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Michael Jackson in 1988.jpg
Jackson performing in 1988 during Bad world tour
Born Michael Joseph Jackson
August 29, 1958
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
Died June 25, 2009 (aged 50)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.
Residence Los Olivos, California, U.S.
Other names Michael Joe Jackson
Singer songwriter dancer actor record producer businessman philanthropist
Net worth Increase U.S. $1.178 billion (2009 estimate)
Religion Jehovah's Witness (1965–1987)
Lisa Marie Presley
(m. 1994–1996; divorced)
Deborah Jeanne Rowe
(m. 1996–1999; divorced)
Children Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr.
Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson
Prince Michael Jackson II
Parent(s) Joseph Walter Jackson
Katherine Esther Scruse
Pop dance-pop R&B disco post-disco rock new jack swing
Years active 1964–2009
Steeltown Motown Epic Legacy MJJ Productions
Associated acts The Jackson 5
Signature Michael Jackson's signature
Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actor. Called the King of Pop, his contributions to music and dance, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.
The eighth child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971. In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Thriller", were credited with breaking down racial barriers and with transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then-relatively-new television channel MTV to fame. With videos such as "Black or White" and "Scream", he continued to innovate the medium throughout the 1990s, as well as forging a reputation as a touring solo artist. Through stage and video performances, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive sound and style has influenced numerous hip hop, post-disco, contemporary R&B, pop, and rock artists.
Jackson's 1982 album Thriller is the best selling album of all time. His other albums, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world's best selling albums. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame as the first and only dancer from pop and rock music. His other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; 26 American Music Awards, more than any other artist, including the "Artist of the Century" and "Artist of the 1980s"; 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career, more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era; and the estimated sale of over 400 million records worldwide.[Note 1] Jackson has won hundreds of awards, making him the most awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. Jackson became the first artist in history to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades when "Love Never Felt So Good" reached number nine on May 21, 2014. Jackson traveled the world attending events honoring his humanitarianism and in 2000, the Guinness World Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities, more than any other entertainer.
Aspects of Jackson's personal life, including his changing appearance, personal relationships, and behavior, generated controversy. In the mid-1990s, he was accused of child sexual abuse, but the civil case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and no formal charges were brought. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges after the jury found him not guilty on all counts. While preparing for his comeback concert series titled This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide, and his personal physician Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson's death triggered a global outpouring of grief and a live broadcast of his public memorial service was viewed around the world.
1 Life and career
1.1 1958–75: Early life and The Jackson 5
1.2 1975–81: Move to Epic and Off the Wall
1.3 1982–83: Thriller and Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
1.4 1984–85: Pepsi, "We Are the World", and business career
1.5 1986–90: Appearance, tabloids, Bad, films, autobiography, and Neverland
1.6 1991–93: Dangerous, Heal the World Foundation, and Super Bowl XXVII
1.7 1993–94: First child sexual abuse allegations and first marriage
1.8 1995–99: HIStory, second marriage, and fatherhood
1.9 2000–03: Label dispute and Invincible
1.10 2003–05: Second child sexual abuse allegations and acquittal
1.11 2006–09: Closure of Neverland, final years, and This Is It
2 Death and memorial
3.2 Musical themes and genres
3.3 Vocal style
3.4 Music videos and choreography
4 Legacy and influence
5 Honors and awards
6 Earnings and wealth
7 U.S. Federal estate tax problems
11 See also
14 External links
Life and career
1958–75: Early life and The Jackson 5
The single-storey house has white walls, two windows, a central white door with a black door frame, and a black roof. In front of the house there is a walk way and multiple colored flowers and memorabilia.
Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana, showing floral tributes after his death
Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958. He was the eighth of ten children in an African-American working-class family who lived in a two-bedroom house in Gary, Indiana, an industrial city and a part of the Chicago metropolitan area. His mother, Katherine Esther Scruse, was a devout Jehovah's Witness. She once aspired to be a country and western performer who played clarinet and piano, but worked part-time at Sears to help support the family. His father, Joseph Walter "Joe" Jackson, a former boxer, was a steelworker at U.S. Steel. Joe also performed on guitar with a local R&B band called The Falcons to supplement the family's household income. Michael grew up with three sisters (Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet) and five brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy). A sixth brother, Marlon's elder twin Brandon, died shortly after birth.
Jackson had a troubled relationship with his father, Joe. In 2003, Joe acknowledged that he regularly whipped Jackson as a boy. Joe was also said to have verbally abused his son, often saying that he had a "fat nose". Jackson stated that he was physically and emotionally abused during incessant rehearsals, though he also credited his father's strict discipline with playing a large role in his success. Speaking openly about his childhood in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast in February 1993, Jackson acknowledged that his youth had been lonely and isolating. Jackson's deep dissatisfaction with his appearance, his nightmares and chronic sleep problems, his tendency to remain hyper-compliant, especially with his father, and to remain childlike throughout his adult life, are consistent with the effects of the maltreatment he endured as a young child.
In an interview with Martin Bashir, later included in the 2003 broadcast of Living with Michael Jackson, Jackson acknowledged that his father hurt him when he was a child, recalling that Joseph often sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, and that "if you didn't do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you."
