Sample Biography: "The King of Pop"
Michael Jackson, otherwise known as the “King of Pop”, was an influential and well-known figure in the performance industry. He was the third youngest of the 10 children of Katherine and Joseph Jackson. Michael was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary Indiana, and died of cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009. Although he was very famous, there is confusion regarding his full name. His driver’s license has the name “Michael Joe Jackson” while autopsy reports and his death certificate indicated “Michael Joseph Jackson”. Whichever the case, the public knew him as “Michael Jackson”, “MJ”, or “The King of Pop”. Michael Jackson’s life consisted mostly of working on his performances which lead to poor decisions that eventually caused his death.
Michael Jackson’s musical career began very early at the age of six. The Jackson siblings, who were: Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Michael, Randy, and Janet all showed potential for the performing arts. There was also another sibling, which was Brandon, Marlon’s twin brother, who died during childbirth. Their father, Joseph, acknowledged their talents and decided to train them and hone their skills. Some reports stated that Joseph utilized aggressive and abusive tactics to motivate his children which included violent tendencies (“Michael Jackson Biography”). Eventually, Joseph formed The Jackson 5 in 1964 which consisted of Jackie, Tito, Jermain, Marlon, and Michael. Michael, despite being the youngest in the group, became the lead vocalist. Joseph acted as the manager for the group while Katherine became their costume designer.
The Jackson 5 began performing locally in Indiana. They recorded a single called “Big Boy” which failed to capture interest. They then continued as opening acts for R&B artists which provided them with a larger audience. During one of their opening acts, Bobby Taylor saw their performance and gave them the opportunity to audition in front of Motown Record’s President, Berry Gordy. Jackson 5 impressed Berry Gordy who immediately signed them under Motown Records in 1968. From here on, Katherine and Joseph stepped down from managing the group.
In just under a year, The Jackson 5 became a popular group in the performance industry that cemented the way for Michael’s future career. The group’s single “I Want You Back”, which was part of the Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 Album, played a significant role in their fast popularity. Along with this, their next three records; “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There” topped the charts. This made The Jackson 5 the only group in history to have its first four records become Number 1. The successful start of the group lead to more achievements which garnered them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 1976, The Jackson 5 left Motown Records because of a conflict between Joseph Jackson and Berry Gordy. Joseph and The Jackson 5 wanted to have creative freedom over their art but Motown Records insisted on the initial agreement between them. This event led to Jermaine leaving The Jackson 5 to remain as a solo artist for Motown Records. Michael, who is now around 18 years old, left the studio and eventually signed under Epic Records. With Jermaine’s absence, the Jackson 5 became the Jacksons. It was also during this time that Michael began to pursue a solo career.
Michael Jackson, being the youngest of The Jackson 5, achieved a lot during his childhood. In 1969, when Michael is around 11 years old, the group’s music achieved Number 1 on the charts. This made Michael a very accomplished boy that surpassed artists twice or thrice his age. In 1983, when he was 13 years old, he released the “Got To Be There” album which received popular attention. In 1972, he released the “Ben” album that contained his first number 1 solo single. Lastly, he released his last solo album “Forever” under Motown Records in 1975. Michael had other releases with some being less successful than others. Despite these, his achievements during his childhood showcased his innate talent as both a solo performer and a group member.
Since Michael’s career began at the age of six, there was little time for him to spend on formal education . Michael spent some time in a grammar school in Indiana but eventually left. The Jackson 5 had to practice, record, perform, and move around for their tours. This became more of a problem after their Motown Records contract and global tours. Staying in one place was not ideal which meant that enrolling in a school is not a choice. The Jackson brothers had to hire a private tutor to continue their education while moving around and performing for their audience. To get his college diploma, Michael Jackson took Media Studies at the University of Westminster in 1979.
Despite the lack of formal education, Michael grew fond of the idea of learning. He put great importance on education and with the influence of his private tutor, Rose Fine, he collected more than 10,000 books about various topics ranging from famous biographies to science texts. Unfortunately, Michael’s children could not receive formal education because of his popularity. Similar to him, his children had to learn from a private tutor. After Michael died in 2009, his children eventually entered formal education and went to school.
Michael’s adult life started as The Jacksons signed a contract under Epic records. In 1979, when Michael was 21 years old, he released “Off the Wall” which improved both his solo popularity and The Jacksons’. They then released “Triumph” in 1980 which sold millions of copies and led to a global tour for the group. Later in 1983, The Jacksons released the album “Victory” along with a duet between Michael and Mick Jagger, which became a popular hit. The album “Victory” and their global tour became the last performance that Michael had with his brothers. During this time, Michael was ready to focus on a solo career and left The Jacksons.
Michael Jackson’s solo career lead to continuous achievements, praises, and popularity. He released his best works “Thriller” in 1982 and the “Bad” album in 1987. In between these releases, Michael also created more albums and music which aided in his popularity and eventual status as “The King of Pop”. He would invent the dance move “moonwalk” along with the creation of devices to help with his performances. These innovations further improved Michael’s status and allowed him to become one of the best performers in history.
Aside from his successful solo career, Michael made progress as well as mistakes in his private life. He married Lisa Maria Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, but they eventually got divorced in 1996. He then married Debbie Rowe in 1996, the same year he got divorced, who birthed two children through artificial insemination (“Michael Jackson Biography”). These children were Michael Joseph “Prince” Jackson Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Unfortunately, Michael and Debbie also got divorced in 1999, leaving Michael full custody of the children. Michael also had another child, Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson II with an unknown surrogate mother. Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother took custody of the three children after his death in 2009.
