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Jackson, Michael

Category: Musician or composer

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, actor, poet, writer, dancer, and philanthropist. 

He was innovative, imaginative, even a sort of musical genius.  Every aspect of his creative output showed the same originality and inspired thinking. 

The music videos for his songs, for example, including those of "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Thriller", were credited with transforming the medium into an art form.  He also invented new and complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk. 

He had a charismatic stage presence that attracted hundreds of thousands to his  performances.  On March 25, 1983, for example, a show featuring Michael reunited with his brothers and shown as an NBC television special, attracted 47 million viewers.  This is equivalent to almost the entire population of England.  Jackson broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium.  In 1996, Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans.

Although few people probably realise it, his clothes and appearance was also intended to be extraordinarily symbolic.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, Michael knew his symbolism.  The curl on his forehead, the design of his shoes, the distinctive black-sequined jacket and the white golf glove decorated with rhinestones, all have a meaning.  Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times wrote  "The moon-walk 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."

Michael’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other albums, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world's best-selling. Some of his other achievements include 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.

Michael also supported numerous charities, the Guinness Book of Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities.  He supported charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse, for example, and supported the Ad Council's and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Drunk Driving Prevention campaign.  His share of the proceeds from the Victory Tour, an estimated $3 to 5 million was donated to charity.  "We Are the World" (1985), which he co-wrote with Lionel Richie was released worldwide in March 1985 to aid the poor in the United States and Africa, the song earned $63 million for famine relief.  From 1985 to 1990, he donated $455,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity.

 

His personal life was simply a mess, but the mess was inflicted on him, it was not of his doing.  He appears to have been exploited by a number of people who sought to make money out of his 'weaknesses'.  They range from plastic surgeons, to doctors, to advertising executives, to lawyers to businesssmen to politicians.  In 1979, for example, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty was not a success; he complained of breathing difficulties. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson's second rhinoplasty and a whole series of subsequent operations.  And the result was all too visible.

On January 27, 1984, pyrotechnics organised by advertising executives, accidentally set Jackson's hair on fire, causing second-degree burns to his body and scalp. Jackson was given treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, not entirely successfully.  Nevertheless, Michael donated his $1.5 million damages settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California. Its Michael Jackson Burn Center is named in his honour.

In 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo.  I urge you to read the description of this disease on the site as none of the causes touted in the press are correct.  I personally believe that in Michael’s case, the constant surgery and use of pharmaceuticals was probably the principle cause.  As time went on, the addiction to ‘pain killers’ prescribed by his doctors, resulted in weight loss and dizziness. You cannot cure vitiligo, especially vitiligo brought on by pharmaceutical mis-prescription, however, Jackson had a dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, who gave him ‘business and medical advice’.

Michael with his daughter

On a plus note, however, Klein's nurse Debbie Rowe eventually became Jackson's second wife and the mother of his two eldest children.  Michael Joseph Jackson Jr (commonly known as Prince) was born on February 13, 1997; his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born a year later on April 3, 1998.  The couple divorced in 1999, and Jackson got full custody of the children.

Michael Jackson was the eighth of ten children.  His mother was a devout, musical, Jehovah's Witness. His father was a former boxer and a steelworker.  He too was musical.  Michael grew up with three sisters (Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet) and five brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy). A sixth brother, Marlon's elder twin Brandon, died shortly after birth.  Michael was initially a member of The Jackson 5 in 1964 along with his brothers, and began his solo career in 1971.   

Jackson had a troubled relationship with his father, Joe, who both physically and verbally abused him. “Jackson's deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant, especially with his father, and to remain childlike throughout his adult life, are consistent with the effects of the maltreatment he endured as a young child.”

The Jackson 5 recorded several songs before signing with Motown Records in 1969.  Rolling Stone magazine later described the young Michael as "a prodigy" with "overwhelming musical gifts," writing that he "quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer."

Between 1972, when his solo career began, and 1975, Michael released four solo studio albums with Motown: Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music and Me (1973), and Forever Michael (1975).  They are interesting, simply because they show that he was still a child when they were recorded.  Michael’s later songs are frankly erotic and sensuous, with a compelling insistent beat and occasionally risqué themes, the early songs were simply ‘nice’ and 'cheerful'.

Off the Wall (1979), which Quincey Jones and Jackson co-produced, established Jackson as a solo performer. The album was a sort of transition stage between the "bubblegum pop" of his youth to the more complex sounds he would later create as an adult.  The album eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

In late 1982, aged only 24, Michael released Thriller. And from here on in, its starts to get really interesting.   The album became the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 65 million copies.  Tracks included "Billie Jean", "Beat It", and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'".