Jackson (center) as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1972
In 1965, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers—a band formed by their father and which included brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine—as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine. In 1966, Jackson began sharing lead vocals with his older brother Jermaine, and the group's name was changed to The Jackson 5. That following year, the group won a major local talent show with Jackson performing James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)". From 1966 to 1968 the band toured the Midwest, frequently performing at a string of black clubs known as the "chitlin' circuit" as the opening act for R&B artists that included Sam and Dave, The O'Jays, Gladys Knight, and Etta James. The Jackson 5 also performed at clubs and cocktail lounges, where striptease shows and other adult acts were featured, and at local auditoriums and high school dances. In August 1967, while touring the East coast, the group won a weekly amateur night concert at The Apollo Theater in Harlem.
The Jackson 5 recorded several songs, including "Big Boy" (1968), their first single, for Steeltown Records, a Gary, Indiana, record label, before signing with Motown Records in 1969. The Jackson 5 left Gary in 1969 and relocated to the Los Angeles area, where they continued to record music for Motown. Rolling Stone magazine later described the young Michael as "a prodigy" with "overwhelming musical gifts," writing that he "quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer." The group set a chart record when its first four singles—"I Want You Back" (1969), "ABC" (1970), "The Love You Save" (1970), and "I'll Be There" (1970)—peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In May 1971, the Jackson family moved into a large home on two-acre estate in Encino, California, where Michael evolved from child performer into a teen idol. As Jackson began to emerge as a solo performer in the early 1970s, he continued to maintain ties to The Jackson 5 and Motown. Between 1972, when his solo career began, and 1975, Michael released four solo studio albums with Motown: Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music and Me (1973), and Forever, Michael (1975). "Got to Be There" and "Ben", the title tracks from his first two solo albums, produced successful singles, as did a remake of Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin".
The Jackson 5 were later described as "a cutting-edge example of black crossover artists." Although the group's sales began declining in 1973, and the band members chafed under Motown's refusal to allow them creative control or input, they continued to score several top 40 hits, including the top five single, "Dancing Machine" (1974), before the group left Motown in 1975.
1975–81: Move to Epic and Off the Wall
In June 1975, the Jackson 5 signed with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records, and renamed themselves the Jacksons. Younger brother Randy formally joined the band around this time, while Jermaine chose to stay with Motown and pursue a solo career. The Jacksons continued to tour internationally, and released six more albums between 1976 and 1984. Michael, the group's lead songwriter during this time, wrote hits such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (1979), "This Place Hotel" (1980), and "Can You Feel It" (1980). Jackson's work in film began in 1978, when he starred as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, a musical directed by Sidney Lumet that also starred Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, and Ted Ross. The film was a box-office disaster. While working on the film Jackson met Quincy Jones, who was arranging the film's musical score, and Jones agreed to produce Jackson's next solo album, Off the Wall. In 1979, Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance routine. His subsequent rhinoplasty 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 and subsequent operations.
Off the Wall (1979), which Jones and Jackson co-produced, established Jackson as a solo performer. The album helped Jackson transition from the "bubblegum pop" of his youth to the more complex sounds he would create as an adult. Songwriters for the album included Jackson, Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney. Off the Wall was the first solo album to generate four top 10 hits in the United States: "Off the Wall", "She’s Out of My Life", and the chart-topping singles "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You". The album reached number three on the Billboard 200 and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In 1980, Jackson won three awards at the American Music Awards for his solo efforts: Favorite Soul/R&B Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". He also won Billboard Year-End awards for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album, and a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for 1979 with "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". In 1981 Jackson was the American Music Awards winner for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. Despite its commercial success, Jackson felt Off the Wall should have made a much bigger impact, and was determined to exceed expectations with his next release. In 1980, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry: 37 percent of wholesale album profit.
1982–83: Thriller and Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
In 1982 Jackson combined his interests in songwriting and film when he contributed the song "Someone In the Dark" to the storybook for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The song, with Quincy Jones as its producer, won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children for 1983. Even more success came after the release of Thriller 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.
"Thriller" was the best-selling album worldwide in 1983. It 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. The album 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 March 2009 Thriller was certified for 29 million shipments by the RIAA, giving it Double Diamond status 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. "Beat It" won Record of the Year, with Jackson as artist and Jones as co-producer, and a Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, award for Jackson. "Billie Jean" won Jackson two Grammy awards, Best R&B Song, with Jackson as its songwriter, and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, as its artist. Thriller also won another Grammy for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1984, awarding Bruce Swedien for his work on the album. The AMA Awards for 1984 provided Jackson with an Award of Merit and AMAs for Favorite Male Artist, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Male Artist, Pop/Rock. "Beat It" won Jackson AMAs for Favorite Video, Soul/R&B, Favorite Video, Pop/Rock, and Favorite Single, Pop/Rock. Thriller won him AMAs for Favorite Album, Soul/R&B, and Favorite Album, Pop/Rock.
In addition to the award-winning album, Jackson released "Thriller", a fourteen-minute music video short directed by John Landis, in 1983. It "defined music videos and broke racial barriers" on the Music Television Channel (MTV), a fledgling entertainment television channel at the time. In December 2009, the Library of Congress selected music video for "Thriller" for inclusion in the National Film Registry. It was one of twenty-five films named that year as "works of enduring importance to American culture" that would be "preserved for all time." The zombie-themed "Thriller" is the first and, as of 2009, the only music video to be inducted into the registry.
Jackson's attorney John Branca noted that Jackson had the highest royalty rate in the music industry at that point: approximately $2 for every album sold. He was also making record-breaking profits from sales of his recordings. The videocassette of the documentary The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller sold over 350,000 copies in a few months. The era saw the arrival of novelties like dolls modeled after Michael Jackson, which appeared in stores in May 1984 at a price of $12. Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that, "Thriller stopped selling like a leisure item—like a magazine, a toy, tickets to a hit movie—and started selling like a household staple." In 1985, The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Longform. Time described Jackson's influence at that point as "Star of records, radio, rock video. A one-man rescue team for the music business. A songwriter who sets the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on the street. A singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style and color too". The New York Times wrote that, "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else".
