The brothers had started their informal music education by sneaking off with their father's guitar and when Joe Jackson discovered this fact, he bought them their own instruments. As the boys continued to improve, Joe devoted himself to moulding them into a well-rehearsed group that covered Motown and other soul/R&B hits of the day.
When Michael was 8, the group won a major talent contest with their rendition of the Temptations' "My Girl". By now, Joe had gone part time at the mill and was managing the band full time, as they were already traveling hundreds of miles to perform. Joe booked them for their first professional gigs at a local night club, Mr. Lucky's.
The owner of the only recording studio in Gary, Keith Gordon, had came to see the boys practice at home and agreed to give them a chance. In winter of 1967, in a studio in Chicago, a simple R&B number called "Big Boy" was recorded and released on the Steeltown label. It was a small hit in the local Gary charts. The album was followed by one more release on the label in 1968, "Some Girls Want Me For Their Love".
The Jackson 5 wound up at Motown through the importuning of Bobby Taylor, a performer and producer who caught their act at Chicago's Regal nightclub. They were a road-tested act even then, having for years worked the "chitlin' circuit" of black nightclubs as far east as Washington D.C. At Motown, Berry Gordy took a hands-on interest in the Jackson 5, bought the group out of their Steeltown contract and moved them out to Hollywood, where the rest of the family followed them. Much of the band's early repertoire was written, rehearsed and recorded in California under Gordy's tutelage.
They were matched with "the Corporation," a Motown production team groomed to replace the recently departed Holland-Dozier-Holland. When it came time to introduce the Jackson Five (Berry Gordy decided on the slight change of name) to the world, Diana Ross did the honours at a Beverly Hills Club, which gave many the false impression that she has something to do with discovering the group.
In January 1970, their first release, "I Want You Back," reached #1 on the pop and R&B charts. Its follow-up, "ABC," unseated the Beatles' "Let It Be" from the top position that April. Their youthful, soulful sound was dubbed "bubblegum soul." By the summer of 1970, the Jackson Five were headlining 20,000-seat venues, and "Jacksonmania" was in full swing. "I'll Be There," their fourth #1 single in a row and biggest hit, remained on top for five weeks in the fall of 1970. They conquered television as well as radio, appearing regularly on The Ed Sullivan Show in the early Seventies and on their own CBS summer variety show in 1976. An animated Saturday morning cartoon show based on the musical adventures of the Jackson Five enhanced their appeal with younger fans.
It was during 1971 that Michael Jackson started his parallel solo career. His albums "Got To Be There", "Ben", and "Music And Me" produced such hits as "Got To Be There," "Rockin' Robin," "Ben," and many others. Jermaine started his solo career in 1972 and produced two top 10 hits: "Daddy's Home" in 1973 and "Let's Get Serious" in 1980. Jackie also tried out a solo career in 1973 when he released "Jackie Jackson", but the album did not make the charts and no more were released.
In December 1973, the Jackson family and the Gordy family became one when Jermaine married Hazel Gordy (Berry Gordy's daughter). They tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Smokey Robinson performed "From This Time And Place," a song which he had written for the occasion. But the happy union caused Jermaine some headaches in 1975 when the Jackson Five decided to leave Motown and he left the group to stay with the label.
Citing the fact that they only received 2.7% royalties and were not allowed to record their own material, the Jackson brothers had decided that they needed to change record companies. Even though they were later sued for breach of contract, they signed with Epic Records under the name "The Jacksons" (because Motown owned the rights to the name Jackson Five) and underwent some line-up changes. Michael had signed a solo contract with Epic, and he was replaced by his younger brother Randy (Stephen Randall Jackson). Temporary additions to the group also included the sisters LaToya and Rebbie (Maureen Jackson). The family went on to record many successful records, even receiving a Grammy Nomination in 1980 for the album "Triumph".
Meanwhile, Motown capitalized on his commercial status by re-issuing 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", Michael'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 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. Its successor, "Beat It", established another precedent, with its determinedly rock flavoured guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen making it the first black record to receive rotation airplay on the MTV video station. The "Thriller" album and singles won Jackson a further seven Grammies and amidst this run of hits, Jackson slotted in 'Say Say Say', a second chart-topping duet with Paul McCartney.
