A classic Hollywood story is that a young talented boy in his wish to get out becomes not only famous, but famous for his skills, and finally is lost in his fame and scandals. Michael Jackson, a Pop artist, a music icon, died lonely, lost, and broken. It was a tragedy not only for his family, not only for the world’s music culture, but for the whole mankind.
Born in Indiana in 1958, he was the seventh child in a really large family. From his early years, Michael had showed how musically artistic and talented he was. His first performance on the stage happened when he was at school at Christmas show. Due to the fact that Michael’s family was large, his father decided to create a pop group comprised of his children. It was called Jackson Five. They performed several songs that were at the top of the charts, but even though that Jackson Five was quite famous, Michael decided to start his solo career in 1979.
Everyone was amazed by Michael’s talents both in dancing and singing. His albums and songs had such recording sales in a very short time that all critics were astonished. No one could understand how Michael Jackson had achieved great success in his youth. He was always in the centre of everyone’s attention, but no one could ever predict that he would become one of the most successful stars of all times.
His greatest accomplishment and the best-selling album was Thriller. This album is exclusive, it consists only of hits. Moreover, the album Thriller has its own complicated history. Michael’s mother, who was a strict Jehovah’s Witness, also proselytized her son. Maybe it was good for him, but certainly not so much for his career. Eventually, Michael’s faith almost destroyed the album, one of the greatest masterpieces in the pop music history of all times. Thriller is like a horror movie with zombies and other deadly disgusting monsters. Jehovah’s church, of course, did not approve it. They were really worried and even suspected that Michael was possessed by some devil. The whole situation was getting very serious. Jackson was worried and even asked his lawyer not to show ever this clip and the song to anyone. However, Michael’s manager advised him just to say on public that Thriller was just an album and had nothing to do with his religion. After all, the album was released and opened for Michael Jackson the road to fame.
After Thriller, a lot of not less famous albums were released one by one. But there was one more thing that brought Michael Jackson great popularity. It was not only his voice, but his dancing skills as well. Being honest, there is hardly a person who has never tried to repeat this glorious moonwalk. Michael was not actually the creator of these moves, but the way he danced them, his sense of rhythm, and his plastique were unbelievable. Maybe, he was not the creator of the moonwalk, but it was Michael Jackson who made it legendary. He not only perfectly performed it, but also added his own unique moves. Michael’s moonwalk was firstly performed along with his new famous hit song Billy Jean. Michael Jackson’s moonwalk made him an icon.
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During his career, Michael Jackson had made lots of records and received many awards. His Thriller was considered to be the best selling album in the pop music history of all times. In his 25 years, Michael Jackson had many awards: more than twenty American Music Awards, about forty Billboard Awards, BRIT Awards, and several Grammy Awards. Moreover, he was mentioned more than ten times in the Guinness World Records. Top albums, top songs, top artist nominations do not exhaust the entire list of the ones he had been chosen for. Furthermore, Michael Jackson was also very famous for his charity work. Several times he was awarded for his welfare work by the US Presidents. Michael established several charity foundations of his own.
Even after Michael’s Jackson death, his albums and disks have still been selling worldwide with incredible speed. He became popular at 11, yet even after death, Michael remains the best selling artist of all times. He is a legendary person.
Fame comes with its price. During his life, Michael Jackson had been chased by scandals. He was pennies from heaven for journalists. From his early childhood, despite the fact that Michael was a king of stage and every concert, the boy was reserved. Growing up in the strict family, it was hard for Michael to communicate with children of his age. The boy was modest and sometimes shy. Most of the boys of his age did not approve Michael’s artistic nature. He was often teased in a very bad manner. Children who did not abuse the boy simply silently envied him and his talent.
The only true friend and a big part of his heart was an artist, a great American singer and actress – Diana Ross. They had been friends from his early childhood and till Michael’s last breath. She made a great influence on his career and on the boy’s development into a strong famous personality.
