Michael Jackson Is Still the King
Five years ago, the untimely passing of Michael Jackson sent a shockwave through the entire globe. Many tears were shed by his adoring fans. Impromptu celebrations transpired across the world to honor his grand memory. Jackson was one of the very few artists, who transcended the world of music and the world as a whole through his irrevocable influence.
And we dearly miss him.
The world first became intrigued with the precocious nine-year-old prodigy singing the affectionately tinged record “I Want You Back” in 1969. Jackson and his brothers instantly became an extension of our families. The way they danced and sang was infectious from the very beginning. Songs like “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There” left a lasting impression on your soul. Their soulful and heartfelt melodies gave the world a reason to dance and smile in unison.
As the Civil Rights movement came to a close, the 1970s embraced the Jackson 5 and the hits kept coming by the boatload such as “Got to Be There,” “Ben,” “Dancing Machine,” “Rockin’ Robin,” and “I Am Love.” One of Motown’s most bankable groups succumbed to the harsh reality of being a boy band outgrowing their record label. Due to conflicts within the Motown hierarchy, they requested to be released from their record deal in 1975.
During their stint on CBS Records, Jackson became the lead songwriter for the group and penned the hits “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground),” “This Place Hotel,” and “I Can’t Help It.” As he grew into his late teenage years, he yearned to branch out on his own to become a mega superstar. In 1978, he starred as the scarecrow in the musical, The Wiz. It would be here where he would meet the man who would launch his stardom into another realm.
Quincy Jones was hired to arrange the movie score for The Wiz and, on set, Michael and him became mutually acquainted and agreed to work together on his debut solo album, Off the Wall. The partnership quickly paid dividends for the two as the album achieved record status as it produced four Top 10 hits including “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You.” It was also during this time where Michael broke his nose during a dance routine and he required his first rhinoplasty surgery to fix the problem, but he would suffer with breathing problems for the rest of his career as well as having multiple surgeries.
Off the Wall sold seven million copies in the United States and eventually 20 million worldwide. It also yielded three American Music Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, and a Grammy award for the single “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” Jones and Jackson grew to become very close and decided to go to work on Jackson’s follow-up, Thriller. This would be the album that would define Jackson’s career and, ultimately, elevate him into iconic status throughout the world.
Thriller remained in the top slot of Billboard albums for 37 consecutive weeks and 80 weeks in the Top 10. Seven singles from the album landed on Billboard‘s Hot 100 Top 10 list, and it has sold an astronomical number of over 100 million copies worldwide making it the best-selling album in music history. The album also received an unprecedented eight Grammy awards, eight American Music Awards, and three MTV Video Music Awards.
Thriller reshaped the whole musical landscape by revolutionizing the artistry put into music videos and helping to revive MTV during the early 1980s. His music forced MTV to place a Black artist on its network for the first time, which opened to the doors to other Black acts. Jackson single-handedly resuscitated the music industry with one emblematic album during a time where the record industry was struggling to survive.
Around 1986 to ’87, he started working on his seventh studio album, Bad. This would be the last album that Jones and Jackson worked on together as a tandem. Although this album didn’t reach the heights of Thriller, it was still a critically acclaimed success. It sold eight million copies in the United States and 30 million copies worldwide and it spawned seven hit singles, five of which hit number one on the Billboard 100 Charts more than his previous two albums.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for an astounding $65 million. In 1991, he released his eighth studio album, Dangerous. This album was a change from his rock/R&B influenced roots. He chose to work with an equally prodigious talent by the name of Teddy Riley. At the time, Riley had the industry in a chokehold with his groundbreaking “New Jack Swing” sound and Dangerous once again showed that Jackson’s gifts reigned supreme.
Dangerous sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Jackson was nominated for three Grammy awards. Around this same time, he founded the Heal the World Foundation, which brought underprivileged children to his Neverland Ranch and outsourced millions of dollars to children affected by war and disease. He was one of the first artists to publicly demand research and aid for HIV/AIDS research through his foundation. Unlike many of his peers, he understood his obligation to his artistry and fellow man.
For the rest of the decade, Jackson was marred in controversy alongside releasing his ninth album, a double CD, HIStory. He was involved a string of highly publicized events. His sexual abuse case, which he was cleared of any wrongdoing, his marriage and divorce to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, numerous lawsuits, alleged drug addictions, and the birth of his first two children.
By 2000, Jackson was determined to get his music career back on the right track, but he was at odds with his record label Sony, in particular, the head of Sony Entertainment, Tommy Mottola. As a result, his last studio album, Invincible failed to achieve the success of his prior albums. It was still very successful selling 10 million albums worldwide despite the lack of promotion and a tour. In 2002, he welcomed his third child into the world.
For the most part, he stayed out of the public eye until 2009, when he announced that he would participate in 50 sold out concerts in London’s 02 arena from July 13, 2009 through March 6, 2010. The money he would have grossed from ten of these performances is estimated at $50 million. Unfortunately, Jackson never had a chance to complete his last hurrah. He succumbed to cardiac arrest and there are still questions surrounding his death.
It’s truly remarkable the legacy Jackson left behind for future generations. Many of his groundbreaking accomplishments will never be duplicated again. He was a true once in a lifetime artist. The world watched a precocious nine-year-old grow up to become the greatest entertainer that ever lived. He discussed at lengths about not having an opportunity to have a real childhood and this may have placated his childlike behavior as an adult.
Nonetheless, his genius as a musician and an artist is undeniable and his influence on every facet of popular culture is incomparable. His numerous charitable gifts should never go unnoticed. At the time of his death, he was involved with 39 different charities. He epitomized what it meant to be a humanitarian. He understood that giving back is what makes the human character complete. We all owe him a big thank you for the contributions he gave us while he was here. From this day forward, he will always be affectionately known as “The King of Pop.”
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