An infinitely talented artist who sang to his own tune and broke down racial barriers for future generations, Michael Jackson was undoubtedly The King of Pop.
Michael Jackson is as famous for the strange antics and accusations of his later life as he is for the incredible music career he had. Rising from severe childhood abuse to become arguably the world’s biggest star, Jackson lived with a laser focus on fame through music and dance. While he credited his father with his drive for success, he also admitted that his childhood abuse made him self-conscience and unhappy later in life.
In addition to surviving childhood trauma, Michael Jackson struggled with countless medical issues including vitiligo which caused skin bleaching controversy, severe scalp burns from an ad mishap, and drug addiction resulting from the painkillers that helped him get through his various injuries. Tragically, his reliance on pharmaceutical drugs ultimately cost him his life when his personal physician administered a fatal combination of sedatives as part of his nighttime pharmaceutical routine to enable him to sleep without nightmares.
The King may not be alive but his music still lives on, inspiring his fans every day.
In honour of the late icon’s birthday on 29 August, we remember his legacy by looking back at the bizarre and iconic moments in his legendary career.
Michael Jackson’s bizarre Moments
- Cosmetic Surgery
In 1979, Michael Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty surgery was not a complete success; he complained of breathing difficulties that would affect his career. He was referred to Dr. Steven Hoefflin, who performed Jackson’s second rhinoplasty in 1981 and other subsequent operations.
Over time, Jackson’s facial structure changed . Surgeons speculated he also had a forehead lift, cheekbone surgery and altered his lips. Those close to the singer estimated that, by 1990, he had undergone around ten procedures.
However, In 1993, the popstar stated that he only had two cosmetic operations, on his nose and chin, done for medical reasons. He also wrote in his autobiography Moonwalk that, in addition to the two rhinoplasties, he also had a dimple created in his chin. Though, his extreme physical transformation suggests that he’s had more than just two.
- Bad Debts
After pouring out enormous quantities of money in defending himself in the various lawsuits against him, reports of financial problems for Michael Jackson became frequent in 2006. His main house on the Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure. One prominent financial issue for him concerned a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings. After delayed repayments on the loan, a refinancing package shifted the loans from Bank of America to debt specialists Fortress Investments.
A forensic accountant, William R. Ackerman, alleged Michael Jackson was forced to pay annual debt payments of $30 million.
According to Ackerman, Jackson owed $30 million in 1993, a figure that grew to $140 million by 1998. From June 2001 through June 2009, Jackson’s debt increased by about $170 million. When he died, Jackson owed $400 million to $500 million. Ackerman explained, that his money went to interest from the debt he’d acquired, along with lavish expenses.
Michael Jackson purchased the Neverland estate in 1988. It was Jackson’s home as well as his private amusement park, with numerous artistic garden statues. There was also a Ferris wheel, Carousel, Zipper, Octopus, Pirate Ship, Wave Swinger, Super Slide, roller coaster, bumper cars, and an amusement arcade. The master closet also contained a secret safe room for security. It was named after Neverland, the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan, where children never grow up.
On February 25, 2008, Jackson received word from Financial Title Company, the trustee, that unless he paid off $24,525,906.61 by March 19, a public auction would go forward of the land, buildings, and other items such as the rides, trains, and art.
On May 12, 2008, a foreclosure auction for the ranch was cancelled after an investment company, Colony Capital LLC, purchased the loan. Jackson was in default on the $24.5 million owed on the 2,500-acre (10 km2) property. In a press release, Jackson stated, “I am pleased with recent developments involving Neverland Ranch and I am in discussions with Colony and Tom Barrack with regard to the Ranch and other matters that would allow me to focus on the future.”
Neverland Ranch has a central role in the allegations against Jackson of child sexual abuse ; it is one of the main sites where Jackson’s accusers have said the sexual abuse took place.
On November 10, 2008, Jackson transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, LLC, and neighbors reported immediate activity on the property, including the amusement rides being trucked along the highway.
As of 2020, the ranch is co-owned by Colony Capital and the Estate of Michael Jackson, and is on and off again for sale. It is reported that Colony uses it as an investor retreat and to entertain celebrities.
- Balcony Baby
In 2002, Michael Jackson astonished onlookers in Berlin when he dangled his nine-month-old son over a fifth floor of the balcony of Hotel Adlon. After walking out on to the balcony to greet fans, the singer lifted his youngest child, Prince Michael II, over the railing and dangled him for a few seconds, causing widespread criticism in the media.
Jackson later apologized for the incident, saying he “got caught up in the moment” and vowing that he “would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.”
Ironically, he was in Berlin to accept an award for his charity work on behalf of children.
- Child Abuse
In the summer of 1993, Los Angeles dentist and screenwriter Evan Chandler publicly accused American singer Michael Jackson of sexually abusing his 13-year-old son, Jordan Christopher “Jordy” Chandler. The Chandlers filed a lawsuit against Jackson for sexual battery, seduction, willful misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence
In January 1994, Jackson reached a financial settlement for $23 million with the Chandlers. In September 1994, the criminal investigation was closed after the Chandlers declined to cooperate, leaving the case without its main witness. Ten years later, Jackson faced the most controversial scandal of his life.