He accepted the largest individual sponsorship deal in history from Pepsi-Cola in 1983; the following year, his involvement in the Jacksons' 'Victory Tour' sparked the greatest demand for concert tickets in the history of popular music. Michael Jackson had by now become an almost mythical figure, and like most myths he attracted hyperbole. A group of Jehovah's Witnesses announced that he was the Messiah; he was said to be taking drugs to change his skin colour to white; it was claimed that he had undergone extensive plastic surgery to alter his appearance; and photographs were published that suggested he slept in a special chamber to prevent himself ageing. More prosaically, Jackson began 1985 by co-writing and performing on the USA For Africa benefit single "We Are The World", another international number 1. He then spent $47.5 million in purchasing the ATV Music company, who controlled the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, thus effectively sabotaging his musical relationship with his old friend.
Michaels next albums were deemed disappointing after the phenomenal success of Thriller. In musical terms, the album "Bad" certainly broke no fresh ground, and represented only a cosmetic advance over his two earlier albums with Quincy Jones. Unabashed, Jackson continued to work in large scale. He undertook a lengthy world concert tour to promote "Bad", utilizing stunning visual effects to capture the atmosphere of his videos. At the same time, he published his autobiography, "Moonwalker", which offered little personal or artistic insight; neither did the alarmingly expensive feature film that accompanied it.
The long-awaited "Dangerous" arrived at the end of 1991 and justifiably scaled the charts. This was a gutsy techno pop album, with Teddy Riley contributing to a number of tracks. Although the customarily sweet pop was sharpened to a hard point, it still displayed the unmistakable Jackson sound. By maintaining a leisurely working schedule, Jackson had guaranteed that every new project was accompanied by frenzied public anticipation. As a result the lead-off single "Black Or White" became a huge transatlantic number 1, topping the U.S. charts for seven weeks.
Until 1992, his refusal to undergo probing interviews had allowed the media to portray him as a fantasy figure, a hypochondriac who lived a twilight existence cut off from the rest of humanity. He attempted to dispel this image, and succeeded to a degree, with a carefully rehearsed interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 1992. The televised program was shown all over world, during which viewers saw his personal funfair in the back garden, and watched as Jackson spoke of his domineering father.
However, the unthinkable happened in 1993, just as Jackson's clean image was at its peak. Allegations of sexual abuse were made by one of Jackson's young friends and the media had a field day. Jackson's home was raided by police while he was on tour in the Far East and the artist, clearly disturbed, cancelled a number of performances due to dehydration. No charges were laid, and things began to calm down until November 1993, when Jackson left the USA and went into hiding. Additionally, he confessed to being addicted to painkillers and was seeking treatment. After this admission, Jackson's long-time sponsors Pepsi-Cola decided to pull out of their contract with the now damaged career of the world's most popular superstar. The media were handed more fodder when he married Lisa Marie Presley on May 26th, 1994, perhaps in an attempt to rebuild his image. The marriage collapsed nineteen months later, giving further rise to allegations that it was merely a set-up.
Michael did, however, enhance his reputation with a new album called "HIStory - Past, Present and Future, Book 1". One half of the double set chronicled his past hits, but there was the equivalent of a new album forming the second half. Lyrically, the new material was strong, and Jackson very cleverly gave himself a forum to respond to his critics. Although not breaking any new ground musically, the sound was refreshingly varied and, as ever, highly polished. The downside of this return was a sickening display of self-aggrandizement at the 1996 BRIT AWARDS. Controversy surrounded Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp), who invaded the stage in protest while Jackson, dressed in Messiah-white, was surrounded by, among others, worshipping children and a rabbi.