A defining point in Jackson's career took place on March 25, 1983, when Michael reunited with his brothers for a legendary live performance, which was taped at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, for Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, an NBC television special. The show aired on May 16, 1983, to an estimated audience of 47 million viewers, and featured the Jacksons and other Motown stars. The show is best remembered for Jackson's solo performance of "Billie Jean", which earned Jackson his first Emmy nomination. Wearing a distinctive black-sequined jacket and a golf glove decorated with rhinestones, he debuted his signature dance move, the moonwalk, which former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniel had taught him three years earlier. Jackson originally turned down the invitation to perform at the show, believing he had been doing too much television at the time. However at the request of Berry Gordy, Jackson relented and agreed to perform at the show in exchange for time to do a solo performance. According to Rolling Stones reporter Mikal Gilmore, "There are times when you know you are hearing or seeing something extraordinary...that came that night." Jackson's performance drew comparisons to Elvis Presley's and The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times later wrote, "The moonwalk that he made famous is an apt metaphor for his dance style. How does he do it? As a technician, he is a great illusionist, a genuine mime. His ability to keep one leg straight as he glides while the other bends and seems to walk requires perfect timing." Berry Gordy said of the performance, "from the first beat of Billie Jean, I was mesmerized, and when he did his iconic moonwalk, I was shocked, it was magic, Michael Jackson went into orbit, and never came down."
1984–85: Pepsi, "We Are the World", and business career
By the mid-1980s Jackson's award-winning musical career contributed to his commercial appeal, which proved to be substantial. In November 1983 Jackson, along with his brothers, partnered with PepsiCo in a $5 million promotional deal that broke advertising industry records for a celebrity endorsement. The first Pepsi campaign, which ran in the United States from 1983 to 1984 and launched its "New Generation" theme, included advertising, tour sponsorship, public relations events, and in-store displays. Jackson, who was actively involved in creating the iconic Pepsi advertisement, suggested using his song, "Billie Jean", as its musical jingle with a revised chorus. According a Billboard report in 2009, Brian J. Murphy, executive VP of branded management at TBA Global, commented, "You couldn’t separate the tour from the endorsement from the licensing of the music, and then the integration of the music into the Pepsi fabric."
On January 27, 1984, Michael and other members of the Jacksons filmed a Pepsi Cola commercial that was overseen by executive Phil Dusenberry, a BBDO ad agency executive, and Alan Pottasch, Pepsi's Worldwide Creative Director, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In front of a full house of fans during a simulated concert, pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson's hair on fire, causing second-degree burns to his scalp. Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars on his scalp, and had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter. Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated his $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California. Its Michael Jackson Burn Center is named in his honor. Dusenberry later recounted the episode in his memoir, Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising. Jackson signed a second agreement with Pepsi in the late 1980s for a reported $10 million. The second campaign had a global reach to more than twenty countries and provided financial support for Jackson's Bad album and his world tour in 1987–88. Although Jackson had endorsements and advertising deals with other companies, such as L.A. Gear, Suzuki, and Sony, none were as significant as his deals with Pepsi, which later signed other music stars such as Britney Spears and Beyoncé to promote its products.
President Reagan wearing a suit and tie stands at a podium and turns to smile at Mrs Reagan, who is wearing a white outfit, and Jackson, who is wearing a white shirt with a blue jacket and a yellow strap across his chest.
Jackson at the White House being presented with an award by President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, 1984
Jackson’s humanitarian work was recognized on May 14, 1984, when he was invited to the White House to receive an award from President Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse, and in recognition of his support for the Ad Council's and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Drunk Driving Prevention campaign. Jackson donated the use of "Beat It" for the campaign's public service announcements.
Unlike later albums, Thriller did not have an official tour to promote it, but the Victory Tour of 1984 headlined The Jacksons and showcased much of Jackson's new solo material to more than two million Americans. It was the last tour he would do with his brothers. Following a controversy over the concert's ticket sales, Jackson held a press conference and announced that he would donate his share of the proceeds from the Victory Tour, an estimated $3 to 5 million, to charity. Jackson's charitable work and humanitarian awards continued with the release of "We Are the World" (1985), which he co-wrote with Lionel Richie. Released worldwide in March 1985 to aid the poor in the United States and Africa, the song earned $63 million for famine relief, and became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold. "We Are the World" won four Grammys for 1985, including Song of the Year going to Jackson and Richie as its co-songwriters. Although the American Music Award directors removed the charity song from the competition because they felt it would be inappropriate, the AMA show in 1986 concluded with a tribute to the song in honor of its first anniversary. (The song was recorded on January 28, 1985). The project's creators received two special AMA honors: one for the creation of the song and another for the USA for Africa idea. Jackson, Quincy Jones, and entertainment promoter Ken Kragan received special awards for their roles in creation of the song.
