Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in the family of Joseph and Katherine Jackson and was the seventh of nine children.
Thousands of biographies, books & research works were written about Michael. Writing another one is possible and perhaps even necessary, but then what’s Wikipedia for?
The best source of information about Michael Jackson is, of course, Michael himself. So if anyone wants to learn about him, I recommend reading his autobiography “Moonwalk”, his quotes or interviews. The second reliable source of information is the people who directly worked with him and were his friends for decades, such as, for example, Karen Faye, his make-up artist.
The websites dedicated to celebrities often practice posting a biography page. In short, I will repeat hundreds of thousands who wrote his biography before me.
The city where the future most successful entertainer of all time was born is a small provincial town in the heart of the USA. A city of factories, populated by the working class and full of smoke of the steel mills. Michael’s father, Joseph Jackson, also worked on one of such mills.
Joseph’s family was large, and the house in which they lived was incredibly small. As later described by Jacksons themselves, «the house was the size of a garage”. However, Joseph did not lose a heart, he was ambitious and had a musical ear. He played guitar and sang, played with friends in clubs of Gary. But Joseph was not destined to break into the musical Olympus because the competition among middle-class black bluesmen was pretty tight. Nevertheless, Destiny gave Joseph a gift where he expected it the least – in his own family.
The TV series «The Jacksons – an American dream» tells one of the «legends of creation» of the family music band. One of the episodes describes the moment when one of the boys, Tito, took his father’s guitar to learn how to play, without permission. Tito learned, but then he suffered the consequences of this presumptuous act which left “an imprint” on his “bottom”. Still, skipping the details that describe Joseph’s hot temper, the story says that Tito played very well for a boy who was self-taught, and the rest of the brothers, Marlon, Jackie and Jermaine, performed a song for Joe. The Jacksons Boys Band was established that evening, but Michael did not join them that day.
Michael was one of the younger brothers, he was about 5 years old when the band was formed. The little tomboy was ignored for some time, but even at this age he was sure he could sing no worse than older brothers.
Michael’s mother, Catherine, dedicated a whole chapter of her book, “Mother”, to little Michael. She had a lot to tell. You can say without exaggeration that Catherine watched a musical wunderkind in the making.
She says that 2-year-old Michael danced to the rhythms madder by the washing machine, and later she witnessed his imitation of famous performers of that time – he practiced their performances in front of a mirror. It was Catherine who told her husband she had noticed non-ordinary musical abilities in her little son.
But, like many times after, the decision was still Michael’s. There’s a small chance that the following episode of his personal history of the legend was a bit exaggerated, but it still existed as a fact. Little Michael Jackson asked his teacher at primary school to speak for him and let him perform solo at a school talent show. Thus, Michael Jackson debuted that evening, mostly for his father, Joseph. Michael sang Climb Every Mountain and decided his fate being only 5 years old – he set a goal and climbed every tops and highs which stood before him.
The band which received a new name, The Jackson 5, began its ascent. They played everywhere they could – night clubs, strip bars, talent shows at schools and supermarket openings. But only several of these moments are important in Michael’s biography. The first is that Joseph put as much of his efforts and ambitions into his children as he could. His attitude to training and preparation for performance was so serious that he trained the boys with a belt in his hand. If any of them did not put on full performance, he’d get a disciplinary beating. As Michael used to say, despite the fact that it was much easier for him to get the basics of stage performance than for his brothers, he still would get a lot of punishment. This cruel treatment and abuse he suffered in his childhood affected his personality. He got a strong fear of his own father.
The second moment which also affected Michael’s delicate psyche was the rapid plunge into the “adult life” with all its ambiguity, dirt and lust. While they performed in strip-bars, Michael saw all the insides of the entertainment industry, leaving nothing to his imagination in those areas which young men would normally see only after they became a lot older.
