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 amember of the Jackson Five at the age of four, soon becoming the group’slead vocalist and front man. Onstage, he modeled his dance moves and vocalstyling on James Brown, and portrayed an absolute self-confidence on stagethat belied his shy, private personality.
The Jackson Five were signed toMotown Records at the end of 1968. Their early releases, including chart-toppers ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, illustrated his remarkablematurity. Although Michael was too young to have experienced the romanticsituations that were the subject of his songs, he performed with totalsincerity, showing all the hallmarks of a great soul artist. When MGMRecords launched the Osmonds as rivals to the Jackson Five in 1970, andsingled 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 asa solo performer was the aching ballad ‘Got To Be There’, a major UK and UShit. A revival of Bobby Day’s rock ‘n’ roll novelty ‘Rockin’ Robin’ reachedthe top of the US charts in 1972, while the sentimental film theme ‘Ben’repeated that achievement later in the year. Motown capitalized onJackson’s popularity with a series of hurried albums, which mixed materialangled towards the teenage market with a selection of the label’sstandards. They also stockpiled scores of un-issued tracks, which werereleased 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 solocareer was put on hold, and he continued to reserve his talents for thegroup after they were reborn as the Jacksons in 1976.
He re-entered thepublic eye with a starring role in the film musical The Wiz, collaboratingon the soundtrack album with Quincy Jones. Their partnership was renewed in1979 when Jones produced ‘Off The Wall,’ a startlingly successfulcollection of contemporary soul material that introduced the world to theadult Michael Jackson. In his new incarnation, Jackson retained the vocalflexibility 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 onesingles, ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ (for which Jackson won a Grammyaward) and ‘Rock With You’. Meanwhile, Motown capitalized on his commercial status by reissuing arecording from the mid-70s, ‘One Day In Your Life’, which duly topped theUK charts. Jackson continued to tour and record with the Jacksons afterthis solo success, while media speculation grew about his private life.
Hewas increasingly portrayed as a figure trapped in an eternal childhood,surrounded by toys and pet animals, and insulated from the traumas of thereal world. This image was consolidated when he was chosen to narrate analbum based on the 1982 fantasy film ET – The Extra Terrestrial. The recordwas quickly withdrawn because of legal complications, but still won Jacksonanother Grammy award. In 1982 ‘Thriller,’ Jackson’s second album with Quincy Jones,was released, and went on to become one of the most commercially successfulalbums of all time. It also produced a run of successful hit singles, eachaccompanied by a promotional video that widened the scope of the genre. ‘The Girl Is Mine’, a duet with Paul McCartney, began the sequence inrelatively subdued style; it reached number 1 in the USA and UK, but merelyset the scene for ‘Billie Jean’, an effortless mix of disco and pop thatspawned a series of answer records from other artists.
The accompanyingvideo was equally spectacular, portraying Jackson as a master of dance, amagician who could transform lives, and a shadowy figure who lived outsidethe everyday world. Its successor, ‘Beat It’, established anotherprecedent, with its determinedly rock-flavored guitar solo by Eddie VanHalen making it the first black record to receive rotation airplay on theMTV video station. Its promo film involved Jackson at the center of achoreographed street battle, a conscious throwback to the set pieces ofWest Side Story. However, even this was a modest effort compared to’Thriller’, a rather mannered piece of disco-funk accompanied by a stunninglong-form video that placed Jackson in a parade of Halloween horrors. Thispromo clip spawned a follow-up, ‘The Making Of ‘Thriller’, which in turnsold more copies than any other home video .