Today marks the fourth anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of music legend Michael Jackson. In honor of this, PopWrapped has elected to write a piece focusing on all of the wonderful MJ left behind. While we recognize that his life was far from squeaky-clean, and we are certainly not belittling all of the serious allegations against him; that is not what this piece is about. Sometimes, it really just needs to be about the music.
Michael Joseph Jackson was the eighth child of ten born into the Jackson family of Gary, Indiana. Michael shared a three room home with his nine brothers and sisters and parents in Gary, which is an industrial city not far from Chicago. Michael’s father, Joe Jackson, worked the steel mills to provide for his family, and played in the R&B band, The Falcons, to provide food for his soul. Joe had always been a music lover, an attribute he would later, somewhat forcefully, bestow upon his children.
Michael has made no bones about sharing events from his childhood. He shared in an interview with Oprah back in 1993 that his father physically, verbally, and emotionally abused him and his siblings. However, he also stated that his father was a genius and accredits a large part of his success to his father’s strict disciplinary style. But, we all know that MJ’s childhood was not ideal, let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?
Michael Jackson is considered the “King of Pop” for a reason. That reason being: he was a musical genius. I may even go so far as to dub him a savant. He truly was THAT good. And, his talent and genius is one that shall never be matched again. Many have tried, all have failed. Because you simply cannot recreate the magic that Michael gave us.
The Jackson 5 will go down as one of the most iconic bands in history. Comprised solely of members of the Jackson clan (Michael, Marlin, Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine), The Jackson 5 got their big break in 1968 when they were signed by star-maker Berry Gordy and his label, Motown Records. The brothers set an all-time chart record when their first four singles hit number one on the Billboard Top 100. Those singles were “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There;” all songs that are still wildly popular to this day.
The Jackson 5 remained under the Motown umbrella until 1975 after record sales began to decline, and the band began to resent Motown’s staunch refusal to allow them any input or creative control. After their departure from Motown, The Jackson 5 signed with Epic Records under the new name The Jacksons. The Jacksons continued touring internationally and released six albums under the Epic label between 1976 and 1984.
After collaborating with Quincy Jones during his role as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the pair decided to team up with Jones later producing Michael’s solo album, Off the Wall. Off the Wall boasted such legendary song writers as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney and became the first solo album to produce four U.S. top 10 hits, including “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.” It climbed to number three on the Billboard 200and ended up selling over twenty millions copies worldwide.
In 1980, Jackson received three major awards at the American Music Awards for his solo project. These accolades included Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, Favorite Soul/R&B Album, and Favorite Soul/R&B Singer for “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.” 1980 also marked the year that Michael received the Billboard Year-End Award for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album; not to mention, a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, again for “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.” Jackson won a second time in 1981 in the Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Male Artist categories.
Let’s jump ahead a bit to, you guessed it, Thriller. Thriller is, arguably, Jackson’s master piece. Released in 1982, the album became the best-selling album world-wide in 1983. It doesn’t end there, however, no no no. Thriller would go on to become the best-selling album OF ALL TIME in the United States, as well as world-wide, boasting an unheard of 65 million copies sold. It topped the Billboard 200 chart for thirty-seven consecutive weeks and remained in the top 10 for 80 consecutive weeks.
It became the first album to release seven Billboard Hot 100 top ten singles including “The Girl Is Mine” (with Paul McCartney), “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Thriller,” and, my personal favorite, “Human Nature.” Thriller also got Michael another seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards (including the Award of Merit making Jackson the youngest artist to receive it) making Jackson the most awarded artist in a single night for both award ceremonies.
In 1985, Jackson co-wrote the charity tune “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie. The single was released as a worldwide effort to aid the impoverished in the United States, as well as Africa. It became one of the highest selling singles of all time with upwards of thirty million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. The charity single also won four Grammys in 1985. It was removed from the running by American Music Award directors as they felt it would be inappropriate. They did, however, recognize the single with two “honorable mentions” including one for the USA for Africa idea and one for the song’s creation.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and just recap every accolade that was ever given to Michael, shall we? This is quite the undertaking, so be prepared. Ready? Set…GO! Okay, just kidding! There is absolutely no way that I could list every honor and award that Michael has ever received. The list literally seems endless.
Instead, I will list the “major awards” and skip over some of the more obscure- but no less important- honors.
- 26 American Music Awards;
- 2 BET Awards;
- 35 Billboard Music Awards;
- 13 Grammy Awards;
- 31 entries into the Guinness Book of World Records
- Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for his solo career and time with The Jackons);
- 10 MTV Video Music Awards;
- 4 People’s Choice Awards;
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his solo career and time with The Jackson 5;
- 11 Soul Train Awards; and,
- 16 World Music Awards.
This article could be endless were we to recap every single accomplishment Michael achieved in his short life. While I would love nothing more than to continue my rambling love-struck rhapsody…I suppose every good thing must come to end.
Dear readers, please take a moment today to honor this man. If you’re able, forget all of the things you’ve read about his personal life and his negative press and simply feel it. Better yet, go to Pandora, YouTube, or your chosen MP3 player, and give yourself a gift. Play your favorite Michael song. I know that when I get home, I will be cranking up “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Human Nature”. Gift Michael with a moment of silence.
In the words of Abba: “thank you for the music,” Mr. Jackson. The world and my ears are simply not the same without you. Rest in peace, Your Majesty.