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Michael Jackson

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Michael Jackson
A photograph of Michael Jackson singing into a microphone
Performing at the Wiener Stadion in Vienna, Austria on June 2, 1988
Michael Joseph Jackson

(1958-08-29)August 29, 1958
DiedJune 25, 2009(2009-06-25) (aged 50)
Los Angeles, California, US
Cause of deathCardiac arrest induced by acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication
Burial placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, US
Other namesMichael Joe Jackson
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • dancer
Lisa Marie Presley
(m. 1994; div. 1996)

Debbie Rowe
(m. 1996; div. 1999)
Parent(s)Joe Jackson
Katherine Jackson
FamilyJackson family
AwardsList of awards and nominations
Musical career
Years active1964–2009
Associated acts
Michael Jackson signature.svg

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is widely regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest entertainers of all time. He was also known for his unorthodox lifestyle, residing in a private amusement park he called Neverland Ranch, and often becoming the focus of tabloid scrutiny. Jackson's contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.

The eighth child of the Jackson family, Michael made his professional debut in 1964 with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon as a member of the Jackson 5. He began his solo career in 1971 while at Motown Records, and in the early 1980s, became a dominant figure in popular music. His music videos, including those for "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Thriller" from his 1982 album Thriller, are credited with breaking racial barriers and transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. Their popularity helped bring the television channel MTV to fame. Bad (1987) was the first album to produce five US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles.[nb 1] He continued to innovate throughout the 1990s with videos such as "Black or White" and forged a reputation as a touring artist. Through stage and video performances, Jackson popularized complicated dance techniques such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His sound and style have influenced artists of various genres.

Jackson is the third-best-selling music artist of all time, with estimated sales of over 350 million records worldwide;[nb 2] Thriller is the best-selling album of all time, with estimated sales of 66 million copies worldwide. His other albums, including Off the Wall (1979), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world's best-selling. He won hundreds of awards (more than any other artist in the history of popular music), has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and is the only dancer from pop and rock to have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame. His other achievements include Guinness world records (including the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time), 15 Grammy Awards (including the Legend and Lifetime Achievement awards), 26 American Music Awards (more than any other artist), and 13 number-one US singles (more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era). Jackson was the first artist to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades; his estate earned $825 million, the highest yearly amount ever recorded by Forbes, in 2016.

In the late 1980s, Jackson became a figure of controversy due to his changing appearance, relationships, and behavior. In 1993, he was accused of sexually abusing the child of a family friend; the case led to an investigation and was settled out of court for $25 million in 1994. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges. In 2009, while preparing for a series of comeback concerts, This Is It, Jackson died of acute intoxication from propofol and benzodiazepine given to him by his personal physician, Conrad Murray. Jackson's fans around the world expressed their grief, and his public memorial service was broadcast live. In 2019, the documentary Leaving Neverland detailed renewed allegations of child sexual abuse and led to further backlash against Jackson.

Life and career

1958–1975: Early life and the Jackson 5

The single-story house has white walls, two windows, a central white door with a black door frame, and a black roof. In front of the house there is a walkway and multiple colored flowers and memorabilia.
Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana, pictured in March 2010 with floral tributes after his death

Michael Joseph Jackson[7][8] was born in Gary, Indiana, near Chicago, on August 29, 1958.[9] He was the eighth of ten children in the Jackson family, a working-class African-American family living in a two-bedroom house on Jackson Street.[10][11] His mother, Katherine Esther Jackson (née Scruse), played clarinet and piano, had aspired to be a country-and-western performer, and worked part-time at Sears.[12] His father, Joseph Walter "Joe" Jackson, a former boxer, was a crane operator at U.S. Steel and played guitar with a local rhythm and blues band, the Falcons, to supplement the family's income.[13][14] His father's great-grandfather, July "Jack" Gale, was a Native American medicine man and US Army scout.[15] Michael grew up with three sisters (Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet) and five brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy).[13] A sixth brother, Marlon's twin Brandon, died shortly after birth.[16]

Joe acknowledged that he regularly whipped Michael;[17] Michael said his father told him he had a "fat nose",[18] and regularly physically and emotionally abused him during rehearsals. He recalled that Joe often sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, ready to physically punish any mistakes.[19][20]

Katherine Jackson stated that although whipping is considered abuse in more modern times, it was a common way to discipline children when Michael was growing up.[21][22] Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon have said that their father was not abusive and that the whippings, which were harder on Michael because he was younger, kept them disciplined and out of trouble.[23] In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993, Jackson acknowledged that his youth had been lonely and isolating.[24]

In 1964, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers—a band formed by their father which included Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine—as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine.[25] In 1965, Michael began sharing lead vocals with Jermaine, and the group's name was changed to the Jackson 5.[26] The following year, the group won a talent show; Michael performed the dance to Robert Parker's 1965 song "Barefootin'" and singing lead to The Temptations' "My Girl".[27] From 1966 to 1968 they toured the Midwest; they frequently played at a string of black clubs known as the "chitlin' circuit" as the opening act for artists such as Sam & Dave, the O'Jays, Gladys Knight, and Etta James. The Jackson 5 also performed at clubs and cocktail lounges, where striptease shows were featured, and at local auditoriums and high school dances.[28][29] In August 1967, while touring the East Coast, the group won a weekly amateur night concert at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.[30]

Jackson (center) as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1972

The Jackson 5 recorded several songs for a Gary record label called Steeltown Records, including their first single "Big Boy", which was released in 1968.[31] The following year, the group signed with Motown[32] and relocated from Gary to Los Angeles, where they continued to record for Motown.[33] Rolling Stone later described the young Michael as "a prodigy" with "overwhelming musical gifts" who "quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer."[34] "I Want You Back" became the group's first song to reach number one the US Billboard Hot 100 in January 1970, topping it for four consecutive weeks. Three subsequent singles with Motown—"ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There"—would also top the chart.[35] In May 1971, the Jackson family moved into a large house on a two-acre estate in Encino, California.[36] During this period, Michael transitioned from a child performer into a teen idol.[37] As he emerged as a solo performer in the early 1970s, he maintained ties to the Jackson 5. Between 1972 and 1975, Michael released four solo studio albums with Motown: Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music & Me (1973), and Forever, Michael (1975).[38] "Got to Be There" and "Ben", the title tracks from his first two solo albums, sold well as singles, as did a cover of Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin".[39]

The Jackson 5 were later described as "a cutting-edge example of black crossover artists".[40] Their sales began to decline in 1973, and the members chafed under Motown's refusal to allow them creative input. Jackson's performance of their top five single "Dancing Machine" on Soul Train popularized the robot dance.[41]

1975–1981: Move to Epic and Off the Wall

From left, back row: Jackie Jackson, Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson. Middle row: Randy Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Rebbie Jackson. Front row: Janet Jackson (1977)

In 1975, the Jackson 5 left Motown and signed with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records,[32] and renamed themselves the Jacksons. Their younger brother Randy joined the band around this time; Jermaine stayed with Motown and pursued a solo career.[42] The Jacksons continued to tour internationally, and released six more albums between 1976 and 1984. Michael, the group's main songwriter during this time, wrote songs such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (1979), "This Place Hotel" (1980), and "Can You Feel It" (1980).[25]

In 1978, Jackson moved to New York City to star as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, a musical directed by Sidney Lumet. It costarred Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, and Ted Ross.[43] The film was a box-office failure.[44] The score was arranged by Quincy Jones,[45] who later produced several of Jackson's solo albums.[46] During his time in New York, Jackson frequented the Studio 54 nightclub, where he heard early hip hop; this influenced his beatboxing on future tracks such as "Working Day and Night".[47] In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a dance routine. A rhinoplasty led to breathing difficulties that later affected his career. He was referred to Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson's subsequent operations.[48]