Jackson's financial interests in the music publishing business expanded after collaborating with Paul McCartney in the early 1980s. He subsequently learned that McCartney made approximately $40 million a year from other people's songs. By 1983 Jackson had begun investing in publishing rights to songs that others had written, but he was careful with his acquisitions, only bidding on a few of the dozens that were offered to him. Jackson’s early acquisitions of music catalogs and song copyrights such as the Sly Stone collection included "Everyday People" (1968), Len Barry's "1–2–3" (1965), and Dion DiMucci's "The Wanderer" (1961) and "Runaround Sue" (1961); however, Jackson's most significant purchase came in 1985, when he acquired the publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing after months of negotiation. ATV had acquired the publishing rights to nearly 4000 songs, including the Northern Songs catalog that contained the majority of the Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded by The Beatles.
In 1984, Robert Holmes à Court, the wealthy Australian investor who owned ATV Music Publishing, announced he was putting the ATV catalog up for sale. In 1981, McCartney was offered the ATV music catalog for £20 million ($40 million). According to McCartney, he contacted Yoko Ono about making a joint purchase by splitting the cost at £10 million each, but Ono thought they could buy it for £5 million each. When they were unable to make a joint purchase, McCartney, who did not want to be the sole owner of the Beatles' songs, did not pursue an offer on his own. According to a negotiator for Holmes à Court in the 1984 sale, "We had given Paul McCartney first right of refusal but Paul didn't want it at that time."
Jackson was first informed about the sale by his attorney, John Branca, in September 1984. An attorney for McCartney also assured Branca that McCartney was not interested in bidding. McCartney reportedly said "It's too pricey", but several other companies and investors were interested in bidding. Jackson submitted a bid of $46 million on November 20, 1984. His agents thought they had a deal several times, but encountered new bidders or new areas of debate. In May 1985, Jackson's team walked away from talks after having spent more than $1 million and four months of due diligence work on the negotiations. In June 1985 Jackson and Branca learned that Charles Koppelman's and Marty Bandier's The Entertainment Company had made a tentative agreement with Holmes à Court to buy ATV Music for $50 million; however, in early August, Holmes à Court's team contacted Jackson and talks resumed. Jackson raised his bid to $47.5 million, which was accepted because he could close the deal more quickly, having already completed due diligence of ATV Music. Jackson also agreed to visit Holmes à Court in Australia, where he would appear on the Channel Seven Perth Telethon. Jackson's purchase of ATV Music was finalized on August 10, 1985.
1986–90: Appearance, tabloids, Bad, films, autobiography, and Neverland
See also: Michael Jackson's health and appearance
Jackson's skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid-1980s, it gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he might be bleaching his skin. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli's biography, in 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo which Taroberrelli noted, may be a consequence of skin bleaching. Taraborelli claimed Jackson was diagnosed with lupus; the vitiligo partially lightened his skin, and the lupus was in remission; both illnesses made him sensitive to sunlight. The treatments he used for his condition further lightened his skin tone, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear very pale. Jackson was also diagnosed with vitiligo in his autopsy though not with lupus.
Jackson claimed that he had only two rhinoplasties and no other surgery on his face, although at one point he mentioned having a dimple created in his chin. Jackson lost weight in the early 1980s because of a change in diet and a desire for "a dancer's body". Witnesses reported that he was often dizzy and speculated that he was suffering from anorexia nervosa; periods of weight loss would become a recurring problem later in life.
During the course of his treatment, Jackson made two close friends: his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and Klein's nurse Debbie Rowe. Rowe eventually became Jackson's second wife and the mother of his two eldest children. He also relied heavily on Klein for medical and business advice.
Jackson became the subject of increasingly sensational reports. In 1986, the tabloids ran a story claiming that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process; he was pictured lying down in a glass box. Although the claim was untrue, according to tabloid reports that are widely cited, Jackson had disseminated the fabricated story himself. When Jackson bought a chimpanzee called Bubbles from a laboratory, he was reported to be increasingly detached from reality. It was reported that Jackson had offered to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick (the "elephant man") and although untrue, Jackson did not deny the story. Although initially he saw these stories as opportunities for publicity, he stopped leaking untruths to the press as they became more sensational. Consequently the media began making up their own stories. These reports became embedded in the public consciousness, inspiring the nickname "Wacko Jacko", which Jackson came to despise. Responding to the gossip, Jackson remarked to Taraborrelli:
Why not just tell people I'm an alien from Mars? Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They'll believe anything you say, because you're a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, "I'm an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight," people would say, "Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He's cracked up. You can't believe a single word that comes out of his mouth."
A black jacket with five round golden medals on its left and right shoulders, a gold band on its left arm sleeve, and two belt straps on the right bottom sleeve. Underneath the jacket is a golden belt, with a round ornament in its center.
Jackson wore a gold-plated military style jacket with belt during the Bad era
Jackson collaborated with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 17-minute 3-D film Captain EO, which debuted in September 1986 at both the original Disneyland and at EPCOT in Florida, and in March 1987 at Tokyo Disneyland. The $30 million movie was a popular attraction at all three parks. A Captain EO attraction was later featured at Euro Disneyland after that park opened in 1992. All four parks' Captain EO installations stayed open well into the 1990s: the Paris installation was the last one to close, in 1998. The attraction would later return to Disneyland in 2010 after Jackson's death.
In 1987, Jackson disassociated himself from the Jehovah's Witnesses, in response to their disapproval of the Thriller video. With the industry expecting another major hit, Jackson's first album in five years, Bad (1987), was highly anticipated. It did not top Thriller as a commercial or artistic triumph, but Bad was still a substantial success in its own right.