The Jackson 5 became popular in their native town and the neighbourhood pretty fast. The next step was to conquer Chicago. The boys had success everywhere, first of all, because of the amazing little leading singer who sang covers of Motown performers masterfully. The boys band, especially so well trained, felt like a breath of fresh air for the experienced audience of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The same reaction was displayed everywhere the boys went, so practically after a year or so after the beginning of their public performances, the band signed the contract with the Motown record label, which was the main promoter of all African-American performers of that time.
Michael admired James Brown and Jackie Wilson. He learned the art of attracting and keeping the public attention from them, he learned how to express himself and imitated their dancing steps. Michael was skillful in imitating his idols. This seemed very cute to the audience. But Michael’s vocal talent was not just an object of public affection. The boy who never really studied music or had a vocal coach would sing his parts with the purest voice, memorizing any melody immediately as soon as he heard it. During his whole career Michael Jackson remained “musically illiterate”, meaning he was absolutely self-educated. He could not read sheet music, but this did not stop him from composing songs, and not knowing vocal techniques never prevented him to record his vocal part at the first take. His voice was his main instrument, and his imagination replaced music books.
There are Michael Jackson fans in the USA who are twice as older as him, these women being over 60 now. They still remember the incredible success of The Jackson 5. America fell in love with the boys, and their influence spread over all the circles of American society. The success was unbelievable and breathtaking. The Jackson 5 even broke some of the Beatles records. They were idolized by young people, chased by the paparazzi. Michael’s life changed forever since then. His life has never been the same after that. At the age of 11 and further on, Michael felt special attitude to himself and had all the aspects of life of a superstar. He became the only child star in the history of music who not only preserved the attention after getting older, but even multiplied the success of his childhood years.
In the early 70-ies, thanks to the talent of the Jackson brothers and persistence of Joseph, the whole family moved to California. The Jacksons kept working with the Motown for several more years, but then their ways split, mostly because the brothers wanted to write their own songs, which they had not been allowed to do at the Motown. Michael, at his 16, negotiated the terms of contract termination with the label. This proves that Michael was decisive and uncompromising when it was about business. The brothers changed the label and the name of their band. Michael grew up.
Describing his youth, Michael can hardly remember anything positive. It was a period full of stress. When you grow up before the eyes of the whole country, and your face is always on the covers of numerous magazines, sometimes people remember you only the way you first appeared before them. A cute little boy with his large Afro hair, bright eyes and dumplings on his cheeks was everybody’s favourite. And it seemed that nobody could recognize the thin teenager with acne on his face. Michael recalled several incidents when people walked right past him looking for the “little Michael”, and when they realized he was standing before them, they could not suppress their vexation bordering with squeamishness.
Joseph also added fuel to the fire, pointing out the size of Michael’s nose and saying that this wasn’t “from his part of the family”, that this came from his mother. Michael’s brothers and cousins also teased him a lot, nobody would miss their chance to humiliate “everybody’s pet”. Perhaps we should not say that, but still, noting all the following manmade changes in Michael’s appearance, it’s quite explainable. We can always remember how many jokes and how much humiliation Michael had to endure in his teens, and then his decision to change his nose would be quite clear.
Michael began his official solo career as soon as he turned 21. He rejected his father’s services as a manager and took full control of his art. His first solo album, Off the Wall, was released in 1979 and had much more success than his works with brothers several years before.
Michael’s next album is always spoken about as the greatest achievement in the history of modern music recording. Thriller became a success which is impossible to repeat. The best selling album of a solo performer, a record holder included in the Guinness Book of Records, the peak which can be ascended just once and by only one person.
This was 25-year-old Michael Jackson who wrote all the main hits of the Thriller album. Michael began innovating. He created stage images for each of the songs, he decided to shoot not just music videos, but mini musicals, which he called “short films”. Michael engaged film directors for his short films. The moonwalk, the rhinestone glove, the black fedora are just few of the trends which Michael introduced to the pop music world.