Jackson's fifth solo album, Off the Wall (1979), co-produced by Jackson and Jones, established him as a solo performer. The album helped Jackson move from the bubblegum pop of his youth to more complex sounds.[37] It produced four top 10 entries in the US: "Off the Wall", "She's Out of My Life", and the chart-topping singles "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You".[49] The album reached number three on the Billboard 200 and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.[50] In 1980, Jackson won three American Music Awards for his solo work: 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".[51][52] He also won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for 1979 with "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough".[53] In 1981 Jackson was the American Music Awards winner for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist.[54] Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release.[55] In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.[56]

Jackson recorded with Queen singer Freddie Mercury from 1981 to 1983, recording demos of "State of Shock", "Victory" and "There Must Be More to Life Than This".[57] The recordings were intended for an album of duets but, according to Queen's manager Jim Beach, the relationship soured when Jackson brought a llama into the recording studio,[58] and Jackson was upset by Mercury's drug use.[59] The songs were released in 2014.[60] Jackson went on to record "State of Shock" with Mick Jagger for the Jacksons' album Victory (1984),[61][page needed] and Mercury included the solo version of "There Must Be More To Life Than This" on his album Mr. Bad Guy (1985).[62] In 1982, Jackson contributed "Someone in the Dark" to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The song, produced by Jones, won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children for 1983.[53]

1982–1983: Thriller and Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever

Jackson's sixth album, Thriller, was released in late 1982. It earned Jackson seven more Grammys[53] and eight American Music Awards, and he became the youngest artist to win the Award of Merit.[63] It was the best-selling album worldwide in 1983,[64][65] and became the best-selling album of all time in the US[66] and the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 66 million copies.[67] It 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'".[68] In December 2015, Thriller was certified for 30 million shipments by the RIAA, one of only two albums to do so in the US.[4] A year later, it was certified at 33× platinum, after Soundscan added streams and audio downloads to album certifications.[69][nb 3] Thriller won Jackson and Quincy Jones the Grammy award for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) for 1983. It also won Album of the Year, with Jackson as the album's artist and Jones as its co-producer, and a Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, award for Jackson. "Beat It" won Record of the Year, with Jackson as artist and Jones as co-producer, and a Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, award for Jackson. "Billie Jean" won Jackson two Grammy awards, Best R&B Song, with Jackson as its songwriter, and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, as its artist.[53] Thriller also won another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work on the album.[71] The AMA Awards for 1984 gave Jackson an Award of Merit and AMAs for Favorite Male Artist, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Male Artist, Pop/Rock. "Beat It" won Jackson AMAs for Favorite Video, Soul/R&B, Favorite Video, Pop/Rock, and Favorite Single, Pop/Rock. Thriller won him AMAs for Favorite Album, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Album, Pop/Rock.[63][72]

Jackson released "Thriller", a 14-minute music video directed by John Landis, in 1983.[73] The zombie-themed video "defined music videos and broke racial barriers" on MTV, which had launched two years earlier.[37] In December 2009, the Library of Congress selected the "Thriller" music video as the only music video to be preserved in the National Film Registry, as a work of "enduring importance to American culture".[74][75]

The jacket and white sequined gloves worn by Jackson at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever

Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point, about $2 for every album sold, and was making record-breaking profits. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. Dolls modeled after Jackson appeared in stores in May 1984 for $12 each.[76] 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."[77] In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform.[53] 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".[76] The New York Times wrote that "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else".[78]

On March 25, 1983, Jackson reunited with his brothers for Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, an NBC television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an estimated audience of 47 million, and featured the Jacksons and other Motown stars.[79] Jackson's solo performance of "Billie Jean" earned him his first Emmy nomination.[80] Wearing a black-sequined jacket and a golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his moonwalk dance, which Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years earlier.[81] Jackson had originally turned down the invitation to the show, believing he had been doing too much television; at the request of Motown founder Berry Gordy, he performed in exchange for time to do a solo performance.[82] Rolling Stone reporter Mikal Gilmore called the performance "extraordinary".[37] Jackson's performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley's and the Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.[83] Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times writing in 1988 praised the perfect timing and technique involved in the dance.[84] Gordy described being "mesmerized" by the performance.[85]

1984–1985: Pepsi, "We Are the World", and business career

In November 1983, Jackson and his brothers partnered with PepsiCo in a $5 million promotional deal that broke records for a celebrity endorsement. The first Pepsi campaign, which ran in the US from 1983 to 1984 and launched its "New Generation" theme, included tour sponsorship, public relations events, and in-store displays. Jackson helped to create the advertisement, and suggested using his song "Billie Jean" as its jingle with revised lyrics.[86] Brian J. Murphy, executive VP of branded management at TBA Global, said: "You couldn't separate the tour from the endorsement from the licensing of the music, and then the integration of the music into the Pepsi fabric."[86]

On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi commercial overseen by Phil Dusenberry,[87] a BBDO ad agency executive, and Alan Pottasch, Pepsi's Worldwide Creative Director, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. During a simulated concert before a full house of fans, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson's hair on fire, causing second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars and had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter.[48] Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated the $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California; its Michael Jackson Burn Center is named in his honor.[88] Jackson signed a second agreement with Pepsi in the late 1980s for $10 million. The second campaign had a global reach of more than 20 countries and provided financial support for Jackson's Bad album and 1987–88 world tour.[86] Jackson had endorsements and advertising deals with other companies, such as LA Gear, Suzuki, and Sony, but none were as significant as his deals with Pepsi.[86]

On May 14, 1984, President Ronald Reagan gave Jackson an award for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse,[89] and in recognition of his support for the Ad Council's and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Drunk Driving Prevention campaign. Jackson donated the use of "Beat It" for the campaign's public service announcements.[90]

President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan present Jackson with an award at the White House on May 14, 1984
Jackson inside the White House with the Reagans

The Victory Tour of 1984 headlined the Jacksons and showcased Jackson's new solo material to more than two million Americans. It was the last tour he did with his brothers.[91] Following controversy over the concert's ticket sales, Jackson held a press conference and announced that he would donate his share of the proceeds, an estimated $3 to 5 million, to charity.[92] His charitable work continued with the release of "We Are the World" (1985), co-written with Lionel Richie,[93] which raised money for the poor in the US and Africa.[94] It earned $63 million,[94] and became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with 20 million copies sold.[95] It won four Grammys for 1985, including Song of the Year for Jackson and Richie as its writers.[93] The American Music Awards directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, but the AMA show in 1986 concluded with a tribute to the song on its first anniversary. The project's creators received two special AMA honors: one for the creation of the song and another for the USA for Africa idea. Jackson, Jones, and promoter Ken Kragan received special awards for their roles in the song's creation.[93][96][97][98]

Jackson collaborated with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s, and learned that McCartney was making $40 million a year from owning the rights to other people's songs.[94] By 1983, Jackson had begun buying publishing rights to others' songs, but he was careful with his acquisitions, only bidding on a few of the dozens that were offered to him. Jackson's early acquisitions of music catalogs and song copyrights such as the Sly Stone collection included "Everyday People" (1968), Len Barry's "1-2-3" (1965), and Dion DiMucci's "The Wanderer" (1961) and "Runaround Sue" (1961).

