Michael Jackson was born on 29th August 1958. The curtain of his life fell on 25th June 2009. He was famous as an actor, entertainer and American recording artist. His fans and the media christened him the king of pop and the Guinness world records declared him as the most successful entertainer in history (Jefferson, 2006). His artistic contribution centered on fashion, dance and music. His personal life was given extensive media coverage and he dominated popular culture for a period that spanned four decades. He still remains popular even after his death and makes money from his grave.
He was born as the eighth member of the Jackson family in Gary Indiana to a staunch Jehova Witness mother and a father who worked at a steel mill. His father had a passion for music and performed in a Rand B band. He had five brothers and six sisters (Hart, 2010). He had an estranged relationship with his father since he abused him emotionally and physically during trainings. His father was however able to instill the discipline that contributed to Michael Jackson’s success though his methods were unorthodox (Jackson, 2011). During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Michael admitted that he was lonely as a child and would cringe at the sight of his father. His father criticized his appearance making him feel insecure about his looks, an event that culminated in plastic surgery. His success and popularity deprived him of his childhood and this manifested in his child like behavior during his adult life (Jefferson, 2006).
Michael joined the Jacksons band in 1964 as a back-up musician. By the time he was eight, he lead the vocals together with his elder brother Jermaine. The band changed its name to The Jackson five and toured the Midwest between 1966 and 1968 performing at several clubs (Jackson, 2011). They signed with Motown records in 1968 and set a record when four singles reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (Anderson, 2011). In 1970, he broke away from his brothers to pursue his personal career. During the 1980s, Michael Jackson was at the peak of his career and was enjoying his heyday. He released songs and videos that shattered record after record endearing him to fans across the globe. The videos for “Thriller”, “Billie jean and “Beat it: broke racial and geographical barriers as they were applauded by pretty much everyone in the world. Michael Jackson was able to transform the role of music videos turning them into a tool of art that could be used to entertain as well as to educate (Regan et al. 2005). The videos are credited with contributing to the rise of MTV which back then was only a newly launched channel. Thanks to Michael Jackson, MTV is today the leading television music channel (Hart, 2010).
Michael invented and popularized new dance techniques through his video and stage performances. He was particularly famous for the “moonwalk”’ a dancing style that was the start of a revolution in dance as a medium of art. The “robot” was another dancing style that he was credited with inventing (McCarthy, 2010). The album “Thriller” which he released in 1982 is the best selling album of all time and no artist is closer to matching that record. His other albums also feature in the best-selling list and they include HiStory (1995), Off the Wall (1979), Dangerous (1991), and bad (1987). His artistic genius was rare and he is among the few artistes who have had the honor of being inducted twice in the Rock and Roll hall of fame (Jackson, 2011).
He is also the only pop and rock musician in history to be inducted into the Dance and Hall of fame. His award record speaks volumes about his capability as an artist. He won several Guinness world records; He won the Grammy legend award, the Grammy life achievement award as well as thirteen Grammy awards during his outstanding career. He won twenty six American Music Awards, a feat that no other artist has ever accomplished (Hart, 2010). He has also had thirteen singles at number one in the hot 100, and is the only male artist to have done so. He is therefore the most awarded pop musician and he has sold over four million records globally. On 29th August 2010, he became the most downloaded artist in history (McCarthy, 2010).
Genius is a mystery; nobody can figure it out; nobody can explain it. It has always astounded people how Mozart was able to play the piano when he was only 3 years and to compose his first compilation when he was just 5 years old. It is impossible to conceptualize how the minds of geniuses function and Michael Jackson isn’t an exception. He was an authentic genius comparable to no other. He gave one hundred percent of his efforts to his performances and left a piece of himself with the audience. His dances featured sexual, tantric and gyrating moves. He was so involved in his performances he once broke his nose (Jefferson, 2006).
He poured all his energy, mind, emotions and soul into art. He was talented but he coupled that talent with ambition and passion that is rare in performances. Every step he took in his dances came from beyond his feet, his kicks came from his soul and he summoned all his energy to ensure that his moves connected with his audience. It was not possible to separate Michael’s singing from his dancing. He had a habit of grabbing his crotch during performances and he explained to Oprah that it was his way automatic response to the high flow of his music (Anderson, 2011).
The creative juices were flowing freely through him but he never down played the essential role played by hard work in success (Regan et al. 2005). He had an incredible work ethic; he was a perfectionist who set extremely high standards for himself; It is said that he would produce 150 songs and only 12 songs would end up on a public CD. He did not entertain complacency and mediocrity at any level (Jackson, 2011). His purpose in life was to give his best in every way he could through dance, music and song. He was committed to his art as he believed that art has the innate and unique ability to unite the spiritual aspects of life with the material ones; to connect human beings with each other; and to unite human beings with their creator (Jefferson, 2006).
There is debate on whether Michael Jackson was born a genius or he molded himself into one. Most are of the opinion that he was born with it as the kind of greatness he exhibited was unnatural. He was the master mind of his art and he controlled every pause or melody in his song and every move in his dances. In person he was emotional and vulnerable but on stage he was confident and unstoppable (Hart, 2010). The stage was his place of therapy. It was his place of rescue from the demons of abuse, loneliness and emotional instability that plagued his life. The dancers who tried to mimic his moves never really made it as it was impossible to thrust the pelvis like he did. Those dancers who appeared in his videos and stage performances were lucky to have first hand performance from the best of the best in the world. He made a significant contribution to art by teaching his impeccable skills to others and thus he was able to nurture talent (Anderson, 2011).
Michael Jackson scored two great achievements in his life; With the Jackson five and as a solo artist. The success of the Jackson five contributed significantly to the music industry in that other boy bands followed in their steps making boy bands a phenomenon in popular music in the United States (McCarthy, 2011). He made great commercial success by selling millions of records. Billie Jean and Thriller videos transformed the way music videos were produced and the public started embracing music videos as a form of art. The moon walk won an Emmy award and made pop dance a conventional form of entertainment. Even people who did not like his genre of music admitted that he was the greatest performer in the history of pop (Jefferson, 2006). He was not very good at writing songs or making records but he capitalized on performances as his greatest strength. Artists should follow in his steps by concentrating on their greatest gifts.
Like every other genius in the world, he had a self-destruction gene that led to his ruin. He died on 25th June 2009, when he was fifty years old. His death brought the world to a standstill to give him his last respect. Millions expressed their grievances on the internet and sat back to watch his memorial service on television. During his last days on earth, his brilliant career was almost overshadowed by lawsuits, unsuccessful plastic surgery, and hordes of paparazzi who wanted to record his every move on camera (Anderson, 2011). His personal doctor was convicted for involuntary manslaughter for administering him with daily dosages of propofol to help him sleep. He had reached a point in his life where he could not sleep without the assistance of sedatives and relied on pills to escape his emotional problems. His trial for child molestation was the darkest chapter of his life (McCarthy, 2011). His genius contributions to art will always be the hallmark of his life; the scandals and tribulations in his personal life will never be able to dethrone him of his title as King of Pop. He will remain a legend and future generations of artistes will read the story of his life; listen to his music; watch his videos and performances; and discover that in him they have a rare role model.