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Remembering Michael

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 6:00 AMRoy Black
Michael Jackson
In this 1972 file photo, singer Michael Jackson, at age 13 the youngest member of the singing group Jackson Five, sings in his home in Encino, California.
Michael Jackson (left) of the Jackson Five Brothers performing at the National Stadium in 1975. Second left is Tito, while Jackie is at right and second right is Marlon. Randy is at extreme left.
The cover of Michael Jackson's historic album 'Thriller'.
An unidentified fan poses for a photo after signing a large poster at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, July 6, 2009, where the memorial service for pop star Michael Jackson was held on Tuesday, July 7, 2009.
Michael Jackson
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Six years have flown by since the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson, passed away on June 25, 2009. In a dazzling 40-year career, he took dancing to a new level with some self-created dance moves, many of which defied even the laws of gravity. When that is added to his vocal and songwriting talents, he is perhaps the greatest entertainer in the history of popular music.

He first came to public attention as a 10-year-old in 1968, along with four of his brothers, opening for R&B stars like Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sam and Dave, The Temptations, and James Brown, who, along with Jackie Wilson, inspired many of Michael's dance moves.

Jackson's earliest inspiration, however, came from his musically-inclined mother, Katherine, and guitarist father, Joseph, who constantly led their children into singing. The brothers - Tito, Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael, the youngest - soon moulded themselves into a tightly knit unit called The Jackson 5 and were befriended by the established Motown star Diana Ross.

Following their introduction to a national audience by Ross on the ABC variety programme 'The Hollywood Palace' in late 1969 and a few talent show successes, the group came to the attention of Motown Recording Company's boss Berry Gordy at the turn of the decade.

The history began to unfold.

The group's debut album for Motown in 1970 was dedicated to their mentor, Diana Ross. Appropriately, it was titled Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. Featuring Michael's dynamic, soaring soprano lead, their first number-one hit, I Want You Back - from the album - sold two million copies.

 

Chart-topping singles

 

It was historic that the group's first four Motown singles, The Love You Save, I'll Be There, ABC and I Want You Back, all topped the charts. On the last cut, Jackson proved that his status as a child prodigy and a talented singer was beyond doubt, when he sang the lyrics:

"When I had you to myself, I didn't want you around

Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd

But someone picked you from the bunch, one glance was all it took

Now it's much too late for me to take a second look

Oh baby, give me one more chance

(To show you that I love you)"

With Michael dominating the lead singing role and gradually emerging as the group's star, The Jackson 5's hit-making run continued in the early 1970s with Never Can Say Goodbye (number two on the US Billboard top 100 and number one on the US Cashbox top 100 in 1971); Mama's Pearl (number two on Billboard Top 100 in 1971); Maybe Tomorrow (number 20 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1971); and Sugar Daddy (number three on the US R&B charts in 1971).

Little Bitty Pretty One was number 13 on the US Billboard chart and second on the US R&B singles chart in 1972, with Dancing Machine (number one on the US Billboard hot 100 and number one on the US Cashbox charts in 1974), and I am in Love (number 15, US R&B in 1975) following.

Although not totally separating himself from the group, Michael had a string of solo hits in the early 1970s. This was precipitated by Motown's desire to capitalise on the three brothers' individual talents. Outselling Jackie and Jermaine, Michael had the classic soul ballads Got To Be There, One Day in Your Life, Happy, I Wanna Be Where You Are and the 1972 million-selling US Billboard number-one hit Ben - a paean to a rat from a movie of the same name.

However, in the midst of this success, friction was developing between Michael's father, Joseph (who remained nominally their manager), and Gordy over artistic control. Frustrated that they were not being given a free hand in writing their own songs or playing instruments, the brothers left Motown in 1975 for a more lucrative contract with CBS/Epic. Motown won US$600,000 in damages for breach of contract and also retained the Jackson 5 name.

Finally permitted to produce their own recordings, Michael Jackson's developing talent was showcased on the 1979 chart-topping disco record Shake Your Body Down to the Ground. A year earlier, he had made his acting debut in the film The Wiz, where he played alongside Diana Ross.

 

Quincy Jones

 

It was during the filming that Michael Jackson met Quincy Jones, who was to play a major role as his producer in the coming years. Under Jones' guidance, Jackson became the first solo artiste to release four top 10 hits from a single album - Off The Wall in 1979. It contained the massive hits Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, Rock With You, Off The Wall, and She's Out of My Life.

His next major work was the album Thriller, recorded for the CBS/Epic syndicate in 1982. With sales exceeding 45 million copies, it became the biggest-selling record album in history, charting at number one in several countries.

Jackson's album Bad, released five years later and which contained the hits The Way You Make me Feel, Man in the Mirror, and Dirty Diana, also created a great impact, with sales of close to 25 million copies, a figure that later rose.

Under a new production team, Jackson's 1991 album, Dangerous, featured the hits Gone Too Soon, Heal The World, and Black and White.

Jackson's dance moves have mesmerised audiences worldwide. Some that were borrowed from artistes like James Brown and Jackie Wilson were tailored to become uniquely his. In his Moonwalk dance, for example, the dancer glides backwards while appearing to walk forward. Jackson also drove audiences to ecstasy with other dance moves like The Crotch Grab, The Spin, The Toe Stance, and The Shuffle.

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