Jackson performing in 1988
The Bad album spawned seven hit singles in the U.S., five of which ("I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana") reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This was a record for most number one Hot 100 singles from any one album, including Thriller. Although the title track's video was arguably derivative of the video for the earlier single "Beat It", the "Bad" video still proved to be one of Jackson's iconic moments. It was a gritty but colorful epic set against the backdrop of the New York City Subway system, with costuming and choreography inspired by West Side Story. As of 2012, the album sold between 30 to 45 million copies worldwide. Thanks to the Bad album, Bruce Swedien, and Humberto Gatica won one Grammy in 1988 for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical and Michael Jackson won one Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for "Leave Me Alone" in 1989. In the same year, Jackson won an Award of Achievement at the American Music Awards because Bad is the first album ever to generate five number one singles in the U.S., the first album to top in 25 countries and the best-selling album worldwide in 1987 and in 1988. In 1988, "Bad" won an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single.
The Bad world tour began on September 12 that year, finishing on January 14, 1989. In Japan alone, the tour had 14 sellouts and drew 570,000 people, nearly tripling the previous record of 200,000 in a single tour. Jackson broke a Guinness World Record when 504,000 people attended seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium. He performed a total of 123 concerts to an audience of 4.4 million people. The Bad Tour turned out to be the last of Jackson's concert tours to include shows in the continental United States, although later tours did make it to Hawaii.
In 1988, Jackson released his only autobiography, Moonwalk, which took four years to complete and sold 200,000 copies. Jackson wrote about his childhood, The Jackson 5, and the abuse he had suffered. He also wrote about his facial appearance, saying he had had two rhinoplastic surgeries and a dimple created in his chin. He attributed much of the change in the structure of his face to puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a change in hair style, and stage lighting. Moonwalk reached the top position on The New York Times best sellers' list. The musician then released a film called Moonwalker, which featured live footage and short films that starred Jackson and Joe Pesci. The film was originally intended to be released to theaters, but due to financial issues, the film was released direct-to-video. It saw a theatrical release in Germany, though. It debuted atop the Billboard Top Music Video Cassette chart, staying there for 22 weeks. It was eventually knocked off the top spot by Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues.
In March 1988, Jackson purchased land near Santa Ynez, California, to build Neverland Ranch at a cost of $17 million. He installed several carnival rides on the 2,700-acre (11 km2) property including a Ferris wheel, a carousel and a menagerie, as well as a movie theater and a petting zoo. A security staff of 40 patrolled the grounds. In 2003, it was valued at approximately $100 million. In 1989, his annual earnings from album sales, endorsements, and concerts were estimated at $125 million for that year alone. Shortly afterwards, he became the first Westerner to appear in a television ad in the Soviet Union.
His success resulted in him being dubbed the "King of Pop". The nickname was popularized by Elizabeth Taylor when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, proclaiming him "the true king of pop, rock and soul." President George H.W. Bush designated him the White House's "Artist of the Decade". From 1985 to 1990, he donated $455,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity. Jackson's live rendition of "You Were There" at Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 60th birthday celebration allowed Jackson to receive his second Emmy nomination.
1991–93: Dangerous, Heal the World Foundation, and Super Bowl XXVII
In March 1991, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for $65 million, a record-breaking deal at the time, displacing Neil Diamond's renewal contract with Columbia Records. He released his eighth album, Dangerous, in 1991. The Dangerous album was co-produced with Teddy Riley, who convinced Michael to feature a rapper on his album for the first time. As of 2013, the album has shipped seven million copies in the U.S. and has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide. In the United States, the album's first single "Black or White" was its biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot; 100 and remaining there for seven weeks, with similar chart performances worldwide. The album's second single "Remember the Time" spent eight weeks in the top five in the United States, peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. At the end of 1992, Dangerous was awarded the best-selling album of the year worldwide and "Black or White" was awarded best-selling single of the year worldwide at the Billboard Music Awards. Additionally, he won an award as best-selling artist of the 1980s. In 1993, Jackson performed the song at the Soul Train Music Awards in a chair, saying he had suffered an injury in rehearsals. In the UK and other parts of Europe, "Heal the World" was the biggest hit from the album; it sold 450,000 copies in the UK and spent five weeks at number two in 1992.
Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation in 1992. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson's ranch to enjoy theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property. The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war, poverty, and disease. In the same year Jackson published his second book, the bestselling collection of poetry, Dancing the Dream. While it was a commercial success and revealed a more intimate side to Jackson's nature, the collection was mostly critically unacclaimed at the time of release. In 2009, the book was republished by Doubleday and was more positively received by some critics in the wake of Jackson's untimely death. The Dangerous World Tour grossed $100 million. The tour began on June 27, 1992, and finished on November 11, 1993. Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 70 concerts. He sold the broadcast rights to his Dangerous world tour to HBO for $20 million, a record-breaking deal that still stands.
Following the illness and death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, something that was still controversial at the time. He publicly pleaded with the Clinton Administration at Bill Clinton's Inaugural Gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research. In a high-profile visit to Africa, Jackson visited several countries, among them Gabon and Egypt. His first stop to Gabon was greeted with a sizable and enthusiastic reception of more than 100,000 people, some of them carrying signs that read, "Welcome Home Michael." In his trip to Côte d'Ivoire, Jackson was crowned "King Sani" by a tribal chief. He then thanked the dignitaries in French and English, signed official documents formalizing his kingship and sat on a golden throne while presiding over ceremonial dances.