Thriller

Michael was no starving artist at the time, he had appointed people to look after his interests.  “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.”   And of course the people looking after his interest got a cut out of all this.  Michael ended up being a ‘business’ with all that that entails.  On the plus side it left him free to compose and perform and let his talents expand, on the minus side, no one was managing all these ‘helpers’.  As they say in mystic and artistic circles, where there is blood there are leeches.  In 1983, Jackson, along with his brothers, was hired by PepsiCo in a $5 million promotional deal that broke advertising industry records.  Jackson signed a second agreement with Pepsi in the late 1980s for a reported $10 million. Jackson also had advertising deals with other companies, such as L.A. Gear, Suzuki, and Sony.

Jackson's financial interests in the music publishing business expanded after collaborating with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s. By 1983, Jackson had begun investing in publishing rights to songs that others had written, Jackson's most significant purchase came in 1985, when he acquired the publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing. ATV had acquired the publishing rights to nearly 4000 songs, including the Northern Songs catalog that contained the majority of the Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles.

In 1988, Jackson released his only autobiography, Moonwalk, which took four years to complete and sold 200,000 copies.  Michael’s second book was a bestselling collection of poetry, Dancing the Dream.

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.   Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation in 1992. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson's ranch to enjoy theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property. The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war, poverty, and disease.

In May 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. They had first met in 1975, when a seven-year-old Presley attended one of Jackson's family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and were reconnected through a mutual friend.  According to a friend of Presley's, "their adult friendship began in November 1992 in L.A."  They stayed in contact every day over the telephone. Jackson became dependent on Presley for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and addiction to pharmaceuticals.  At the time he was involved in numerous court actions.  Presley explained, "I believed he didn't do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it." It was Lisa who persuaded Michael to settle the civil case out of court and go into rehabilitation to recover.  The marriage lasted less than two years.  In a 2010 interview with Oprah, Lisa said that they spent four more years after the divorce "getting back together and breaking up", until she decided to stop.

Michael with Lisa

In late 1995, Jackson was rushed to a hospital after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance; the incident was caused by a ‘stress-related panic attack’, - the official explanation.  The pharmaceuticals were clearly taking more of a hold.  Benzodiazepines can give you panic attacks.

In 2002, Jackson's third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed "Blanket") was born.  The mother's identity is unknown, but Jackson has said the child was the result of artificial insemination from a surrogate mother and his own sperm.

But by this time, numerous battles with recording companies, lawyers, the police and doctors along with increasing 'medication' and the dependency it had created, eventually took their toll.  The leeches had sucked him dry.

In March 2006, the main house at the Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure. There were numerous reports around that time that Jackson was having financial problems. Jackson had been 'delinquent' on his repayments of a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings, even though those holdings were reportedly making him as much as $75 million a year.  There have since been questions asked about where all this money went to, Michael was not managing his money, as such there are suspicions he was a victim - like Leonard Cohen - of his 'helpers'.

In March 2009, Jackson held a press conference at London's O2 Arena and announced a series of comeback concerts titled This Is It. The concerts would have commenced on July 13, 2009, and finished on March 6, 2010. Less than three weeks before the first show was due to begin in London and with all concerts being sold out, Jackson died.

Michael died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest.

At the time of death, Jackson had been administered propofol, lorazepam and midazolam. Benzodiazepines are a truly nasty set of pharmaceuticals, addictive and with appalling effects if you try to come off them.  I urge you to read the section on these vicious pharmaceuticals, to get some idea of how much Michael must have been suffering when he died.  Remember he was not on 'drugs', he was on doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals [as it appears are most of the population of the USA]. 

Benzodiazepines are almost as bad as heroin and are legal. 

Law enforcement officials conducted a manslaughter investigation of his personal physician Conrad Murray, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter by prosecutors in Los Angeles on February 8, 2010. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide. Jackson's death triggered a global outpouring of grief and a live broadcast of his public memorial service was viewed around the world.

At Michael's funeral, the Reverend Al Sharpton received a standing ovation with cheers when he told Jackson's children, "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway."

After his death, Jackson became the best-selling albums artist of 2009. He sold over 8.2 million albums in the United States, and a total of 35 million albums worldwide, in the 12 months that followed his death.

In March 2007, Jackson gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Tokyo, where he said,
"I've been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old, and as Charles Dickens would say, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career..... While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me."

May he rest in peace.

References

Main albums:

  • Got to Be There (1971)
  • Ben (1972)
  • Music & Me (1973)
  • Forever, Michael (1975)
  • Off the Wall (1979)
  • Thriller (1982)
  • Bad (1987)
  • Dangerous (1991)
  • HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995)
  • Invincible (2001)

Below:  Michael with his three children

Observations

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