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Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American recording artist, singer-lyricist, lyricist, entertainer, actor, businessman and philantropist. Often referred to as the “King of Pop”, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.
The eighth child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971. In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller,” were credited with breaking down racial barriers and transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then relatively new television channel MTV to fame. With videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” he continued to innovate the medium throughout the 1990s, as well as forging a reputation as a touring solo artist. Through stage and video performances, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, such as the robot, and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive sound and style has influenced numerous hip hop, post-disco, contemporary R&B, pop, and rock artists.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first and only dancer from pop and rock music. Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; 26 American Music Awards, more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century” and “Artist of the 1980s”; 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career, more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era; and the estimated sale of over 400 million records worldwide. Jackson won hundreds of awards, which made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. In what would have been Jackson’s 52nd birthday on 29 August 2010, he became the most downloaded artist of all time. Jackson constantly traveled the world attending events honoring his humanitarianism and the 2000 Guinness Book of Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities; more than any other pop star. However in 1998, Britain’s Charity Commission shut down Jackson’s charity Heal the World, reportedly concluding that Jackson’s actions had ruined the charity’s good name.
Aspects of Jackson’s personal life, including his changing appearance, personal relationships, and behavior, generated controversy. In the mid-1990s, he was accused of child sexual abuse, but the cases was settled out of court for about $25 million and $2 million and no formal charges were brought. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges after the jury found him not guilty on all counts.
While preparing for his concert series titled This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide, and his personal physician was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief and a live broadcast of the public memorial service viewed around the world. In March 2010, Sony Music Entertainment and Jackson’s estate signed the largest music contract ever, with a $250 million deal to retain distribution rights to his recordings until 2017, and to release seven posthumous albums over the decade following his death.…
Thriller and Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever: 1982–1983
In 1982, Jackson contributed the song “Someone In the Dark” to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the record won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1984. In the same year he won another seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards (including the Award of Merit, the youngest artist to win it), making him the most awarded artist in one night for both award shows. These awards were thanks to the Thriller album, released in late 1982, which was 1983’s best-selling album worldwide and became the best-selling album of all time in the United States, as well as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 65 million copies. The album 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’”. Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status in the United States. The album won also another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work.
Jackson’s attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. He was also making record-breaking profits from sales of his recordings. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. The era saw the arrival of novelties like dolls modeled after Michael Jackson, which appeared in stores in May 1984 at a price of $12. Biographer 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.” In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform. In December 2009, the music video for “Thriller” was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, “Thriller” is the first (and currently only) music video ever to be inducted.
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”. The New York Times wrote that, “in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.
On March 25, 1983, Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance which was taped for a Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an audience of 47 million viewers, and featured the Jacksons and a number of other Motown stars. It is best remembered for Jackson’s solo performance of “Billie Jean” which gave him his first Emmy nomination. Wearing a distinctive black sequin jacket and golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his signature dance move, the moonwalk, which former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years before. The Jacksons’ performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley’s and The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times later wrote, “The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing.”
Pepsi, “We Are the World”, and business career: 1984–1985
On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi Cola commercial, overseen by executive Phil Dusenberry, from ad agency BBDO and Pepsi’s Worldwide Creative Director, Alan Pottasch at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In front of a full house of fans during a simulated concert, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, and he also had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter. Jackson never recovered from this injury. Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated his $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, which now has a “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in honor of his donation. Dusenberry later recounted the episode in his memoir, Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising.
On May 14, 1984, Jackson was invited to the White House to receive an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson won eight awards during the Grammys that year. Unlike later albums, Thriller did not have an official tour to promote it, but the 1984 Victory Tour, headlined by The Jacksons, showcased much of Jackson’s new solo material to more than two million Americans. He donated all the funds (around $8 million) raised from the Victory Tour to charity. He also co-wrote the charity single “We Are the World” in 1985 with Lionel Richie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in the U.S. and Africa. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 30 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. In 1986, “We Are the World” won four Grammys (one for Jackson for Song of the Year). American Music Award directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, but recognized it with two special honors: one for the creation of the song and one for the USA for Africa idea. Michael won the award for the creation of the song.
In 1984, ATV Music Publishing, which had the copyrights to nearly 4000 songs, including the Northern Songs catalog that contained the majority of the Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles, was put up for sale by Robert Holmes à Court. Jackson had become interested in owning music catalogs after working with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s. Jackson had learned McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people’s songs. In 1981, McCartney was offered the ATV music catalog for £20 million ($40 million). According to McCartney, he contacted Yoko Ono about making a joint purchase by splitting the cost equally at £10 million each, but Ono thought they could buy it for £5 million each. When they were unable to make the joint purchase, McCartney let the offer fall through, not wanting to be the sole owner of the Beatles’ songs.
