The 1980s brought fame and fortune to the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson, but with stardom came a barrage of tabloid rumors mixed with Jackson’s own bizarre behavior.
British tabloids dubbed him "Wacko Jacko" and Jackson began to look the part, in what appeared to be an obsession to alter his face through plastic surgery. Loyal fans stuck by his side until multiple charges of pedophilia were reported and the King of Pop faced with doing real jail time.
Michael Jackson was born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He was seventh of nine brothers and sisters born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson. Joseph Jackson was a strict disciplinarian and had the reputation for bullying his children into the music business. In 1962 Joseph organized a family band made up of his children, Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, and Marlon. Michael joined the group at age five when it was discovered that he could imitate the dance steps of James Brown and had a distinct singing voice.
The Jackson 5 Sign with Motown:
Joseph scheduled a strict regimentation for Michael and his brothers. Relentless hours of practice left very little time to do normal kid activities. By the age of 10 Michael was the lead vocalist for the now dubbed, Jackson 5, and the group signed up with Motown Records. Their fame was growing quickly and by 1969 the Jackson 5 were a success, with their first four singles "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There" hitting number one by 1970, a first in pop history.
Toward the end of 1972, Jackson did a solo for the movie, Ben, and it became a number-one hit. But the next few years for the Jackson 5 were stagnant and by 1975 the group left Motown, changed the group name to the Jacksons, and signed to Epic.
In 1977 Michael starred in The Wiz, an all black version of the Wizard of Oz, starring Diana Ross. Rumors circulated that Jackson enjoyed playing the roll of the Strawman so much that he wore his costume home. Although the movie was a flop, it allowed Jackson to work with Quincy Jones, and eventually led to Jones producing Jackson's first solo album "Off the Wall." The album went platinum and eventually sold over seven-million copies, and launched Jackson's career into stardom.
Eight Grammys in One Night:
In 1982 Quincy Jones produced another Jackson album, Thriller, which became the biggest hit in history with sales reaching 53 million copies and spawned many hit singles. Along with the music, Jackson produced a 14-minute video with a start, middle, and an ending and included professional dance routines, revolutionizing music videos. Songs from Thriller and for his narrative for the 'ET Storybook' resulted in Jackson winning eight Grammy awards in a single night, another industry record.
Moonwalk and White Sequined Gloves:
In May 1982, during the televised 25th anniversary of Motown, Michael Jackson performed his version of the "moonwalk" dance which quickly became his signature along side his one white-sequined glove. By now, the popular music television station MTV was showing Michael Jackson's videos continuously. Previous to that time MTV was reluctant to give any televised time to black entertainers.
Pepsi Hires Jackson:
By 1983 Michael Jackson was the hottest pop star around. He was hired as a spokesman by Pepsi and did a sequence of elaborate commercials. During 1984 he went on tour with his brothers to promote the Jackson album, Victory. During the tour he suffered an accident on stage that resulted in third degree burns. Plastic surgery was required to help restore his appearance.
Tabloid Rumors Run Rampant:
Tabloid rumors became rampant as Jackson's fame grew. It was rumored that Jackson had paid top dollar for the bones of John Merrick, the Elephant Man; that to maintain his high-pitched voice he was taking hormone treatments; and to keep his youthful appearance he slept in a hyperbaric chamber. When rumors came out that he bleached his skin to make him look whiter and altered his nose for the album "Thriller" some felt Jackson was denying his ancestral past. Jackson later said he suffered from vitiligo, a skin disorder which effects the skin's pigmentation, causing large white blotches to appear.
Michael Jackson's Looks Change:
In 1987 the album "Bad" was released and along with came a significantly different looking Michael Jackson. Soon to turn 30, Michael appeared to have gone through dramatic facial surgeries, changing not just his facial features, but his jaw line and skin color which by now was almost a pale white. His nose seemed to vanish into the paleness of his skin, and his eyes looked almost one-dimensional, and void of the normal surrounding skin.
His Autobiography: In 1988 Michael wrote his first autobiography and disclosed episodes during his childhood and in his relationship with his unyielding father that was abusive in nature. By the end of the 1980s, Michael was crowned, "Artist of the Decade," for his 'Thriller' and 'Bad' albums.
Jackson Goes On Hiatus: During this time, Jackson was taking a hiatus between albums and living at his 2,600 acre ranch in Santa Ynez, California, named "Neverland" after the magical kingdom featured in the story Peter Pan. Neverland contained a small zoo and amusement park and children (especially sick children) would be invited to spend a day at the park. His extraordinary behavior was becoming more bizarre, so much so that the British tabloids dubbed him "Wacko Jacko."
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