August 29, 2017
Man In The Mirror
The 1980’s were, in my opinion, one of the best and more diverse decades musically due to the gigantic influence of one artist in particular. That artist was, of course, Michael Jackson.
Were he still alive he would be celebrating his 59th birthday as he was born August 29, 1958.
His talent was apparent from a very young age as he was part of the Jackson 5 beginning in 1964 at the ripe old age of 6. The group performed for local gigs in their hometown of Gary, Indiana, and also on talent shows. It was in August 1967 that they caught the attention of Gladys Knight upon winning a talent contest at Harlem’s Apollo theatre. Although her contacts in Motown did not sign the group at that time they persevered as their father Joe Jackson – the ultimate stage parent – continued to find and book gigs for them to play. In 1969 they became the opening act for the Supremes and, with the mentoring of Diana Ross, were rocketed into fame.
Although the group had tremendous success, no doubt Michael eclipsed his 9 siblings when his solo career started in 1971. His first single “Got To Be There” reached the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was his next single “Ben” which sent him to the top of the charts.
It was the release of the album “Thriller” in 1982 which made Michael Jackson a true household name. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“More success came with Jackson’s sixth album, Thriller, released in late 1982. The album earned Jackson seven more Grammys and eight American Music Awards, including the Award of Merit, the youngest artist to win it. It was the best-selling album worldwide in 1983, and became the best-selling album of all time in the United States and the best-selling album of all time worldwide, selling an estimated 65 million copies. It topped the Billboard 200 chart for 37 weeks and was in the top 10 of the 200 for 80 consecutive weeks. It was the first album to have seven Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles, including “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. In December 2015, Thriller was certified for 30 million shipments by the RIAA, making it the only album to achieve that feat in the United States. Thriller won Jackson and Quincy Jones the Grammy award for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) for 1983. It also won Album of the Year, with Jackson as the album’s artist and Jones as its co-producer, and a Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, award for Jackson.”
As a performer he brought energy to all he did. It’s fun to go watch the videos he made but I particularly like this clip where he does the moonwalk in a performance for the first time. Enjoy!
On May 8, 1983, the fourth single from the Thriller album was released: Gotta Be Startin’ Somethin’. When I first heard this song it was in the middle of my two year stint with a fledgling start-up software company named Microsoft (I was employee #248 if I remember correctly). Those were heady days for the company. Bill Gate’s star was clearly on the rise and at the end of 1983 he was featured as one of People Magazine’s 25 most intriguing people. But it was at the 4:44 mark in this song which proved to me that Microsoft was on everybody’s, including Michael Jackson’s, mind in 1983. To this day when I hear this song I swear he’s repeating the word ‘Microsoft’ over and over. One of these times I will share the story of Bill Gates and the VW bus.
As often happens, the achievement of fame did not lead to happiness. Jackson was a near daily subject of tabloids and a constant target for paparazzi; his bizarre behaviors and personal life was dissected without abatement.
It was, ultimately, determined that the cause of his death was cardiac arrest. Like everything else in his life, though, that too swirled in controversy. What we do know is that he was taking a virtual pharmacy of drugs for various issues at the time of his death on June 25, 2009.
The whole article is worth a read. His was an amazing life, surreal in many ways.