The King of Pop: Forever Black History

The King of Pop: Forever Black History

As the start of Black History Month has fast approached, many find themselves remembering important names in Black History one of those names being Michael Jackson. Jackson was an African American singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. 


Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29th, 1958 to Katherine and Joe Jackson in Gary, Indiana. He started singing when he was 5 years old and formed a band with his brothers in 1964. Despite being the youngest, he was the lead singer in the band. They were later recognized by a prominent black label called Motown Records, home to many popular black groups including The Temptations, The Supremes, Smokey & The Robinsons, and many more.  After their debut, The Jackson 5 produced four consecutive hits that reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 under Motown Records. 


“You basically had five working-class black boys with Afros and bell bottoms, and they really didn’t have to trade any of that stuff in order to become mainstream stars… Young Michael Jackson was the first black ‘bubblegum teen star’,” Mark Anthony Neal told CNN.


In 1979, Michael Jackson debuted his first album as a solo artist, Off the Wall. Off the Wall sold over 20 Million copies and was ranked number 3 in 1979’s album sales, winning an AMA for Favorite album Soul/R&B. 


Just 3 years later, the album Thriller was released. Thriller sold over 66 million copies worldwide and was the number 1 ranked album of the 1980s as well as the best-selling album of all time. This album kicked off a lot of opportunities for Jackson including being the first black person to have their video played on regular rotation on MTV. Later, in 1984 Michael Jackson made history yet again during the 26th annual Grammy Awards winning 8 Grammys in one night, a record that Carlos Santana later broke in 2000.


“Nobody could have prepared anybody for the success of Thriller, since the magnitude of its success was simply unimaginable — an album that sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with seven of its nine tracks reaching the Top Ten,” American music critic Stephen Erlewine stated.


After Thriller there was Bad. Bad was nominated for 6 Grammys and kicked off Michael Jackson’s first solo tour. With 4.4 million fans in attendance throughout his 16-month tour. It ended up setting the Guinness World Record for Largest Grossing Tour in History as well as The Tour with the Largest Attended Audience.


Aside from Michael Jackson’s musical success he also was a philanthropist and a humanitarian. Jackson created the “Heal the World Foundation” in 1992 to help aid children and the environment. He also donated to several charities throughout his career and won a Guinness World Record for his donations.


Later in Jackson’s career, he released music geared toward racial issues. His song Black or White was “a plea for racial tolerance” and was his most successful single since “Beat it.” His song “They Don’t Really Care About Us” highlighted injustice. “The song is in fact about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the Black Man, I am the White Man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them,” Michael Jackson stated. 


Michael Jackson is seen as an important person in Black History, who broke down racial barriers in the music industry. 


“Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama…Michael did with music what they later did in sports and in politics and in television. And no controversy will erase the historic impact,” American Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton told CNN.