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Michael Jackson - Biography

From the Jackson Five to solo success, get to know more about the notorious performer

Michael Jackson at the press conference announcing his 2009 comeback tour
Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
Updated: June 27, 2023
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Michael Jackson was without doubt one of the most unique stars of the 20th century. He was the ultimate performer an exceptional dancer, a gifted song writer and singer with a burning passion for everything he did.

His work continued to inspire new generations of fans around the world, and will no doubt keep his name alive for decades to come. Few musicians can equal the incredible impact he has had on the world of music.

Michael Jackson's early career

Emerging onto the music scene at the tail-end of the Sixties as the youngest member of the Jackson 5 Michael quickly became one of Motown's most successful acts, along with his four brothers. Easily the most talented of the five siblings he also carved out a promising solo career, and by the mid-Eighties was a fledgling superstar among the MTV generation. 

Finding solo success

Michael Jackson at the Dream Girls premiere in 1983© Getty Images
Michael Jackson achieved huge success in the 1980s

It was the release of Thriller in 1982 - and the slick dance routine video accompanying it - which confirmed him as a major player. It sold 20 million copies in the US alone, and to this day is the world's best selling album. By the time Bad was released in 1987, Michael's position as the world's number one pop artist was confirmed. A year later he debuted his signature move the moonwalk on TV in front of 47 million viewers, and Jackson mania gripped the globe. He went on to score a total of seven UK number ones and won a total of 13 Grammys during his stellar career.

Michael Jackson's personal life and controversy

In 1993, the singer's reputation was rocked by allegations he had sexually abused a Californian teenager. He agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the boy, thought to be around $25 million dollars. The incident dealt a blow to his image and Michael retreated to his Neverland Ranch

In 1994 the papers were full of "Neverland meets Graceland" headlines when it emerged Michael had married Elvis Presley's daughter Lisa Marie. The pair - who first met in 1975 when Elvis took his daughter to see Michael in concert - called time on their marriage after two years, but remained friends. 

michael jackson lisa marie© Photo: Getty Images
Michael Jackson was married to Lisa Marie Presley

It wasn't long before Michael wed again, this time to dental nurse Debbie Rowe. The ceremony took place after one of the singer's gigs in Sydney in November 1996, just days after it was revealed the blonde American was expecting Michael's child. Prince Michael, their son, was born in early 1997 and daughter Paris Katherine a year later. Sadly the union failed shortly afterwards and Debbie gave Michael full custody of the children, who accompanied him on his international jaunts. 

One such trip made worldwide headlines when the singer dangled another addition to his family, Prince Michael II, whose mother's identity has never been released, out of a hotel window during a visit to Germany in 2002. 

Michael's 2009 comeback and shock death

After years largely out of the spotlight, Michael prepared to return to live performing with a series of gigs at London's O2 Arena. Excitement mounted over the 50 'farewell' shows, which were due to take place in July 2009 and sold out within hours of tickets going on sale. But Michael's management was forced to dismiss claims that the fragile star - who had been suffering health problems for some time - lacked the stamina to deliver.

michael jackson at the press conference for his comeback tour
Michael announced his comeback tour in 2009

On June 25, the world was shaken by the news the singer had died after a suspected heart attack. Doctors had been called to his LA home after the singer stared to experience breathing difficulties, and he was taken to a medical facility. Confirming the sad news, Michael's brother Jermaine said doctors had tried to resuscitate him for more than an hour without success. 

He will be remembered as the iconic figure who defined pop music with a unique sound - a mesmerising mixture of soul, disco and rock. Though he hadn't toured for almost eight years, the clamour to see him at the London gigs showed he was still as popular as ever. And it's not just fans who will miss him. "I can't stop crying over the sad news. I have always admired Michael Jackson," said his pal Madonna after hearing of his death. "The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever."

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