“The King of Pop” was an iconic figure not just because of his performances but also from his physical transformation over his solo career. Today, the public remembers Michael Jackson as an icon who has extremely white skin and oddly-shaped facial features. This unique appearance was due to a combination of surgeries and a skin disease. During the start of the physical transformation, the public speculated that he wanted to appear more white and the rumors of extensive plastic surgeries arose.
To address the speculations of the public, Michael stated in an interview that he had the disease “vitiligo” which caused his skin tone to appear lighter. He, however, denied that he had multiple plastic surgeries, with the exemption of a nose job due to an accident during the “Off the Wall” filming in 1979. According to Biography.com, there was also an incident during the filming of a PepsiCo commercial in 1984 which led Michael to get plastic surgery. Michael experienced face and scalp burns that required the surgeries and may have introduced him to experimenting with his appearance.
Experts, like Dr. Pamela Lipkin, a rhinoplasty specialist, stated that the changes in Michael’s appearance are not from a usual vitiligo case. Aside from his skin tone, the shape of his nose and lips also changed into a more Caucasian look. This inferred that Michael may have been trying to look more white on top of treating his vitiligo (Meyersohn et al.). Eventually, Dr. Steven Haughlin, Michael’s plastic surgeon, revealed that the artist did have multiple surgeries during his career. According to Dr. Lipkin, Michael may have been addicted to plastic surgery which led to his iconic appearance. Whether it was a way to treat his disease or a result of an addiction, his surgeon stated that Michael was happy with the changes which also aided in his unique image.
Michael Jackson faced multiple allegations regarding inappropriate behavior towards children. This started when he opened the Neverland Ranch to the public. The ranch was a 2,700-acre property that had amusement park rides, exotic pets, guest homes, a pool house, and a lake. Here, Michael invited children to have parties and sleepovers. In 1993, Michael faced a molestation accusation from a 13-year-old boy. Michael and the family eventually agreed on a settlement but Michael continued to have the sleepovers. In 2003, officials arrested Michael Jackson for multiple counts of "lewd conduct with a minor, attempted lewd conduct, administering alcohol to facilitate molestation, conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, and extortion". Michael received a not guilty verdict in 2005 after years of extensive court hearings but not without damages to his reputation and finances.
Years Before Death
The years before Michael Jackson’s death were challenging for “The King of Pop”. The allegations and court hearings declined his finances and forced him to sell some of his assets, including the Neverland Ranch. His behavior during this time also led to issues that damaged his image and reputation. Some examples are when he was in a disoriented state during an MTV Video Music Awards and when he held his infant child over a balcony to show the baby to his fans. He also faced a $7 million lawsuit from his friend and patron, Bahrain Prince Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa after breaking legal promises.
Michael Jackson’s last planned performance, which was the “This Is It” tour, was an attempt for the artist to recover from the financial losses and reputation damage during the previous years. The setting for the performance was at O2 Arena London, England on July 8, 2009. Michael may have been optimistic about the performance as the tickets for the tour quickly sold us. This indicated that fans were still eager to watch “The King of Pop”. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson died about a week before his big tour.
Michael Jackson died from cardiac in his home in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009. Authorities reported that the cause of his death was substance abuse . Coroner reports showed the presence of the sedatives; midazolam, diazepam, and lidocaine along with propofol and anesthetic (“Michael Jackson Biography”; “Michael Jackson”). Police investigations discovered that Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael’s physician, was administering the substances to the artist to help him sleep. Murray, however, did not have a license to administer the drugs which made Michael’s death a homicide. Murray went to prison for involuntary manslaughter with a sentence of four years.
Being “The King of Pop” showed that Michael Jackson had multiple high achievements during his career. He had successful singles, such as the Grammy Award-winning “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, the second best-selling album in history “Thriller” which held the number 1 spot for 37 weeks, the top of the chart-reaching “Bad” album, and the influential “We Are the World” charity single. These best-sellers and chart-topping performances showcased not just Michael’s unparalleled talent but also the audience’s interest in his art.
Michael, aside from his performances, created innovations to aid in his work. He pioneered the dance move “moonwalk” which became popular in the pop genre. Even modern artists still incorporate this move into their routines, showing its timelessness. The anti-gravity footwear that Michael used to perform the “anti-gravity lean” is another innovation from the artist. The “anti-gravity lean” was physically impossible to do except for the contraption within his footwear. Michael, along with other inventors, patented the footwear. These innovations continue to influence the pop genre as well as inspire other performers to utilize creative avenues in their work.
Michael Jackson’s life illustrated both the influential nature of stardom and the burdens that come with it. His successes during his childhood and adult life showcased the innate talent that he had for the performing arts. He created masterpieces that are still celebrated today and left a lasting mark on the pop genre. Despite the criminal allegations, addictions, and poor behavior, the public remembers Michael for his triumphs. The life of “The King of Pop” should not just be an inspiration for every artist but should also be a warning; that the industry contains temptations that can lead to an untimely conclusion.
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Lemelson-MIT. “Michael Jackson Anti-Gravity Footwear”. n.d. Available at https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/michael-jackson . Accessed 26 April 2022.
Motown Museum. “The Jackson 5”. n.d. Available at https://www.motownmuseum.org/artist/the-jackson-5/. Accessed 26 April 2022.
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Vincent, Rickey. “Michael Jackson”. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2022. Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michael-Jackson. Accessed 26 April 2022.