Michael Jackson

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Subject Profile

Michael Joseph Jackson (1958-2009) was a globally popular musician who was recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records. His contributions to music, dance, and fashion -- along with a much-publicized and at times controversial personal life -- made him a key figure in popular culture for more than four decades. “The King of Pop” introduced himself to the world as the youngest member of the Jackson 5 in 1964, and made one of his first televised appearances with the band on American Bandstand in 1970. Michael and his brothers became one of the few acts of the era to appeal to audiences of all races. The Jackson 5 set a chart record when its first four singles (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There” all hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Michael began work as solo act in 1971, and collaborated with music producer Quincy Jones to create the 1979 album, Off the Wall, which became one of the industry’s best-selling records. Jackson became a dominant figure on the music scene in the 1980s via the release of Thriller, the 1982 album that became the best-selling album of all time and included the wildly popular songs “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean.” Jackson also popularized a number of unique and complicated dance techniques – including his famous moonwalk – which he famously debuted in 1983 during the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special on ABC. The singer also became the focus of unwanted attention in 1984 when his hair caught on fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp. On a more positive note, he co-wrote the charity single “We Are the World” in 1985, which helped raise funds for impoverished residents of the United States and Africa.

During his lifelong career, Jackson garnered literally hundreds of awards, including 13 Grammy Awards and 26 American Music Awards, 13 number-one singles, and more than 750 million records sold worldwide. He is also one of the few artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – as a solo artist and as a member of the Jackson 5. He married Lisa Marie Presley – the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley – in 1994, but the couple divorced after less than two years. He married a second time in 1996, fathering Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. and Paris Jackson, before divorcing. He fathered a third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, in 2002. In the 1990s and 2000s, Jackson was twice accused of child sexual abuse. While preparing for what was being touted as his final concert tour, Jackson died from acute propofol intoxication, with his death ruled a homicide. As one of the greatest entertainers of all time with literally millions of die-hard fans and a career that spanned decades, Jackson was constantly being asked for his autograph. Many fans would camp out for days outside his residences – including his famous Neverland Ranch – for a glimpse. Though he was known to always sign autographs when asked, so much of Jackson’s time was spent in isolation and out of the public eye when not entertaining that his autographs are actually somewhat rare.