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Michael Jackson was a very famous singer, songwriter, and dancer who won several prizes before his sudden death in 2009. He was praised globally for transforming the pop music and many respected him as the king of pop since he actually changed the music industry and the popular culture. He was born in Gary, Indiana on 29 August 1958 and his music career started when he was a child singing alongside his family under Motown group.
The group became famous in the city, as well as nationally, something that made the family to be admired. With time, Michael Jackson started writing his own songs based on the plight of women and the blacks in society. He was the first singer to have produced a single album on popular music in 1982 and this placed him in his own class even though he was still considered a young person with a great potential1.
In 2009, the entire world was shocked by the announcement of his death since he was believed to be in good health shortly after the news. It was difficult for the family and friends to accept his death, something that sparked a controversy leading to legal tussles.
Consequently, his personal doctor was charged with manslaughter since a postmortem revealed that his body contained dangerous drugs. In 2011, the doctor was handed out a four-year jail imprisonment for unintentional killing. This article gives an account of Michael Jackson’s life with focus on the controversies that surrounded his death in 2009.
Michael Jackson was from a working class African-American family that resided in Gary, Indiana. He was born on 29 August 1958 being the last born in the family of four children. His other brothers were Jermaine, Jackie, and Tito. When he was five years old, he was incorporated into the family band and went on to become the group’s leader, as he was extremely vocal. At this tender age, he showed an extraordinary range of depth that electrified audiences with his capability of conveying intricate feelings.
His father was a guitarist and he wanted his children to succeed in the music industry that served as an inspiration to the young Michael. His father was hard on the family and demanded perfection forcing the group to spend several hours rehearsing and polishing its skills before performing in the public. In 1968, Jackson 5 was signed by Gordy, which was a local producer having been impressed by the activities of the group in the town.
The family was forced to relocate to Los Angeles due to the hard financial times experienced in the hometown.2 The group established itself as a live performing music group in the new city while Michael’s father, Joseph, was the manager. Gordy and the Supremes singer Diana Ross hosted Michael’s family for several months in Los Angeles upon arrival in 1969. The family was later introduced to the aggressive music business in an extraordinary event.
Michael Jackson is said to have started performing alone at the age of thirteen when he released a single album. In 1971, he launched an album titled, “Go to be there,” which impressed several individuals making it one of the best selling in the country. In 1972, he released another album with the name Ben. The album featured eponymous ballad concerning the rat and the song was the first single.
From early 1970s, Michael Jackson and his family band was busy touring various cities recording the songs and performing with Gordy as the manager. The manager played a critical role in Jackson’s music career since he wrote several songs that made the singer famous. Between 1971 and 1973, the group was so popular to an extent of being immortalized through cartoons in famous media stations. While the popularity of the group was rising, Michael Jackson had issues with the recording company.
The main problem was the handling of finances since Joseph, Michael’s father, wanted a considerate share of his children’s efforts. Joseph was of the view that the company was not doing enough to develop the talents of his children, as their participation was never recognized appropriately.
The Jackson family wished to manage the production of music, which forced it to terminate all contracts with the Motown group in 19753. This had an impact on the family as well since the elder brother, Jermaine Jackson, decided to continue working with the Motown group having produced several albums with it, even though they did not match those of Michael.
Michael and his two brothers set up a new band referred to as the Jacksons, which ended up signing a contract with the Epic Records. In 1978, Jackson and his two brothers produced an album titled Destiny. The album earned the fame for the group as they had been termed as talented songwriters because they wrote all the records without external assistance.
The new producer, Quincy Jones, helped Jackson in producing the new single album titled “Off the wall” in 1979 containing hit song, such as “Don’t stop till you get enough”, “Rock with you”, and “She’s out of my life”. From mid 1970s to early 1980s, Michael’s music career received an overwhelming support when he released a new album by the name “Triumph” since it was received with praises and over one million copies were sold away across the country.
His brothers realized that Michael’s career would develop better in case they engaged in marketing of the albums and recording more songs, something that made them quit singing and concentrate on supporting Michael4. With time, Michael became independent in the sense that he did recording of songs, as well as performing. In 1982, he produced a heart touching song with the rock legend, Paul McCartney named ‘The Girl is mine’, and this raised his popularity.
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In the same year, the hit song appeared in the thriller with at least ten songs that were voted the best songs in his entire life. His Grammy victories proved that his artwork was exceptional, as it demonstrated talent in rhythm and blues. At this time, he broke the records of various artistes in the country, as he found himself in the Guinness Book of Record.
In his entire life, he won thirteen Grammy Awards and this was surprising since eight of them were won in a single night in 1984. Before his new record, no artist had managed to reach the finals with more than two songs5.
