“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.”
Whether you know him as the ‘King of Pop’, ‘MJ’ or simply, ‘The Jackson’, Michael Jackson was a big part of our growing years. All of us have tried to impersonate his famous moonwalk at some point. We sing along to Heal The World whenever it plays on the radio, and we dance like ruffians when the party playlist moves along to Thriller.
There isn’t a soul that hasn’t grooved to the beats of The King of Pop, and despite the many allegations and bad press he received towards the latter part of his life, his music will play for decades longer and his legacy will be entrenched in us always. Michael’s story was one of a young boy who rose to fame too quickly, who skipped a normal childhood and witnessed the pressures of being a ‘delivering’ celebrity by the time he was 20.
Born into a family of nine brothers and sisters, Michael grew up under the control of a domineering father, Joseph Jackson, a local steel-worker who tried to fulfil his lifelong dream of being a successful musician by moulding Michael and four of his older brothers into The Jackson Five. Michael often stated in later interviews that although he mostly had a wonderful relationship with his siblings, he felt like his father snatched a large chunk of his childhood with his verbal and sometimes physically abusive behaviour towards the children in his attempt to make them famous.
But famous they did become, with their debut into the world of professional music in 1967, after signing a deal with Steeltown Records, with whom they released ten singles. From here on, the road was uphill for the Jackson Five. Moving to Los Angeles, they released their first album in December, 1969 and achieved a number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with its first single I Want You Back, a month later.
While the Jackson Five continued to sign more contracts and dance through many successes, Michael began to venture out on his own on the side, charting as a solo artist as early as 1971. Teaming up with world-famous producer Quincy Jones, he won over many with his next solo album Off the Wall, in 1979. Teaming up with Paul McCartney in 1982 and releasing the duet The Girl is Mine further enhanced his career. The same year, he released one of his bestselling albums, one that still rocks our theme parties – Thriller. The song generated seven Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with a sale of over 29 million copies.
In 1984, MJ made history when he became the first artist to win eight Grammys in a single night, including the awards for Album of the Year and Record of the Year, during the 26th Annual Grammy Awards. The same year, he became the first celebrity to have two stars in the same category on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1993, he became the 10th person in history to be awarded the prestigious Grammy Legend Award.
Despite all the glamour and fame, Michael was never one much for flaunting his successes. His family and friends describe him as shy and humble, preferring not to speak too outlandishly and keeping to his fantasy retreat at Neverland – a California ranch he built, where he spent time with his chimpanzee named Bubbles. It was at this ranch that he would have new exciting performances and rides to entertain the children of that region. But this later ended up being a black mark on his career considering the molestation allegations placed against him in the latter part of his career, of which enough has been written.
He even had two complicated marriages – one with Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter, and later with Debbie Rowe, a nurse by profession. He had a son and daughter with the latter, whose custody he received after the two divorced in 1999.
Despite the constant hurdles that life threw at him and many that he created after becoming a slave to the Hollywood system of ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’, Michael Jackson was a perfectionist to the core and would spend days and weeks practicing his craft till he was satisfied. He was easy to work with, according to his staff, and had much to prove to the world in the face of the constant criticism that was meted out to him in the latter part of his life, following the bad press he received after his court-trials and politically incorrect lyrics in his songs.
Celebrating the life of this small-town boy who became the King of Pop, we remember Michael Jackson fondly on his 58th Birthday and end this with his famous line – “When they say the sky's the limit, to me that's really true.”