Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP - The King of Pop

A news story has been reported that will soon become the only thing pretty much everyone is talking about; Michael Jackson is dead at 50.

Jackson exploded onto the world stage in the late 1960s, as the front man for the Jackson 5. Although still a teen, he became a sensation with their hits ABC and I Want You Back. His solo career did not fair as well throughout the 1970s until he paired with producer Quincy Jones for the 1979 album Off the Wall, which yielded hits like Rock with You, Don't Stop till You Get Enough, and She's Out of My Life.

But it was with 1983's Thriller that Jackson became a superstar. It was a massively successful album, with an almost endless supply of classic songs like Thriller, Billie Jean, Beat It, and Wanna Be Startin' Something. Its success literally changed the music industry, with the New York times stating, "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else". He would appear on the Motown 25th anniversary TV special and unveil a new signature dance, the moonwalk, that stunned all those who saw it.

But just as he reached the pinnacle of success, tragedy and misfortune began to stalk him. While filming a commercial for Pepsi that tied in with a Jackson 5 reunion tour, the stage pyrotechnics set fire to his hair, burning the star. By this point, he had already undergone a few cosmetic surgical procedures, but following this, they began in earnest. By the time 1987's Bad was released, he was virtually unrecognizable. His nose had been reshaped, his cheekbones had been accentuated, his features more angular, his hair was straightened. His skin had lightened to a white complexion, which Jackson blamed on a pigment disorder called vitiligo.

And his behaviour became increasingly erratic and eccentric. There were (false) rumours he slept in a hyperbaric chamber, that he tried to buy the bones of the Elephant Man. In 1993, a 12 year old boy accused him of molestation, a charge that was eventually settled out of court for a reported $20 million. He married Lisa Marie Presley, but only briefly. A second marriage to dermatology nurse Debbie Rowe lasted 3 years and resulted in two children, Prince Michael and Paris. A third child, Prince Michael II was born by an unidentified woman, and Jackson found himself mired in controversy again when he dangled the newborn from a balcony in Germany. Jackson stated it was accidental and a case of poor judgement.

His final years seemed to be unrelentingly controversial and dark. A documentary revealed Jackson to be an obviously troubled man whose child-like behaviour was the result of a lack of a real childhood. He was shown to be purchasing many odd items with almost no self-control and filmed having conversations with children about sharing a bed with him during "sleepovers". In 2005, he was charged with several counts of child molestation, and though he was eventually acquitted, the charges merely confirmed what many already believed was true. Finally, he was in deep financial trouble; forced to sell his Neverland ranch and battling escalating court costs and debts.

Jackson was preparing for a series of concerts in London at the time of his death, and even with the scandal and tragedy and health problems that dogged him, the concerts sold out almost instantly. The King of Pop lost none of his power to draw us in.

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