Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana.
Jackson has spent almost his entire life as a public performer. He was a
member of the Jackson Five at the age of four, soon becoming the group’s
lead vocalist and front man. Onstage, he modeled his dance moves and vocal
styling on James Brown, and portrayed an absolute self-confidence on stage
that belied his shy, private personality. The Jackson Five were signed to
Motown Records at the end of 1968.
Their early releases, including chart-
toppers ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, illustrated his remarkable
maturity. Although Michael was too young to have experienced the romantic
situations that were the subject of his songs, he performed with total
sincerity, showing all the hallmarks of a great soul artist. When MGM
Records launched the Osmonds as rivals to the Jackson Five in 1970, and
singled out their lead singer, 13-year-old Donny Osmond, for a solo career,
Motown felt duty bound to reply in kind. Michael Jackson Essay’s first release as
a solo performer was the aching ballad ‘Got To Be There’, a major UK and US
hit. A revival of Bobby Day’s rock ‘n’ roll novelty ‘Rockin’ Robin’ reached
the top of the US charts in 1972, while the sentimental film theme ‘Ben’
repeated that achievement later in the year. Motown capitalized on
Jackson’s popularity with a series of hurried albums, which mixed material
angled towards the teenage market with a selection of the label’s
They also stockpiled scores of un-issued tracks, which were
released in the 80’s to cash in on the success of his Epic recordings.
As the Jackson Five’s sales slipped in the mid-70s, Michael’s solo
career was put on hold, and he continued to reserve his talents for the
group after they were reborn as the Jacksons in 1976. He re-entered the
public eye with a starring role in the film musical The Wiz, collaborating
on the soundtrack album with Quincy Jones. Their partnership was renewed in
1979 when Jones produced ‘Off The Wall,’ a startlingly successful
collection of contemporary soul material that introduced the world to the
adult Michael Jackson. In his new incarnation, Jackson retained the vocal
flexibility of old, but added a new element of sophistication and maturity.
The album topped the charts in the UK and USA, and contained two number one
singles, ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ (for which Jackson won a Grammy
award) and ‘Rock With You’.
Meanwhile, Motown capitalized on his commercial status by reissuing a
recording from the mid-70s, ‘One Day In Your Life’, which duly topped the
UK charts. Jackson continued to tour and record with the Jacksons after
this solo success, while media speculation grew about his private life. He
was increasingly portrayed as a figure trapped in an eternal childhood,
surrounded by toys and pet animals, and insulated from the traumas of the
real world. This image was consolidated when he was chosen to narrate an
album based on the 1982 fantasy film ET – The Extra Terrestrial. The record
was quickly withdrawn because of legal complications, but still won Jackson
another Grammy award.
In 1982 ‘Thriller,’ Jackson’s second album with Quincy Jones,
was released, and went on to become one of the most commercially successful
albums of all time.
It also produced a run of successful hit singles, each
accompanied by a promotional video that widened the scope of the genre.
‘The Girl Is Mine’, a duet with Paul McCartney, began the sequence in
relatively subdued style; it reached number 1 in the USA and UK, but merely
set the scene for ‘Billie Jean’, an effortless mix of disco and pop that
spawned a series of answer records from other artists. The accompanying
video was equally spectacular, portraying Jackson as a master of dance, a
magician who could transform lives, and a shadowy figure who lived outside
the everyday world. Its successor, ‘Beat It’, established another
precedent, with its determinedly rock-flavored guitar solo by Eddie Van
Halen making it the first black record to receive rotation airplay on the
MTV video station. Its promo film involved Jackson at the center of a
choreographed street battle, a conscious throwback to the set pieces of
West Side Story. However, even this was a modest effort compared to
‘Thriller’, a rather mannered piece of disco-funk accompanied by a stunning
long-form video that placed Jackson in a parade of Halloween horrors.
promo clip spawned a follow-up, ‘The Making Of ‘Thriller’, which in turn
sold more copies than any other home video .