The first time Michael saw Diana Ross, he was a part of his brothers’ band ‘Jackson Five’. The boy was astonished by the music diva. Moreover, Michael lived in Diana Ross’s house for awhile at Hollywood Hills. She became like a second mother for a young star. She taught him everything, starting from some career advice and ending with just how to move gracefully. For Michael, Diana Ross was the Queen of Art. Style, the power of fame, the way he should talk, walk, how to behave with press and fans – all of these and many other things were taught by Diana. Someone told that Diana was bored and decided to take care of a boy. Someone thought that she was just lonely and others accused Diana in taking Michael away from his own mother. But despite all gossips and scandals, Michael’s mother appreciated Diana’s concern for her son’s future. She knew that Ross was an adult responsible woman and that she would not teach Michael anything bad. Katherine (Jackson’s mother) fully trusted Diana Ross with her child.
On the other hand, not only Diana influenced Michael’s life, but he also gave her something she thought she would never have. When it was time for Michael to return home, Diana was devastated. It was a hurtful moment in her life. She enjoyed boy’s company, maybe even too much. Diana was happy to have this boy around. Although Diana Ross had placed her career on the first place since she was a teen, she postponed her chase for the fame at the time when Michael had been living with her. She knew that in the future she would probably have her own children (Ross gave birth to three girls and two boys years later), but still she could not accept the fact that she might not have later an opportunity to influence Michael’s life. Diana understood that he was just a child and could simply forget her. Despite her expectations, Michael was always grateful to Diana. Moreover, when he had a chance, he visited her and shared with her his impressions and plans about future.
Diana and Michael had an unbreakable friendship bond. They influenced each other and they inspired each other. In almost every interview, Michael was telling how fond he was of the music diva and that he always could come to her for advice or to share his secrets. Michael idolized Diana Ross. She, on the contrary, thought of him as of her son. Even after his death, this dearly friendship bond was strong. It was not actually a surprise when Michael’s will was relieved after his death. He chose Diana Ross to be a backup care for his children. He even did not trust his mother as much as he trusted Diana. Although his will stated that his mother was an official guardian of his three children, Ross should help her to look after them from time to time. This fact caused another wave of scandals concerning the relationships between Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Some papers even wrote that they had not only mother-son relationships, but also the intimate ones. It was insane because there were no real evidence to prove it.
How did Diana react to the death of her closest friend? Well in some interviews, the diva mentioned that news about the Michael’s death was like a thunderstorm for her heart and soul. She told that for days she just could not stop grieving and crying for Michael, that it felt as if a part of her soul had left this world. She sent her prayers to his children, mother, and his big family. The death of Michael Jackson was too unexpected and too horrible not only for Diana Ross, but also for the whole music world. The sorrow from his death will never leave the diva’s heart as grief has settled there forever. However, even death cannot destroy such a friendship bond akin to a family bond as well as the kind of the strongest support and understanding they had.
Another person who had a huge influence on Michael Jackson and his music career was a great man and a legendary performer of soul songs James Brown. As a child, Jackson saw the performance of James Brown for the first time. After seeing these moves, hearing such an incredible powerful voice, Jackson could not sleep thinking about this artist and his talent. He was fully mesmerized by the way James Brown looked on stage. Right after seeing his concerts, Michael was sure that it was what he wanted and what he would love to do for the rest of his life. Later, when Michael became famous, some critics were telling that The King of Pop tried to imitates his soul idol. That was not exactly true. Michael only tried to awaken in himself such a talent and skills as James Brown had. He tried to become a legend for his talents and to be loved and cherished by his audience and fans. At James Brown’s funeral, Michael Jackson made his own speech. He praised the soul legend telling to all the attendants and Brown’s family how much he meant to Michael, how much he gave him, and what a great inspiration James Brown had been.
Back in those times, Jackson was a legend. Like James Brown was called “Godfather of Soul”, so the similar thing was happening to Jackson. The difference was only that Michael got “The King of Pop Music” name. Mostly, his songs were of the pop music style and disco style. However, several songs actually even reminded of the melody of soul or blues. For example, a slow motion and tender, yet seductive melody of the song I’ll be there performed by Jackson Fiveor You’re not alone from his album HIStory are much closer to the blues music than to the pop. Moreover, except blues-like songs or just pop and disco ones, Michael Jackson has one song sounding more rock than pop – Dirty Diana. The career of the artist of many music styles and a great talent officially started in the 70s when he released his first solo album. Some of the most popular and breakthrough ones are definitely worth mentioning.
