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Michael Jackson

Michael JacksonAKA Michael Joseph Jackson

Born: 29-Aug-1958
Birthplace: Gary, IN
Died: 25-Jun-2009
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Accident - Overdose [1]
Remains: Buried, Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, CA

Gender: Male
Religion: See Note [2]
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Matter of Dispute [3]
Occupation: Singer, Dancer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: King of Pop

The proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson was an icon of 20th century music, and the most enigmatic performer of the century. Raised in a tough showbusiness family, he was a natural performer thrust into the limelight at a young age. At the height of his popularity, with 1982's Thriller, he was a superstar beloved by millions. But by the time of his death, his glories had been overshadowed by plastic surgery and public trial, and a life cut short just as he was about to stage his comeback.

Michael Jackson was born into a poor family in Gary, Indiana, in 1958. At age five, his family discovered his vocal talent, and the boy was recruited into his brothers' music group. Managed by their domineering father, the family spent their youth rigorously touring the midwest chitlin' circuit, until they were discovered by a Motown talent scout in 1969. Assured of their talent, Berry Gordy signed the family to a five-year contract (which none of the Jacksons actually read). With the backing of Motown's staff songwriters, session musicians, and marketing department, the Jackson 5 was launched onto the national stage. Their first albums went platinum, and their first four singles -- I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save and I'll Be There -- went to number one.

Early on, Michael was recognized as the standout performer in the group, and he was the first Jackson to enjoy a solo career on the side, releasing a handful of albums and three popular singles -- Got to Be There, Ben, and Rockin' Robin. Up until this time, all the songs the Jackson 5 performed were written by Motown songwriters; in 1975 the group left Motown to sign with CBS, so that they could record their own material and benefit from publishing royalties. Michael wrote the biggest hit of this later period, Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), and began to break out on his own, making his motion picture debut as as the Scarecrow in The Wiz (1978). His album Off The Wall (1979) marked the start of his mature period, including the singles Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough and Rock With You.

It is difficult to overstate the success that followed. Michael Jackson's next album, Thriller (1982) was the best-selling record in pop music history. Produced by Michael and Quincy Jones, the album spawned seven singles -- Billie Jean, Beat It, P.Y.T., The Girl is Mine (written with Paul McCartney), Wanna Be Startin' Somethin, Human Nature, and of course Thriller. Five of the songs received music video treatment -- Thriller itself can be considered a short film, and a documentary about its production was also released. At its peak, Thriller sold one million copies per week.

From this point, each of Michael's albums was guaranteed to sell in the millions, though none could match the success of Thriller. He counted on staging several sold-out world tours, though these increasingly took a toll on his body. Jackson also made a coup by acquiring the publishing rights to the Beatles catalogue through his purchase of ATV, and then monetizing songs like "Revolution" for commercial advertisement. Yet though savvy in business, his bizarre behavior in adulthood eventually overshadowed the music to many.

Despite his undisputed success, Michael Jackson's personal life was filled with discord. His father had abused him as a child; he often complained that his childhood was lost to his career. In adulthood, he built walls between himself and the other Jacksons. Foremost was his plastic surgery; it began with his first rhinoplasty when he broke his nose during a rehearsal in 1979. In part Michael was probably motivated by a desire to not resemble his father, but by the 1990s his attempts to remake his face seemed out of control. Afflicted with vitiligo and acne, he began bleaching his skin, and typically went out in public in a surgical mask. Drastic changes were exaggerated by publicity attempts gone awry: after Michael posed in a hyperbaric chamber, and had the photo leaked to get attention, the tabloids willfully began calling him Wacko-Jacko.

Jackson's sexuality was also long an open question. Rumors that he was secretly gay dogged him for most of his life. His lack of interest in women came in part by the trauma of witnessing his father's infidelity while on tour, and by having to share rooms with his brothers who likewise took advantage of groupies. It's believed that Lisa Marie Presley was the only woman he was ever sexual with, after she helped him out of painkiller addiction brought on by the molestation accusations of Jordy Chandler.

Michael began nurturing the companionship of young boys while in his twenties, seemingly as a way to cling to his own image as a child star. Various child actors, including Emmanuel Lewis, Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin, were all young companions of Michael at one time, though all attested that nothing untoward happened in their friendship. Part of his charitable work included bringing underprivileged children to his home at Neverland Ranch; it was not uncommon for him to surround himself with children, or have a room filled with babies and plop himself in the middle. This infantile fantasy clearly went too far, especially after the Chandler allegations and settlement.

Jackson continued to flaunt his friendships with children for years after. His next accuser was a cancer patient who had appeared in an exploitative documentary by Martin Bashir in 2003. The molestation trial in 2005 seemed the conclusion of many a tabloid rumor. While much of the world expected a guilty verdict, in a high-profile trial Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges on 13 June 2005, with the assistance of attorney Tom Mesereau. Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon's case was very weak, particularly in that it brought the issue of the motives of the accuser's mother into question. Bringing the first charge, that of child abduction, was an error of strategy that likely killed the entire case.

Two days before he was to have begun his comeback tour, Michael Jackson died while under heavy sedation, a circumstance which led to the prosecution and conviction of Jackson's personal physician, cardiologist Conrad Murray. The drug in question, propofol, is normally used to induce coma; he had been taking the drug off and on since the 1990s to treat chronic insomnia.