In 1984 Robert Holmes à Court announced he was selling the ATV Music Publishing catalog comprising the publishing rights to nearly 4000 songs, including most of the Beatles' material.[99] In 1981, McCartney had been offered the catalog for £20 million ($40 million).[94][100][101] Jackson submitted a bid of $46 million on November 20, 1984.[99] When Jackson and McCartney were unable to make a joint purchase, McCartney did not want to be the sole owner of the Beatles' songs, and did not pursue an offer on his own.[100][101] Jackson's agents were unable to come to a deal, and in May 1985 left talks after having spent more than $1 million and four months of due diligence work on the negotiations.[99] In June 1985, Jackson and Branca learned that Charles Koppelman's and Marty Bandier's The Entertainment Company had made a tentative offer to buy ATV Music for $50 million; in early August, Holmes à Court contacted Jackson and talks resumed. Jackson's increased bid of $47.5 million was accepted because he could close the deal more quickly, having already completed due diligence.[99] Jackson also agreed to visit Holmes à Court in Australia, where he would appear on the Channel Seven Perth Telethon.[102] Jackson's purchase of ATV Music was finalized on August 10, 1985.[94][99]

1986–1987: Changing appearance, tabloids, and films

Jackson's skin had been medium-brown during his youth, but from the mid-1980s gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he had been bleaching his skin.[103][104][105] According to Taraborrelli, in 1984 Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo, which causes white patches on the skin, and had also been skin bleaching. He said that Jackson was diagnosed with lupus, which was in remission. Both conditions made Jackson's skin sensitive to sunlight. The treatments for his condition further lightened his skin, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear even paler.[106] Jackson said that he used makeup to control the patchy appearance of his skin, but never purposely bleached his skin. He said that he could not control his vitiligo.[107]

In his autobiography, Jackson stated he had had two rhinoplasties and no other facial surgery, other than having had a dimple created in his chin. He said he had lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for "a dancer's body".[108] Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy, and speculated he was suffering from anorexia nervosa. Periods of weight loss became a recurring problem later in his life.[109] During his treatment, Jackson became friendly with his dermatologist, Arnold Klein, and Klein's nurse Debbie Rowe. Rowe later became Jackson's second wife and the mother of his first two children. Klein also gave him medical and business advice.[110]

In 1986, the tabloids ran a story claiming that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow aging, and was pictured lying in a glass box. The claim was untrue, and tabloids reported that Jackson spread the story himself.[111] When Jackson bought a chimpanzee named Bubbles from a laboratory, he was reported as being increasingly detached from reality.[112] It was reported that Jackson had offered to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick (the "Elephant Man") and, although the story was untrue, Jackson did not deny it.[113] He initially saw these stories as opportunities for publicity, but stopped leaking them to the press as they became more sensational. The media then began fabricating stories.[111][114][115] These stories inspired the nickname "Wacko Jacko", which Jackson came to despise.[8][116]

Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 17-minute $30 million 3D film Captain EO, which ran from 1986 at Disneyland and Epcot, and later at Tokyo Disneyland and Euro Disneyland.[117] After having been removed by the late 1990s, it returned to the theme park for several years after Jackson's death.[118] In 1987, Jackson disassociated himself from the Jehovah's Witnesses.[119] Katherine Jackson said this might have been because some Witnesses strongly opposed the Thriller video.[120] Jackson had denounced it in a Witness publication in 1984.[121]

1987–1990: Bad, autobiography, and Neverland

Jackson (center) performing in 1988

Jackson's first album in five years, Bad (1987), was highly anticipated, with the industry expecting another major success.[122] With its singles "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man in the Mirror", and "Dirty Diana" all reaching number one in the US, it became the first album to have five songs top the country's chart. Another song from it named "Smooth Criminal" peaked at number 7 there.[49] It won the 1988 Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical for "Leave Me Alone".[53][71] Jackson won an Award of Achievement at the American Music Awards in 1989 after Bad generated five number-one singles, became the first album to top the charts in 25 countries and the best-selling album worldwide in 1987 and 1988.[123][124] By 2012, it had sold between 30 and 45 million copies worldwide.[125][126]

The Bad world tour ran from September 12, 1987 to January 14, 1989.[127] In Japan, the tour had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record for a single tour.[128] 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium, setting a new Guinness world record.[129]

In 1988, Jackson released his autobiography, Moonwalk, with input from Stephen Davis and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.[130] It sold 200,000 copies,[131] and reached the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.[132] Jackson discussed his childhood, the abuse from his father, and the Jackson 5,[133] and attributed his changing facial appearance to puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a change in hairstyle, and stage lighting.[108] In October, Jackson released a film, Moonwalker, which featured live footage and short films starring Jackson and Joe Pesci. In the US it was released direct-to-video and became the best-selling video cassette. The RIAA certified it as Platinum.[134][135][136]

A black jacket with five round golden medals on its left and right shoulders, a gold band on its left arm sleeve, and two belt straps on the right bottom sleeve. Underneath the jacket is a golden belt, with a round ornament in its center.
Jackson wore a gold-plated military style jacket with belt during the Bad era

In March 1988, Jackson purchased 2,700 acres (11 km2) of land near Santa Ynez, California, to build a new home, Neverland Ranch, at a cost of $17 million.[137] He installed a Ferris wheel, a carousel, a movie theater and a zoo.[137][138][139] A security staff of 40 patrolled the grounds.[138] Shortly afterwards, he appeared in the first Western television advertisement in the Soviet Union.[140]

Jackson became known as the "King of Pop";[20][141] when Elizabeth Taylor presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, she called him "the true king of pop, rock and soul,"[142] President George H. W. Bush designated him the White House's "Artist of the Decade".[143] From 1985 to 1990, Jackson donated $455,000 to the United Negro College Fund,[144] and all profits from his single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity.[145] His rendition of "You Were There" at Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th birthday celebration won Jackson a second Emmy nomination.[80]

1991–1993: Dangerous, Heal the World Foundation, and Super Bowl XXVII

In March 1991, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for $65 million, a record-breaking deal,[146] beating Neil Diamond's renewal contract with Columbia Records.[147] In 1991, he released his eighth album, Dangerous, co-produced with Teddy Riley.[148] It was certified seven times platinum in the US, and by 2008 had sold 30 million copies worldwide.[149][150] In the US, the first single, "Black or White", was the album's highest charting song; it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks and achieved similar chart performances worldwide.[151] The second single, "Remember the Time" peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[152] At the end of 1992, Dangerous was named the best-selling album of the year worldwide and "Black or White" the best-selling single of the year worldwide at the Billboard Music Awards. Jackson was also named best-selling artist of the 1980s.[153] In 1993, he performed "Black or White" at the Soul Train Music Awards in a chair, saying he had suffered an injury in rehearsals.[154] In the UK, "Heal the World" made number two in 1992.[155]

Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation in 1992. The charity brought underprivileged children to Jackson's ranch to use the theme park rides, and sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war, poverty, and disease. That July, Jackson published his second book, Dancing the Dream, a collection of poetry. The Dangerous World Tour ran between June 1992 and November 1993, having grossed $100 million; Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 70 concerts.[156] He sold the broadcast rights to the tour to HBO for $20 million, a record-breaking deal that still stands.[157]

Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, which was controversial at the time. Following the death of AIDS spokesperson Ryan White, he pleaded with the Clinton administration at Bill Clinton's inaugural gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research.[158][159] Jackson visited Africa; on his first stop in Gabon he was greeted by more than 100,000 people, some of them carrying signs that read "Welcome Home Michael".[160] During his trip to Ivory Coast, Jackson was crowned "King Sani" by a tribal chief.[160] He thanked the dignitaries in French and English, signed documents formalizing his kingship, and sat on a golden throne while presiding over ceremonial dances.[160]

In January 1993, Jackson performed at the Super Bowl XXVII halftime show in Pasadena, California. The NFL sought big-name talent to keep ratings high during halftime following dwindling audience figures.[161][162] It was the first Super Bowl whose half-time performance drew greater audience figures than the game. Jackson played "Jam", "Billie Jean", "Black or White", and "Heal the World". Dangerous rose 90 places in the album chart after the performance.[103]

Jackson gave a 90-minute interview to Winfrey on February 10, 1993, his second television interview since 1979. He spoke of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father; he believed he had missed out on much of his childhood, and said that he often cried from loneliness. He denied tabloid rumors that he had bought the bones of the Elephant Man, slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, or bleached his skin, and stated for the first time that he had vitiligo. Dangerous re-entered the album chart in the top 10, more than a year after its release.[20][103]

In January 1993, Jackson won three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album (Dangerous), Favorite Soul/R&B Single ("Remember the Time"), and was the first to win the International Artist Award of Excellence.[163][164] In February, he won the "Living Legend Award" at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.[53] He attended the award ceremony with Brooke Shields.[165] Dangerous was nominated for Best Vocal Performance (for "Black or White"), Best R&B Vocal Performance ("Jam") and Best R&B Song ("Jam"), and Swedien and Riley won the award for Best Engineered – Non Classical.[71]