Pepsi, Bad, and Never land
The world’s famous companies, such as Pepsi, approached him to sign contracts for promotional purposes having recognized his contributions to music. In 1984, he signed a lucrative contract worth five million dollars. Unfortunately, this progress did him more harm than good, as he was badly injured while performing on stage. He had an operation to remodel the broken muscles and this was the time when debates about his everyday life begun since he tried plastic surgery.
He requested for a surgical procedure that altered the shape of his nose, something that was met with mixed reactions from fans. In the same year, he worked with the Jacksons in producing a new album titled “Victory” and his partnership with Mick Jagger was surprising in the production of ‘State of shock’, the song that became a hit. In 1985, he shocked the entire world when he urged the US to offer support to the African continent through the song ‘We are the world’.
Analysts observed that this was a show of altruism since he was not singing for money, but instead he was passing a special message to the world’s superpower to extend economic, social, and political support to the continent whose people were suffering from poor governance, low standards of living, economic challenges, and ignorance. In his view, the US was in a position to help the poor countries in developing their infrastructure, which would in turn improve the conditions of living on the continent.
In late 1980s, he had created a private ranch referred to as never land, which specialized in keeping pets, chimpanzees, and bubbles. This attracted various views from analysts as some observed that he was exploring a second childhood having been raised as a Jehovah Witness with strict rules. He welcomed children in his ranch to play and some pundits accused him of trying to abandon his black race in favor of the white race6.
Additionally, Michael was believed to care about his life so much to an extent of sleeping in an improvised chamber to increase the life expectancy. This was another challenge that Michael had to live with given the fact that racism was a major issue in the American society at the time and people of his caliber were expected to fight it through music instead of supporting it by adopting a different lifestyle.
In 1991, he released another album full of controversies regarding gender since his gesturing towards the end of the video was a sign of violence against women. In 1993, he was invited to perform in Super bowl XXVII and Winfrey Oprah had an opportunity of interviewing him for the first time.
He was met with tough questions regarding his behavior and conduct towards the black race, but he was quick to respond that a disease named vitiligo had affected his skin color and that he was never negative towards the black race7. In the interview, he accused his father of not taking proper care of the family, which had led to poor relationships among its members8.
Molestation Allegations and Career Decline
Claims of child abuse and molestation were raised against Michael in 1993 when a thirteen-year-old boy alleged that the singer had fondled him. It emerged that the music star had a habit of spending the night with young boys in his Never land ranch. However, the police moved in to find any supporting evidence with little success. Since the allegations were affecting his career, Michael was never concerned with authenticating the claims, but instead he moved in to settle the case with the boy’s family.
Another child alleged to have been molested, but the singer insisted on his innocence. In 1994, Michael made up his mind to tie a knot with Lisa Marie Presley, but the union was short lived since a divorce was granted in 1996. Pundits were quick to mention that the marriage was simply for publicity to restore confidence among the fans. He entered into another marriage in 1996 shortly after divorcing with Presley and ended up having two children through artificial insemination.
Two years later, the pair separated and the court gave Michael full guardianship of the two children. In 1995, his career was said to be in last stages when he released a song titled ‘History’. In 2002, he was blamed for coarseness on the stage when he appeared perplexed during the MTV prize show. In the same year, he was accused of child abuse when he dangled his son, Prince Michael II in the balcony in Germany.
Even though he tried to explain the situation by claiming that he wanted the fans to see the boy, many were reluctant to buy his story to an extent of requesting the government to adopt the child. In 2004, the singer was charged with a variety of offenses, including kidnapping of a minor, giving alcohol to a young person with an aim of molestation, false incarceration, and extortion.
The court conducted its investigation and acquitted the singer of all claims, but this never changed people’s mind given the fact that his reputation had been destroyed while he was struggling financially to meet the expenses of his luxury lifestyle. In fact, he was not in position to maintain a basic bank account because of the soaring court cases. One of his fans, the Prince of Salman Bin Hamad, donated several dollars to cater for Michael’s expenses in the ranch.
Consequently, Michael was invited to the Middle East as a guest of the state to perform for the prince. He was rewarded lucratively since he received at least seven million dollars excluding the living expenses. Michael promised to produce a single album with the prince and entertain his family during special occasions. In 2008, Jackson was unable to sustain the cost of the ranch and he failed to pay an approximated twenty-three million dollars loan.
The prince of Salman believed that the singer was a conman and that he was supposed to be jailed since he had entered into a contract yet he was reluctant to honor it. In the US, he had failed to settle a loan worth millions of dollars. The bank decided to auction his property, but the singer moved to court to block the court sentence. He announced that he would be performing in London to raise the much-needed finances to prevent the auctioning of the ranch and other personal properties, something he termed as the final curtain call.