In January 1993, Jackson made a memorable appearance at the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII. Because of dwindling interest during halftime in the years before, the NFL decided to seek big-name talent that would keep viewers and ratings high, with Jackson being selected because of his popularity and universal appeal. It was the first Super Bowl where the audience figures increased during the half-time show to more than the game itself. The performance began with Jackson catapulting onto the stage as fireworks went off behind him. As he landed on the canvas, he maintained a motionless "clenched fist, standing statue stance", dressed in a gold and black military outfit and sunglasses; he remained completely motionless for a minute and a half while the crowd cheered. He then slowly removed his sunglasses, threw them away and sang four songs: "Jam", "Billie Jean", "Black or White", and "Heal the World". Jackson's Dangerous album rose 90 places up the album chart.
In February 1993, Jackson was given the "Living Legend Award" at the 35th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. "Black or White" was Grammy-nominated for best vocal performance. "Jam" gained two nominations: Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. The Dangerous album won a Grammy for Best Engineered – Non Classical, awarding the work of Bruce Swedien and Teddy Riley. In the same year, Michael Jackson won three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album (Dangerous), Favorite Soul/R&B Single ("Remember the Time") and was the first to win the International Artist Award, for his global performances and humanitarian concerns. This award will bear his name in the future.
1993–94: First child sexual abuse allegations and first marriage
Main article: 1993 child sexual abuse accusations against Michael Jackson
Jackson gave a 90-minute interview to Oprah Winfrey on February 10, 1993, his second television interview since 1979. He grimaced when speaking of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father; he believed he had missed out on much of his childhood years, admitting that he often cried from loneliness. He denied tabloid rumors that he had bought the bones of the Elephant Man, slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, or bleached his skin, stating for the first time that he had vitiligo. Dangerous re-entered the album chart in the top 10, more than a year after its original release.
In the summer of 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Evan Chandler, a dentist. The Chandler family demanded payment from Jackson, and the singer initially refused. Jordan Chandler eventually told the police that Jackson had sexually abused him. Evan Chandler was tape-recorded discussing his intention to pursue charges, saying, "If I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever..... Michael's career will be over". Jordan's mother was, however, adamant at the time that there had been no wrongdoing on Jackson's part. Jackson later used the recording to argue that he was the victim of a jealous father whose only goal was to extort money from the singer. In January 1994, however, after investigation on allegations of extortion against the singer by Chandler, deputy Los Angeles County district attorney Michael J. Montagna stated that Chandler would not be charged due to lack of cooperation from Jackson's camp and its willingness to negotiate with Chandler for several weeks among other reasons.
In August 1993, Jackson's home was raided by the police who, according to court documents, found books and photographs in his bedroom featuring young boys with little or no clothing. Since the books were legal to purchase and own, the jury decided to not indict Jackson. In December 1993, Jackson was strip searched. Jordan Chandler had reportedly given police a description of Jackson's intimate parts, and the strip search revealed that Jordan had correctly claimed Jackson had patchy-colored buttocks, short pubic hair, and pink and brown marked testicles. Reportedly, Jordan had also previously drawn accurate pictures of a dark spot on Jackson's penis only visible when his penis was lifted. Despite differing initial internal reports from prosecutors and investigators and later, with reports of jurors feeling otherwise that the photos did not match the description, the DA stated his belief in a sworn affidavit that the description was accurate, along with the sheriff's photographer stating the description was accurate. A 2004 motion filed by Jackson's defense asserted that Jackson was never criminally indicted by any grand jury and that his settlement admitted no wrongdoing and contained no evidence of criminal misconduct.
Jackson's friends said he never recovered from the humiliation of the strip search. The investigation was inconclusive and no charges were ever filed. Jackson described the search in an emotional public statement, and proclaimed his innocence. On January 1, 1994, Jackson settled with the Chandlers out of court for $22 million. A Santa Barbara County grand jury and a Los Angeles County grand jury disbanded on May 2, 1994 without indicting Jackson, and the Chandlers stopped co-operating with the criminal investigation around July 6, 1994. The out-of-court settlement's documentation specifically stated Jackson admitted no wrongdoing and no liability; the Chandlers and their family lawyer Larry Feldman signed it without contest. Feldman also explicitly stated "nobody bought anybody's silence". A decade after the fact, during the second round of child abuse allegations, Jackson's lawyers would file a memo stating that the 1994 settlement was done without his consent. A later disclosure by the FBI of investigation documents compiled over nearly 20 years led to Jackson's attorney to make the suggestion that there was no evidence of molestation or sexual impropriety from Jackson towards minors. According to reports the DCFS had investigated Jackson beginning in 1993 with the Chandler allegation and again in 2003. Reports show the LAPD and DCFS did not find credible evidence of abuse or sexual misconduct.
In May 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. They had first met in 1975, when a seven-year-old Presley attended one of Jackson's family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and were reconnected through a mutual friend. According to a friend of Presley's, "their adult friendship began in November 1992 in L.A." They stayed in contact every day over the telephone. As the child molestation accusations became public, Jackson became dependent on Presley for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and addiction to drugs. Presley explained, "I believed he didn't do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it." She eventually persuaded him to settle the civil case out of court and go into rehabilitation to recover.
Jackson proposed to Presley over the telephone towards the fall of 1993, saying, "If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?" They married in the Dominican Republic in secrecy, denying it for nearly two months afterwards. The marriage was, in her words, "a married couple's life..... that was sexually active". At the time, the tabloid media speculated that the wedding was a ploy to prop up Jackson's public image. The marriage lasted less than two years and ended with an amicable divorce settlement. In a 2010 interview with Oprah, Presley admitted that they spent four more years after the divorce "getting back together and breaking up", until she decided to stop.