Another marriage was in the cards for Michael Jackson. In November 1996, he announced that his friend Deborah Rowe (an assistant to his dermatologist) was carrying his child. The couple denied all tabloid reports that Jackson was merely renting Rowe's womb and that she was artificially inseminated. As proof of their love, Jackson and Rowe were married in Australia not long after the pregnancy became public knowledge. Three months later, Rowe gave birth to Prince Michael Jackson, Jr. A second child, daughter Paris Michael Katherine was born in the spring of 1998. Michael and Debbie divorced in October 1999, but the couple mutually agreed remain friends.
Jackson's album, "Blood On The Dance Floor - HIStory in the Mix", was a collection of remixes and new material that spawned further hit singles. It appeared that, despite the allegations of child abuse and the constant media attacks, Jackson's fans remained loyal to the 'King of Pop'.
Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame on March 19, 2001, along with Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, The Flamingos, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and Ritchie Valens.
On Friday, September 8, 2001, at New York's Madison Square Garden, Michael joined his brothers, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon, Randy and Jackie for reunion that featured a medley of Jackson Five classics that included, "ABC," "I"ll Be There", "The Love You Save" and "I Want You Back."
A who's who of Michael's pals and big-name celebs showed up to see it for themselves, including 'N Sync, Macaulay Culkin, Natalie Cole, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Aaron Carter, Nelly, Donald Trump, Teddy Riley, Jill Scott, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Chris Tucker, Naomi Campbell and Samuel L. Jackson.
Michael's finest moment came when he walked out on stage with only a small carrying case and pulled out his black sequined jacket, hat and white glove for an almost exact recreation of his Motown anniversary performance of "Billy Jean"... moonwalk and all. Although Michael's voice was rusty and a tad hoarse, his aerobic dance moves - many recycled directly from his famous "Bad" video - sent a thrill through the crowd.
The climax of the evening was a solo set by Michael that included "The Way You Make Me Feel" (joined by Britney Spears, who danced as Michael's foil), "Billie Jean" (masterfully executed with dynamic moves by Michael), "Black or White" (with guitar by Slash), and "Beat It." Michael performed only one number from his new album Invincible, "You Rock My World," which received a lukewarm reaction.
The somewhat predictable finale proved that Michael is his own best friend and worst enemy, filling the stage with an assortment of musicians and celebrities that seemed oddly selected -- Kenny Rogers, Yoko Ono, Aaron Carter, to name a few. A performance of "We Are the World" brought the show to a close.
In November, 2002, Michael again caused a media stir when he appeared with his third child, Prince Michael II, in Berlin, precariously holding the infant out of a third floor window, and draping a towel over the baby's head. It seems that The King Of Pop just can't stay out of the tabloids.
2003 brought a flurry of lawsuits by former aides and promoters amid rumours that he is on the verge of bankruptcy - a claim his advisers denied. Whatever the truth of Jackson's life, his musical career seems doomed to be eclipsed by the myths and legends surrounding him.
In October, he was given the Humanitarian Award at the 2003 Radio Awards, then things took a turn for the worse.
On November 19th, police investigators conducted a criminal probe at Michael's Neverland Ranch. Court TV reporters, who broke the story, cited sources as saying the probe involved a new allegation against Jackson of sexual abuse involving a 12-year-old boy. In a statement, Jackson said he did not know why his Neverland Ranch was the target of a criminal investigation. Jackson's lawyers said that Michael will co-operate fully with any probe. They also pointed out that he has been involved in over 1000 lawsuits. Jackson and his three young children were not at the ranch at the time of the search, but were in Las Vegas, where the pop star was filming a video. More than 20 investigators from the Santa Barbara County sheriff's and district attorney's offices served a warrant as part of an "ongoing criminal investigation", Sgt Chris Pappas said in a statement. The charges against Jackson fall under California Penal Code 288, which carry up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Meanwhile, on February 1st, 2004, Michael's younger sister Janet touched off a furor during the nationally televised Super Bowl game, when she bared her breast during a half-time song and dance routine with pop star Justin Timberlake. At the end of a song titled "Rock Your Body", Jackson allowed Timberlake to rip away the leather cup covering her breast, as they sang: "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song", exposing a bosom to some 100 million viewers. The moment was made even more memorable, and shocking to some, because Jackson's breast was adorned with a sun-shaped metal ring that pierced the nipple.
