Family & Companions
A star since the age of 10 when The Jackson Five registered four No. 1 hits in 1970, Michael Jackson parlayed his remarkable singing and dancing talents into mega-stardom, the likes of which few entertainers have ever known. By the time he released Thriller in 1982, which quickly became the best-selling album in the history of recorded music, Jackson was the biggest pop icon in the world. There was no doubt that Jackson was the subject of endless public fascination. On June 25, 2009, his position as a tragic American icon was solidified when, after rehearsals for a series of comeback concerts in the U.K., he was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, where he was pronounced dead at age 50. The announcement sent shock waves around the world, as fans mourned the one and only King of Pop.
Born on Aug. 29, 1958 in Gary, IN, Jackson was one of nine siblings who joined his four older brothers in the act his father was presenting at various clubs in the Chicago area. When they first auditioned for Berry Gordy's Motown label, he had not yet reached his 10th birthday, but he was already a seasoned professional, displaying some dazzling footwork on James Brown's "I Got the Feeling" that would have made the Godfather of Soul proud. With Gordy's backing, The Jackson Five exploded into the national consciousness with "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" all occupying the top spot on the Billboardchart before 1970 had run its course. Two years later, Michael enjoyed his first solo No. 1 hit with "Ben," from his second album. Chafing at the artistic restraints applied by Gordy, the brothers left Motown for Epic, changed their name and brought out The Jacksons (1976), containing Michael's first published song, "Blues Away." He made his feature debut in "The Wiz" (1978) at age 20, contributing some brilliant dance work in his role as the Scarecrow.
During the filming of "The Wiz," Jackson renewed an old acquaintance with producer Quincy Jones, and their subsequent collaborations would earn him the title he would claim the rest of his life: the "King of Pop." They warmed up with Off the Wall (1979), but really scored with their second effort, Thriller (1982), featuring three No. 1 hits. Winner of seven Grammy Awards, it remained the best-selling album in the history of the recording industry and was still selling well over a million copies a year in 1995, 13 years after its release. In association with it, Jackson starred in John Landis' "Thriller" video, considered the best music video ever made. A teaming with Paul McCartney led to another No. 1 single, "Say, Say, Say" (1983), before he co-wrote (with Lionel Ritchie), "We Are the World" (1985), in an effort to raise the world's consciousness about the plight of famine-stricken nations in Africa. Produced by Jones with an all-star cast, it won the Song of the Year Grammy for 1985. Jackson starred in the 3-D fantasy short, "Captain EO" (1986), a popular film with children shown at Disney's Epcot Center in Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas. His last album with Jones, Bad (1987), yielded an unprecedented five No. 1 hits, and, as was the case with Thriller, every track was memorable. He released one more successful album, Dangerous (1991), before excessive media attention regarding his alleged misconduct would turn people against him.
In 1993, the singer had his first brush with controversy when he was accused of abusing a 13-year-old boy in his entourage. Having become friends the previous year, Jackson was reportedly a virtual member of the boy's family. But the child - who first revealed the abuse to his father after being put under the influence of Amytal Sodium (a.k.a. "Truth Serum") - told a psychiatrist, and later police, that Jackson had molested him. When the news broke, Jackson and his family strongly denied that he was a pedophile, while the King of Pop himself suffered a major blow to his popularity. After becoming dependant on drugs to alleviate the stress, he canceled the remainder of his tour and sought treatment overseas. Upon his return to the United States, Jackson was subjected to a 25-minute strip search after it became known that the boy claimed to be able to describe Jackson's genitals. Not a definitive match, the description had strong similarities. Through it all, Jackson maintained his innocence in public. Eventually, he settled with the accuser's family out of court for $22 million, while criminal charges were never filed due to lack of evidence after the boy's father refused to testify.
