For his legions of fans, he was the Peter Pan of pop music: the little boy who refused to grow up. But on the verge of another attempted comeback, he is suddenly gone, this time for good.
Michael Jackson, whose quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery, was pronounced dead on June 25th.
As with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full effect Michael Jackson had on the world of music. At the height of his career, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which grew successful in part as a result of Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.
Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary on Aug. 29, 1958. The second youngest of six brothers, he began performing professionally with four of them at the age of 5 in a group that their father, Joe, a steelworker, had organized the previous year. In 1968, the group, originally called the Jackson Brothers, was signed by Motown Records. The Jackson 5 was an instant phenomenon. The group’s first four singles—”I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”—all reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1970, a feat no group had accomplished before. And young Michael was the center of attention: he handled virtually all the lead vocals, danced with energy and finesse, and displayed a degree of showmanship rare in a performer of any age.
In 1971, Michael Jackson began recording under his own name, while continuing to perform with his brothers. His recording of “Ben,” the title song from a movie about a boy and his pet rat, was a No. 1 hit in 1972. In 1978, Michael made his movie debut as the Scarecrow in the screen version of the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz.” But movie stardom proved not to be his destiny.
Music stardom on an unprecedented level, however, was. Michael Jackson’s first solo album for Epic, “Off the Wall,” released in 1979, yielded two No. 1 singles and sold seven million copies, but it was a mere prologue to what came next. His follow-up, “Thriller,” released in 1982, became the best-selling album of all time and helped usher in the music video age. The video for title track was an elaborate horror-movie pastiche that was more of a mini-movie than a promotional clip. The album spent two years on the Billboard album chart and sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide. It also won eight Grammy Awards.
The choreographer and director Vincent Paterson, who directed Michael Jackson in several videos, recalled watching him rehearse a dance sequence for four hours in front of a mirror until it felt like second nature. “That’s how he developed the moonwalk, working on it for days if not weeks until it was organic,” he said. “He took an idea that he had seen some street kids doing and perfected it.”
Michael Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” released in 1987, sold eight million copies and produced five No. 1 singles and another state-of-the-art video. It was a huge hit by almost anyone else’s standards, but an inevitable letdown after “Thriller.”
It was at this point that Michael Jackson’s bizarre private life began to overshadow his music. He would go on to release several more albums and, from time to time, to stage elaborate concert tours. And he would never be too far from the public eye. But it would never again be his music that kept him there.
In 1988 Michael Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it Neverland after the mythical island of Peter Pan, he outfitted the property with amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million, according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum. But Neverland, and Michael Jackson’s lifestyle, were expensive to maintain. A forensic accountant who testified at Michael Jackson’s molesting trial in 2005 said Michael Jackson’s annual budget in 1999 included $7.5 million for personal expenses and $5 million to maintain Neverland. By at least the late 1990s, he began to take out huge loans to support himself and pay debts. In 1998, he took out a loan for $140 million from Bank of America, which two years later was increased to $200 million. Further loans of hundreds of millions followed. The collateral for the loans was Michael Jackson’s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, considered some of the most valuable properties in music.
In many ways, Michael Jackson never recovered from the child molesting trial, a lurid affair that attracted media from around the world to watch as Michael Jackson, wearing a different costume each day, appeared in a small courtroom in Santa Maria, Calif., to listen as a parade of witnesses spun a sometimes-incredible tale. The case ultimately turned on the credibility of Michael Jackson’s accuser, a 15-year-old cancer survivor who said the defendant had gotten him drunk and molested him several times. After 14 weeks of such testimony and seven days of deliberations, the jury returned not-guilty verdicts on all 14 counts against Michael Jackson. After his trial, Michael Jackson never returned to live at his ranch.
On the day he died, many who knew Jackson described him as “gentle,” which seemed to be a kind of code, an explanation, an excuse. In fact, he seems more like a character in a show he had no control over, a boy turned into a man too soon and a man who tried to become a boy all over again. His greatest performance may have occurred June 25, when sudden death ensured that we will always wonder who he really was.
Peter Pan 彼得•潘，苏格兰小说家、剧作家J.M. Barrie（1860—1937）笔下人物，他拒绝长大，居住在梦幻岛（Neverland）上
for good 永远地
Elvis Presley 埃尔维斯•普雷斯利（1935—1977），美国摇滚歌手，绰号“猫王”，他的音乐融合了乡村音乐、布鲁斯音乐以及山地摇滚乐各种曲风，让摇滚乐如旋风般横扫20世纪五六十年代的世界乐坛，猫王的女儿后嫁于杰克逊为妻
MTV 全球最大的音乐电视网之一， 1981 年创立于美国，现已发展到世界各地