CBS television, which broadcast the American football championship in Houston, one of the most watched television programs of the year in the US, apologised for the incident. "CBS deeply regrets the incident that occurred during the Super Bowl halftime show," the network said after the CBS switchboard was flooded with angry phone calls. "We attended all rehearsals during the week, and there was no indication any such thing would happen. We would like to apologize to anyone who was offended," said CBS.
Even though both performers said the flash of skin was unintentional, a January 28th story on MTV's Web site promised "shocking moments" during Jackson's performance.
The National Football League issued a statement saying the show would likely be the last for the Super Bowl produced by MTV. "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," the NFL wrote. "They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the show. It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."
On June 13, 2005, Michael's child molestation trial finally came to a conclusion. After hearing fourteen weeks of testimony and deliberating for parts of seven days, the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict on all counts. He could have received nearly 20 years behind bars if convicted of charges that he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. Although he got vindication from the jury, it is no guarantee that Jackson can overcome the worst press ever suffered by a celebrity. Only time will tell if he can reclaim his title of The King Of Pop.
On November 15, 2006, Michael gave his first public performance since his acquittal when he sang a fleeting rendition of "We are the World" at the World Music Awards in London, which was honoring him with an award commemorating the 25th anniversary of his hugely popular album, "Thriller".
On August 29, 2008, Michael Jackson turned 50. In a telephone interview with ABC television program Good Morning America, he said he will "just have a little cake with my children and watch some cartoons," and he added that he feels "very wise and sage, but at the same time very young. The public had a different view of the fallen Pop star. A poll on AOL's Pop Culture news web site PopEater.com suggested that Jackson's surgically-altered face, his financial problems, the closing of his Neverland Ranch and the fallout of the 2005 trial, risked overshadowing his musical achievements. Some 49 percent said Jackson's bizarre behavior changed the way they viewed his classic hits of the 1980s, and 71 percent agreed there was "not a chance" of him making a comeback. His last album of new music was "Invincible" in 2001, but the 25th anniversary reissue of "Thriller" in 2008, sold 635,000 copies in the US alone and became one of the 30 best-selling albums of the year.
By the end of October, '08, rumors of a 2009 Jacksons reunion were running rampant, but Michael issued a statement saying: "My brothers and sisters have my full love and support, and we’ve certainly shared many great experiences, but at this time I have no plans to record or tour with them," he said. "I am now in the studio developing new and exciting projects that I look forward to sharing with my fans in concert soon."
Music fans around the world were shocked on June 25th, 2009 when news agencies broke the news that Michael Jackson had passed away of an apparent heart attack at his rented Sunset Boulevard home in Los Angeles. When emergency workers arrived shortly after noon, they were unable to revive him. The 50 year old entertainer had been slated to start a series of comeback concerts in London on July 13, running until March 2010. Michael's death brought to an end a strange and sometimes farcical decline from the peak of his popularity in the 1980s when he had become the world's premier all-around performer who united black and white music fans. He was the most exciting vocalist of his generation, who dominated the charts and wowed audiences with his dance routines. His single, sequined glove and military-style jacket became his trademarks, along with his constantly changing, surgically altered face.
Michael's impact on Pop music history cannot be understated. His career-defining album "Thriller" has gone platinum 28 times over according to the Recording Industry Association of America, making it the second-best-selling studio album of all time. (Only the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975) has sold more copies.) "Thriller" topped the Billboard Hot 200 for 37 weeks, the second-longest run at #1 of any album in music history. (the soundtrack to West Side Story stayed at the top for 54 weeks in 1961 and '62). Over the course of his solo career, he placed 47 songs in the Hot 100, 13 of which went to #1. That translates into the most chart toppers of the '70s and '80s combined, behind only the Beatles and Mariah Carey for the most #1 hits in the Rock era. Michael was also the first artist to ever debut at #1 on the Hot 100 with "You Are Not Alone" on Sept. 2nd, 1995.