The fifth album that was released in 1979 was called Off the Wall. It was recorded right after Michael finished his performance in the movie The Wiz. This album included not only Michael’s singles, but also his songs with other stars like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and others. Several songs from Off the Wall were even written by Michael himself. Off the Wall was special because this Michael’s solo album was recorded by the Epic Records. Michael Jackson had been working with this record company till the end of his days.
Some critics told that the fifth album had not only disco, pop, or funk songs, but also the jazz ones. That was unexpected due to the Michael’s vocal and his previous performances only in the disco style. The album brought Michael success. Eventually, Off the Wall became a platinum album and was named as one of the best selling albums of all times. The funny thing was that at the beginning Michael could not even imagine how this fifth album would sound or what kind of songs should have been included into it. In every album, Jackson tried as hard as he could not to sound like he used to in Jackson Five. He started his solo career to gain some artistic freedom, to sing, dance, and sound the way he could and the way he wanted. Mainly Of the Wall consists from the ballads of different styles. It was the first Michael’s major breakthrough in music. Even nowadays, Off the Wall is considered to be one of the greatest albums recorded by Michael Jackson.
The next major Michael Jackson’s album was the ninth album - HIStory. It was released after Michael’s vacation. There was a scandal concerning the pop star. He was accused of the act of harassment toward a child who had lived for some time in the Jackson’s house Neverland. After a long time of judgments, scandals, and accusations, the charges were withdrawn. Only in 1995, Michael Jackson returned to the music road of fame with his new album HIStory. This album was discussed and criticized by many people. It was the most debatable album recorded by Michael Jackson. There were scandals again. Michael was accused of antisemism. It was told that HIStory has several songs, for example, They Don’t Care About Us, that contain hate towards the Jewish people. However, it was Michael who was a pure kind man and, of course, soon all charges were withdrawn. Although he did have to re-record some songs, HIStory was not as successful as the previous albums, but it was worth recording and it was worth the attention that it received. This album was a special one for the press and journalists. During his whole career, Michael Jackson was surrounded by scandals and false accusations. He despised the press and journalists, though he did understand that they mostly did what they had to. Not so much time had passed when Michael began to take painkillers. That was the beginning of the end. HIStory was quite similar to the previous Jackson’s works, especially in the styles that were exploited. Considering that most songs in this album were written by Jackson, they were filled with sorrow, endless fight for his freedom, and fight for his name against all the scandals, abuse, and accusations. HIStory is considered to be the album that revealed Michael’s heart, soul, and true feelings.
His next album that was the tenth and the last one was called Invincible. It was released in 2001 after a long-term vacation. This album was a bit softer than all the previous ones. It was mostly romantic relieving such themes as love and relationships. Its second part was about the society and media issues concerning good people, etc. Despite all previous misfortunes in life and career, Invincible brought Michael success and worldwide top positions in music charts once more. Although Jackson tried to write and sing not similarly to the Jackson Five songs, his last album was like the Michael’s trip into his past and to the beginning of his music career. Invincible was very close to the theme of racial issues against which Michael Jackson had been fighting throughout his whole life. Since childhood, Michael had been trying to become a famous black man in the pop music. Nonetheless, he was devastated by the fact that he was black. He made a lot of surgeries to change the color of his skin. Someone thought that it was insane. Someone said that with losing his color of skin Michael was losing himself and his charm. The last album by Michael Jackson included songs mainly in the hip-hop style and dance style. Invincible was based on Michael’s feelings and on his moments of happiness and fun. The major part of songs in the Invincible album were written by Michael himself. Some of these songs were even dedicated to his children. Jackson’s last album was also debatable, but not as much as the previous one. Invincible did not have high rates or some top awards, but it was still special.
Michael Jackson always used to quote the famous writer Charles Dickens when it came to his career. He used to tell that he really loved his life, that there were bad and good times, that there were happiness and sorrow, but the most important thing was that he loved his work and his creations more than anything else.