In 2003, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit a child sexual abuse felony against Gavin Arvizo, who was under 14 at the time. Earlier that year, a Granada Television documentary, called Living with Michael Jackson, showed the pop star holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with Arvizo. Jackson denied these allegations, saying that the sleepovers were in no way sexual in nature.
The sensational trial kicked off in spring 2005 in Santa Maria, Calif. It was a circus from the start; thousands of fans traveled to the courthouse to support the entertainer. Among the more than 130 witnesses called to testify was former child star Macauley Culkin, who had spent time at Neverland Ranch. In June 2005, after some 30 hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Jackson of all charges.
Though, Jackson was found not guilty, this ultimately ended his music career.
Michael Jackson’s iconic moments
- Jackson 5
Because adult Michael Jackson ruled the 80s so dominantly, it’s easy to forget that the adorable pre-teen Michael Jackson was a Motown sensation in the 70s. A child prodigy with cheerful charisma and natural dance talent, Jackson and his four brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon made up one of the biggest pop acts of the 1970s. With four singles hitting the top of the Billboard charts, the Jackson 5 were among the first black groups to appeal to a racially diverse audience.
Their first single, “I Want You Back,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts by January 1970. Their next three singles all reached No. 1 as well, making the Jackson 5 the first musical act in history to achieve such a feat. Michael launched a solo career in 1971 with the hit “Got to Be There,” and while he continued to perform with his brothers, it was already clear that the other Jacksons needed the precocious teenager more than he needed them. The group’s fortunes dwindled through the early 1970s, and Michael left the group after the 1984 Victory tour.
The 14-minute long, John Landis-directed music video was incredibly choreographed, slightly terrifying and unforgettable overall, but the album itself, Thriller, defined a generation.
The album Thriller reinvented all standards of commercial pop success. Released on November 30, 1982, it debuted at No. 1, containing seven top 10 hits on Billboard Hot 100, including the rock-driven cautionary tale “Beat It” and the plaintive “Billie Jean,” as well as the spooky but danceable title track, Thriller.
The album made Michael Jackson the first artist to win eight Grammy Awards in one night. Thriller stayed at the top of the charts for 37 weeks, which was a first, and though its position waned, it shot back to No. 1 when its ghoulish video was released a year later. The video’s unison zombie dance still inspires mass groups to try the choreography, and the album continues to be the world’s best-selling album with estimated sales of at least 66 million, according to the Guinness World Records, though some estimates set the number much higher.
- Motown 25
On May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson changed the course of dancing and music choreography altogether.
During his appearance on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special, the singer reunited with his older brothers for an energetic Jackson 5 medley. It was their first time performing together in more than eight years.
The comeback performance was followed by a blazing hot rendition of Jackson’s timeless classic, Billie Jean. At the time, Billie Jean was brand new and Jackson was at the height of his career.
Jackson stunned the world with the moonwalk, the backward gliding step he adapted from street dance. Though the moonwalk had been seen on the streets, Jackson polished the move and raised it to a sharper level, adding on his spin and toe-stand as flourish. The moonwalk became a signature and a generation-defining dance move. His slick and seemingly unreal dance moves wowed the world and became a staple in his live performances for the rest of his life.
The choreography, however, was incomplete without Jackson’s iconic outfit that night. He took the stage with a black fedora, sequin jacket and debuted his one crystal-embellished white glove. According to CNN, Jackson’s glove was made by a friend so that he could hide his vitiligo, a rare skin condition that the singer supposedly had.
So many kids wanted to imitate Jackson’s style that by 1984 a New Jersey high school had banned students from wearing a single white glove.
The legendary glove sold at a 2009 memorabilia auction for US$350,000 according to Reuters.
- Pepsi commercial incident
While the event may not have been a glamorous moment for Michael Jackson, it was one that changed his life.
On Jan. 27, 1984 while filming for an upcoming Pepsi commercial, Jackson suffered second-degree burns to his scalp after being set on fire by faulty pyrotechnics. Unfortunately, the singer was not aware his hair was on fire until it reached his scalp directly.
A team of people ran to Jackson and tackled him to the ground as he spun around to help extinguish the flames. He emerged with a bald patch on his head and was rushed to The singer was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles immediately.
This incident marked the beginning of long-lasting pain and a subsequent addiction to painkillers, as reported by the CBC.
- Super Bowl XXVII halftime show
The 27th annual Super Bowl took place on Jan. 31, 1993 and saw the Buffalo Bills take on the Dallas Cowboys.
Until 1993, halftime entertainment was corny, mostly lead by marching bands. In the hopes of promoting Super Bowl XXVII, the NFL invited Michael Jackson to perform as the headlining act for its highly anticipated halftime show, and their plan worked.
In the midst of the game, Jackson burst out of the centre of the Rose Bowl arena in Pasadena, California, and left the nearly 100,000-person crowd in a frenzy for almost two minutes while he stood as still as a stone.
The singer then broke out into song and dance. His fantastically choreographed medley featured cuts from Jam, Billie Jean, Black or White, Heal the World and the 1985 USA for Africa single, We Are the World — which was backed by a choir made up of nearly 3,500 children.
The 12-minute performance pulled an estimated 133.4 million viewers, according to the Washington Post, setting a brand-new record for the Super Bowl and inspiring the 26 years of halftime shows that followed.
Sources: Wikipedia. Biography.com. Time.com