Although his later albums sold more modestly, with "Invincible" moving a respectable 2 million copies, his back catalog continued to sell strongly. When "Thriller" was re-issued in February 2008, it sold three quarters of a million copies in the US alone. The album re-entered Billboard's Pop Album chart at #1 with 166,000 units sold in its first week and was the 32nd best selling album world-wide in '08. It was Sony's ninth best seller of the year.
Upon hearing of Michael's death, former American Bandstand host Dick Clark said "Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was the most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched." His former wife Lisa Marie Presley summed up what many fans were thinking when she said "This is such a massive loss on so many levels, words fail me."
Michael's memorial was held on July 7th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in front of a crowd of 20,000, while countless millions around the world watched the ceremony on TV. It was both a somber, spiritual event and a musical celebration of a man whose talents were sometimes overshadowed by the spectacle of his life and fame. The ceremony began with Smokey Robinson reading statements from Diana Ross: "Michael was part of the fabric of my life" and then Nelson Mandela, "Be strong." A steady parade of some of Michael's famous friends paid tribute to him, including Kobe Bryant, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Lou Ferrigno, Don King, Magic Johnson, Brooke Shields, Larry King, Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Usher, Martin Luther King III, Berry Gordy, Mariah Carey and Rev. Al Sharpton. Among those conspicuously absent were Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross and Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s ex-wife and the mother of his two oldest children. Those in attendance at the church like ceremony were deeply moved when Michael’s daughter, 11-year-old Paris-Michael, made her first ever public statement: "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father I could imagine," she said, dissolving into tears and turning into the embrace of her aunt Janet. "I just want to say I love him so much." The ceremony ended with Jackson’s family on stage amid a choir, singing "Heal the World". The Rev. Lucious W. Smith of the Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena closed the service by saying "All around us are people of different cultures, different religions, different nationalities, and yet the music of Michael Jackson brings us together."
On November 29th, 2011, Michael's personal physician, 58-year-old Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter following a six week trial. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor gave Murray the maximum sentence and said the physician engaged in "money for medicine madness that is simply not acceptable to me." A jury convicted Dr. Murray of involuntary manslaughter after witnesses testified that propofol should not be administered at home and, if it is, must be given only with the proper life-monitoring equipment on hand. It was not. Prosecutors painted a picture of Dr. Murray trying to cover-up evidence of propofol and lying to doctors about its use. Murray’s defense team claimed that Jackson might have administered a fatal dose of the drug to himself, but the jury did not agree. Dr. Murray was also ordered to pay court fees, and another hearing was set for prosecution claims that he may owe more than $100 million in restitution to Jackson’s family.
In April, 2012, Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito Jackson announced that they would play a series of shows across the United States called The Unity Tour, which would showcase classic hits like "I Want You Back", "ABC" and "I'll Be There". Following that tour, The Jackson's returned to the studio to record their first studio album since 1989's "2300 Jackson Street".
Michael Jackson's 15-year-old daughter Paris was in the news in early June, 2013 when she was taken to hospital after reportedly cutting her wrists. Her mother, Debbie Rowe, told TV news outlets that Paris had "a lot going on."
In early April, 2014, Epic Records announced that Michael Jackson's first posthumous album of new music, called "Xscape", would be released on May 13th. In honor of his musical legacy, Sirius XM revealed plans to launch The Michael Jackson Channel, an exclusive, limited-run station focused on music from Jackson's iconic solo career, from his breakout 1979 LP, "Off the Wall", up to his latest release. On June 25th, the fifth anniversary of Michael's death, Britain's The Official Charts Company revealed that UK fans have downloaded nearly 4 million copies of his singles and purchased more than 3.8 million copies of his albums in the last five years.
In September, 2015, The Jackson 5's 1970 hit, "ABC" reached #1 on the UK chart after a British DJ mixed it with a different beat. The original record had topped out at #8.
In mid-December, 2015, The Recording Industry Association of America announced that "Thriller" had sold 30 million copies in the United States, making Michael Jackson the first artist to attain 30-time multi-Platinum status.