. MTV employees deny any racism in their coverage, or pressure to change their stance. MTV maintains that they played rock music, regardless of race. The popularity of his videos on MTV helped to put the relatively young channel “on the map”; MTV’s focus shifted in favor of pop and R&B. His performance on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever changed the scope of live stage show; “That Jackson lip-synced ‘Billie Jean’ is, in itself, not extraordinary, but the fact that it did not change the impact of the performance is extraordinary; whether the performance was live or lip-synced made no difference to the audience” thus creating an era in which artists re-create the spectacle of music video imagery on stage. Short films like Thriller largely remained unique to Jackson, while the group dance sequence in “Beat It” has frequently been imitated. The choreography in Thriller has become a part of global pop culture, replicated everywhere from Indian films to prisons in the Philippines. The Thriller short film marked an increase in scale for music videos, and has been named the most successful music video ever by the Guinness World Records.
Michael Jackson’s revolutionary music video Thriller gained worldwide attention from TV networks such as MTV and VH1
In the 19-minute music video for “Bad”—directed by Martin Scorsese—Jackson began using sexual imagery and choreography not previously seen in his work. He occasionally grabbed or touched his chest, torso and crotch. When asked by Oprah in the 1993 interview about why he grabbed his crotch, he replied, “I think it happens subliminally” and he described it as something that was not planned, but rather, as something that was compelled by the music. “Bad” garnered a mixed reception from both fans and critics; Time magazine described it as “infamous”. The video also featured Wesley Snipes; in the future Jackson’s videos would often feature famous cameo roles. For “Smooth Criminal”, Jackson experimented with an innovative “anti-gravity lean” in his performances. The maneuver required special shoes for which he was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,255,452. Although the music video for “Leave Me Alone” was not officially released in the US, in 1989, it was nominated for three Billboard Music Video Awards; the same year it won a Golden Lion Award for the quality of the special effects used in its production. In 1990, “Leave Me Alone” won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form.
He received the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1988 and the MTV Video Vanguard Artist of the Decade Award in 1990 to celebrate his accomplishments in the art form in the 1980s; in 1991 the first award was renamed in his honor. “Black or White” was accompanied by a controversial music video, which, on November 14, 1991, simultaneously premiered in 27 countries with an estimated audience of 500 million people, the largest viewing ever for a music video. It featured scenes construed as having a sexual nature as well as depictions of violence. The offending scenes in the final half of the 14-minute version were edited out to prevent the video from being banned, and Jackson apologized. Along with Jackson, it featured Macaulay Culkin, Peggy Lipton and George Wendt. It helped usher in morphing as an important technology in music videos.
“Remember the Time” was an elaborate production, and became one of his longest videos at over nine minutes. Set in ancient Egypt, it featured groundbreaking visual effects and appearances by Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson, along with a distinct complex dance routine. The video for “In the Closet” was Jackson’s most sexually provocative piece. It featured supermodel Naomi Campbell in a courtship dance with Jackson. The video was banned in South Africa because of its imagery.
The music video for “Scream”, directed by Mark Romanek and production designer Tom Foden, is one of Jackson’s most critically acclaimed. In 1995, it gained 11 MTV Video Music Award Nominations—more than any other music video—and won “Best Dance Video”, “Best Choreography”, and “Best Art Direction”. The song and its accompanying video are a response to the backlash Jackson received from the media after being accused of child molestation in 1993. A year later, it won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form; shortly afterwards Guinness World Records listed it as the most expensive music video ever made at a cost of $7 million.
“Earth Song” was accompanied by an expensive and well-received music video that gained a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form in 1997. The video had an environmental theme, showing images of animal cruelty, deforestation, pollution and war. Using special effects, time is reversed so that life returns, wars end, and the forests re-grow. Released in 1997 and premiering at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Michael Jackson’s Ghosts was a short film written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. The video for Ghosts is over 38 minutes long and holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s longest music video.