There’s another important episode in Michael’s life which must be mentioned. In 1984, he had an accident during the shooting of a Pepsi commercial. Due to a mistake in the operation of pyrotechnical effects, Michael’s hair caught fire. Michael’s bodyguard, Miko Brando, put out the fire with his bare hands, Michael was taken to a hospital. He had severe head burns which required some complicated surgery to restore his scalp and hair. Michael was practically forced to take painkillers, although he kept refusing to take them. After he was discharged from the hospital, he had his first photo wearing a black fedora over his bandages, and later the hat became a part of his image.
Michael was fully absorbed in his work. He never gave interviews and never spoke of his passions for anything but the music. There were few of them. He loved reading and a bit of drawing.
He loved movies and cartoons. He admired Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplin. At his twenties, he became a vegetarian, probably due to ethical reasons. He loved animals and even had llamas and deer at home. One could say he lived as a recluse. He was never seen at night clubs or parties. Nobody seemed to know anything about his private life.
Rumours circulated. Michael showed in public in the company of Diana Ross, Brooke Shields or Elizabeth Taylor, but nobody could see anything romantic going on in these appearances. Michael was accused of attempts to hide his true sexual orientation, and everybody assumed he was gay.
There were rumours before, but since Michael had had a nose job and his face started to look more delicate, and he used makeup even off stage, people came to the conclusion that there was “something wrong with him”. In truth, Michael has never been a heartbreaker. He was raised by a very religious mother who did not approve sex before marriage. So, despite the fact that Michael had traditional sexual orientation, his relationships with girls were always complicated. Offstage, Michael was shy, very polite and sometimes even bashful. At his 25, he did not flirt and he had practically no experience in dating.
Michael’s private life is still a mystery even for those who knew him well. He never shared stories about his romantic adventures.
The tabloids were too much into his private life already, calling him “too feminine”, “weird” and even “eccentric”. Don’t you just wish they knew what would be next?
Michael’s next works all became top of the charts. In the end of the eighties, Michael Jackson became the most known celebrity around the world. He was even known in the Soviet Union. But not all of this fame came thanks to his music. Most often it was due to controversies and rumours which started piling up like a snowball. It seemed that people could hardly control their curiosity. What’s he eating, what’s he wearing in bed, whom does he has dinner with, what’s the colour of his socks, why does he wear a hat, why is he white, why does he use makeup, what’s the armband for, who’s girlfriend and why are there children around him? Meanwhile, Michael worked on his music, went around touring and tried not to pay attention to all the gossip.
In 1993, he decided to give an interview to the popular TV host, Oprah Winfrey, to dismiss some of the rumours and raise the veil of mystery just a little bit. The world saw a light-skinned man with a high voice, long black hair, makeup on his face, sitting in the parlor of his luxurious mansion built in the territory of a large rancho with a magical name, Neverland. In this interview, Michael attempted to tell the world he should not be judged by his appearance, that people should pay more attention to his music and his art. But all his attempts went unnoticed.
As I’m not a journalist or a professional writer, I don’t need to act impartial. That’s why I will write about the following episodes of Michael Jackson’s life as I think fit. In 1993, the frenzy around Michael’s name reached the highest point. All the misunderstanding around his image, everything that drew attention to Michael, all this astounding success and popularity merged into an environment which gave rise to the most terrible accusation which could be imagined. Evan Chandler accused Michael of “improper behavior” regarding his minor son. The mass media went wild, getting the chance to spread the news that the King of Pop is a pedophile.
It’s hard to imagine what Michael felt back then. According to his close friends, this accusation was a huge blow to him. The end of the world.
