Remembering Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

Michael Jackson – a name that conjures up many thoughts. Hopefully most of them should be concerned with his phenomenal music career, which eclipses most super stars of our day. 

Go back to 1983, Michael was at the peak of his career, Thriller had just become the biggest selling album of all time. Fast forward to the present day and Thriller is still the biggest selling album of all time and prior to his sad passing in 2009. Put that way, it would appear that very little had changed; well, career–wise anyway. And it is Michael’s career that deserves further exploration.

Since the early days of the Jackson Five there had always been an immense hype encapsulating Michael. A young boy with a voice way beyond his years instantly made him a child prodigy. However it was taken to an entirely new level with the release of his sixth solo album Thriller, which catapulted him into super stardom and a place in history as one of the greatest artists the world had ever seen.

Along with the excitement surrounding Michael, he put the icing on the cake with a legendary performance of ‘Billie Jean’ at The Motown 25 Anniversary show in 1983, which – in the opinion of some – remains the best live performance from any artist to date. Everything about the performance was spot on, from the staging to the lighting and most importantly; the dancing.

For most people, this performance was the birth of his trademark moonwalk, but it was actually done a year beforehand on the BBC’s Top of the Pops by Jeffery Daniel, to Shalamar’s ‘A Night To Remember’. However most people would like to think that it was at least popularised for the first time in Michael’s performance. Another thing most people don’t know, is that Michael initially declined to perform on the show as he was busy editing the Thriller album with Quincy Jones, his producer.

Thankfully Berry Gordy (the founder of Motown Records and former manager to the Jackson Five) persuaded him to perform. Could anyone imagine Michael Jackson without that performance? Probably not. It was certainly a turning point in his career, showcasing his exceptional natural talent for singing and dancing, whilst securing his position as the ultimate King of Pop. His image also became more distinct and Michael soon became popular for his whimsical mode of dress, particularly his signature single rhinestone covered glove.

By the mid-’80s, Michael was super star, with Thriller selling 104 million copies and awarding him an unprecedented eight Grammy Awards and three number ones for ‘Beat It,’ ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Thriller.’

Then followed Bad, an exceptional album which explored an edgier sound and firmly established Michael as a serious performer and songwriter. Michael’s dancing also began to include more sexual imagery, with him grabbing his crotch on several occasions and wearing peculiar outfits.

The most striking change was his considerably paler skin, prompting stories of skin bleaching. However, when interviewed by Oprah Winfrey he maintained that he had a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of his skin, saying, “It’s something that I cannot help, OK? But when people make up stories that I don’t want to be what I am it hurts me” (The Oprah Winfrey Show Interview 1993).

A few albums down the line, two divorces, a 50th birthday and being acquitted of child molestation allegations, Michael seemed to be living in the shadows of society and the music industry. Having spent gazillions on court fees and lavish shopping sprees it was not surprising that rumours of financial ruin ensued. Rumours about his appearance and eccentric behaviour (most notably baby dangling from hotel windows) continued to dominate the press and threatened to overshadow his status as the King of Pop, and brilliance as an artist.

However towards the end of his life Michael was certainly taking steps in the right direction. He had planned a comeback, and on March 5, 2009 he came to London for a press conference where he announced a set of 50 dates at the O2 Arena. The fans were hyped, the press where having a field day and This Is It was going to be the greatest show on earth; however it was not to be. Exactly two months after the press conference, Michael died from an overdose of atheistic. Fans all over the world were devastated and the world mourned as one of the greatest performers to ever hit the stage had taken his final bow.

It is now two years since Michael’s passing and although he is no longer here, his music still lives on. Without doubt, Michael Jackson will always be remembered as one of the greatest singers, songwriters and performers of all time. No matter what, his music will always stand as a pillar of excellence, firmly against the test of time.

Michael’s posthumous album Michael shows how he maintained his creativity and song writing abilities. The album is eerily reminiscent of Michael’s glory days in the ’80s and is in keeping with what is loved about Michael’s funky, rhythmic and upbeat music. Michael’s music has also been sampled by several artists; most recently on Chris Brown‘s ‘She Ain’t You’ which uses the classic ‘Human Nature.’

It just goes to show that his music still has the capacity to bring an exceptionally refreshing and modern sound to the charts, proving that Michael Jackson is more alive than ever. Now, who said there is no life after death?

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