Always charismatic, Jackson had initially transformed himself during the 1980s into an almost other-worldly icon, fond of wearing one glove, sparkling socks, tape on his fingers and military regalia. But the line between the performer and private man became blurred by the early 1990s. Excessive cosmetic surgery to substantially alter his looks, public appearances wearing a surgical mask, and a preference for animals and children over adults earned him a reputation as "Wacko Jacko." Even fatherhood and two marriages - including a sort-lived, hard-to-comprehend union with Elvis Presley's daughter Lisa Marie (made even more unpalatable by their unconvincing lip-lock at an MTV awards ceremony) and another one to his doctors' receptionist - failed to dispel the notion that the singer was a freak, of sorts. To fully remove the tarnish from his crown, the King of Pop needed another hit, and if his excessive wealth had not totally estranged him from reality, then this perfection-obsessed artist might have surely delivered the goods again.
The heavily hyped HIStory (1995) sold poorly, failing to recoup its promotional expenses, and he released Blood on the Dance Floor (1997) with little fanfare. Jackson debuted his controversial "Ghosts" video - a narcissistic defense of himself - in selected U.S. cities on Halloween 1996, but quickly withdrew it, though it surfaced again at Cannes the following May. Despite the negative scrutiny, Jackson and his brothers entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Meanwhile, Jackson released the album Invincible in 2001, which, for all intents and purposes, was a commercial flop. It was heavily promoted by Sony and cost a hefty $30 million to produce. The album spawned one moderate hit, "Butterflies," which was remixed with rapper Eve. In 2002, Jackson accused Sony of racism and said the label failed to adequately promote his album. Sony was shocked, saying they spared no expense in touting the album's release. The accusations only served to further solidify Jackson's reputation as "out of touch" with reality. The weirdness of Jackson's self-created and possibly sordid world definitively overwhelmed both his prodigious talent and respected career in 2002 and 2003. The singer made headlines around the world after dangling his infant son Prince Michael II, obscured with a blanket on his head, over the balcony of his Berlin hotel room, prompting criticism of his unorthodox parenting skills and resurrecting the old allegations of child abuse.
Although he admitted his behavior was a mistake, Jackson swiftly escalated his erratic reputation by shocking fans with his public appearance at a civil trial in Santa Maria, CA. Jackson arrived at the courthouse on crutches and with his nose looking as if it were suffering - indeed, caving in - from an overabundance of plastic surgery. Next, an interview by British journalist Martin Bashir, who was granted unprecedented access to Jackson's private world, aired on "20/20" (ABC, 1978- ) newsmagazine and drew 27.1 million viewers, most of whom were shocked by the portrait of the singer's bizarre lifestyle. Jackson filed a complaint with television watchdog groups and claimed that the interview was edited to cast him in an unfavorable light. He subsequently backed out of a much-promoted "60 Minutes" (CBS, 1968- ) interview, instead offering his own privately crafted rebuttal to Bashir's report on the two-hour Fox special, "Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Interview They Wouldn't Show You."
The furor died down for several months, but the flames were fanned again in November 2003, just as Jackson's greatest hits package Number Ones was about to hit stores. Santa Barbara police descended on his Neverland Ranch to investigate claims that the musician had molested a 12-year-old boy on the premises. Amid a media furor, Jackson, who was filming a music video in Las Vegas, was required to surrender himself to authorities, prompting video images of the singer in handcuffs. Booked on suspicion of child molestation and released on $3 million bail, he subsequently called the allegations as "outrageous" and "false" and hired celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos to defend him. In the wake of his arrest, CBS indefinitely postponed a primetime Jackson network special that had been scheduled for November 26, while devoted fans staged candlelight vigils protesting his innocence. Meanwhile, plans for finding a fulltime performing home in Las Vegas evaporated; the Jackson family and celebrity friends such as Elizabeth Taylor publicly rushed to his defense as doubts about Jackson's accuser, who previously accused others of child abuse - including his own father - began to surface.
Jackson's compilation album, with the ironically titled new single, "One More Chance," debuted to tepid sales in the United States, where his commercial appeal had dimmed considerably. But Jackson still managed to top other music charts in countries around the world where he was still considered a pop superstar. The stage was set for what promised to be the most sensational celebrity court case since the O.J. Simpson trial, and indeed a circus atmosphere prevailed: celebrities including Jay Leno, Chris Tucker and Macaulay Culkin were called to testify, while the not-so-lily-white past of the accuser's family was aired in court. Among the accusations, Jackson was accused of providing his sleepover guests with alcohol he allegedly called "Jesus Juice," as well as pornography. Throughout the entire sordid affair, Jackson made a spectacle of himself by wearing outrageous outfits into court and indulging in impromptu performances for the fans and gawkers who gathered outside the courthouse for a glimpse of the pop star.
