Jackson, Michael (1958–)

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Michael Jackson (1958–)

Most preteen show business personalities fade from the spotlight upon reaching adolescence. But not Michael Jackson. He first earned fame during the late 1960s as the lead singer of The Jackson Five, a pop-rock group featuring Michael and four of his five brothers. The Jackson Five enjoyed a series of smash-hit records. Young Michael—still in elementary school—was acknowledged as among the era's finest rhythm and blues (R&B; see entry under 1940s—Music in volume 3) vocalists.

While barely out of his teens, Jackson began to be marketed as a solo performer. He appeared as the scarecrow in the 1978 screen adaptation of The Wiz. A hit Broadway musical, The Wiz was an all-black-cast version of the classic Hollywood musical The Wizard of Oz (1939; see last two entries under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2). Hit singles and albums followed. His 1983 album Thriller sold over forty million copies and produced two classic number-one singles, "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." Jackson cemented his fame by stealing the show while appearing on the television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) special Motown 25 (1983), on which he performed his groundbreaking, breathtaking dance steps and famous "moonwalk," in which he spins and perches on his toes. His thirteen-minute-long Thriller (1983) still is acknowledged as the all-time-greatest music video.

Despite his musical successes, Jackson has been a controversial pop-culture figure, as celebrated for his weird behavior as for any professional accomplishment. He used his fingers to eat his food in restaurants. He traveled with a pet boa constrictor. His face was dramatically altered by plastic surgery, with his skin color gradually becoming lighter. As the years passed, he came to be regarded by some as a freak and an oddity. Despite all these peculiarities, Michael Jackson—particularly during his prime early 1980s years—remains an entertainment-industry legend.

—Rob Edelman

For More Information

Campbell, Lisa D. Michael Jackson: The King of Pop. Boston: Branden Books, 1993.

George, Nelson. The Michael Jackson Story. New York: Dell, 1984.

Graves, Karen Marie. Michael Jackson. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2001.

Matthews, Gordon R. Michael Jackson. New York: J. Messner, 1984.

Michaeljackson.com.http://www.michaeljackson.com (accessed April 1, 2002).

Nicholson, Lois P. Michael Jackson. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.

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Jackson, Michael (1958–)

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