1993–1995: Marriage to Lisa Marie Presley

In August 1993, a 13-year-old boy Jackson had shared a bed with accused him of sexual abuse. After a police investigation, no charges were brought.[166] Jackson began taking painkillers, Valium, Xanax and Ativan to cope with the stress of the allegations. By late 1993, he was addicted to the drugs.[167] He relied on Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, for emotional support; she was concerned about his health and drug addictions.[167] They had known each other since she was seven and attended one of Jackson's family engagements.[168] They stayed in contact every day on the telephone. Presley said: "I believed he didn't do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it."[169] Shortly afterward, she persuaded Jackson to settle out of court with the boy's family, and go into rehabilitation.[167]

Jackson proposed to Presley by telephone in late 1993.[167] They married secretly in the Dominican Republic in May 1994, denying it for nearly two months afterwards.[170] Presley described the marriage as "a married couple's life ... that was sexually active."[171] The tabloid media speculated that the wedding was a ploy to prop up Jackson's public image,[170] and staff at Neverland later told authorities that no woman ever stayed the night with Jackson.[172] The marriage ended less than two years later with an amicable divorce settlement.[173]

1995–1997: HIStory, second marriage, and fatherhood

In June 1995, Jackson released the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The first disc, HIStory Begins, is a greatest hits album (reissued in 2001 as Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I). The second disc, HIStory Continues, contains 13 original songs and two cover versions. The album debuted at number one on the charts and has been certified for seven million shipments in the US.[174] It is the best-selling multi-disc album of all time, with 20 million copies (40 million units) sold worldwide.[151][175] HIStory received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.[53] The New York Times reviewed it as "the testimony of a musician whose self-pity now equals his talent".[176]

The first single from HIStory was "Scream/Childhood". "Scream", a duet with Jackson's youngest sister Janet, protests the media's treatment of Jackson during the 1993 child abuse allegations. The single made number five on the Billboard Hot 100,[152] and received a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals".[53] The second single, "You Are Not Alone", holds the Guinness world record for the first song to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[177] It received a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Vocal Performance" in 1995.[53]

In 1995 the Anti-Defamation League and other groups complained that the original lyrics of "They Don't Care About Us", 'Jew me, sue me, everybody do me/ Kick me, kike me, don't you black or white me', were antisemitic; Jackson released a version with revised words.[178][179]

In late 1995, Jackson was admitted to a hospital after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance, caused by a stress-related panic attack.[180] In November, Jackson merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony's music publishing division, creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. He retained ownership of half the company, earning $95 million up front as well as the rights to more songs.[181][182]

"Earth Song" was the third single released from HIStory, and topped the UK Singles Chart for six weeks over Christmas 1995.[155] It was the 87th-best selling UK single in the UK.[183] At the 1996 Brit Awards, Jackson's performance of "Earth Song" was disrupted by a drunken Jarvis Cocker and his Pulp band-mate Peter Mansell, who were protesting what Cocker saw as Jackson's "Christ-like" persona. Jackson said the stage invasion was "disgusting and cowardly".[184][185]

In 1996, Jackson won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for "Scream" and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.[53][186]

Close-up of a pale skinned Jackson with black hair. He is wearing a black jacket with white designs on it.
Jackson at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for the Ghosts music video premiere

Jackson promoted HIStory with the HIStory World Tour, from September 7, 1996 to October 15, 1997. He performed 82 concerts in five continents, 35 countries and 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans, his most attended tour. It grossed $165 million.[127] During the tour, in Sydney, Australia, Jackson married Debbie Rowe, a dermatology nurse, who was six months pregnant with his first child.[187] Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (commonly known as Prince) was born on February 13, 1997; his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born a year later on April 3, 1998.[188] Rowe later stated that she had never had sex with Jackson.[172] Jackson and Rowe divorced in 1999, and Rowe conceded custody of the children, with an $8 million settlement. In 2004, after the second child abuse allegations against Jackson, she returned to court to reclaim custody. The suit was settled in 2006.[189][190]

In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which contained remixes of singles from HIStory and five new songs. Worldwide sales stand at 6 million copies, making it the best-selling remix album of all time.[191] It reached number one in the UK, as did the title track.[191][192] In the US, the album reached number 24 and was certified platinum.[149]

1997–2005: Label dispute and Invincible

From October 1997 to September 2001, Jackson worked on his tenth solo album, Invincible. The album cost $30 million to record, not including promotional expenditures.[193] In June 1999, Jackson joined Luciano Pavarotti for a War Child benefit concert in Modena, Italy. The show raised a million dollars for refugees of the Kosovo War, and additional funds for the children of Guatemala.[194] Later that month, Jackson organized a series of "Michael Jackson & Friends" benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. Other artists involved included Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana, Andrea Bocelli, and Luciano Pavarotti. The proceeds went to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, the Red Cross and UNESCO.[195] From August 1999 to 2000, he lived in New York City at 4 East 74th Street.[196] At the turn of the century, Jackson won an American Music Award as Artist of the 1980s.[197] In 2000, Guinness World Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities, more than any other entertainer.[198]

In September 2001, two 30th Anniversary concerts were held at Madison Square Garden to mark Jackson's 30th year as a solo artist. Jackson performed with his brothers for the first time since 1984. The show also featured Mýa, Usher, Whitney Houston, Destiny's Child, Monica, Liza Minnelli, and Slash. The first show was marred by technical lapses, and the crowd booed a speech by Marlon Brando.[199] Almost 30 million people watched the television broadcast of the shows in November.[200] After 9/11, Jackson helped organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2001. Jackson performed "What More Can I Give" as the finale.[201]

The release of Invincible was preceded by a dispute between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him in the early 2000s, after which he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and keep the profits, but clauses in the contract set the revert date years into the future. Jackson discovered that the attorney who had represented him in the deal had also been representing Sony.[192] Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in its music catalog venture, and he feared that Sony might have had a conflict of interest, since if Jackson's career failed, he would have had to sell his share of the catalog cheaply.[201] Jackson sought an early exit from his contract.[192]

Invincible was released on October 30, 2001. It was Jackson's first full-length album in six years, and the last album of original material he released in his lifetime.[192] It debuted at number one in 13 countries and went on to sell 6 million copies worldwide, receiving double-platinum certification in the US.[149][151]

On January 22, 2002, Jackson won his 22nd American Music Award for Artist of the Century.[202] Later that year, an anonymous surrogate mother gave birth to his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed "Blanket"), who had been conceived by artificial insemination.[189] On November 20, Jackson briefly held Blanket over the railing of his Berlin hotel room, four stories above ground level, prompting widespread criticism in the media. Jackson apologized for the incident, calling it "a terrible mistake".[203]

Jackson alleged in July 2002 that Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a "devil" and "racist" who did not support his African-American artists, and only used them for his own gain.[201] He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a "fat nigger".[204] Sony refused to renew Jackson's contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the US.[193]

Following a documentary made in 2002 and screened in 2003 in which Jackson discussed his practice of sharing a bed with young boys, he was arrested and tried for child molestation. He was acquitted in June 2005.[172] After the trial, he largely withdrew from public life.[205] On November 17, 2003, three days before his arrest, Sony had released Number Ones, a compilation of his songs on CD and DVD. In the US, the album was certified triple platinum by the RIAA; in the UK it was certified six times platinum for shipments of at least 1.2 million units.[149][206]

2006–2009: Closure of Neverland, final years, and This Is It

Jackson and his son Blanket in Disneyland Paris, 2006

In March 2006, Jackson failed to make repayments on a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings, which were making him $75 million a year.[207] Bank of America sold the debt to Fortress Investments. Sony proposed a restructuring deal which would give them a future option to buy half of Jackson's stake in their jointly-owned publishing company, leaving Jackson with a 25% stake.[182] The main house at Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure.[208] Jackson agreed to a Sony-backed refinancing deal in April 2006; the details were not made public.[209]