A singer, an artist, and a songwriter Michael Jackson was closely associated with his texts from the world’s perspective. His main topic was and is love. However, it does not mean that he did not write about politics, social media issues, or environment problems, but love was what really mattered. Michael Jackson was the only Afro-American who helped to spread his native culture worldwide. It was not always appreciated around the world. For example, Jackson’s music was forbidden in Soviet Russia. It was not actually only the pop singer’s fault. Such attitude towards the Afro-Americans in Russia had been long established since the Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, yet Michael Jackson had always been indifferent to politics. As it has been previously mentioned, he had grown up in a very strict and faithful family. Michael believed that every person had equal rights. His life goal was to improve this world through his creations, his talents, and music. Michael Jackson was proud to be black. He had been raised like that. Moreover, his origin lied in Africa. That is why, he tried to adjust somehow being an African with African ancestors. It was not his fault or his wish to become white as everyone said. He was seriously ill and he could not do anything to return the black color of his skin. There were lots of gossips that Michael was ashamed of his town and origin, but these were just false gossips. Moreover, he was the one, who not only managed to erase gap between black and white people at least for a bit, but also the gap between African American and European music audiences. Why do you think Michael Jackson music is so authentic; why exactly this artist is so popular and honorable among others music performers?
Michael wasn’t the artist of just one style; he tried to use a variety of different styles in his works. He was trying to be different, to perform something new, something fresh and with that to get out certain messages to his audience, mostly politic, environmental ones etc. To get closer to the African American and European roots in Michael Jackson’s music, we need to find out what is the thing that would be the same and what’s the one that would be different in music of both cultures. Historically it happened that European society stands higher in hierarchy than African American one. It also had its influence on music. According to many art scientists, African Americans are dirtier than Europeans by using certain beads and other acoustic devices. There exist also certain conventions or agreements in music. They are used to express and get out certain meanings to the audience. Also there are certain examples, when these conventions are used outside its native culture, like between British and African American, when the first one borrowed blues convention from the other one to express British youth. And if we’re talking about Michael Jackson’s music, he also borrowed some conventions, and moreover, he managed to combine them in different songs. Like, for example in the song Beat It from the album Thriller, Michael has managed to put rock, even hard rock in it. That was really something unexpected and unusual. But more important convention that Michael used in his creations was connected with disco and funk. First, I must say that funk was born in 60s. It was the style, the American style, yet which has typical features from African American one; blues with a very specific rhythm. And the first one, who managed to control, managed to make this style mesmerizing and popular around the world, and especially in Europe, was – James Brown. As I said previously, Michael always idolized Brown, so it wasn’t the surprise, when Michael’s works became more funky than just pop ones. For example, his song Sunset Driver from Off the Wall album or Shake Your Body from this album too. The moves, the way he sing, this whinny pitch and drive – all of that could remind you of James Brown, and yet it’s authentic, it’s Michael Jackson. The next epic thing Michael did was his album Bad with his dirty ‘bad boy’ moves and similar to gangster style. A surprising again thing was that right after Bad album, Michael became more lyric, more girlish, more Diana Ross than Michael Jackson. It wasn’t such a surprise, since Diana Ross was the greatest his inspiration and like second mother to him. He was mesmerized by her. Michael even wrote for her a soul single Muscles, which later they performed together and for which Diana won her twelfth Grammy. She taught Michael almost everything – the main technique of vocal. For example this ooooh interjection, Michael borrowed from Diana Ross. From his early age, Michael Jackson often stressed this oooh in his songs, doing it exactly like Diana.
Although Michael’s vocal was changing along with the style of his music. His voice changed from boyish soprano to high tenor. In his song It’s Too Late to Change the Time for the first time in his music, Michael used a special technique of singing – vocal hiccup (gulping for air, his gasping). Everyone after that started calling Michael as a new Stevie Wonder. Rolling Stone then mentioned that Michael has an unbelievably beautiful tenor and that his song Black or White is the greatest example of Michael’s vocal ability. Then single Dangerous was released and new skills of Jackson’s vocal were discovered: hissings, whispering, the unique way of spelling some words, wretched tone (strong vocal tone), duple triple (musical meter, which is consisted from 2/3 beats meter to the bar) in his Thriller song, sexuality, more smooth, yet aggressive choreography etc. Besides also disco, rock and funk styles in his music career, Michael has invested in blues music too. He even performed with Gary Moore at some his concerts. Like also his blues idol, Michael recorded several blues ballads (slow temped, lyrical, mostly sentimental songs, combining American ballads with European influence and also with rhythms of African American music, mostly accompanied by banjo (stringed music instrument) or guitar, with 12-bar the blues tempo (changes in blues) with refrain (repetition), which repeats every time in the last lines). There were his most famous I just Can’t Stop Loving You, I’m so Blue, Got to be Free, and the dark, with sorrow, based on his life ballad – Price of Fame, carefree Fly Away, among Michael’s works in blues style. All of these blues ballads are mostly from the Bad album and they opened us the lonely Michael Jackson; Jackson with sorrow in his soul and with the wish to be finally free. The impressive thing in Michael’s blues was the harmony of tonality, this slow calm mid-tempo that he’d never used in his music before.
