1958-1975: Early life and The Jackson 5Edit
Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, the eighth of ten children in an African American working-class family who lived in a small 3-room house in Gary, Indiana, an industrial city near Chicago. His mother, Katherine Esther Scruse, was a devout Jehovah's Witness, and his father, Joseph Walter "Joe" Jackson, was a steel mill worker who performed with an R&B band called The Falcons. Jackson had three sisters: Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet, and five brothers: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy. A sixth brother, Brandon, died shortly after birth.
Jackson had a troubled relationship with his father, Joe. Joseph acknowledged in 2003 that he regularly whipped Jackson as a boy. Jackson stated that he was physically and emotionally abused during incessant rehearsals, though he also credited his father's strict discipline with playing a large role in his success. Jackson first spoke openly about his childhood abuse in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast in February 1993. He admitted that he had often cried from loneliness and he would vomit on the sight of his father. Jackson's father was also said to have verbally abused Jackson, saying that he had a fat nose on numerous occasions. In fact, Michael Jackson's deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant especially with his father, and to remain child-like throughout his adult life are in many ways consistent with the effects of this chronic maltreatment he endured as a young child.
In an interview with Martin Bashir, later included in the 2003 broadcast of Living with Michael Jackson, Jackson acknowledged that his father hurt him when he was a child, but was nonetheless a "genius", as he admitted his father's strict discipline played a huge role in his success. When Bashir dismissed the positive remark and continued asking about beatings, Jackson put his hand over his face and objected to the questions. He recalled that Joseph sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, and that "if you didn't do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you".
In 1964, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers - a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine - as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine. Jackson later began performing backup vocals and dancing. When he was eight, Jackson began sharing the lead vocals with his older brother Jermaine, and the group's name was changed to The Jackson 5. The band toured the Midwest extensively from 1966 to 1968, frequently performing at a string of black clubs known as the "chitlin' circuit", where they often opened stripteases and other adult acts. In 1966, they won a major local talent show with renditions of Motown hits and James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)", led by Michael.
The Jackson 5 recorded several songs, including "Big Boy", for the local record label Steeltown in 1967, before signing with Motown Records in 1968. Rolling Stone magazine later described the young Michael as "a prodigy" with "overwhelming musical gifts," writing that he "quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer." The group set a chart record when its first four singles ("I Want You Back", "ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There") peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Between 1972 and 1975, Michael released four solo studio albums with Motown, among them Got to Be There and Ben, released as part of the The Jackson 5 franchise, and producing successful singles such as "Got to Be There", "Ben", and a remake of Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin".
The Jackson 5 "bacame a cutting-edge example of black crossover artists... five working-class black boys with afros and bell bottoms, and they really didn't have to trade any of that stuff in order to become mainstream stars."
The group's sales began declining in 1973, and the band members chafed under Motown's strict refusal to allow them creative control or input. Although they scored several top 40 hits, including the top 5 disco single "Dancing Machine" and the top 20 hit "I Am Love", the Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975.
1975-1981: Move to Epic and Off the WallEdit
In June 1975, the The Jackson 5 signed with [[Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records and renamed themselves the Jacksons. Younger brother Randy formally joined the band around this time, while Jermaine left to pursue a solo career. They continued to tour internationally, releasing six more albums between 1976 and 1984, during which Michael was the lead songwriter, writing hits such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground", "Heartbreak Hotel", and "Can You Feel It". In 1978, he starred as the scarecrow in the musical, The Wiz, a box-office disaster. It was here that he teamed up with Quincy Jones, who was arranging the film's musical score. Jones agreed to produce Jackson's next solo album, Off the Wall. In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty was not a complete success; he complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson's second rhinoplasty and subsequent operations.
Jones and Jackson produced the Off the Wall album together. Songwriters for the album included Jackson, Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney. Released in 1979, it was the first solo album to generate four U.S. top 10 hits, including the chart-topping singles "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You". It reached number three on the Billboard 200 and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In 1980, Jackson won three awards at the American Music Awards for his solo efforts: Favorite Soul/R&B Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough". That year, he also won Billboard Year-End for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, also for "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough". Jackson again won at the Amerian Music Awards in 1981 for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a much bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release. In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.
In 1982, Jackson contributed the song "Someone in the Dark (Bergman/Bergman/Temperton)#Michael Jackson" to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the record won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1984. In the same year he won another seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards (including the Award of Merit, the youngest artist to win it), making him the most awarded in one night for both award shows. These awards were thanks to the Thriller album, released in late 1982, which was 1983's best-selling album worldwide and became the best-selling album of all time in the United States, as well as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 110 million copies so far. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart for 37 weeks and was in the top 10 of the 200 for 80 consecutive weeks. It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles, including "Billie Jean", "Beat It", and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'". Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status in the United States. The album won also another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work. Jackson's attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. He was also making record-breaking profits from sales of his recordings. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. The era saw the arrival of novelties like dolls modeled after Michael Jackson, which appeared in stores in May 1984 at a price of $12. Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that, "Thriller stopped selling like a leisure item - like a magazine, a toy, tickets to a hit movie - and started selling like a household staple." In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform. In December 2009, the music video for "Thriller" was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, "Thriller" is the first music video ever to be inducted.
Time described Jackson's influence at that point as "Star of records, radio, rock video. A one-man rescue team for the music business. A songwriter who sets the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on the street. A singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style and color too". The New York Times wrote that, "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else".
In March 1983, Jackson reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance which was taped for a Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an audience of 47 million viewers, and featured the Jacksons and a number of other Motown stars. It is best remembered for Jackson's solo performance of "Billie Jean". Wearing a distinctive black sequin jacket and golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his signature dance move, the moonwalk, which former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years before. The Jacksons' performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley's and The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times later wrote, "The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing."
1984-1985: Pepsi, "We Are the World" and business careerEdit
On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi Cola commercial, overseen by executive Phil Dusenberry, from ad agency BBDO and Pepsi's Worldwide Creative Director, Alan Pottasch at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In front of a full house of fans during a simulated concert, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson's hair on fire. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, and he also had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter. Jackson never recovered from this injury. Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated his $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, which now has a "Michael Jackson Burn Center" in honor of his donation. Dusenberry later recounted the episode in his memoir, Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising.
On May 14, 1984, Jackson was invited to the White House to receive an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson won eight awards during the Grammys that year. Unlike later albums, Thriller did not have an official tour to promote it, but the 1984 Victory Tour, headlined by The Jacksons, showcased much of Jackson's new solo material to more than two million Americans. He donated all the funds (around $8 million) raised from the Victory Tour to charity. He also co-wrote the charity single "We Are the World" in 1985 with Lionel Richie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in the U.S. and Africa. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 30 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. In 1986, "We Are the World" won four Grammys (one for Jackson for Song of the Year). American Music Award directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, but recognized it with two special honors (one for the creation of the song and one for the USA for Africa idea). They are the only AMAs that Jackson won as non-solo artist.
In 1984 ATV Music Publishing, which had the copyrights to nearly 4000 songs, including the Northern Songs catalog that contained the majority of the Lennon-McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles, was but up for sale by Robert Holmes à Court. Jackson had become interested in owning music catalogs after working with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s: Jackson had learned McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people's songs. In 1981, McCartney was offered the ATV music catalog for £20 million ($40 million). According to McCartney, he contacted Yoko Ono about making a joint purchase by splitting the cost equally at £10 million each, but Ono thought they could buy it for £5 million each. When they were unable to make the joint purchase, McCartney let the offer fall through, not wanting to be the sole owner of the Beatles' songs.