Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was born into what later became one of the most well-known and flat-out successful musical families ever created. Having displayed a keen appreciation for music before his 5th birthday, Michael Jackson took his greatest inspiration from the song and dance moves of James Brown and enjoyed sharing his musical gifts with others. In school, he performed for his classmates before joining his brothers Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Tito Jackson, and Jackie Jackson to form a musical group that became The Jackson Five. As the youngest member of the group, Michael Jackson started as a backup performer, but much greater things were in store. By 1966, he became the face of the group and its lead singer.

In the wake of taking the top prize at a musical talent contest, Michael Jackson and his brothers worked with Indiana-based music label Steeltown, before hitting it big with a recording contract in 1968 from the legendary Motown Records. A year later, the group released its debut song "I Want You Back," the first of four consecutive singles (the others being "ABC," "The Love You Save," "I'll Be There) that topped the Billboard Hot 100 and become favorites for future generations. Barely older than 10, Michael Jackson had already earned the nickname of "genius" by Rolling Stone and appeared as a musical guest on the highly rated Ed Sullivan Show. His giddy performance style made him an audience favorite, but off the stage, life wasn't nearly as happy. Although his father, Joseph Jackson, was the architect of the group, he inflicted physical and emotional abuse on Michael Jackson. The group's runaway success and busy recording schedule also prevented Michael Jackson from having a normal childhood. Even with these obstacles, he did find a friend in musical legend Diana Ross, who lived with him temporarily and offered him further musical inspiration that came through in much of his later material.

michael jackson releases off the wall and thriller

During his time with Motown, Michael Jackson began branching out as a solo artist, with his first No. 1 single as a solo musician being 1972's "Ben." While filming a role as The Scarecrow in 1978's The Wiz (which starred Diana Ross), Michael Jackson met musical producer Quincy Jones, and the two soon began an album collaboration for Epic Records. The finished product was 1979's Grammy-winning Off the Wall, which sold more than 20 million units around the world and spawned hits like "Rock With You," "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "She's Out of My Life." Even though the album was the first one in U.S. history to have four Top 10 singles, Michael Jackson -- always the perfectionist -- believed that he was capable of something even better.

In 1982, that "something even better" arrived in the form of Thriller. With the album, Michael Jackson raised the musical bar to a success level that no one else has ever reached and also revolutionized the ways that people saw and heared music. The album became the biggest seller in music history and boasted seven singles that reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. One of them was "Beat It," a rock anthem featuring a guitar solo from the one-and-only Eddie Van Halen, while another one was "Billie Jean," a song that first brought Michael Jackson (and black artists) to the attention of MTV. A now legendary live performance of "Billie Jean" was done by Michael Jackson at the 25th anniversary of Motown in 1983, complete with a dance move now universally known as The Moonwalk. The success of the song was especially ironic given that producer Quincy Jones had initially wanted it removed from the album. The title track from Thriller took on a zombie theme for its memorable video -- a short film that became one of MTV's most popular videos ever and spawned dance moves copied around the world by fans and even prisoners.

michael jackson releases bad and dangerous

In the midst of the success of Thriller, Michael Jackson signed an advertising contract with Pepsi, but during the filming of a commercial in 1984, the singer suffered burns to his scalp. His overall appearance began to change, most noticeably his nose and skin color. Where music and popularity were concerned, he stayed in the celebrity driver's seat by cowriting the 1985 all-star charity single, "We Are the World," and starring in his own movie (Moonwalker) and 3-D film Captain Eo (from director Francis Ford Coppola). 1987 saw the release of his next album, Bad. While it didn't sell to Thriller-like numbers, the album did provide more instant classics like "Dirty Diana," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "The Man in the Mirror," and "Smooth Criminal." The latter song featured a patented dance move known as The Anti-Gravity Lean, while the album's title anthem was made into a memorable gang-themed video that was directed by Martin Scorsese.

The release of Bad was followed by a concert tour that played to 4.4 million guests and brought in $125 million, a Guinness World Record. Even so, the years between Bad and the release of Michael Jackson's 1991 album, Dangerous, featured more questions about his appearance and increasingly bizarre rumors. While he lived on the grounds of his privately funded amusement park, Neverland, Michael Jackson was alleged to have bought the bones of John Merrick (aka The Elephant Man) and thought to be regularly sleeping in an oxygen chamber. Both of these rumors were false, but Michael Jackson did disclose that his pale skin was the result of a skin disease called vitiligo.

Dangerous went on to be the singer's second biggest album after Thriller with "Black or White" (a music video featuring Macaulay Culkin), "Remember the Time" (which starred Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson), and "Will You Be There?" (the anchor to the Free Willy soundtrack) being among the most memorable songs. While the singer's immensely popular 1993 Super Bowl halftime performance showed that he was still a global entertainment force, allegations of child molestation later that year and a substantial multi-million dollar payment from Michael Jackson to his accuser forever tainted his legacy.

michael jackson releases history and prepares this is it

After marrying Lisa Marie Presley, Michael Jackson sought to rehabilitate his career with the release of HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I in 1995. The album, which featured the hits "Scream" (the most expensive music video ever made) and "You Are Not Alone" had more longevity than the marriage. By the time Michael Jackson's year-long concert tour for HIStory had ended, he was married to Debbie Rowe and a soon-to-be father. Save for two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a 30th anniversary reunion with his brothers at Madison Square Gardens in 2001 and his marginally successful 2001 album, Invincible, Michael Jackson slowly began to fade into eccentric obscurity by wearing surgical masks in public and displaying the effects of cosmetic surgery gone terribly wrong. His career and personal life came to a grinding halt when he was brought to trial in 2005 on counts relating to another accusation of child molestation, but Michael Jackson was ultimately vindicated with a verdict of not guilty.

Four years removed from a Santa Monica courthouse, Michael Jackson offered up a number of shocking surprises in 2009. A full 12 years after his last concert tour, he announced a series of 10 concerts in London that were titled This Is It. Intended as a thank you to his fans and a chance for his own children to see him perform, the concerts were meticulously planned with a number of larger-than-life elements, like 3-D technology, eye-popping sets, aerial dancing, and short film clips. Any questions about Michael Jackson's level of popularity were answered when the enormous degree of public interest expanded the concert series to 50 shows, making them into "must-see" musical events. Michael Jackson described the concerts as "the final curtain call" and he was eerily correct.

On June 25th, 2009, the world stopped when he died suddenly of cardiac arrest from a lethal drug combination. An unprecedented musical memorial service -- watched by over 30 million Americans and featuring the likes of John Mayer, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, and Stevie Wonder -- came next, as did a spike in album sales and digital downloads that reintroduced the music of Michael Jackson to the world all over again. While the concert series never came to be, This Is It still served as Michael Jackson's curtain call for live performing. The surviving rehearsal footage was edited into a concert film. London audiences never got to see him perform in person, but Michael Jackson's colossal legion of fans got to see him on stage and in action one final time when the musical documentary was released worldwide.