[1] According to the Los Angeles County Coroner, homicide by "acute propofol intoxication."

[2] Hard information regarding his actual religious beliefs is muddled. Jackson was born into the Jehovah's Witnesses, via the influence of his mother, who became a JW in 1965, and Michael had a pious upbringing. Even as late as the 1980s, Michael would spend time going door to door (in disguise) with copies of The Watchtower, spreading the gospel. Michael Jackson left the church in 1987 and was subsequently disfellowshipped. Later in life, Michael had associations with the Nation of Islam but was never a member of that organization. See Sharon Waxman, "Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam", The New York Times, 30 December 2003. Disputed reports surfaced that he had converted to Islam. See "Michael Jackson Becomes a Muslim and Changes Name to Mikaeel", Daily Mail, 21 November 2008. Jackson's brother Jermaine did in fact convert to Islam. In the weeks after his death, reports surfaced Jackson had been "born again" in the presence of gospel performer and Pentacostal pastor Sandra Crouch, but these were debunked by Crouch on her Facebook page: "It has been brought to my attention that several media outlets have been erroneously reporting that my brother, Andrae Crouch and me met our dear friend Michael Jackson several weeks prior to his death so he could accept Christ. This is incorrect and absolutely not true." Also there are indications that Jackson dabbled in the trappings of Kabbalah. See Tom Tugend, "Jackson's Jewish Ties Had Their Highs and Lows", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 30 June 2009. Distilling all of the above, it is certain that at the time of his death Jackson was spiritual, and likely still believed in the Bible, but was not a member of any organized religion.

[3] Liberace's adopted boy/plaything Scott Thorson told The National Enquirer in April 2004 that he and Michael Jackson had sex in 1979, and later pursued an affair in the early '80s.

Father: Joe Jackson (b. 26-Jul-1929)
Mother: Katherine Jackson (b. 4-May-1930)
Sister: Rebbie Jackson ("Maureen", b. 29-May-1950)
Brother: Jackie Jackson (b. 4-May-1951)
Brother: Tito Jackson (b. 15-Oct-1953)
Brother: Jermaine Jackson (b. 11-Dec-1954)
Sister: La Toya Jackson (b. 29-May-1956)
Brother: Marlon Jackson (b. 12-Mar-1957)
Brother: Randy Jackson (b. 29-Oct-1961)
Sister: Janet Jackson (b. 16-May-1966)
Girlfriend: Stephanie Mills (singer, dated very briefly in 1975)
Girlfriend: Tatum O'Neal (actress, dated 1970s)
Wife: Lisa Marie Presley (m. May-1994, div. 18-Jan-1996)
Wife: Debbie Rowe (m. 14-Nov-1996, div. 8-Oct-1999, one son, one daughter)
Son: Prince Michael Jackson (b. 13-Feb-1997, to Rowe)
Daughter: Paris Jackson (b. 3-Apr-1998, to Rowe)
Son: Prince Michael II ("Blanket", unknown mother, b. Feb-2002)

    High School: Montclair Prep, Van Nuys, CA (two months, GED)

    The Jackson 5 (1964-84)
    Songwriters Hall of Fame
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 6927 Hollywood Blvd (recordings)
    Nation of Islam
    Endorsement of Pepsi
    Endorsement of Sega of America
    Wedding: Larry Fortensky and Elizabeth Taylor (1991)
    Wedding: David Gest and Liza Minnelli (2002)
    Funeral: Michael Jackson (2009)
    Fainted Singapore (30-Aug-1993)
    Fainted Beacon Theater, New York City (6-Dec-1995)
    Fainted upon hearing of Lady Diana's death (31-Aug-1997)
    Silver Hill Hospital
    Conspiracy 2005 (acquitted)
    Child Abduction 2005 (acquitted)
    Extortion 2005 (acquitted)
    False Imprisonment 2005 (acquitted)
    Child Molestation 2005 (acquitted)
    Caught Fire During filming of Pepsi commercial (27-Jan-1984)
    Rhinoplasty (several, first in 1979 after breaking his nose)
    Stomach Pumped (several, unproven)
    Autopsy 1st, Los Angeles county coroner (26-Jun-2009)
    Autopsy 2nd, private pathologist (27-Jun-2009)
    Risk Factors: Vegetarian, Vitiligo, Skin Cancer, Lupus, Insomnia, Depression

    Michael Jackson: HIStory on Film - Volume II (1997)

    Leaving Neverland (25-Jan-2019) · Himself
    O.J.: Made in America (22-Jan-2016) · Himself
    This Is It (28-Oct-2009) · Himself
    Miss Cast Away (26-Feb-2004)
    Living with Michael Jackson: A Tonight Special (3-Feb-2003) · Himself
    Men in Black II (26-Jun-2002) · Agent M
    Swing Vote (19-Apr-1999) · Himself
    Ghosts (8-May-1997)
    Michael Jackson: HIStory on Film - Volume II (1997) · Himself
    Michael Jackson: Video Greatest Hits - HIStory (16-Jun-1995) · Himself
    Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (3-Oct-1990) · Himself [VOICE]
    Moonwalker (16-Dec-1988) · Himself
    Captain Eo (12-Sep-1986)
    We Are the World (28-Jan-1985) · Himself
    The Wiz (24-Oct-1978)
    Wiz on Down the Road (1978) · Scarecrow

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