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Michael Jackson The Legend....
Updated: 2005-03-17 15:52

Michael Jackson is a singer, songwriter, dancer and celebrity icon with a vast catalog of hit records and countless awards to his credit. Beyond that, he has transfixed the world like few entertainers before or since. As a solo performer, he has enjoyed a level of superstardom previously known only to Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

Jackson became an instant star at age 11 as the cherubic frontman in Motown's phenomenally successful family act, the Jackson 5.

But that band of brothers, who kicked off their Motown tenure in 1969 with the unprecedented feat of four consecutive #1 singles, was just a prelude to the heights he would scale as a solo artist in the Eighties with the success of Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. Those three albums, and their accompanying videos, sent Jackson into a high celebrity orbit. He has been proclaimed "the biggest-selling artist of all time," "the single most awarded entertainer the world has ever known," "the most popular artist in the history of show business," and, not so modestly, "the world's most famous man" and of course, "The King of Pop."

Michael Jackson was groomed as a solo star while still a member of the Jackson 5. In 1971, having barely turned thirteen, Jackson released a successful string of solo singles that included "Got to Be There," "Rockin' Robin" and "Ben" (a #1 ballad sung to a rat). In 1978, Michael appeared in the film version of The Wiz, where he met musical director Quincy Jones, who would become the producer of his best-known albums. The first of these, Off the Wall (1979) introduced Michael Jackson to the world as a vibrant, poised young adult bursting with talent and ideas. It yielded chart-toppers in "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You."

However, it was Thriller that broke all records, revitalizing and revolutionizing the music business. Released in November 1982, Thriller yielded a staggering seven hits: "The Girl Is Mine" (#2) "Billie Jean" (#1), "Beat It" (#1), "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (#5), "Human Nature" (#7), "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" (#10) and "Thriller" (#4). The album received sales boosts with Jackson's electrifying performance on the May 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary Special, where he premiered his gravity-defying "Moonwalk," and the year's-end release of the 14-minute mini-movie based on the song "Thriller." The latter is considered the most important video clip in music history. Jackson employed the burgeoning medium of music video to maximum advantage, as his revolutionary videos became fixtures on MTV, which was only a year old at the time of Thriller's release.

Thriller topped the charts for nine months (37 weeks) and remained in Billboard's album chart for more than two years (122 weeks). Jackson won eight Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards for Thriller. In 1985, it was proclaimed the Best Selling Album of All Time by the Guinness Book of Records. As of July 2001, Thriller has sold 26 million copies in the U.S., making it the second best-selling album in history behind the Eagles' Greatest Hits (27 million). Worldwide, Thriller has sold 51 million copies. Beyond the numbers, how important was Jackson's record-shattering feat? As producer Quincy Jones told Time magazine, "Black music had to play second fiddle for a long time, but its spirit is the whole motor of pop. Michael has connected with every soul in the world."

In 1985, Jackson helped to topple another sales record. As the coauthor of and performer on "We Are the World" - a benefit single for the USA for Africa charity, recorded with a cast of music stars - Jackson had a big hand in what became the top-selling single up to that point in history.

Michael Jackson didn't quit the Jackson 5, even at the height of his stardom, yet his solo career obviously took precedence. Still he showed family loyalty by joining his brothers for the Jacksons' 1984 Victory album and tour. In fact, Michael never toured as a solo artist until after the release of Bad (1987), when he undertook a 15-country juggernaut that occupied much of 1988. Bad was #1 for six weeks and launched another seven hits, including five that topped the charts: "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," and "Dirty Diana." Bad's canny use of urban beats, smooth jazz-funk and rock guitar in the service of some of the sharpest black pop ever recorded reaffirmed Jackson's peculiar genius and star quality. But some of its songs also hinted at the pressures that lay beneath the surface of his unfathomable superstardom.

Jackson's every move was reported and analyzed by the media, and his quirks became headlines for a period of years. Some of his behavior engendered real controversy, driving him to exile abroad or behind the walls of the fantasy-filled Santa Ynez, California, estate he called "Neverland." All the while, Jackson continued to make arresting music in the Nineties, working with cutting-edge artist-producers from the hip-hop arena. Dangerous appeared late in 1991 and was preceded by an extended video for its leadoff single, "Black or White." Topping the charts for seven weeks, "Black or White" became Jackson's biggest hit since "Billie Jean." Dangerous, like Thriller and Bad, was the source of seven more hit singles. In addition to "Black or White," they included "Remember the Time" (#3), "In the Closet" (#6) and "Will You Be There" (#7).

In 1995, he issued HIStory: Past, Present and Future - Book I, a double album that paired 15 new songs with a greatest-hits disc. Its first single, "Scream," was a duet with sister Janet Jackson set to a high-tech groove. He scored his thirteenth #1 hit in 1995 with "You Are Not Alone," written and produced by urban R&B star R. Kelly. The album debuted at #1 and sold 7 million copies (15 million worldwide), maintaining the multi-platinum standard set by Bad (8 million U.S., 25 million worldwide) and Dangerous (7 million U.S., 27 million worldwide) - awesome numbers all, paling only next to Thriller's historic and unbeatable figures.

Invincible, released in October 2001, featured 16 tracks including the debut single "You Rock My World" and the popular radio hit "Butterflies." This time teaming up with producers including Rodney Jerkins, Teddy Riley, R. Kelly, and Dr. Freeze, Jackson's eclectic musical style is again showcased in tracks such as the opening "Unbreakable", the Latin-inspired "Whatever Happens (featuring Carlos Santana on guitar), and the Andrae Crouch gospel choir on the haunting track "Speechless". In November of 2003, Jackson released the Greatest Hits compilation 'Number Ones'. The 18 song collection included 16 previously released tracks spanning Jackson's career from Off The Wall through Invincible, a live version of his #1 hit "Ben", and the new single "One More Chance." As of the end of 2004, sales for 'Number Ones' had risen above 6 million worldwide.

Most recently, on November 16, 2004, Michael Jackson released 'Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection' Box Set. This deluxe 5-disc display book box set - containing 57 tracks of hit singles and 13 previously unissued recordings spanning 1969 to 2004, plus an unreleased 1992 live concert DVD - marks the most extensive presentation of his artistry ever assembled in one package.

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