American superstar Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958, and entertained audiences nearly his entire life. His father, Joe Jackson, had been a guitarist but was forced to give up his musical ambitions following his marriage to Katherine (Scruse). Together they prodded their growing family’s musical interests at home. By the early 1960s, the older boys Jackie, Tito and Jermaine had begun performing around the city; by 1964, Michael and Marlon had joined in.
A musical prodigy, Michael’s singing and dancing talents were amazingly mature, and he soon became the dominant voice and focus of The Jackson 5. An opening act for such soul groups as the O-Jays and James Brown, it was Gladys Knight (not Diana Ross) who officially brought the group to Berry Gordy’s attention, and by 1969, the boys were producing back-to-back chart-busting hits as Motown artists (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Got to Be There,” etc.). As a product of the 1970s, the boys emerged as one of the most accomplished black pop/soul vocal groups in music history, successfully evolving from a group like The Temptations to a disco phenomenon.
Solo success for Michael was inevitable, and by the 1980s, he had become infinitely more popular than his brotherly group. Record sales consistently orbited, culminating in the biggest-selling album of all time, “Thriller” in 1982. A TV natural, he ventured rather uneasily into films, such as playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz (1978), but had much better luck with elaborate music videos.
In the 1990s, the downside as an 1980s pop phenomenon began to rear itself. Michael grew terribly child-like and introverted by his peerless celebrity. A rather timorous, androgynous figure to begin with, his physical appearance began to change drastically, and his behavior grew alarmingly bizarre, making him a consistent target for scandal-making, despite his numerous charitable acts. Two brief marriages — one to Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley — were forged and two children produced by his second wife during that time, but the purposes behind them appeared image-oriented. Despite it all, Michael Jackson’s passion and artistry as a singer, dancer, writer and businessman are unparalleled, and it is these prodigious talents that will ultimately prevail over the extremely negative aspects of his seriously troubled adult life.
For it all to end on June 25, 2009, with his sudden death at age 50 of a drug-induced cardiac arrest, just as he was coming out of a four-year reclusive period and rehearsing for a sold-out London concert “comeback” in July, seems uncommonly cruel and tragic. Millions upon millions of dedicated fans will remember where they were “the day Michael died”.