Many analysts never expected the fragile pop star to handle the pressure of over fifty concerts in the English capital9. The singer proved that he was in a position to handle pressure once again since he agreed to appear at the O2. Surprisingly, his reception in London was awesome since the tickets were sold in less than four hours.
The London tour was expected to restore the public confidence towards the star, but the announcement of his sudden death made this a dream. Doctors gave a testimonial classifying that Michael had suffered a cardiac arrest while being in his Los Angeles house. The medics tried everything to save his life, but it was impossible and he died at the age of fifty. Many people across the world expressed great sympathy and grief and memorials were placed globally, especially in his hometown and the places he was expected to perform.
The government, in collaboration with fans, held a televised monument on 12 July 2012 at the Staple Center to mark the death of the pop star. It was approximated that over one billion fans watched the live memorial online while at least seventeen-thousand five-hundred tickets were sold out through gambling.
The family decided to conduct a private funeral service for Michael on 3 September 2009 with only family members and two-hundred being invited. The songwriter had dictated in his will that the two children would be handed over to his mother, Katherine Jackson. The wish of Michael’s father was that the three children were to be kept out of the public limelight10.
In February 2010, the family of the pop singer was met with sorrow when they learned that their loved one was indeed killed accidently upon the release of the official document detailing the cause of the death. The report claimed that Michael had succumbed to propofol intoxication, which is a dangerous chemical used to induce sleep. The doctor had failed to offer proper prescription since the patient was not supposed to mix the chemical with other substances used in reducing pain.
Further police investigations established that the doctor was not licensed to offer such prescriptions meaning he had violated the professional codes of conduct expected of any medical doctor. Again, the physician never took proper measures to ensure that Michael survived given the fact that he never undertook any monitoring as recommended when prescribing the drug. Consequently, the court ruled that the pop star had been killed accidently in what is often referred to as homicide.
The doctor had to be investigated to establish whether he was guilty of manslaughter and the results indicated that he was indeed responsible for the death of the music icon of the country, something that handed him a jail term of four years from 7 November 2011.
The family has since accepted the situation and moved on with life. In 2012, the family was engaged in a tussle once more when the guardianship issue emerged. Various members of the family wanted a share of Michael’s estate and the only way of achieving this was through guardianship.
Michael Jackson was a talented singer and songwriter who inspired many young people to further their careers in music, but just as any other human being, he had controversies. He lived a comfortable life full of praises until early 1990s when he was first time accused of molesting children.
Soon after, he tried to cover up the claims by entering into consensual unions with members of the opposite gender, but this never restored his image as a renowned public figure. He died suddenly at the age of fifty and he will forever be remembered for changing the music industry and the society.
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Jackson, Michael. My World, the Official Photobook, Vol. 1. Los Angeles: Triumph International, 2006. Print..
Margo, Jefferson. On Michael Jackson. New York: Vintage Books, 2007. Print.
Orth, Maureen. “The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industial Complex.” Henry Holt and Company, 1.4 (2005): 34-21. Print.
Williams, Janette, 2009, Michael Jackson left indelible mark on Pasadena. Whittier (Calif.) Daily News. Web.
Taraborrelli, Randy. Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, The Whole Story, 1958–2009. Terra Alta: Grand Central Publishing, 2009. Print.
1 Grant, Adrian. Michael Jackson: The Visual Documentary. New Jersey: Omnibus Press, 2005. Print.
2 Taraborrelli, Randy. Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, The Whole Story, 1958–2009. Terra Alta, WV: Grand Central Publishing, 2009.
3Jackson, Michael. My World, the Official Photobook, Vol. 1. Los Angeles: Triumph International, 2006. Print.
4 Margo, Jefferson. On Michael Jackson. New York: Vintage Books, 2007. Print.
5 Williams, Janette. “Michael Jackson left indelible mark on Pasadena”. Whittier (Calif.) Daily News, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
6 Cocks, Jay. “Why He’s a Thriller”. Time, 1984.
7 Hidalgo, Susan, and Weiner, Robert. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Bibliographic Guide”. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 3.7 (2010): 14–28. Print.
8 Orth, Maureen. “The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industial Complex.” Henry Holt and Company, 1.4 (2005): 34-21. Print
9 Giambusso, David. “Michael Jackson memorabilia owner recalls turbulent past with musical family.” The Star-Ledger, 3.1 (2009): 1-21. Print
10 Abimboye, Demola. “The Man, His Weird Ways”. Newswatch, 2009.