Toward the end of the lengthy trial, however, Jackson appeared more and more haggard, allegedly suffering from ill health. Despite all of the sideshow distractions, in June 2005, jurors in the child molestation trial found Jackson not guilty on all 10 counts against him, although some of the jurors said publicly their decision was based on reasonable doubt and that not all of them believed Jackson was entirely innocent. His attorneys vowed that Jackson would never again allow the children of others into his bed and make himself vulnerable to further accusations. Immediately on the heels of the verdict, the pop star was also reportedly offered a long term residency and $80 million to perform at the planned casino going up next to Trump International Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas.
Despite his acquittal, Jackson was not out of the tabloid woods yet. In 2006, reports of Jackson's financial w s became more rampant, with the star being forced to close part of his Neverland Ranch in order to save money. Adding further weight to his financial problems, he was forced to take out two substantial loans, including one for $300 million from Sony in exchange for the media company having the option of buying half of Jackson's stake in their jointly owned publishing company, leaving the pop star with a 25 percent share. After agreeing to joint custody of his children with ex-wife Debbie Rowe, Jackson solidified his financial standing when he bought the rights to songs by Eminem, Beck and others from Viacom in partnership with Sony. Meanwhile, he released Thriller 25 in celebration of that album's 25th anniversary, which also contained some new cuts and remixes that reached moderate success, including "The Girl is Mine 2008" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008."
Now on the verge of rehabilitating his image, Jackson released the compilation album King of Pop while he was scheduled to perform 50 sold-out concerts at the O2 Arena in London. But the concerts - which would have drawn over one million people - were put on hold when the sudden news broke that Jackson was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital on June 25, 2009. According to various news sources, paramedics found him not breathing after a 911 call from his Bel Air home. He was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center only minutes from his Holmby Hills mansion. When initial reports came in, an anonymous source close to the family was quoted as saying that the pop star was in "really bad shape." His father, who was in Las Vegas at the time, soon confirmed that his son was "not doing well." Within just a few hours, news came that shocked the world - confirmed first by the tabloid site, TMZ.com; then by the Los Angeles Times - Jackson was dead. He was just 50 years old. It was up to grieving brother Jermaine to officially announce what the rest of the world already knew.
On July 7, 2009, a massive memorial was held at L.A.'s Staple Center, with thousands of fans flying in from around the world to attend, while the rest of the world stopped what they were doing to watch such luminaries as Brooke Shields, Usher, Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, among others, pay tribute to their friend after his golden casket was carried in by his brothers and positioned at the foot of the stage. Jackson's daughter, Paris, moved even the most unsentimental when she paid tribute to her father, humanizing the often maligned singer by calling him "the best daddy ever" before breaking into tears. Due to intense public interest, the media continued coverage of the singer's life and death, as well as spotlighting every rumor and innuendo - particularly in relation to his children's' paternity and the part his doctor - Conrad Murray may have played in his death. Rumors of misuse of the powerful anesthetic Diprivan replaced talk of Demerol as the media clamored to get answers in lieu of a released toxicology report.
Meanwhile, fans continued to mourn as the news never stopped; first, Jackson's last will was released to the public, in which he declared mentor Diana Ross back-up custodial guardian if his mother Katherine was unable to care for his children. Ultimately, Katherine was granted custody of the three children, with Debbie Rowe getting visitation rights with the two eldest. Not long after Jackson's longtime attorney John Branca was announced as executor of his will, along with attorney John McClain, Katherine's lawyers put up a fight to make her the executor. Questions about Jackson being the biological father were then raised after several men, including the children's godfather and former star of the classic "Oliver!" (1968), Mark Lester, as well as Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, hinted at possible paternity. By late July, Dr. Murray was being actively investigated by the feds, including raids by the DEA of his Houston, TX office, while the toxicology results were sealed indefinitely. Two months after the death of the King of Pop, arrangements were finally announced for his burial, and the Los Angeles County Coroner officially ruled Jackson's death, "a homicide." Also released was the laundry list of drugs that were in the singer's body when he died. Cause of death was "acute propofol intoxication," with Lorazepam (Ativan) also being cited as fatal in dosage. Other medications found in his system were midazolam (Versed), diazepam (Valium), lidocaine (local anesthetic) and ephedrine (commonly used as diet pills).
