King of Pop Michael Joe Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958. Michael was the fifth of Joe and Katherine Jackson’s nine children. The Jackson house was always filled with music. Katherine taught the children folk and religious songs. Joe Jackson worked at a steel plant, had always dreamed of becoming a successful Musician. When this failed to happen, he decided to do whatever it took to make his children successful. He tried to control his children’s carers even after they were adults.
The Jackson boy’s soon formed a family band that became a success at amature shows and talent contest throughout the Midwest. From the age of five Michael’s amazing talent showed itself. His dancing and stage presence caused him to become the focus of the group. His older brother, Jackie, told Gerri Hirshey in the Rolling Stone, “ It was sort of frightening. He was so young. I don’t know where he got it. He just knew.”The Jacksons’ fame and popularity soon began to spread. While performing at the Apollo Theater in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 1968, Motown recording artist Gladys Knight and pianist Billy Taylor discovered them.
Later that year singer Diana Ross became associated with the boys during a “Soul Weekend” in Gary Indiana. With Mrs. Ross’s support, the Jacksons signed a contract with Motown Records. Berry Gordy, the famous head of Motown, took control of the Jacksons’ careers. By 1970 the group, known as the Jackson Five, was topping the charts and riding a wave of popularity with such hits as “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There”, each of these song’s sold over one million copies. The group also appeared on several televised specials, and a Jackson Five cartoon series was created. Gordy quickly recognized Michael’s appeal and released albums featuring him alone. These solo albums sold as well as those of the Jackson Five. The group managed to survive Michael’s voice change and a bitter break with Motown Records in 1976.
In 1978 Michael Jackson appeared in The Wiz, an African American version of The Wizard of Oz. He sang the only hit from the film’s soundtrack album “Ease On Down the Road” in a duet with the star, Diana Ross. His success as the Scarecrow was a preview of what was to come in his videos. While working on The Wiz, Jackson met producer Quincy Jones in 1933. They worked together on Jackson’s 1979 album Off the Wall, which sold ten million copies. In 1982 Jackson and Jones again joined forces on the Thriller album. Thriller Fully established Jackson as a solo performer, and his hit songs from the album “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller” made him the major pop star of the early 1980s.
The success of Thriller with forty million copies sold, it remains one of the best-selling albums of all time, and the videos of its songs also helped Jackson break the color barrier imposed by radio stations and the powerful music video channel MTV. By 1983 Jackson was the single most popular entertainer in America. In 1985 Jackson reunited with Quincy Jones for USA for Africa “We Are the World”, which raised funds for the poor in Africa. Jackson’s next two albums, Bad in 1987 and Dangerous 1991, were not as hugely successful as Thriller, but Jackson remained in the spotlight throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. In 1992 he founded “Heal the World” to aid children and the environment. In 1993 he was presented with the “Living Legend Award” at the Grammy Awards ceremony and with the Humanitarian, one who promotes human welfare, of the Year trophy at the Soul Train awards.
In 1994 Jackson shocked the world when he married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the rock legend Elvis Presley. Many felt that the marriage was an attempt to improve his public image. In August 1996 Jackson and Presley divorced. In November 1996 Jackson announced that he was to be a father. The child’s mother was Debbie Rowe, a long-time friend of Jackson. They married later that month in Sydney, Australia. On February 13, 1997, their son, Prince Michael Jackson, Jr., was born in Los Angeles, California. The couple’s second child, daughter Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, was born in 1998. Rowe filed for divorce from Jackson in October 1999.