The message he was trying to tell the world was to help children and be like children, to be attentive to them and treat them well, and now this message was distorted and disfigured. What Michael believed to be his mission and his main sense of life was turned against him. This killed him. When the news broke out, Michael was on tour, but still he learned that there was a civil case filed against him. He had to go onstage with the thought that the audience believed he was a child molester. Because of severe stress, both physical and moral, Michael started taking painkillers. This was a way of dealing with the unbearable pain and treachery. The tour had to be cancelled, and Michael’s friend, Elizabeth Taylor, came to his side to take him to a rehabilitation clinic in London.
A lot was written about these sad events, and the main information was presented in many false and compromising ways. The truth lay in common human meanness and lowdown behaviour, which was much more natural for people than good-hearted virtues less understandable for the majority. The truth spoke of a dentist whose dream was to become a screenplay writer. He just turned lucky enough to be the father of a little boy who by chance got to know Michael Jackson.
The same Jackson who treated the boy like an elder brother and spent time with the child who was a big admirer of his art. The facts showed that the father was smart enough to use this friendship to make his dream come true. He plotted a disgusting revenge to extort money from Michael if he could not get what he wanted. The Santa Barbara prosecutors joined the “desperate father” – those who had obvious racial prejudice and never embraced the principles of equality. Michael was treated as a criminal, despite the fact of a civil lawsuit, but they could not open a criminal case against him due to lack of evidence. The police overturned the whole Neverland Ranch searching for evidence which would prove Michael did molest kids. They even got a body search warrant and took pictures of his private body parts. They kept looking and looking, like bloodhounds on a hunt. But they found nothing.
Due to the lack of evidence they could not start a case, but a civil case could stay open for seven years, and the police had the right to keep looking for evidence and witnesses. To stop this nightmare and go on with his life, Michael made a decision to pay money to the Chandlers, and they withdrew their claims. But Michael’s reputation was badly damaged. The main sponsor of his world tour, the PepsiCo company, refused to cooperate with him. Many people decided to stay away from Michael. A friend in need is a friend indeed. This bitter experience showed Michael that he had little true friends. “I could count them on one hand”, the most popular man of the planed confessed.
The following year, the world learned another shocking piece of news about Michael, but this time the news was good. The global mass media broadcast live how a beautiful young woman made a statement for the public. “My name is Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson, I love Michael and I want to spend my life with him.” The Elvis heiress announced that she was Michael Jackson’s wife. Many thought it was a sham, something which could not be real.
But the world would soon find out that miracles happened, and Lisa Marie did fall in love with Michael Jackson, had sex with him, and generally the couple led a normal life in marriage. They were accused of trying to help Michael regain his reputation, but it soon turned out that they had been communicating and dating long before the accusations.
As their friends say, Michael and Lisa met in 1992 at a party, and started calling each other. Lisa said many times that she was surprised how normal Michael was. His behaviour did not look eccentric to her. He told her at once that he wasn’t gay, he was not shy to use some strong language, and behaved quite seductively. Seeing this shocking difference between the public opinion of Michael and the way he really was, she could not help it but give in to him. He was romantic, took her out to restaurants or to country villas, they spent romantic evenings sitting near the fireplace at Neverland.
Their relationship was romance all the way. Michael looked happy, pictures of them together, hand in hand, were published in every newspaper of the world. Michael’s fans seemed to split: some were happy about the couple, and others felt jealous and hated Lisa Marie. Unfortunately, their official marriage lasted slightly more than a year, and then Lisa filed for divorce. If we talk about this more, then this will be Lisa’s biography and not Michael’s. We can say just one thing: their relationship was much longer, complicated and more dramatic than anyone could imagine. You could easily write a book about their relations, and it would be a story full of emotions and drama, with all the signs of a romantic bestseller.
If we start thinking about this, starting from the eighties and for 30 years on, Michael’s name was in the press practically every year. The interest remained strong. Describing his life, you suddenly realize that the important events are so tight in time that it leaves nothing but astonishment. It looked like Michael Jackson hurried to live, not letting himself have at least a year of silence or inaction. If he wasn’t on tour, he worked in studios. Between music records he participated in charity events, spent time with his friends and family. People who know him describe him as a restless person who always had something to do, and his head was always buzzing with new projects.