1995–99: HIStory, second marriage, and fatherhood
In 1995, Jackson merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony's music publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson retained half-ownership of the company, earned $95 million upfront as well as the rights to even more songs. He then released the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The first disc, HIStory Begins, was a 15-track greatest hits album, and was later reissued as Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I in 2001, while the second disc, HIStory Continues, contained 13 new songs and 2 cover versions. The album debuted at number one on the charts and has been certified for seven million shipments in the US. It is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 20 million copies (40 million units) sold worldwide. HIStory received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
The first single released from the album was "Scream/Childhood". "Scream" was a duet, performed with Jackson's youngest sister Janet. The song fights against the media, mainly for what the media made him out to be during his 1993 child abuse allegations. The single had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at number five, and received a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals". "You Are Not Alone" was the second single released from HIStory; it holds the Guinness World Record for the first song ever to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was seen as a major artistic and commercial success, receiving a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Vocal Performance".
Close-up of a pale skinned Jackson with black hair. He is wearing a black jacket with white designs on it.
Michael Jackson at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for the Ghosts music video premier
In late 1995, Jackson was rushed to a hospital after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance; the incident was caused by a stress-related panic attack. "Earth Song" was the third single released from HIStory, and topped the UK Singles Chart for six weeks over Christmas 1995; it sold a million copies, making it Jackson's most successful single in the UK. The track "They Don't Care About Us" became controversial when the Anti-Defamation League and other groups criticized its allegedly antisemitic lyrics. Jackson quickly put out a revised version of the song without the offending lyrics. In 1996, Jackson won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form for "Scream" and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.
The album was promoted with the successful HIStory World Tour. The tour began on September 7, 1996, and finished on October 15, 1997. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans, and grossed a total of $165 million. The show, which visited five continents and 35 countries, became Jackson's most successful in terms of audience figures. During the tour, Jackson married his longtime friend Deborah Jeanne Rowe, a dermatology nurse, in an impromptu ceremony in Sydney, Australia. Rowe was approximately six months pregnant with the couple's first child at the time. Originally, Rowe and Jackson had no plans to marry, but Jackson's mother Katherine persuaded them to do so. Michael Joseph Jackson Jr (commonly known as Prince) was born on February 13, 1997; his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born a year later on April 3, 1998. The couple divorced in 1999, and Jackson got full custody of the children. The divorce was relatively amicable, but a subsequent custody suit was not settled until 2006.
In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which contained remixes of hit singles from HIStory and five new songs. Worldwide sales stand at 6 million copies, it is the best selling remix album ever released. It reached number one in the UK, as did the title track. In the US, the album was certified platinum, but only reached number 24. Forbes placed his annual income at $35 million in 1996 and $20 million in 1997. Throughout June 1999, Jackson was involved in a number of charitable events. He joined Luciano Pavarotti for a benefit concert in Modena, Italy. The show was in support of the nonprofit organization War Child, and raised a million dollars for the refugees of Kosovo, FR Yugoslavia, as well as additional funds for the children of Guatemala. Later that month, Jackson organized a set of "Michael Jackson & Friends" benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. Other artists involved included Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana, Andrea Bocelli, and Luciano Pavarotti. The proceeds went to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, the Red Cross and UNESCO. From August 1999 through 2000, he lived in New York City at 4 East 74th Street.
2000–03: Label dispute and Invincible
At the turn of the century, Jackson won an American Music Award as Artist of the 1980s. Throughout 2000 and 2001, Jackson worked in the studio with Teddy Riley and Rodney Jerkins, as well as other collaborators. These sessions would result in the album Invincible, released in October 2001. Invincible was Jackson's first full-length album in six years, and it would be the last album of new material he released while still alive. The release of the album was preceded by a dispute between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s. Once he had the licenses, he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and keep all the profits. However, due to various clauses in the contract, the revert date turned out to be many years away. Jackson discovered that the attorney who represented him in the deal was also representing Sony. Jackson was also concerned about the fact that for a number of years, Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in their music catalog venture. Jackson feared that Sony might have a conflict of interest, since if Jackson's career failed, he would have to sell his share of the catalog at a low price. Jackson sought an early exit from his contract.
In September 2001, two 30th Anniversary concerts were held at Madison Square Garden to mark the singer's 30th year as a solo artist. Jackson appeared onstage alongside his brothers for the first time since 1984. The show also featured performances by Mýa, Usher, Whitney Houston, NSYNC, Destiny's Child, Monica, Luther Vandross, and Slash, among other artists. The second of the two shows took place the night before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 9/11, Jackson helped organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The concert took place on October 21, 2001, and included performances from dozens of major artists, including Jackson, who performed his song "What More Can I Give" as the finale. Jackson's solo performances were omitted from the televised version of the benefit concert, although he could still be seen singing background vocals. This omission happened because of contractual issues related to the earlier 30th Anniversary concerts: those concerts were boiled down into a two-hour TV special titled Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration which debuted in November 2001.
In spite of the events preceding its release, Invincible came out in October 2001 to much anticipation. Invincible proved to be a hit, debuting atop the charts in 13 countries and going on to sell approximately 13 million copies worldwide. It received double-platinum certification in the U.S. However, the sales for Invincible were lower than those of his previous releases, due in part to a lack of promotion, no supporting world tour and the label dispute. The album also came out at a bad time for the music industry in general. The album cost $30 million to record, not including promotional expenditures. Invincible spawned three singles, "You Rock My World", "Cry", and "Butterflies", the latter without a music video. Jackson alleged in July 2002 that the-then Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a "devil" and a "racist" who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own personal gain. He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a "fat ****". Sony refused to renew Jackson's contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the United States.
In 2002, Michael Jackson won his 22nd American Music Award for Artist of the Century. In the same year, Jackson's third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed "Blanket") was born. The mother's identity was not announced, but Jackson has said the child was the result of artificial insemination from a surrogate mother and his own sperm. On November 20 of that year, Jackson brought his infant son onto the balcony of his room at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, as fans stood below, holding him in his right arm, with a cloth loosely draped over the baby's face. The baby was briefly extended over a railing, four stories above ground level, causing widespread criticism in the media. Jackson later apologized for the incident, calling it "a terrible mistake". Sony released Number Ones, a compilation of Jackson's hits on CD and DVD. In the U.S., the album was certified triple platinum by the RIAA; in the UK it was certified six times platinum for shipments of at least 1.2 million units.
2003–05: Second child sexual abuse allegations and acquittal
Further information: Living with Michael Jackson and People v. Jackson
Jackson in Las Vegas, 2003
Beginning in May 2002, Jackson allowed a documentary film crew, led by British TV personality Martin Bashir, to follow him around nearly everywhere he went. Bashir's film crew was with Jackson during the "baby-dangling incident" in Berlin. The program was broadcast in March 2003 as Living with Michael Jackson.
In a particularly controversial scene, Jackson was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with a young boy. As soon as the documentary aired, the Santa Barbara county attorney's office began a criminal investigation. After an initial probe from the LAPD and DCFS was conducted in February 2003, they had initially concluded that molestation allegations were "unfounded" at the time. After the young boy involved in the documentary and his mother later told investigators that Jackson had been improper with the boy, Jackson was arrested in November 2003, and was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in relation to the 13-year old boy shown in the film. Jackson denied the allegations, saying the sleepovers were not sexual in nature. The People v. Jackson trial began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months, until the end of May. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts. After the trial, in a highly publicized relocation he moved to the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah. Bahrain was also where the family intended to send Jackson if he was convicted (though Jackson did not know about the plan), according to a statement by Jermaine Jackson printed in The Times of London in September 2011.
2006–09: Closure of Neverland, final years, and This Is It
Jackson and his son Blanket in Disneyland Paris, 2006
In March 2006, the main house at the Neverland Ranch was closed as a cost-cutting measure. There were numerous reports around that time that Jackson was having financial problems. Jackson had been delinquent on his repayments of a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings, even though those holdings were reportedly making him as much as $75 million a year. Bank of America sold the debt to Fortress Investments. Sony reportedly proposed a restructuring deal which would give them a future option to buy half of Jackson's stake in their jointly owned publishing company (leaving Jackson with a 25% stake). Jackson agreed to a Sony-backed refinancing deal in April 2006, although the exact details were not made public. Jackson did not have a recording contract in place with Sony or any other major record label at the time.
In early 2006, there was an announcement that Jackson had signed a contract with a Bahrain-based startup called Two Seas Records. However, nothing ever came of that deal, and the CEO of Two Seas, Guy Holmes, later stated that the deal had never been finalized. Throughout 2006, Sony repackaged 20 singles from the 1980s and 1990s as the Michael Jackson: Visionary series, which subsequently became a box set. Most of those singles returned to the charts as a result. In September 2006, Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe confirmed reports that they had settled their long-running child custody suit. The terms were never made public. Jackson continued to be the custodial parent of the couple's two children. In October 2006, Fox News entertainment reporter Roger Friedman said that Jackson had been recording at a studio in rural Westmeath, Ireland. It was not known at the time what Jackson might be working on, or who might be paying for the sessions, since his publicist had recently issued a statement claiming that he had left Two Seas.
In November 2006, Jackson invited an Access Hollywood camera crew into the studio in Westmeath, and MSNBC broke the story that he was working on a new album, produced by will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. Jackson performed at the World Music Awards, in London on November 15, 2006, and accepted a Diamond Award for selling over 100 million records. Jackson returned to the United States after Christmas 2006 to attend James Brown's funeral in Augusta, Georgia. He gave one of the eulogies, saying that "James Brown is my greatest inspiration." In the spring of 2007, Jackson and Sony teamed up to buy yet another music publishing company: Famous Music LLC, formerly owned by Viacom. This deal gave him the rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck, among others. Jackson recorded extensively during this period in New York with songwriter and producer will.i.am and also in Las Vegas with producers Akon and RedOne. In March 2007, Jackson gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Tokyo, where he said, "I've been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old, and as Charles Dickens would say, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career..... While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me."
In March 2007, Jackson visited a U.S. Army post in Japan named Camp Zama to greet 3,000 plus U.S. troops and their families. The hosts presented Jackson with a Certificate of Appreciation for his devotion to U.S. Military troops and their families.
In September 2007, Jackson was reportedly still working with will.i.am, but the album was apparently never completed. However, in 2008, Jackson and Sony released Thriller 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Thriller. This album featured the previously unreleased song "For All Time" (an outtake from the original sessions) as well as remixes, where Jackson collaborated with younger artists who had been inspired by his work. Two of the remixes were released as singles with only modest success: "The Girl Is Mine 2008" (with will.i.am) and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" (with Akon). The first single was based on an early demo version, without Paul McCartney. The album itself was a hit, however. In anticipation of Jackson's 50th birthday, Sony BMG released a series of greatest-hits albums called King of Pop. Slightly different versions were released in various countries, based on polls of local fans