In early 2006, it was announced that Jackson had signed a contract with a Bahrain-based startup, Two Seas Records; nothing came of the deal, and Two Seas CEO Guy Holmes later stated that it had never been finalized.[210][211] That October, Fox News entertainment reporter Roger Friedman said that Jackson had been recording at a studio in County Westmeath, Ireland. It was not known at the time what Jackson was working on, or who had paid for the sessions, since his publicist had recently issued a statement claiming that he had left Two Seas.[211][212]

In November 2006, Jackson invited an Access Hollywood camera crew into the studio in Westmeath, and MSNBC reported that he was working on a new album, produced by[151] During his period in Ireland he sought out Patrick Treacy for cosmetic treatment after reading about his experience with HLA fillers and his charitable work in Africa.[213] Treacy became Jackson's personal dermatologist.[214] Jackson performed at the World Music Awards in London on November 15, 2006, and accepted a Diamond Award for selling over 100 million records.[151][215] He returned to the US in December 2006 to attend James Brown's funeral in Augusta, Georgia, where he gave one of the eulogies, calling Brown his "greatest inspiration".[216]

In 2007, Jackson and Sony bought another music publishing company, Famous Music LLC, formerly owned by Viacom. This deal gave him the rights to songs by Eminem and Beck, among others.[217][218] In March 2007, Jackson gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Tokyo in which he said he had no regrets about his lifelong career.[219] That month, Jackson visited a US Army post in Japan, Camp Zama, to greet over 3,000 troops and their families.[220][221]

In September 2007, Jackson was still working on his next album, which he never completed.[222] In 2008, Jackson and Sony released Thriller 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Thriller. Two remixes were released as singles: "The Girl Is Mine 2008" (with, based on an early demo version of the song without Paul McCartney, and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" (with Akon).[223] For Jackson's 50th birthday, Sony BMG released a series of greatest hits albums, King of Pop. Different versions were released in various countries, based on polls of local fans.[224] King of Pop reached the top 10 in most countries where it was issued, and also sold well as an import in other countries, including the US.[225]

An aerial view of part of Jackson's 2,800-acre (11 km2) Neverland Valley Ranch near Los Olivos, California, showing the rides

In late 2008, Fortress Investments threatened to foreclose on Neverland Ranch, which Jackson had used as collateral for loans running into tens of millions of dollars. Fortress sold Jackson's debts to Colony Capital LLC. In November, Jackson transferred Neverland Ranch's title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC, a joint venture between Jackson and Colony Capital LLC. The deal cleared Jackson's debt and earned him an additional $35 million. At the time of his death, Jackson still owned a stake in Neverland/Sycamore Valley.[226][227] Jackson arranged to sell a large collection of memorabilia through Julien's Auction House. The auction was scheduled to take place between April 22 and 25, 2009. An exhibition of the lots opened on April 14, but Jackson canceled the auction.[205]

In March 2009, at a press conference at London's O2 Arena, Jackson announced a series of comeback concerts titled This Is It. The shows were to be his first major tour since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997. Jackson suggested he would retire after the shows. The initial plan was for 10 concerts in London, followed by shows in Paris, New York City and Mumbai. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, predicted that the first 10 dates would earn Jackson £50 million.[228] The London residency was increased to 50 dates after record-breaking ticket sales: over one million were sold in less than two hours.[229] The concerts were to run from July 13, 2009 to March 6, 2010. Jackson rehearsed in Los Angeles in the weeks leading up to the tour under the direction of choreographer Kenny Ortega. Most rehearsals took place at the Staples Center, owned by AEG.[230]


Jackson's Star with flowers and notes on it
Fans placed flowers and notes on Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on the day of his death.

On June 25, 2009, less than three weeks before the first show was due to begin in London, with all concerts sold out, Jackson died from a cardiac arrest.[231] Conrad Murray, his personal physician, had given Jackson various medications to help him sleep at his rented mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles. Paramedics received a 911 call at 12:22 pm Pacific time (19:22 UTC), and arrived three minutes later.[232][233] Jackson was not breathing and CPR was performed.[234] Resuscitation efforts continued en route to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and for more than an hour after arriving there at 1:13 pm (20:13 UTC), but were unsuccessful.[235][236] He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm Pacific time (21:26 UTC).[237][238]

Jackson had taken propofol, lorazepam, and midazolam;[239] his death was caused by a propofol overdose.[240][236] News of his death spread quickly online, causing websites to slow down and crash from user overload,[241] and putting unprecedented strain[242] on services and websites including Google,[243] AOL Instant Messenger,[242] Twitter, and Wikipedia.[243] Overall, web traffic rose by between 11% and 20%.[244][245] MTV and BET aired marathons of Jackson's music videos.[246] Jackson specials aired on television stations around the world.[247] MTV briefly returned to its original music video format,[248] and aired hours of Jackson's music videos, with live news specials featuring reactions from MTV personalities and other celebrities.[249]

Jackson's tomb in the Holly Terrace of the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Glendale

Memorial service

Jackson's memorial was held on July 7, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, preceded by a private family service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Hall of Liberty. Tickets to the memorial were distributed via lottery; over 1.6 million fans applied for tickets during the two-day application period. The 8,750 recipients were drawn at random, and each received two tickets.[250] The memorial service was one of the most watched events in streaming history,[251] with an estimated US audience of 31.1 million.[252]

Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson, and Shaheen Jafargholi performed at the event. Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson gave eulogies, and Queen Latifah read "We Had Him", a poem written for the occasion by Maya Angelou.[253] Al Sharpton received a standing ovation with cheers when he told Jackson's children, "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway."[254] Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris Katherine, speaking publicly for the first time, wept as she addressed the crowd.[255][256] The Rev. Lucious Smith provided a closing prayer.[257] Jackson's body was entombed on September 3, 2009, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[258]

Criminal investigation and prosecution

In August 2009, the Los Angeles County Coroner ruled that Jackson's death was a homicide.[259][260] Law enforcement officials investigated Murray, and charged him with involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles on February 8, 2010.[261] The California Medical Board issued an order preventing Murray from administering heavy sedatives.[262]

Portrait and other tributes, including mural and messages from 650 Spanish fans, letters, pictures, teddy bears, and flowers.
Fan tributes at Jackson's tomb on the first anniversary of his death

On June 25, 2010, the first anniversary of Jackson's death, fans, family and friends visited Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his family home, and Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Many left tributes at the sites.[263][264]

Murray's trial began on September 27, 2011;[265] on November 7, 2011, he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter[266] and held without bail to await sentencing.[267] On November 29, 2011, Murray received the maximum sentence of four years in prison.[268] He was released on October 28, 2013[269] due to California prison overcrowding and good behavior.[270]


In April 2011, Mohamed Al-Fayed, chairman of Fulham Football Club, unveiled a statue of Jackson outside the club stadium, Craven Cottage.[271] Fulham fans failed to see the relevance of the statue to the club; Al-Fayed defended it and told the fans to "go to hell" if they did not appreciate it.[271][272] It was moved to the National Football Museum in Manchester in May 2014,[273] then removed from display in March 2019.[274]

In 2012, in an attempt to end a family dispute, Jackson's brother Jermaine retracted his signature on a public letter criticizing executors of Michael Jackson's estate and his mother's advisers over the legitimacy of his brother's will.[275] T.J. Jackson, son of Tito Jackson, was given co-guardianship of Michael Jackson's children after false reports of Katherine Jackson going missing.[276]

In 2013, a third round of child sexual abuse allegations were made against Jackson when two of his former sleepover guests accused him of molesting them and brought a civil suit for compensation against the estate.[277] The claim failed because too much time had passed since the alleged events.[278]

Posthumous releases

The first posthumous Jackson song, "This Is It", co-written in the 1980s with Paul Anka, was released in October 2009. The surviving Jackson brothers reunited to record backing vocals.[279] On October 28, 2009, Sony released a documentary film about the rehearsals, Michael Jackson's This Is It.[280] Despite a limited two-week engagement, it became the highest-grossing documentary or concert film ever, with earnings of more than $260 million worldwide.[281] Jackson's estate received 90% of the profits.[282] The film was accompanied by a compilation album of the same name.[283] At the 2009 American Music Awards, Jackson won four posthumous awards, two for him and two for his album Number Ones, bringing his total American Music Awards to 26.[284][285]

