Michael Joseph Jackson, 1958-2009
Michael Jackson is everywhere today. It’s like it’s 1983 again: His songs are all over the radio, his music videos are on television, his life story in newspapers and in conversations. It took the King of Pop’s death to bring him back into the mainstream.
Less than a day after his death at the age of 50, there are countless things being said about Jackson, praising his musical talent and also reflecting on his legal troubles and on his bizarre life.
Here are the facts: Jackson won 13 Grammy Awards, had 13 solo No. 1 hits plus four with the Jackson 5 and another with Paul McCartney. He became a star at age 11, and this year was scheduled to perform 50 sold-out concerts in London. Jackson’s sixth solo album, “Thriller,” won a record eight Grammys. It’s the best-selling record of all time, with sales estimated to exceed 100 million. He sold 750 million records over his career. He influenced a generation of performers and changed popular culture. Some say he was the first crossover African-American star, appealing to all people all over the world.
His musical achievements are only matched by his immense legal troubles and undeniably bizarre life. Also true: Countless plastic surgeries left him looking nothing like the young man he was in 1980s. He built an estate in California called Neverland Ranch, filling it with life-sized statues of celebrities and historical figures and an amusement park. He had a pet chimpanzee he named “Bubbles.” He married and later divorced Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. In 1996, he married a nurse, Deborah Rowe, and had two children with her. They divorced and she granted him custody of the children. In 2002, Jackson had a third child, who he claimed was conceived with an unidentified surrogate mother. He named him Prince Michael Jackson II. He infamously dangled this baby over a hotel room balcony for photographers.
In 2003, he admitted to sleeping non-sexually with a teenage boy at Neverland. In 2005, he was charged with nine felonies relating to the molestation of the 14-year-old. He was acquitted of all charges five months later. Struggling with finances after the trial, he put Neverland Ranch up for sale and auctioned off its contents.
Love him, hate him or pity him, here are what we think are some of today’s better reactions:
— Jezebel compiled some of the first reactions coming out from Jackson’s close friends.
— The New York Times maps his global impact by inviting readers from all over the world to leave comments about what he meant to them.
— The Associated Press put together a slide show of his 18 No. 1 hits for which he earned his title, the King of Pop.
— Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan reflected on Michael’s tremendous talent and tremendous pain, writing: “There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child….He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.”
— On NPR’s Monkey See blog, Linda Holmes writes about the impact of Jackson’s 1983 performance of “Billie Jean” on the television special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” She says: “[T]his is where everyone I knew first saw the moonwalk…you cannot imagine what a big deal it was. I was in middle school, and I think we all tried it. You can hear the crowd scream when he does it here – it’s not a scream of recognition, like it would be when he did it later. It’s a scream of shock.”
— The Daily Beast’s Toure compares Jackson to Jackie Robinson, writing, “[W]hen ‘Thriller’ came out, it broke the radio color barrier: Black and white stations played its singles until MTV, which had not previously played videos by black artists, had to play Michael.”
— Rolling Stone goes through the discography and selects an essential playlist.
— Finally, Slate pays tribute to the Moonwalk:
Here are more classic Jackson clips: