When it comes to the history of black music - or simply music, period - very few people have achieved accolades, success and the adoration of fans throughout the world like Michael Joseph Jackson.
Not only has Jackson dominated pop and R&B charts over the course of five decades, he ushered in the MTV era, helping the burgeoning network draw viewers in the 1980s with his music videos that were more feature-film than a few minutes of smoke and mirrors to sell a song. The most awarded recording artist in history, Jackson is a double inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist.
With his albums reaching platinum status multiple times over, Jackson has truly earned the symbolic Guinness World Records title "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time." And the electrifying dance moves he displayed in his sold-out shows - brilliantly captured in his Emmy Award-nominated, "moonwalk"-punctuated performance at "Motown 25" in 1983 - are still being imitated by today's R&B upstarts and impersonators across the world.
Yet despite Jackson's extraordinary talent, his personal life, including questionable behavior with children and an ever-changing physical appearance, has recently overshadowed his untouchable musical abilities. But true fans remain loyal.
"He is a super talent regardless of the stuff that's happened," said Niecy Davis, assistant programs director for Radio One in St. Louis. A self-proclaimed "die-hard Michael Jackson fan," Davis said she's followed the Gloved One's career for more than 30 years, from the "Jackson 5" cartoon of the 1970s to the famous video debuts of the 1980s and 1990s that were appointment television for everyone.
"I was glued to all of his videos. The choreography was always good, and the music just had a feeling to it," Davis told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "Michael Jackson has always been unique and daring. Man, he is just the bomb."
It all began for Jackson in the early 1960s. Touring with his brothers in their native Indiana, Jackson, and the group that would become the Jackson 5 won a local talent show in 1966. The winning song was a rendition of The Temptation's "My Girl," with Michael singing the lead. It was only a matter of time before the Jacksons would become label mates with the Temptations, signing with Motown Records in 1968. A string of hits would follow "I Want You Back," "ABC," The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There." In addition to the success the group saw, Michael Jackson was a solo cash cow for Motown, releasing "Got to Be There" and "Ben."
Life wasn't all roses with Motown for the Jackson 5, and the group - with strict disciplinarian father/manager Joe Jackson leading the way - signed a contract with CBS Records. The move angered Motown, and a suit accusing the group of breaching their contract was filed. In the end, the group had to rename themselves The Jacksons and brother Jermaine - who was married to Motown head Berry Gordy's daughter - was replaced by the youngest Jackson son, Randy. From 1976 to 1984, Michael Jackson was more than a front man for The Jacksons. As the lead songwriter, he penned such hits as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," and "Can You Feel It."
As the 1980s approached, Jackson was once again focusing on a solo career and, after appearing in "The Wiz" as the Scarecrow and performing songs produced by music impresario Quincy Jones, Jackson started a business relationship that would reap big rewards.