Celebrating Michael Jackson On What Would Have Been His 60th Birthday
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Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, would have turned 60 today.
It's quite amazing when you think of it: Jackson died almost a decade ago but by then had lived a long and storied life in music. And while he died at the age of just 50, it was eight years at the time since he had last released an album.
His career spanned four decades, with the highlights all occurring in the years between 1964, when he made his stage debut, and 2001, when he made his final album, Invincible. While Jackson had been planning and rehearsing for a further tour at the time of his death, it was due to take place during a period when had seemingly been semi-retired, forced from the stage following legal troubles and health problems.
That he fitted so much into his musical life was, to a large extent, the result of having started out so early.
Michael first appeared in the public eye at the age of just six, performing alongside with his brothers Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon as part of The Jackson 5, initially in his hometown of Gary, Indiana.
Michael was the breakout star and soon became the face of the band, singing hits like 'ABC', 'I Want You Back' and 'The Love You Save'.
By the middle of the 1970s, Jackson was among the most famous performers in America, with a string of solo hits to his name as well as his work with his brothers, but was still in high school.
To put it into context: Madonna also turned 60 recently but began her performing career in 1982, by which point Jackson was a 15-year veteran of the music industry.
Growing up in the spotlight was tough on Michael: he later described his childhood as lonely and his father later admitted to having whipped him repeatedly, forcing the Jackson kids through hours of rehearsals to perfect their act.
Eventually, Michael fired his own father has his manager and left the Jacksons. He distanced himself from his clean-cut family band image with the album Off the Wall, an instant classic that included such hits as 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough' and went on to sell more than 20 million copies.
On the back of that, in 1982 he released Thriller, an album that - you could comfortably say without fear of hyperbole - changed the face of pop music forever. It featured a series of music videos that pushed the boundaries of the promo clip, with the title track, 'Beat It' and 'Billie Jean' all receiving heavy rotation on the nascent MTV. Thriller remains the biggest-selling album of all time.
The 1980s were Jackson's glory days: after Thriller came Bad and Dangerous, which further cemented his place as the biggest, most marketable and most successful musician in the world. On top of that, he also purchased ATV Music, including The Beatles' entire back catalogue, which made him yet more millions.
By the '90s, however, rumours and stories about his personal life emerged that began to impact on his career. Allegations of child abuse were first made in 1993 (and settled out of court) and his lavish lifestyle - which included building his own theme park and keeping a chimp named Bubbles as a pet - were permanent fixtures in the media, who often referred to him as 'Wacko Jacko'.
His later albums were less well-received and his personal affairs began to overshadow everything that he did. His marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe (his former nurse) were both short-lived, although he did become father to Michael Joseph Jackson Jr (aka 'Prince', born 1997), Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson (born 1998) and Prince Michael Jackson II (aka 'Blanket', born 2002).
Outside of his family life, further allegations of child abuse were made in 2003 (he was acquitted on all counts in 2005) and his personal health regime came under intense scrutiny.
Jackson was taking a litany of painkillers, and had undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance, which coincided with his skin becoming noticeably paler in colour. While he faced accusations of bleaching, he put the changes down to a skin condition called vitiligo.
His last studio album Invincible was released in 2001 to poor reviews and in 2003, a documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir showed his life behind the scenes, including him holding hands and sharing his bed with children.
Jackson was also involved in an incident in Berlin where he dangled his then-nine-month-old child Blanket over a balcony. In the wake of the ensuing media storm, he became almost a total recluse, retreating further into himself and rarely making public appearances.
In March 2009, he announced plans for a comeback tour entitled This Is It - his first major series of concerts since the HIStory tour in 1997. However, just three months later he suffered a heart attack and died at his home in California. Tributes poured in from around the globe, quite literally breaking the Internet as sites such as Google and Youtube failed to cope with the amount of traffic.
His memorial attracted record numbers of viewers and he has still been the biggest selling artist of every year since his death in 2009.
The nickname 'King of Pop' derived from a quote by Elizabeth Taylor when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989 and declared him to be 'the true king of pop, rock and soul'. His ongoing success, unhindered by death or years of controversy, tells us that his position among pop royalty is assured.