On March 16, 2010, following a surge in sales after Jackson's death, Sony Music Entertainment, spearheaded by its Columbia/Epic Label Group division, signed a $250 million deal with the Jackson estate to extend their distribution rights to Jackson's back catalog until at least 2017; it had been due to expire in 2015. It was the most expensive music contract for a single artist in history.[286][287] They also agreed to release ten albums of previously unreleased material and new collections of released work.[286][288] In late 2010, Sony released the first posthumous album, Michael and the promotional single "Breaking News". Some doubt was cast upon whether the voice on some tracks was genuinely Jackson's.[289]

Video game developer Ubisoft released a music video game featuring Jackson for the 2010 holiday season, Michael Jackson: The Experience; it was among the first games to use Kinect and PlayStation Move, the motion-detecting camera systems for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 respectively.[290] Xscape, an album of unreleased material,[291] was released on May 13, 2014.[292] Later that year, Queen released three duets recorded with Jackson and Freddie Mercury in the 1980s.[60] A compilation album, Scream, was released on September 29, 2017.[293]

In October 2011, the theater company Cirque du Soleil launched Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour in Montreal, with a permanent show resident in Las Vegas.[294] The 90-minute $57-million production combined Jackson's music and choreography with the Cirque's 65 aerial dancers.[295] A compilation soundtrack album, Immortal, accompanied the tour.[296] A larger and more theatrical Cirque show, Michael Jackson: One, designed for residency at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, opened on May 23, 2013 in a renovated theater.[297][298]

In 2017, Sony Music Entertainment extended its deal with the estate;[299] that July, a Los Angeles court awarded Jones $9.4m of disputed royalty payments for Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad.[46] In July 2018, Sony/ATV bought the estate's stake in EMI for $287.5 million.[300]

A jukebox musical, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, is due to debut on Broadway in mid-2020.[301] The musical is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and features a book by Lynn Nottage.[302] It was delayed and a pre-Broadway run in Chicago was canceled in the wake of the renewed claims of child sexual abuse in the Leaving Neverland documentary.[303][304]



Jackson was influenced by musicians including James Brown, Little Richard,[305] Jackie Wilson, Diana Ross, Fred Astaire,[305] Sammy Davis Jr.,[305] Gene Kelly,[305] David Ruffin,[306] the Isley Brothers, and the Bee Gees.[307][page needed] Little Richard had a substantial influence on Jackson,[308] but Brown was his greatest inspiration; he later said that as a small child, his mother would waken him whenever Brown appeared on television. Jackson described being "mesmerized".[309]

Jackson's vocal technique was influenced by Diana Ross; his use of the oooh interjection from a young age was something Ross had used on many of her songs with the Supremes.[310] She was a mother figure to him, and he often watched her rehearse.[311] He said he had learned a lot from watching how she moved and sang, and that she had encouraged him to have confidence in himself.[312]

Choreographer David Winters, who met Jackson while choreographing the 1971 Diana Ross TV special Diana!, said that Jackson watched the musical West Side Story almost every week, and it was his favorite film; he paid tribute to it in "Beat It" and the "Bad" video.[307][page needed][313][314]


Jackson had no formal music training and could not read or write music notation; he is credited for playing guitar, keyboard and drums, but was not proficient in them.[315] When composing, he recorded ideas by beatboxing and imitating instruments vocally.[315] He described the process as: "I'll just sing the bass part into the tape recorder. I'll take that bass lick and put the chords of the melody over the bass lick and that's what inspires the melody."[315] Engineer Robert Hoffman recalled Jackson dictating a guitar chord note by note, and singing string arrangements part by part into a cassette recorder.[315]

Themes and genres

Black and white photo of Jackson holding a microphone and singing.
Jackson in June 1988, in Vienna, during his Bad world tour

Jackson explored genres including pop,[8][316] soul,[8][138] rhythm and blues,[316] funk,[317] rock,[316][317] disco,[318] post-disco,[317] dance-pop[319] and new jack swing.[8] Steve Huey of AllMusic wrote that Thriller refined the strengths of Off the Wall; the dance and rock tracks were more aggressive, while the pop tunes and ballads were softer and more soulful.[8] Its tracks included the ballads "The Lady in My Life", "Human Nature", and "The Girl Is Mine",[320][321][322] the funk pieces "Billie Jean" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'",[320][321] and the disco set "Baby Be Mine" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)".[322]

With Off the Wall, Jackson's "vocabulary of grunts, squeals, hiccups, moans, and asides" vividly showed the singer's maturation into an adult, Robert Christgau wrote in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981). The album's title track suggested to the critic a parallel between Jackson and Stevie Wonder's "oddball" music personas: "Since childhood his main contact with the real world has been on stage and in bed."[323] With Thriller, Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone commented that Jackson developed his long association with the subliminal theme of paranoia and darker imagery.[321] AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted this on the songs "Billie Jean" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'".[320] In "Billie Jean", Jackson depicts an obsessive fan who alleges he has fathered her child,[8] and in "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" he argues against gossip and the media.[321] "Beat It" decried gang violence in a homage to West Side Story, and was Jackson's first successful rock cross-over piece, according to Huey.[8][34] He also observed that the title track "Thriller" began Jackson's interest with the theme of the supernatural, a topic he revisited in subsequent years.[8] In 1985, Jackson co-wrote the charity anthem "We Are the World"; humanitarian themes later became a recurring theme in his lyrics and public persona.[8]

In Bad, Jackson's concept of the predatory lover is seen on the rock song "Dirty Diana".[328] The lead single "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" is a traditional love ballad, and "Man in the Mirror" is a ballad of confession and resolution. "Smooth Criminal" is an evocation of bloody assault, rape and likely murder.[122] AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine states that Dangerous presents Jackson as a paradoxical individual.[329] He comments the album is more diverse than his previous Bad, as it appeals to an urban audience but also attracts the middle class with anthems like "Heal the World".[329] The first half of the record is dedicated to new jack swing, including songs like "Jam" and "Remember the Time".[330] It was the first Jackson album in which social ills become a primary theme; "Why You Wanna Trip on Me", for example, protests world hunger, AIDS, homelessness and drugs.[330] Dangerous contains sexually charged songs such as the love song "In the Closet".[330] The title track continues the theme of the predatory lover and compulsive desire.[330] The second half includes introspective, pop-gospel anthems such as "Will You Be There", "Heal the World" and "Keep the Faith"; these songs were inspired by Jackson's personal struggles and worries.[330] In the ballad "Gone Too Soon", Jackson gives tribute to Ryan White and the plight of those with AIDS.[331]

HIStory creates an atmosphere of paranoia.[332] In the new jack swing-funk rock tracks "Scream" and "Tabloid Junkie", and the R&B ballad "You Are Not Alone", Jackson retaliates against the injustice and isolation he feels, and directs his anger at the media.[333] In the introspective ballad "Stranger in Moscow", Jackson laments his "fall from grace"; "Earth Song", "Childhood", "Little Susie" and "Smile" are operatic pop songs.[332][333] In the "D.S.", Jackson launched a verbal attack against the lawyer Tom Sneddon, who had prosecuted him in both child sexual abuse cases. He describes Sneddon as an antisocial white supremacist who wanted to "get my ass, dead or alive". Sneddon said he had not listened to the song.[334] Invincible was produced by Rodney Jerkins.[8] It includes urban soul tracks such as "Cry" and "The Lost Children", ballads such as "Speechless", "Break of Dawn", and "Butterflies" and mixes hip hop, pop, and R&B in "2000 Watts", "Heartbreaker" and "Invincible".[335][336]

