Here’s something really off the wall: Michael Jackson has been with us for half a 100 years now. The Gloved One turns 50 on Friday, and to celebrate, we take a look back through the decades. Shom-on!
THE LOOK: Cute
THE SONG(S): Covers of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “My Girl”
THE DEAL: Young Michael joins brothers Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine in Ripples & Waves Plus Michael. They become the Jackson Brothers and then the Jackson 5 and sign with Motown in 1968.
THE LOOK: Stylish, in a butterfly-collar-kind-of-way
THE SONG: “I Want You Back”
THE DEAL: The J5 begins releasing hit albums with 1969’s “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5.” Most of America hears “I Want You Back” for the first time and is smitten. Michael begins releasing solo albums in 1972. “Ben,” the title track for the second solo album, is a love song for a rat. It climbs both the R&B and pop charts.
THE LOOK: Nose jobs and that glove
THE SONG: “Billie Jean”
THE DEAL: The big decade. He stars in the 1978 film “The Wiz” with Diana Ross and Richard Pryor. In 1979, he breaks his nose practicing a dance routine and has the first of many rhinoplasties. Also that year, the Quincy Jones-produced “Off the Wall” drops. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” - penned by Jackson - is wildly successful and sets the singer up as an “adult” performer. Once “Thriller” comes in 1982, MJ is unstoppable - seven of the album’s nine songs make it to the Top 10. The world sees his signature dance move, the moonwalk, when he performs “Billie Jean” on a Motown TV special in 1983. He writes “We Are the World” with Lionel Richie, which makes people happy, and then buys The Beatles’ back catalog, which makes Paul McCartney angry. Jackson says he came down with vitiligo, a skin disease that causes loss of pigment, in 1986. Then there are the reports of him sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, living with Bubbles the chimp and buying the bones of the Elephant Man, all resulting in Jackson becoming known as Wacko Jacko.
THE LOOK: Armbands, epaulets, that narrowing nose, a heretofore unseen cleft in his chin ... and a square jaw.
THE SONG: “Black or White” (Irony, Part One)
THE DEAL: Neverland Ranch becomes a reality in ‘88 and the newly christened King of Pop (thank you, Liz Taylor) releases “Dangerous” in 1991. Jackson is accused of child sexual abuse in 1993; the next year, he settled with the family of the teenager for $22 million. The King of Pop marries the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, Lisa Marie Presley in 1994; they divorce two years later. During the fall 1996 Australian tour for “HIStory,” Jackson marries Debbie Rowe, his dermatologist nurse. They have two children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, and divorce in 1999. Rowe gives MJ custody.
THE LOOK: Scary and skeletal
THE SONG: “Unbreakable” (Irony, Part Two)
THE DEAL: He releases “Invincible” in 2001, which did not sell as well as previous albums. Jackson’s third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, is born in 2002; he has never revealed the identity of the child’s mother. (Prince was the baby Jackson dangled over the third-floor balcony of a Berlin hotel in November 2002.) Child sexual abuse charges are again leveled against Jackson by a different accuser in 2003. He’s acquitted when the case goes to court in 2005. Recent rumors put Mike playing Las Vegas, but that seems a long shot.
// Notes from the Road
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