Just lyrics? Not quite… they represent an ideology, an idiosyncratic faith in equality, an iconoclastic rise to fame for an ordinary boy born on August 28, 1958 in Gary, Indiana with an extraordinary musical talent who would go on to change the very definition of song, dance and entertainment, and became the legend, the King himself – Michael Jackson.
Music was in the genes of the Jackson family, from the father Joseph Jackson to the five Jackson brothers who formed the Jackson 5 (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy and Michael) and Rebbie, La Toya and Janet Jackson, each of whom is a singer – song-writer. Michael’s career in music started at the age of five, when he started singing with his four older brothers in their band. So intense was Joe Jackson’s desire of musical success for his children that strict rehearsals were held everyday along with completion of schoolwork. In a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson admitted that his father thrashed him, and that he spent many a childhood night crying from loneliness. The Jackson 5, after performing in local contests, went on to become a successful band, and as Michael grew older, he became the main attraction of the group. He released his first solo album in 1979 called “Off the Wall” which was a huge success. Jackson has given the world some of its most unforgettable pop albums like “Thriller”, the world’s largest selling album and “Dangerous” and legendary songs like “Billie Jean”, “Bad”, “Black or White”, “Heal the World” and “Blood on the Dance Floor”. “We are the World”, co written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to aid the poverty stricken in the US and Africa became one of the best selling songs of all time.
There was a lot of controversy and media coverage about Michael’s changing complexion over the years. In 1993, Jackson publicly admitted to suffering from vitiligo and lupus and denied that he was bleaching his skin in order to make it look white. Not only his complexion, but his facial structure, it seemingly changed over the years. What is for sure is that he went through two rhinoplasty surgeries after having broken his nose during a dance practice session in 1979. During the shooting of a Pepsi ad in 1984, the pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire, and he suffered second degree burns. He underwent extensive treatment to hide the scars. What is not so certain is whether the rumors about him getting ten surgeries and hair transplantation are true.
In 1988, Moonwalk, Jackson’s autobiography was released and sold 300,000 copies. In the same year, he opened Neverland Ranch, and started the Heal the World foundation a few years later which brought underprivileged children to Jackson’s ranch to enjoy the theme park.
The year 1993 was when Jackson was first accused of moslesting 13 year old John Chandler, but the case was closed due to lack of evidence and Jackson settled out of court with the family of Chandler. In 2003 he faced another molestation charge by Gavin Arvizio, also 13. The court in 2005 pronounced him not guilty. The accusations and the negative media coverage left Jackson scarred and he took to drugs. He also had two failed marriages with Lisa Marie Presley and Deborah Jeanne Rowe and had a daughter and a son. He also had a third child in 2002, which he claims was the result of sperm donation and a surrogate mother. In the final years of his life, he relocated to Bahrain, and was said to have been going through financial problems. Jackson died in his rented mansion in LA on June 25, 2009 due to drug overdose. The memorial service was held on July 7 where Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson performed.
It is ironic, human nature. We paid attention to the ugly face of Jackson published by the Daily Mirror, the molestation charges, the rumours about transplantation and surgeries. But we chose to ignore the meaning of the songs he sang and that he believed in them. We ignored how much money he poured into charity. We ignored the art, and started judging the artist.
No matter the controversies, we cannot deny the artistic genius of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, the biggest selling solo artist of all time, winner of 17 Grammy Awards. As a singer, he was passionate; as a dancer, he was a master illusionist, the guy whose moonwalk is unbeatable; and as an entertainer, he is unforgettable.