Vocal style

Jackson sang from childhood, and over time his voice and vocal style changed. Between 1971 and 1975, his voice descended from boy soprano to high tenor.[337] His vocal range as an adult was F2-E6. Jackson first used the "vocal hiccup" technique, similar to gulping for air or gasping, in 1973, with the song "It's Too Late to Change the Time" from the Jackson 5's album G.I.T.: Get It Together.[338][page needed] With the arrival of Off the Wall in the late 1970s, Jackson's abilities as a vocalist were well regarded; Rolling Stone compared his vocals to the "breathless, dreamy stutter" of Stevie Wonder, and wrote that "Jackson's feathery-timbred tenor is extraordinarily beautiful. It slides smoothly into a startling falsetto that's used very daringly."[339] By the time of 1982's Thriller, Rolling Stone wrote that Jackson was singing in a "fully adult voice" that was "tinged by sadness".[321]

A mispronunciation of "come on", used frequently by Jackson, "shamone", is often used in impressions and caricatures of him.[340] The turn of the 1990s saw the release of the introspective album Dangerous. The New York Times noted that on some tracks, "he gulps for breath, his voice quivers with anxiety or drops to a desperate whisper, hissing through clenched teeth" and he had a "wretched tone".[330] When singing of brotherhood or self-esteem the musician would return to "smooth" vocals.[330] Of Invincible, Rolling Stone wrote that, at 43, Jackson still performed "exquisitely voiced rhythm tracks and vibrating vocal harmonies".[341] Joseph Vogel notes that Jackson had an "ability to convey emotion without the use of language: there are his trademark gulps, grunts, gasps, cries, exclamations; he also frequently scats or twists and contorts words until they are barely discernible."[342] Neil McCormick wrote that Jackson's unorthodox singing style "was original and utterly distinctive".[343]

Music videos and choreography

Huey wrote that Jackson transformed the music video into an art form and a promotional tool through complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and famous cameos, while breaking down racial barriers.[8] Before Thriller, Jackson struggled to receive coverage on MTV, allegedly because he was African American.[344] Pressure from CBS Records persuaded MTV to start showing "Billie Jean" and later "Beat It", which led to a lengthy partnership with Jackson, and helped other black music artists gain recognition.[345] The popularity of his videos on MTV helped the relatively new channel's viewing figures, and MTV's focus shifted toward pop and R&B.[345][346] His performance on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever changed the scope of live stage shows, making it acceptable for artists to lip-sync to music video on stage.[347] The choreography in Thriller has been copied in Indian films and prisons in the Philippines.[348] Thriller marked an increase in scale for music videos, and was named the most successful music video ever by the Guinness World Records.[177]

In "Bad"'s 19-minute video—directed by Martin Scorsese—Jackson used sexual imagery and choreography, and touched his chest, torso and crotch. When asked by Winfrey in the 1993 interview about why he grabbed his crotch, he said it was spontaneously compelled by the music. Time magazine described the "Bad" video as "infamous". It featured Wesley Snipes; in the future Jackson's videos often featured famous cameo roles.[114][349] For the "Smooth Criminal" video, Jackson experimented with leaning forward at a 45 degree angle, beyond the performer's center of gravity. To accomplish this live, Jackson and designers developed a special shoe to lock the performer's feet to the stage, allowing them to lean forward. They were granted U.S. Patent 5,255,452 for the device.[350] The video for "Leave Me Alone" was not officially released in the US, but in 1989 was nominated for three Billboard Music Video Awards[351] and won a Golden Lion Award for its special effects. It won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form.[53]

He received the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1988; in 2001 the award was renamed in his honor.[352] The "Black or White" video simultaneously premiered on November 14, 1991, in 27 countries with an estimated audience of 500 million people, the largest audience ever for a music video at the time.[151] Along with Jackson, it featured Macaulay Culkin, Peggy Lipton, and George Wendt. It helped usher in morphing as an important technology in music videos.[353]

"In the Closet" featured Naomi Campbell in a courtship dance with Jackson.[354] "Remember the Time" was set in ancient Egypt, and featured Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson.[355] The video for "Scream", directed by Mark Romanek and production designer Tom Foden, gained a record 11 MTV Video Music Award Nominations, and won "Best Dance Video", "Best Choreography", and "Best Art Direction".[356] The song and its video are Jackson's response to being accused of child molestation in 1993.[357] A year later, it won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form. It has been reported as the most expensive music video ever made, at $7 million;[358] Romanek has contradicted this.[359]

"Earth Song"'s video gained a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form in 1997.[360] Released in 1997 and premiering at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Michael Jackson's Ghosts is a short film written by Jackson and Stephen King, and directed by Stan Winston. At over 38 minutes long, it held the Guinness world record for the longest music video until 2013 when it was eclipsed by Pharrell Williams' "Happy".[192][361]

The 2001 video for "You Rock My World" lasts over 13 minutes, was directed by Paul Hunter, and features Chris Tucker and Marlon Brando.[362] It won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Music Video at the award shows 2002 ceremony.[363]

Allegations of child sexual abuse

1993 allegations

In August 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy, Jordan Chandler, and his father, Evan Chandler.[166][364] Jordan said he and Jackson had engaged in acts of kissing, masturbation and oral sex.[365] Jordan's mother said that there had been no wrongdoing on Jackson's part.[366] Evan was recorded discussing his intention to pursue charges, which Jackson used to argue that he was the victim of a jealous father trying to extort money.[366] Jackson's older sister La Toya accused him of being a pedophile, which she later retracted.[367]

Police raided Jackson's home and found books and photographs featuring young boys with little or no clothing.[368] The books were legal to own, and Jackson was not indicted.[369] Jordan Chandler gave police a description of Jackson's genitals; a strip search revealed that Jordan had correctly claimed Jackson had patchy-colored buttocks, short pubic hair, and pink and brown marked testicles.[367] He also drew accurate pictures of a dark spot on Jackson's penis only visible when it was lifted.[370]

The investigation was inconclusive and no charges were filed.[371] Jackson described the search in an emotional public statement, and protested his innocence.[166][367][372] On January 1, 1994, Jackson settled with the Chandlers out of court for $25 million.[172][373] In January 1994, after an investigation, deputy Los Angeles County district attorney Michael J. Montagna stated that Chandler would not be charged with extortion, due to lack of cooperation from Jackson's party and its willingness to negotiate with Chandler for several weeks, among other reasons.[374] A Santa Barbara County grand jury and a Los Angeles County grand jury disbanded on May 2, 1994, without indicting Jackson.[375] The Chandlers stopped co-operating with the criminal investigation around July 6, 1994.[376][377]

After Jackson's death, it emerged that the FBI had compiled a dossier on him.[378] The Department of Children and Family Services (Los Angeles County) investigated Jackson beginning in 1993 with the Chandler allegation and again in 2003. The LAPD and DCFS found no credible evidence of misconduct.[379][380]

Second allegations and trial

Jackson in Las Vegas, 2003

Beginning in May 2002, Jackson allowed a documentary film crew, led by British journalist Martin Bashir, to follow him nearly everywhere he went.[203] The program was broadcast in March 2003 as Living with Michael Jackson. In the film, Jackson was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with a young boy.[381] Jackson stated in the documentary that he saw nothing wrong with sleeping with boys.[172]

As soon as the documentary aired, the Santa Barbara county attorney's office began a criminal investigation. After the boy in the documentary and his mother told investigators that Jackson had behaved improperly, Jackson was arrested in November 2003 and charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of giving alcoholic drinks to the boy.[381] Jackson denied the allegations, saying the sleepovers were not sexual in nature. The People v. Jackson trial began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted until the end of May. Jackson found the experience stressful and it affected his health. If convicted he would have faced up to 20 years in prison.[382] On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts.[383][384] After the trial, he moved to Bahrain as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah.[385] Jermaine Jackson later said the family had planned to send him there had he been convicted.[386]

Renewed allegations and Leaving Neverland

Jackson and Safechuck (right) in Honolulu, Hawaii (1988)

In 2013, choreographer Wade Robson filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Jackson had sexually abused him for seven years, beginning when he was seven years old.[387] In 2014, a case was filed by James Safechuck after seeing an interview with Robson,[388] alleging sexual abuse over a four-year period from the age of ten.[277] Both had previously testified in defense of Jackson.[389][390] In 2015, Robson's case against Jackson's estate was dismissed on the grounds that it had been filed too late, and in 2017 it was ruled that neither of the corporate entities formerly owned by Jackson held responsibility for Jackson's alleged actions.[391][392] Neither ruling commented on the credibility of the allegations.[278]

