I was twelve years old and standing in front of the television in my family’s living room watching the Ed Sullivan show the first time I saw the Jackson Five. I can recall the exact moment I saw Michael Jackson on stage and I can still hear in my mind's ear the words he sang. It was one of those defining moments.
It was Sunday night and I already had on my PJ’s, but I didn't want to go to bed yet. Here was this little boy dressed in colorful clothes dancing and singing with the brightest eyes and the strongest voice and he was singing directly to me! I danced along with him as he moved his hips, exuding a phenomenal amount of energy twirling and bouncing to the rhythm of the song “I Want You Back.” The name of the group might have been the Jackson Five but the little powerhouse I saw on that television screen in 1969 was the star, and the world knew it.
Michael Jackson would soon leave his older brothers to launch a solo career that would span four decades. The enormous volume of his body of work is astounding, with many firsts, highs and lows.
Born August 29, 1958, in Gary Indiana, Michael was the seventh child among six brothers and two sisters.
Along with four of his brothers Michael performed in their first talent show when he was just six years old; they easily walked off stage with their first prize. Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael, first called "The Jackson Five," signed with Motown records in the late 60’s as "The Jackson 5" and the boys shot into the world of entertainment like a rocket.
Michael produced his first solo album in 1972; he had clearly outgrown his brothers. When he released his album Thriller in 1982, it rose to the top of the charts and remained there, with seven top ten singles, selling 27 million copies worldwide.
On NBC the following year Michael introduced his signature “moon walk” dance while singing “Billie Jean,” and probably every man, woman, and child on Earth tried to emulate that move; I know I did.
His lifetime achievement in the entertainment industry includes a total of 750 million record sales and thirteen Grammy awards; this makes Michael Jackson one of the most successful entertainers of all time.
In 1993 Michael was accused of sexually abusing a thirteen-year-old boy at his ranch in California that he had named “Neverland.” I suspect that Michael named his ranch after the story of Peter Pan in order to experience the childhood that he never had.
His life took a downhill turn after this incident. Although he settled financially with the boy's parents, I have often thought that they were motivated by lust for Michael’s money rather than Michael's supposed lust for their boy. Michael settled with the family of his accuser to the tune of $15 million.
Michael tried desperately to reinvent his image in 1994 when he married Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie. Unfortunately the marriage ended after just two years without children; imagine what an enormous gift a child with those genes could have possessed! Michael turned right around after his divorce from Lisa Marie to marry a woman named Debbie Rowe, and even though they had two children together they never lived together; this marriage also ended in divorce in 1999.
He fathered a total of three children, Prince Michael I, Paris Michael, and Prince Michael II. The last was seen publicly once when Michael held him over a railing of a hotel balcony; this act afforded Michael more widespread criticism, and his motive for doing this has never been revealed.
In 2003 when the documentary Living with Michael was broadcast people were shocked to learn that Michael still had sleepovers for young boys at his “Neverland” ranch in California. I have to interject here and ask, If you had a child and believed Michael Jackson to be a pedophile, would you then let him sleep at the man’s house? It was not surprising to learn that he was once again being accused of molestation by the parents of one of these children. Michael endured a very publicly humiliating four-month trial in 2005 and was rightfully acquitted of all charges.
Michael sold his ranch after the trial and traveled abroad for the next four years; he has lived in Bahrain, Ireland, and France.
Michael Jackson was preparing to once again reinvent himself and return to the entertainment industry with a 50-concert stand at London’s O2 Arena. He was scheduled to debut in July and the tickets had sold out within hours of going on sale; sadly, these concerts would never happen for Michael Jackson.
I was 52 years old and standing in front of my kitchen stove when I heard the news. Michael Jackson died after being rushed to a Los Angeles area hospital, another defining moment for this fan.