He wrote songs practically all the time. Melodies and ideas came to him in various places. He could drive a car, have a shower, play ping-pong or simply sleep, and there would suddenly be a melody in his head. He could never explain this, and we won’t as well. Until the science discovers “the gene of restlessness” which makes a person creative and grants non-ordinary musical abilities, it would be useless to discuss the origin of such talent. It should be accepted as a fact that there are musical geniuses. Michael was one of them, even with all his originality.
But let’s get back to Michael’s busy life. Just 1.5 years after his divorce from Lisa Marie, the mass media informed the public that a nurse named Debbie Rowe was expecting a child from Michael Jackson. No more details were given. How did this happen and who that woman was? To say that Michael’s fans were shocked would be an understatement. This is the time to disclose one of the main riddle about Michael Jackson, which would explain everything about Debbie and why this unknown nurse turned out to be a mother of his children. The riddle is: why did Michael Jackson turn white?
Michael’s light skin was easy to explain, he had a genetic disease, vitiligo, which started to reveal when he was 24. His skin started losing pigmentation, going lighter in patches, that’s why Michael’s makeup artist had to be with him 24/7 if he had to show up in public. It’s not really correct to say that Michael turned white, because his skin never had an even colour. I should beg the pardon of those who love Michael, this is not out of disrespect, and I’d sound a bit rude, but I should say this to make it understandable. Michael was not white, he was blotched, and it was the makeup which made him look white. You can feel what a public person feels when he gets such a disease which affects his appearance. His friends said that Michael was pretty depressed because the disease had no treatment, and everything that could be done was just covering the blotches with makeup. Michael consulted a dermatologist for his skin problems, and one of the nurses who worked for that dermatologist was Debbie Row. So it is clear that as of the moment of the shocking news about Debbie’s pregnancy, Michael had known Debbie for about 20 years. This woman assisted the doctor during dermatological procedures and was one of Michael’s friends.
She had feelings for Michael which went well beyond friendship, but these feelings were never returned. There were women in Michael’s life who were in love with him, but this love was not egoistic, it was unconditional, without claims or obligations. One of such women was Debbie, and she offered Michael a gift – to give birth to his children. After his marriage with Lisa did not work out, he lost all chances to become a father. Debbie became the one who did the most important thing for Michael. In 1997 she gave birth to his son Prince, and a year after – a daughter, Paris. Michael’s dream came true. He desperately wanted to be a father and raise his own children the way he wanted to be raised himself. He gave them everything he learned in his life, he gave them all the love and care he could find in his heart. HewasbothDadandMom. There are countless nice stories of how Michael treated his children, and perhaps they would write a book about it after they grow up.
In 2001, Michael released his next long-awaited studio album, Invincible, but its release was darkened by the fact that Sony Music cut down the financing of the album promotion. It was clear sabotage which interfered with many of Michael’s plans. Knowing that Michael always planned something grand and was a perfectionist, you can see clearly that he was very disappointed. This made him terminate all business and other relations with Tommy Mottola, the CEO of Sony Music. It is not easy to understand how important this event was for Michael’s career and life, but some of Michael’s inner circle suggested that there had been a conspiracy plotted against the singer to grab his music catalogue he had purchased back in the eighties. The catalogue included publishing rights in the songs of Beatles, Elvis Presley, numerous performers of the 60-ies and Michael himself.
The catalogue was a desired treasure for any music label. For those who enjoy conspiracy theories it was a great story, but there was no proof, so we should not concentrate on that.
By a strange coincidence or, perhaps, in evidence of a conspiracy, the sabotage was followed by another blow in the back from people whom Michael believed to be his friends. The destiny played a nasty trick on Michael once again.