The 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland covers Jackson's alleged sexual abuse of Robson and Safechuck.[393] Its release led to an international backlash against Jackson.[394] Radio stations in New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands removed Jackson's music from their playlists in response to the renewed allegations.[303][395][396] Drake removed the song "Don't Matter to Me" from his concert setlist due to the controversy surrounding Jackson; the song featured posthumous vocals from Jackson.[397] Jackson's family condemned the film as a "public lynching."[398]

As of 2019, five boys who shared a bed with Jackson when they were preteens (Jordan Chandler, Gavin Arvizo, Jason Francia, Robson, and Safechuck) have alleged that he sexually abused them.[172][399] At least seven people formerly employed by Jackson have accused him of sexually abusing or behaving inappropriately with young boys.[400]

Legacy and influence

Michael Jackson graffiti in Santa Cruz

Jackson has been referred to as the "King of Pop" because he transformed the art of music videos and paved the way for modern pop music. For much of Jackson's career, he had an unparalleled worldwide influence over the younger generation.[179] His music and videos, such as Thriller, fostered racial diversity in MTV's roster and steered its focus from rock to pop music and R&B, shaping the channel into a form that proved enduring.[37] Jackson's work continues to influence numerous artists of various music genres. He is recognized as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time by Guinness World Records.[401][402] He is considered one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century,[403] and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.[404][405][406]

Danyel Smith, the chief content officer of Vibe Media Group and the editor-in-chief of Vibe describes Jackson as "The Greatest Star".[407] Huey calls Jackson "an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the skills to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility and loads of sheer star power".[8] BET said Jackson was "quite simply the greatest entertainer of all time" and someone who "revolutionized the music video and brought dances like the moonwalk to the world. Jackson's sound, style, movement and legacy continues to inspire artists of all genres."[408]

In 1984, Time magazine's pop critic Jay Cocks wrote that "Jackson is the biggest thing since the Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever."[76] In 2003, Daily Telegraph writer Tom Utley described Jackson as "extremely important" and a "genius".[409] In 2007, Jackson said: "Music has been my outlet, my gift to all of the lovers in this world. Through it, my music, I know I will live forever."[410]

At Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009, Motown founder Berry Gordy called Jackson "the greatest entertainer that ever lived".[411][412] In a June 28, 2009 Baltimore Sun article titled "7 Ways Michael Jackson Changed The World", Jill Rosen wrote that Jackson's legacy was "as enduring as it is multi-faceted", influencing fields including sound, dance, fashion, music videos and celebrity.[413]

In July 2009, the Lunar Republic Society named a crater on the Moon after Jackson.[414] In August, for what would have been Jackson's 51st birthday, Google dedicated their Google Doodle to him.[415] In 2010, two university librarians found that there were references to Jackson in academic writing on music, popular culture, chemistry and other topics.[416][417] On December 19, 2014, the British Council of Cultural Relations deemed Jackson's life one of the 80 most important cultural moments of the 20th century.[418]

Robert Christgau wrote that Jackson's work from the 1970s to the early 1990s showed "immense originality, adaptability, and ambition" that "generate[d] genius beats, hooks, arrangements, and vocals (though not lyrics)"; music that "will stand forever as a reproach to the puritanical notion that pop music is slick or shallow and that's the end of it." During the 1990s as Jackson lost control of his "troubling life", his music suffered and began to shape "an arc not merely of promise fulfilled and outlived, but of something approaching tragedy: a phenomenally ebullient child star tops himself like none before, only to transmute audibly into a lost weirdo."[419] The singer's image by the 2000s—his "obsession with fame, his grotesque life magnified by his grotesque wealth"—had become what Christgau called "such an offense to rock aesthetes that the fact that he's a great musician is now often forgotten."[420]

Following the 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, and its renewed allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson, a re-examination of his legacy began.[394][421]

Honors and awards

Thriller platinum record on display at the Hard Rock Cafe, Hollywood in Universal City, California

Jackson was inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980 as member of the Jacksons and in 1984 as solo artist. He also won the World Music Awards' Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, the American Music Award's Artist of the Century Award and the Bambi Pop Artist of the Millennium Award.[422] He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997, and then as a solo artist in 2001.[423] In 2010, Jackson was inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first dancer from pop and rock 'n' roll,[424] and in 2014 he was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame; his father accepted on his behalf.[425]

Pink star with a gold colored rim and the writing "Michael Jackson" in its center. The star is indented into the ground and is surrounded by a marble-colored floor.
Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, set in 1984

Jackson won hundreds of awards, more than any other recording artist in the history of popular music.[426] His awards include many Guinness world records (eight in 2006 alone), including Most Successful Entertainer of All Time,[401][402] 13 Grammy Awards[427] (as well as the Grammy Legend Award[428] and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award),[429] 26 American Music Awards (including the "Artist of the Century" and "Artist of the 1980s"),[197]—more than any artist—13 number-one singles in the US in his solo career—more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era[430]—and estimated sales of over 350 million records worldwide[431][Note 2] making him one of the best-selling artists in music history. On December 29, 2009, the American Film Institute recognized Jackson's death as a "moment of significance".[432] Jackson also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Fisk University.[433]

Jackson also undertook humanitarian charity work.[434][435]


In 1989, Jackson's annual earnings from album sales, endorsements, and concerts were estimated at $125 million.[177] Forbes placed Jackson's annual income at $35 million in 1996 and $20 million in 1997.[436] In the year after his death, more than 8.2 million of Jackson's albums sold in the US, and 35 million albums worldwide, more than any other artist in 2009.[437][438] In 2014, Jackson became the first artist to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades.[439] He became the first artist to sell one million music downloads in a week, with 2.6 million song downloads. Thriller, Number Ones and The Essential Michael Jackson became the first catalog albums to outsell any new album.[440] Jackson also became the first artist to have four of the top 20 best-selling albums in a single year in the US.[437]

Forbes reported in August 2018 that Jackson's total career pretax earnings in life and death were $4.2 billion.[441][442] Sales of his recordings through Sony's music unit earned him an estimated $300 million in royalties. He may have earned another $400 million from concerts, music publishing (including his share of the Beatles catalog), endorsements, merchandising and music videos.[443]

Estimates of Jackson's net worth during his life range from negative $285 million to positive $350 million for 2002, 2003 and 2007.[444][445] In 2013, the executors of Jackson's estate filed a petition in the United States Tax Court as a result of a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over US federal estate taxes.[446] The executors claim that it was worth about $7 million, the IRS that it was worth over $1.1 billion. In February 2014, the IRS reported that Jackson's estate owed $702 million; $505 million in taxes, and $197 million in penalties.[447] A trial was held from February 6 to 24, 2017,[448] and a decision is expected in 2019.[449]

In 2016, Forbes estimated annual gross earnings by the Jackson estate at $825 million, the largest ever recorded for a celebrity, mostly due to the sale of the Sony/ATV catalog. It was the seventh consecutive year since his death in which Jackson's annual earnings were over $100 million.[450] In 2018 the figure was $400 million.[451] According to Forbes in 2016, Jackson had been the top-earning dead celebrity each year since his death.[450]




See also


  1. ^ "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man in the Mirror", and "Dirty Diana".
  2. ^ The Wall Street Journal and other news sites, report that the 750 million units sold by Michael Jackson is an inflated figure initially claimed in 2006 by Raymone Bain,[1] Jackson's publicist at that time, without any evidence and probably in an effort to boost album sales.[2][3] Since 2006, several sources such as RIAA, Rolling Stone, and Time have claimed that Michael Jackson has sold 750 million units (or even 1 billion);[4][5][6] Adrian Strain, a representative from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has disputed this figure.[3]
  3. ^ In 2018, its US sales record was overtaken by the Eagles' album Greatest Hits 1971–75, with 38× platinum.[70]



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