Michael Jackson: Yesterday, Today and Forever | Daily News
13th Death Anniversary tomorrow:

Michael Jackson: Yesterday, Today and Forever

In August 1982, Michael Jackson began work with Quincy Jones on a new album at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles. The album would be entitled Thriller with a budget of about US$ 750,000 to produce, and nine songs carefully selected by Michael and Quincy from about three hundred. On December 1, 1982, Thriller was released to a market of seasonal shoppers. By the end of 1983, Thriller would sell a staggering thirteen million copies in the United States and nearly twenty-two million worldwide.

Thriller would go on to sell more than fifty million copies worldwide; it would spend thirty-seven weeks at number one on the Billboard charts, which was amazing. In the UK, it also hit number one and stayed on the charts there for an incredible 168 weeks! The release of Thriller marked the first time an album was number one in the USA and the UK at the same time. Also, prior to Thriller, no other album had ever spawned seven Top Ten singles: ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘The Girl is Mine’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, ‘PYT’ and ‘Thriller’. All of the songs sold hugely, right around the world. Michael Jackson was, at twenty-five, a very wealthy young man. Who was this dynamic singer and dancer?

His father Joseph Walter Jackson was born on July 26, 1929, to Samuel and Chrystal Jackson in Fountain Hill, Arkansas. Samuel, a high school teacher, was a strict, unyielding man who raised his children with an iron fist. Katherine was born on May 4, 1930, and christened Kattie B. Scruse. Kattie was born to Prince Albert Screws and Martha Upshaw in Barbour County, Alabama.

Both of Michael’s parents were musical: he was a bluesman who played guitar; she was a country-western fan who played clarinet and piano. Joseph, twenty, and Katherine, nineteen, were married by a Justice of the Peace on November 5, 1949, in Indiana, after a six-month engagement. The newlywed couple settled in Gary, Indiana. Their first child, Maureen was born on May 29, 1950. The rest of the children followed in quick succession. On May 4, 1951, Katherine's twenty-first birthday, she gave birth to Sigmund Esco. Two years later, on October 26, 1953, Tariano Adaryl was born; he was called Tito. Jermaine LaJuane followed on December 11, 1954; LaToya Yvonne on May 29, 1956; Marlon David on March 12, 1957; Michael Joseph on August 29, 1958; Steven Randall on October 29, 1961, and then Janet Dameta on May 16, 1966. Katherine and Joseph shared one bedroom with a double bed. Joseph worked a four o'clock-to-midnight shift as a crane operator at Inland Steel in East Chicago. The boys slept in the only other bedroom in a triple bunk bed; Tito and Jermaine sharing a bed on top, Marlon and Michael in the middle, and Jackie alone on the bottom. The three girls slept on a convertible sofa in the living room. In the cold winter months, the family would huddle together in the kitchen in front of the open oven. Whenever Joseph was laid off, he found work harvesting potatoes, and during these periods the family would eat- potatoes, boiled, fried or baked. Joseph along with his brother Luther and three other men formed The Falcons, a rhythm and blues band that provided extra income for all of their families by performing in small clubs.

In 1963, at the age of five, Michael Jackson began attending Garnett Elementary School. One of Michael's first memories concerns performing at the age of five, when he sang ‘Climb Ev'ry Mountain’ from The Sound of Music a cappella for his class. Soon Joseph was driving his children to Chicago to compete in talent contests there. Chicago was a city bustling with sensational sixties’ soul music and teeming with talent. It was in a shopping mall in Gary, Indiana, that The Jackson Five got their name. ‘I got to talking with a lady, a model named Evelyn Leahy,’ Joseph Jackson recalls. ‘The boys were performing in a department store, and she said to me after the show, “Joseph, I think The Jackson Brothers sounds old-fashioned, like The Mills Brothers. Why don't you just call them The Jackson Five?” Well, that sounded like a good name to me, The Jackson Five. So that's what we called them from then on. The Jackson Five.’

The group soon found themselves doing more club dates out of town on weekends. Joseph put a luggage rack on top of the family's Volkswagen bus for their equipment before hitting the circuit: two-thousand-seat theatres in downtown, inner-city areas like Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC.

After winning another talent contest, this one at Beckman Junior High in Gary, the boys were brought to the attention of a man named Gordon Keith, who owned a small local label called Steeltown Records. Keith immediately signed the brothers to a limited record deal. On September 27, 1968, Motown Records booked The Jackson 5 to appear in a benefit concert at Gilroy Stadium in Gary, Indiana. On October 1, 1969, as his father and brothers were being shuffled from one hotel to another by the Motown brass, it was decided that Michael Jackson would move in with Diana Ross in her Hollywood Hills home. The Jackson 5 sound presented a wholesome, non-threatening soul music, easily digested and readily accepted by all races of record buyers. In February 1970, Motown released ‘ABC’ as the second Jackson 5 single. It went straight to the top of the Billboard charts in just six weeks. Since he was a child and lead singer of The Jackson 5, Michael had possessed a magical ability to move an audience with his singing and dancing.

On May 5, 1971, after the boys returned from another national tour, the Jacksons moved into their large estate at 4641 Hayvenhurst in California. Joseph and Katherine purchased the property for US$ 250,000. By the time Michael was fourteen, Bill Bray (The Jackson 5's security chief) would arrange for him to have access to freight elevators in hotels, rather than take public lifts. One early record of Michael's that still brings joy today is ‘Ben.’ It became Michael's first number-one solo record, selling an amazing 1,701,475 copies. It was also nominated for an Oscar. As puberty set in, Michael's voice changed. Gone was the pubescent shrill popularized on ‘I Want You Back’. It was replaced by a clearer, more refined tone. ‘One thing about Michael, though,’ Joseph added, ‘is that ever since he was four, he wanted to be an entertainer. And he always wanted to be number one. By the time Michael Jackson turned nineteen in August 1977, he was one of the best-known entertainers of recent years, the idol of many young women. On August 29, 1979, Michael Jackson turned twenty-one.

For the next twenty-odd years, John Branca would, unarguably, be the single most important figure in Michael Jackson's career. He would negotiate every business deal for him, become a trusted friend and adviser. Michael considered rhinoplasty surgery, popularly known as ‘a nose job’, to thin out his wide nose. Since about the age of thirteen, he'd always been disturbed by the size of his nose. ‘We Are the World,’ the biggest charity single of all time, which recruited 46 singers to contribute a few words each to raise funds to combat poverty in Africa. Co-written by Jackson and Lionel Richie, ‘We Are the World’raised more than US$ 75 million for the USA for Africa organisation. Man in the Mirror, Bad, Smooth Criminal, Will you be there, Black or White, You are not alone and Heal the World were some of his amazing hits.

Over a four-decade career, his contributions to music, dance, fashion made him a global figure in popular culture. Jackson is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with estimated sales of over 400 million records worldwide. He had 13 Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles. His honours include 15 Grammy Awards, 6 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and 39 Guinness World Records, including the “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time”. Jackson's inductions include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Dance Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. He was a determined black American who triumphed. He loved his family and empowered his brothers. Michael Jackson was vibrant, creative, caring, generous, mysterious and evasive. His demise was untimely and the music world lost a great entertainer. He will be remembered for decades to come.


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