Born as Michael Joseph Jackson, 29 August 1958, Gary, Indiana (USA). He started performing at the age of four, and joined the Jacksons, together with his brothers, at the age of 11.
The Jackson Five were signed to Motown Records at the end of 1968; their early releases, including chart-toppers ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, illustrated a remarkable maturity.
Michael Jackson’s first release as a solo performer was the aching ballad, ‘Got to Be There’, a major US and UK hit. A cover of Bobby Day’s rock ‘n’ roll novelty ‘Rockin’ Robin’ reached the top of the US charts in 1972, while the sentimental film theme ‘Ben’ repeated that feat later in the year.
As the Jackson Five’s sales slipped in the mid-’70s, Michael’s solo career was put on hold, and he continued to reserve his talents for the group after they were reborn as the Jacksons in 1976. He also played a starring role in the film musical The Wiz, collaborating on the soundtrack album with Quincy Jones.
Off the wall
Their partnership was renewed in 1979 when Jones produced ‘Off the Wall’, a very successful album which introduced the world to the adult Michael Jackson. The album topped the charts in the UK and USA, and contained two number 1 singles, ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You’.
In 1982 ‘Thriller’, Michael’s second album produced by Quincy Jones, was released. In purely commercial terms, no other album has ever made such an impact on the record industry, it remains the most successful album of all time, having sold more than 100 million copies. It produced a run of enormous hit singles, each accompanied by a promotional video that widened the scope of the genre.
After ‘Thriller’, Michael Jackson seemed unable to come up with new material. A few years of silence was finally ended by the release of his third solo album ‘Bad’ (1987), his last collaboration with Quincy Jones. It produced seven Top 10 singles, among them the title track. The album still sold many millions of copies, but couldn’t be as successful as Thriller. Michael Jackson undertook a lengthy world concert tour to promote ‘Bad’, utilizing stunning visual effects to capture the atmosphere of his videos. The European leg of this tour featured Kim Wilde as opening act. Kim, who was having her own substantial success with the album Close, appealed to a whole new audience which won her even more fans. The video for You Came was shot during the tour, with some scenes filmed during her live performance in Berlin.
In 1989, Jackson published his autobiography, ‘Moonwalk’, which offered little personal or artistic insight; neither did the alarmingly expensive feature film which accompanied it, and which only emphasized his otherworldly image. The long-awaited new release ‘Dangerous’ came in 1992 and it was another big success. Up until 1992 his refusal to undergo in-depth interviews has allowed the media to portray him as a fantasy figure, a hypochondriac who lives a twilight existence cut off from the rest of the world. He attempted, and succeeded to a degree, with a carefully rehearsed interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1992. The televised programme was shown all over world, during which, viewers saw his personal funfair in the back garden, and watched as Jackson spoke of his domineering father.
Michael Jackson continued to be one of the best selling artists in the world ever, although by this time his image has been damaged by continuing rumours of sexual abuse with children, triggered by a near-lawsuit in 1994 when the son of a dentist who was apparently in financial troubles testified to having been harassed by Jackson. This matter was settled out of court, which made rumours worse. Jackson hit back at vicious press reports with some songs on the ‘History’ album, a combined set of one compilation CD and one CD of new songs. A remix album called ‘Blood on the Dancefloor’ was released in May 1997.
After a silence of a few years, the album ‘Invincible’ followed, but this album didn’t achieve the level of success its predecessors had. Michael’s career was further hindered by repeated allegations of child abuse. This resulted in a high profile court case in 2005. Jackson was acquitted by the jury from all ten charges.
This is it
In July 2008, after three years out of the spotlight, Jackson announced a series of concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Seventy-five thousand tickets sold in four hours when they went on sale in March 2009. Entitled ‘This is it’, the set of concert would span 50 dates between July 2009 and February 2010. However, the concerts would never actually take place. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Jackson died on 25 June 2009 from cardiac arrest in his house in Los Angeles.
Kim about Michael Jackson
It happened in Germany. Just after my concert some people from the crew asked me whether I would like to go to Michael’s dressing room. Of course! I went in for five minutes. Michael was very sweet and said he was happy to meet me. I thanked him for the opportunity he gave me and he put my arm around me. That was all. After that he went on stage and did a fantastic performance. (1)
I have rarely met him. The control, the lack of access, it has all worked deterring on me. I was impressed by the professionality on stage, nothing was left to chance. Privately Michael is really a normal person: very courteous, nice, but reserved. I got the impression that things get on his nerves. I wouldn’t like to swap places with him. (2)
I just get really upset when I read all this crap in the newspapers about me being snubbed by Michael Jackson. I have met him and he’s really sweet. We haven’t sat and had an in-depth conversation or anything, but I hope that I’ll get to see a bit more of him during the rest of the tour. I really won’t hear a bad word said about him. The adverse press I read about him I find personally very repulsive. All I can say is that the person I met was very sane, very normal, very sweet and very lovely. He had a gorgeous smile and you can tell a lot about a person by the way they smile. (3)
Some people have said I wasted the opportunity, that if I had played my cards right I could be over in Los Angeles recording with him. But it wasn’t like that. And it wasn’t my intention. We never even got to know each other properly. Why should we? It often happens that artists tour together without their paths crossing. (4)
About Jackson I mainly remember that he totally closed himself off from the world. And another thing: my little brother and sister were visiting me when we played in Rotterdam. They spent over two hours with Jackson in his dressing room, whereas I almost didn’t see them. Jackson apparently only felt at easy in the company of children. (5)
(1) Kim about her Jackson adventure, Hitkrant (Netherlands), 20 August 1988
(2) Snapshot: Kim Wilde, Popcorn (Germany), 1988
(3) Kim Wilde, Smash Hits (UK), 1988
(4) Wilde child, Sunday Mail Magazine (UK), 1 August 1990
(5) The Michael Jackson experience of Kim Wilde, De nieuwe Panorama (Belgium), 2 November 1995