According to a negotiator for Holmes à Court in the 1984 sale, “We had given Paul McCartney first right of refusal but Paul didn’t want it at that time.” Also, an attorney for McCartney assured Jackson’s attorney, John Branca, that McCartney was not interested in bidding: McCartney reportedly said “It’s too pricey”. But there were several other companies and investors bidding. In September 1984, Jackson was first informed about the sale by Branca and sent a bid of $46 million on November 20, 1984. Jackson’s agents thought they had a deal several times, but encountered new bidders or new areas of debate. In May 1985, Jackson’s team walked away from talks after having spent over $1 million on four months of due diligence and on the negotiations.
In June 1985, Jackson and Branca learned that Charles Koppelman’s and Marty Bandier’s The Entertainment Co. had made a tentative agreement with Holmes à Court to buy ATV Music for $50 million. But in early August, Holmes à Court’s team contacted Jackson and talks resumed. Jackson raised his bid to $47.5 million and it was accepted because he could close the deal more quickly, having already completed due diligence of ATV Music. He also agreed to visit Holmes à Court in Australia, where he would appear on the Channel Seven Perth Telethon. Jackson’s purchase of ATV Music was finalized August 10, 1985.
Appearance, tabloids, Bad, films, autobiography, and Neverland: 1986–1990
Jackson’s skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid-1980s, it gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he might be bleaching his skin. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography, in 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus; the vitiligo partially lightened his skin, and the lupus was in remission; both illnesses made him sensitive to sunlight. The treatments he used for his condition further lightened his skin tone, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear very pale. Jackson was also diagnosed with vitiligo in his autopsy. By the mid-1990s several surgeons speculated that he had undergone various nasal surgeries, a forehead lift, thinned lips, and cheekbone surgery—although Jackson denied this and insisted that he only had surgery on his nose. Jackson claimed that he had only two rhinoplasties and no other surgery on his face, although at one point he mentioned having a dimple created in his chin. Jackson lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for “a dancer’s body”. Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy and speculated that he was suffering from anorexia nervosa; periods of weight loss would become a recurring problem later in life.
During the course of his treatment, Jackson made two close friends: his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and Klein’s nurse Debbie Rowe. Rowe eventually became Jackson’s second wife and the mother of his two eldest children. He also relied heavily on Klein for medical and business advice.
Jackson became the subject of increasingly sensational reports. In 1986, the tabloids ran a story claiming that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process; he was pictured lying down in a glass box. Although the claim was untrue, according to tabloid reports that are widely cited, Jackson had disseminated the fabricated story himself. When Jackson bought a chimpanzee called Bubbles from a laboratory, he was reported to be increasingly detached from reality. It was reported that Jackson had offered to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick (the “elephant man”) and although untrue, Jackson did not deny the story. Although initially he saw these stories as opportunities for publicity, he stopped leaking untruths to the press as they became more sensational. Consequently the media began making up their own stories. These reports became embedded in the public consciousness, inspiring the nickname “Wacko Jacko”, which Jackson came to despise. Responding to the gossip, Jackson remarked to Taraborrelli:
Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars? Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, “I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,” people would say, “Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.”
Jackson collaborated with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 17-minute 3-D film Captain EO, which debuted in September 1986 at both the original Disneyland and at EPCOT in Florida, and in March 1987 at Tokyo Disneyland. The $30 million movie was a popular attraction at all three parks. A Captain EO attraction was later featured at Euro Disneyland after that park opened in 1992. All four parks’ Captain EO installations stayed open well into the 1990s: the Paris installation was the last one to close, in 1998. The attraction would later return to Disneyland in 2010 after Jackson’s death.
In 1987, Jackson disassociated himself from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in response to their disapproval of the Thriller video. With the industry expecting another major hit, Jackson’s first album in five years, Bad (1987), was highly anticipated. It did not top Thriller as a commercial or artistic triumph, but Bad was still a substantial success in its own right.