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Joined the Jackson Brothers - a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine - as a backup musician
First performed in front of classmates and others during a Christmas recital at the age of five
Appeared at amateur night at the Apollo in New York City
Assumed lead vocals (with Jermaine), group's name was changed to The Jackson 5
With The Jackson 5, recorded several songs for the local record label Steeltown
Signed with Berry Gordy's Motown Records after group got out of their previous contract with Steeltown
Saw four singles ("I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There") peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100
Along with brothers, inspired the ABC Saturday morning cartoon series "The Jackson 5"; only appeared in the introduction, however the group's music was used
Released first solo album <i>Got to Be There</i>, including the hits "Got to Be There" and "Rockin' Robin"
Released first solo No. 1 single "Ben"; also the title song from the movie and album of same name; earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Original Song
Jackson 5 sued by Motown Records for breach of contract when they announced they were leaving the label; lawsuit eventually settled in 1980
Signed with Epic Records and changed their name to The Jacksons
First Epic album <i>The Jacksons</i> contained Michael's first published song, "Blues Away"
Featured in the musical variety show "The Jacksons" (CBS)
Made film debut as the Scarecrow in "The Wiz"; first collaboration with Quincy Jones, who scored the music
Re-teamed with Quincy Jones for the solo album <i>Off the Wall</i>
Released his best-selling album <i>Thriller</i>; also starred in the John Landis-directed "Thriller" video; regarded as the best-selling album and best music video of all time
Contributed the song "Someone In the Dark" to the storybook for the film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"
Introduced the moonwalk on the "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" (NBC) television special; garnered an Emmy nomination
Bought the catalogue that controls the rights to Beatles songs for $47.5 million
Co-wrote the charity single "We Are the World" with Lionel Richie; produced by Quincy Jones
Starred in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed 3-D film "Captain EO"; produced by George Lucas and shown at Disney's Epcot Center (until 1994) and in Disneyland's Tomorrowland area for nearly 11 years
Released first album to ever generate five No. 1 singles, <i>Bad</i>
Released his autobiography <i>Moon Walk</i>
Subject of the documentary "Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues"
Produced the musical fantasy feature-length film "Moonwalker"
Given the title the "King of Pop" by friend Elizabeth Taylor
Created controversy with the John Landis-directed video "Black or White" from his <i>Dangerous</i> album
Performed during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII
Teamed with sister Janet for the duet "Scream"; earned a Grammy nomination; the video garnered a record 11 MTV Music Video Awards
Released the double album <i>HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I</i>; the single "You Are Not Alone" became the first single to debut at No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts
Released the controversial video "Ghosts" on Halloween; first shown in U.S. theaters as a warm-up to "Steven King's Thinner"; later played at the Cannes Film Festival
Released <i>Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix</i> album with little publicity
Inducted (along with the Jackson 5) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Informed head of Sony Music Entertainment Tommy Mottola that he was leaving Sony; they cancelled all his singles releases, video shootings and promotions for his upcoming album
Released <i>Invincible</i> album to disappointing sales, which led to conflict with Mottola and Sony
Returned to feature films with a cameo appearance in "Men in Black 2"
Appeared in a rebuttal to Bashir's report on the two-hour Fox special "Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Interview They Wouldn't Show You"
Interviewed by British journalist Martin Bashir for the documentary "Living with Michael Jackson" (aired in the U.K. on ITV and in the U.S. on ABC with Barbara Walters presenting)
Bought (with Sony) the Famous Music LLC from Viacom, which gave him the rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck
Issued <i>Thriller 25</i> to celebrate the 25th anniversary of <i>Thriller</i>; the release comprised of original material from the album
Scheduled for an unprecedented 50 shows at London's O2 arena, when Jackson died from an apparent cardiac arrest
Earned a posthumous Grammy Award nomination (Best Male Pop Performance) for "This Is It"