Thanks to Diana Ross and Motown Records, the world has got his major music messiah, The King of Pop – Michael Jackson. He was the one who told us, using his incredible vocal, different rhythms from disco to soul and funk, about the history of African people in America; through his songs, Michael managed to make closer both African American music and culture with European. He was born in Gary, Indiana. It is a unique city in the USA with a rich history. Gary is considered to be a part of the American cultural landscape. Indiana was the first state where black mayors were elected. Gary is a city that consists mostly of the Afro-American people. Long ago, black people immigrated there searching for work and the place to survive. Moreover, the Jackson family had been there from the beginning. This family was a part of the Gary’s history. Not everyone knew that the first song recorded by Jackson Five was released in Gary. Michael’s father was born in Arkansas, then lived in California, and only afterwards moved to Gary. His mother was from Alabama, but life circumstances made her move to Indiana where she met Michael’s father. Joe Jackson dreamt of boxing. Katherine, Jackson’s mother, wanted to become a famous singer. However, life is an unexpected thing. Although both Jackson’s mother and father had dreams to pursue, they decided to postpone their hopes and goals in order to start a family. Together, Joe and Katherine had ten children. The family was big and very talented. The Jackson family was the most well-known family in the world of fame and entertainment. All children were one way or another connected with music. Nonetheless, only Michael became the ?1 artist.
The unbelievable fact was that even though Michael had not released hits for several years, his devoted fans remained loyal to him. Even nowadays, the Michael’s fan base is the most expanded and devoted one. His fans from very dangerous and war-damaged countries said that Michael Jackson’s music was the thing that helped them to survive these complicated times, loneliness, and loss. According to his fans, Michael Jackson was so much more than just a moon-walking legend. They said that he was a pure kind person who did his best to improve at least something in this world and who tried to evoke as many smiles as he could. Even when people blamed Michael with wrong accusations, even when almost everyone turned their backs on him, there were still the ones who believed that he was an incredibly talented and innocent music legend.
After many scandals in the 2000s, Michael Jackson moved to Bahrein. For some time, he had lived in peace. Only occasionally, reporters wrote something about him or had an opportunity to take a picture of him. The star had fallen from a high mountain of fame. The angel had fallen while being tormented by the society. No one actually believed that he would eventually recover. Michael was too sensitive to get through new scandals and gossips. Despite everything, in 2009 Michael announced that there was going to be a tour of his live concerts around the world. Everyone who surrounded Michael back then were telling that he looked really good and healthy and that he was completely ready for his new tour and ready to work and sing.
Nevertheless, the next day tragedy happened. Michael was found dead. It was written that Jackson died from wrongly prescribed painkillers. It was also mentioned that he had enough pills to take and that exactly these ones prescribed by his doctor brought him over the limit. Next day, Michael Jackson’s doctor was put on charge.
The funny and at the same time unexpected thing was that in a week after his death every newspaper and every journal around the world were writing about how good and kind Michael had been and how his career and his music had helped many people to recover from different circumstances. Everyone in the world was discussing his/her favorite song or album written and recorded by Michael Jackson. Dozens of flash mobs and concerts were made in Michael’s honor worldwide. It is essential to realize that there will not be another person like Michael. There will not be another legend like him. There will not be another innocent and pure soul like Michael Jackson in the world of entertainment. Although he is dead and someone still hates or envies him even now, his hits and his remarkable contribution to the world culture will never be forgotten. Michael Jackson will never be forgotten.
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