Legacy and influence
See also: Records and achievements of Michael Jackson
Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, set in 1984
Jackson throughout his career transformed the art of the music video and paved the way for modern pop music. Daily Telegraph writer Tom Utley described Jackson in 2003 as “extremely important” and a “genius”. For much of his career, he had an “unparalleled” level of worldwide influence over the younger generation through his musical and humanitarian contributions. Jackson’s music and videos, such as Thriller, fostered racial diversity in MTV’s roster, helped to put the relatively new channel into public awareness, and steered the channel’s focus from rock to pop music and R&B, shaping the channel into a form that proved enduring. Jackson’s work continues to influence numerous hip hop, rock, pop and R&B artists, including Patrick Stump, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Mýa, Usher, Adam Lambert, Green Day, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Madonna, Alien Ant Farm and Ludacris, among others.
Allmusic’s Steve Huey describes Jackson as “an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the skills to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility and loads of sheer star power”. In the mid-1980s, Time magazine’s pop music critic, Jay Cocks, noted “Jackson is the biggest thing since The Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever”. In 1990, Vanity Fair cited Jackson as the most popular artist in the history of show business. In 2007, Jackson said, “Music has been my outlet, my gift to all of the lovers in this world. Through it, my music, I know I will live forever.”
Shortly after Jackson’s death, on June 25, 2009, MTV briefly returned to its original music video format to celebrate and pay tribute to his work. The channel aired many hours of Jackson’s music videos, accompanied by live news specials featuring reactions from MTV personalities and other celebrities. The temporary shift in MTV’s programming culminated the following week in the channel’s live coverage of Jackson’s memorial service. At the memorial service on July 7, 2009, founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy proclaimed Jackson as “the greatest entertainer that ever lived”.
In 2010, two university librarians found that Jackson’s influence extended into academia, and was detectable in scholarly literature pertaining to a range of subject matter. The two researchers combed through various scholars’ writings, and compiled an annotated bibliography of those writings that appeared to meet at least one of several criteria. Among these criteria were appearance in a peer-reviewed journal, and the provision of insight into the nature of “popular icons including Jackson”. The bibliography located references to Jackson in research reports concerning music, popular culture, and an array of other topics. The bibliographers identified as their most peculiar finding an argument that certain aspects of chemistry can be effectively taught by altering and imitating elements of Jackson’s singing. One of the research librarians later reflected that “the fact that someone would take a Michael Jackson song and co-opt it as a means to convey chemistry concepts just shows the pervasiveness of Jackson’s influence”.
Honors and awards
See also: List of awards received by Michael Jackson
Thriller platinum record on display at the Hard Rock Cafe, Hollywood in Universal City, California
Michael Jackson was inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980 as member of The Jacksons and in 1984 as solo artist. Throughout his career he received numerous honors and awards, including the World Music Awards’ Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, the American Music Award’s Artist of the Century Award and the Bambi Pop Artist of the Millennium Award. He was a double-inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997 and later as a solo artist in 2001. Jackson was also inducted in several other hall of fames, including Vocal Group Hall of Fame (as The Jackson 5 member) in 1999, Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 and Hit Parade Hall of Fame (with his brothers) in 2009. In 2010, Jackson was inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first (and currently only) dancer from the world of pop and rock ‘n’ roll. His awards include many Guinness World Records (eight in 2006 alone), 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), 26 American Music Awards (24 only as a solo artist, including the “Artist of the Century”, but not the poll of “Artist of the ’80s”)—more than any artist—, 13 number one singles in the US in his solo career—more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era—and estimated sales of up to 750 million records worldwide, making him the world’s best selling male solo pop artist. On December 29, 2009, the American Film Institute recognized Jackson’s death as a “moment of significance” saying, “Michael Jackson’s sudden death in June at age 50 was notable for the worldwide outpouring of grief and the unprecedented global eulogy of his posthumous concert rehearsal movie This Is It.” Michael Jackson also received a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from the United Negro College Fund and also an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Fisk University.
His total lifetime earnings from royalties on his solo recordings and music videos, revenue from concerts and endorsements have been estimated at US$500 million; some analysts have speculated that his music catalog holdings could be worth billions of dollars. This speculation however is contradicted by financial documents obtained by the Associated Press, which showed that as of March 31, 2007, Jackson’s 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog (his most prized asset) was worth $390.6 million and Michael Jackson’s net worth was $236 million. Billboard has estimated that Jackson has generated at least $1 billion in revenue in the year following his death.[ wealth to charity.