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Michael Jackson Biography - Life and Career (REDUX)

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born August 29th, 1958 in Gary, Indiana, Michael Jackson got his start in music with his brothers in The Jackson 5. His natural vocal talent and dancing abilities quickly led to a solo career that would turn him into the biggest star of the 1980's. His records were critical and commercial smashes, with 1984's "Thriller" becoming the best-selling album of all time. But, the success and fame would soon begin to affect him on a personal level as well. In this video, takes a look at the life and career of Michael Jackson. Special thanks to our users Philip Folta, Mimi Farrage, arm4tg, Jerome Magajes and He-Man-She-Ra-777 for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Michael Jackson: Biography – Life and Career

We knew him as the King of Pop. Welcome to, and today we’re taking a look at the life and career of Michael Jackson.

Early Years

Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He first got into music in 1964 when he joined his older siblings in the band, The Jackson Brothers, as a backup musician and vocalist. The group changed its name to The Jackson 5 shortly after Michael started sharing lead vocal duties with Jermaine.

The Jackson 5

Though Jackson’s father was a very strict disciplinarian, Michael was a natural talent whose vocals and dance moves quickly turned him into The Jackson 5’s main draw. The group signed with Motown Records in 1968 and released four number 1 singles on the label, including “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There.”

Solo Success

Jackson released four solo albums on Motown, including his solo debut: the January 1972 album, Got to Be There, and August 1972’s, Ben. The title track of this sophomore effort gave Jackson his first number one solo single. Meanwhile, in June 1975, The Jackson 5 signed with Epic Records and became The Jacksons.

“The Wiz”

Between 1976 and 1984, The Jacksons released six albums. It was during this period that Michael met Quincy Jones while he starred in the 1978 film, “The Wiz,” an African-American remake of the Wizard of Oz. Jones then went on to produce Jackson’s 1979 record, Off the Wall, which produced four Top Ten singles, such as “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You.”


Though Michael had not yet officially left The Jacksons, his solo career was taking off. Next up was 1982’s Thriller, which became the best-selling album of all-time and won Jackson seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards. Seven of Thriller’s nine tracks became Top 10 singles, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “The Girl is Mine,” a duet with Paul McCartney. The Jones-produced record not only solidified Jackson’s staying power, but also helped bring the music video to the next level.

The Moonwalk & the Pepsi Incident

1983 saw Jackson reunite with his brothers during a live television performance on the show “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” On that same special, he debuted his now-trademark dance move, the moonwalk, during a solo performance. The next year, Jackson and his brothers were filming a commercial for Pepsi Cola when Michael’s hair was accidentally set on fire. This injury is credited by many as having prompted Jackson’s obsession with plastic surgery, though his look had begun to change prior to the Pepsi fiasco.

A few months later, he went on tour with his brothers to promote his last album with The Jacksons, Victory. Jackson donated all funds from the Victory Tour to charity.

Super Stardom

While Jackson had collaborated a second time with Paul McCartney on the 1983 single, “Say Say Say,” their friendship ended when Michael acquired the publishing rights to most of The Beatles’ songs by purchasing ATV Music’s catalogue in 1984. The next year, Jackson showed his philanthropic streak when he co-wrote the charity song, “We Are the World” with Lionel Richie. The single was recorded with a super-group of musicians and millions of dollars from its sales were donated to famine relief.

Physical Changes

By the mid-1980’s, Jackson’s physical appearance began to change more obviously. He underwent a few cosmetic surgeries as well as treatments for vitiligo, a disorder that lightened the color of his skin. Tabloids were also spreading outrageous rumors about his personal life during this time.


1986 saw Jackson collaborate with directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on a short and innovative 3D film called “Captain EO,” that was shown at Disney theme parks. By 1987, Jackson’s next album, Bad, was finally released. Though it was not as successful as Thriller, it did spawn several number one singles, such the title track. The Bad World Tour that followed ultimately became the highest-grossing tour of all-time.


1988 saw Jackson’s first autobiography, “Moonwalk” hit number 1 on The New York Times best sellers’ list. That same year, he also converted some property into a home and amusement park in California and renamed it Neverland Ranch.

During the first part of his career, Michael Jackson went from being a child star to being one of the world’s biggest entertainers. Of course, there would be much more to come.


After renewing his contract with Sony in 1991, Jackson released his eighth record: Dangerous. A year later, he took the Dangerous album on tour and founded the charity organization, “Heal the World Foundation” to help disadvantaged children.

Child Abuse Allegations

In 1993, the first of the infamous child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson came to light. This first suit was settled out-of-court with a payment of $22 million to the Chandler family, though the singer admitted no wrongdoing. The next year, Jackson wed Lisa-Marie Presley, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1996.

“HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I”

The double album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, was released in 1995, and featured a disc of his greatest hits and another disc of all-new songs. This became the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, and featured the tracks, “Scream” a duet with his sister Janet Jackson, and “You are Not Alone,” which holds the Guinness World Record as the first ever single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Marriage to Deborah Jeanne Rowe

Meanwhile, Jackson had remarried his friend and nurse, Deborah Jeanne Rowe. During this time, the couple had two children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, or Prince, was born in 1997 and Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson in 1998. The couple divorced the next year. Though Jackson did not release a full album of new material during this time, he did come out with 1997’s Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which became the best-selling remix album ever released. His tenth and last studio album, Invincible, was released in 2001 on Epic Records, following Jackson’s dispute with former label, Sony.

Balcony Incident

His third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, better known as Blanket, was born in 2002, though the mother’s identity was unknown. A few months after his birth, Jackson briefly dangled the boy over the balcony of a Berlin hotel in a move that was subsequently widely criticized by the media.

Media Criticism

The media criticism didn’t stop there. A 2003 Martin Bashir documentary called, “Living with Michael Jackson,” showcased a controversial scene of Jackson holding hands with a young boy. Following this, the singer was once again accused of child molestation. However, when the trial ended in 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts and he later relocated to Bahrain.

London Residency

2009 started off as an exciting time for MJ fans, when the star announced a 50-date London residency that would begin in July of that same year. The “This Is It” concert series would mark Michael Jackson’s comeback, and the 50-year-old artist began a rigorous training schedule.


However, fans were ultimately shocked and saddened when on June 25th, 2009, Jackson died of cardiac arrest while in Los Angeles in the midst of rehearsals. His personal physician, Conrad Murray, would later be charged with involuntary manslaughter after it was discovered that he had administered a lethal amount of prescription drugs to the singer shortly before his death.


A worldwide outpouring of grief followed the news of his passing. Several websites crashed and sales of his music drastically increased. In October 2009, a documentary based on the rehearsals of his sold-out concerts’ became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time. At the end of 2010, a compilation brought together all of Jackson’s short films on the DVD box set, Michael Jackson’s Vision. Ubisoft released a video game, called “Michael Jackson: The Experience” during this same time. Shortly thereafter, the first new album of previously unheard and completed Jackson recordings, entitled Michael appeared as well.

Renowned for his musical versatility, dance choreography, and humanitarian efforts, his influence on pop culture is immeasurable. Though he may no longer be with us, Michael Jackson will live on forever through his music.

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