Michael had many friends and communicated with lots of people, including all kinds of celebrities, actors, film directors, musicians etc. There were also many common people whom Michael got to know quite by accident. Often these are the kinds of people who turn out to be the best friends because they were not afraid to lose their popularity or reputation. There were doubtful personas among Michael’s friends who were skillful in turning into an enemy after being a good friend. Such kind of treachery was Michael’s karma.
We can only wonder why it happened so often because there were many factors which affected his life. Michael believed that the blame should be on his popularity and people’s jealousy. He is partially right, of course, but we should also add the feature characteristic of Michael, the one that made him see only good in people and treat them as if all of them are nice by default. Michael was quite naive in this. His kindness and generosity was valued by millions, but none of those millions, ironically, were allowed into his inner circle. Unfortunately, those who were close would often abuse his kindness. It was much easier to sell another scandalous rumour about Michael to a tabloid and get several thousands of dollars, than to tell the truth about Michael and earn nothing.
In the beginning of the 2000-ies, Michael met Uri Geller, the famous guy who bends spoons with the power of his mind. I don’t know who he really is, but let’s say he’s a magician. Uri brought several more people into Michael’s life, including Rabbi Schmuley Boteach who wrote books on children’s upbringing, and a British journalist, Martin Bashir, who had an interview with Princess Diana and changed her life (and his, too). Listening to Uri’s recommendations, Michael agreed to have a documentary made by Martin Bashir in which he would show the world “the real Michael Jackson”. Of course, Michael believed that “the real” would be equal to “truthful”, and so he let the man into his house with open arms. But the word “real” in the world of show business would mean exactly what can be sold for more money. It has nothing to do with the truth.
Bashir spent almost a year by Michael’s side. He socialized with his children and followed him in his trips. But everything he could show in the end was a bizarre man who refused to comment on his plastic surgeries or name the mother of his youngest son, who brought children into his house, had strange habits and practically screamed for professional help of a
psychiatrist. Bashir showed Michael asocial and paranoid, inadequate and psychically damaged person who was in dangerous habit of sharing his bed with children. It was no documentary about Michael; it was a pseudo-dramatic nonsense assembled and cut in such a way to show Michael a complete freak. None of Michael’s close friends recognized him in this film, and this speaks for itself. But the saddest thing is that after this film was broadcast, the prosecutor’s office made another attempt to accuse Michael of child molesting. Again, the accusations came from those whom Michael helped in their darkest hour. A young boy who was dying of cancer, from a poor Latin-American family, beat the illness with the help of Michael Jackson. And he became the one to accuse Michael of molestation. This time the case went to court. Michael attended every hearing, and it came at a high price.
He had to look into the eyes of people he believed to be his friends, and they kept telling the world that he was a pedophile. In everyday fights with terrible psychological torture, Michael got back his good name and won the case. But, as his friends say, the trial was too much. It broke him. Michael changed, and it looked like he was disappointed in people. He did not joke or communicate with anyone. He had to have some time to recover. As he put it himself, his main support came from the fans. And it was true. The fans were the source he got his strength from. Michael Jackson is said to have the most loyal fans in the world.
The biography of any singer would be closely connected to his discography, and for Michael Jackson it can never come separate, because his life is a song 50 years long. When you speak about Michael, it’s impossible to divide his personal life and his music. He tried to keep it separate as he could, but as he practically never had a normal life, such separation was quite relative. His success on stage came hand in hand with his life, it brought him to people he knew and cherished, and it brought him good and bad things. Michael dedicated himself to the stage and his performance. Starting with his music and ending with his face, body and clothes – everything was created for the stage. He consisted of fragments he invented for the public. His body was perfect for dance. His face and hair were noticeable in the spotlight and looked good for the cameras. He was a showman. But, apart from the bright covers and attributes, he was just a good kind man, a good friend, caring and joyful. And so it happened that the striking and unusual appearance covered, as Elizabeth Taylor put it, “the most normal person of everyone I know”.
Author: Karina Kotsinian