The Bad album spawned seven hit singles in the U.S., five of which (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana”) reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This was a record for most number one Hot 100 singles from any one album, including Thriller. Although the title track’s video was arguably derivative of the video for the earlier single “Beat It”, the “Bad” video still proved to be one of Jackson’s iconic moments. It was a gritty but colorful epic set against the backdrop of the New York City Subway system, with costuming and choreography inspired by West Side Story. As of 2012, the album sold between 30 to 45 million copies worldwide. Thanks to the Bad album, Bruce Swedien and Humberto Gatica won one Grammy in 1988 for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical and Michael Jackson won one Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for “Leave Me Alone” in 1989. In the same year, Jackson won an Award of Achievement at the American Music Awards because Bad is the first album ever to generate five number one singles in the U.S., the first album to top in 25 countries and the best-selling album worldwide in 1987 and in 1988. In 1988, “Bad” won an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single.
The Bad world tour began on September 12 that year, finishing on January 14, 1989. In Japan alone, the tour had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record of 200,000 in a single tour. Jackson broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium. He performed a total of 123 concerts to an audience of 4.4 million people. The Bad Tour turned out to be the last of Jackson’s concert tours to include shows in the continental United States, although later tours did make it to Hawaii.
In 1988, Jackson released his only autobiography, Moonwalk, which took four years to complete and sold 200,000 copies. Jackson wrote about his childhood, The Jackson 5, and the abuse he had suffered. He also wrote about his facial appearance, saying he had had two rhinoplastic surgeries and a dimple created in his chin. He attributed much of the change in the structure of his face to puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a change in hair style, and stage lighting. Moonwalk reached the top position on The New York Times best sellers’ list. The musician then released a film called Moonwalker, which featured live footage and short films that starred Jackson and Joe Pesci. The film was originally intended to be released to theaters, but due to financial issues, the film was released direct-to-video. It saw a theatrical release in Germany, though. It debuted atop the Billboard Top Music Video Cassette chart, staying there for 22 weeks. It was eventually knocked off the top spot by Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues.
In March 1988, Jackson purchased land near Santa Ynez, California, to build Neverland Ranch at a cost of $17 million. He installed Ferris wheels, a menagerie, and a movie theater on the 2,700-acre (11 km2) property. A security staff of 40 patrolled the grounds. In 2003, it was valued at approximately $100 million. In 1989, his annual earnings from album sales, endorsements, and concerts was estimated at $125 million for that year alone. Shortly afterwards, he became the first Westerner to appear in a television ad in the Soviet Union.
His success resulted in his being dubbed the “King of Pop”. The nickname was popularized by Elizabeth Taylor when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul.” President George H.W. Bush designated him the White House’s “Artist of the Decade”. From 1985 to 1990, he donated $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single “Man in the Mirror” went to charity. Jackson’s live rendition of “You Were There” at Sammy Davis Jr.’s 60th birthday celebration allowed Jackson to receive his second Emmy nomination.…
Legacy and influence
The media has commonly referred to Jackson as the “King of Pop” because, throughout his career, he transformed the art of music videos and paved the way for modern pop music. Daily Telegraph writer Tom Utley described Jackson in 2003 as “extremely important” and a “genius”. For much of his career, he had an “unparalleled” level of worldwide influence over the younger generation through his musical and humanitarian contributions. Jackson’s music and videos, such as Thriller, fostered racial diversity in MTV’s roster, helped to put the relatively new channel into public awareness, and steered the channel’s focus from rock to pop music and R&B, shaping the channel into a form that proved enduring. Jackson’s work continues to influence numerous hip hop, rock, pop and R&B artists, including Patrick Stump, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Mýa, Usher, Adam Lambert, Green Day, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Madonna, Alien Ant Farm, Ludacris, Ciara, and Sean P. Diddy Combs among many others. BET described Jackson “as 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.”
Allmusic’s Steve Huey describes Jackson as “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”. In the mid-1980s, Time magazine’s pop music critic, Jay Cocks, noted “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”. In 1990, Vanity Fair cited Jackson as the most popular artist in the history of show business. 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.”
Shortly after Jackson’s death, on June 25, 2009, MTV briefly returned to its original music video format to celebrate and pay tribute to his work. The channel aired many hours of Jackson’s music videos, accompanied by live news specials featuring reactions from MTV personalities and other celebrities. The temporary shift in MTV’s programming culminated the following week in the channel’s live coverage of Jackson’s memorial service. At the memorial service on July 7, 2009, founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy proclaimed Jackson as “the greatest entertainer that ever lived”.
In 2010, two university librarians found that Jackson’s influence extended into academia, and has been mentioned in scholarly literature pertaining to a range of subject matter. The two researchers combed through various scholars’ writings, and compiled an annotated bibliography of those writings. The bibliography located references to Jackson in research reports concerning music, popular culture, chemistry and an array of other topics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson
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