- For alternate uses see Michael Jackson (disambiguation)
Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, USA to Joseph and Katherine Jackson. He was the seventh of nine children. Michael and his siblings were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses. They went around knocking on doors, spreading the word of Jehovah. When Michael became famous, he went in disguise. He was criticized by the church for his appearance and art, such as his Thriller's video. In 1987 he left the church. 
Michael Jackson began performing at age 5 as the lead singer of the Jackson 5 - a group composed of Michael and four of his older brothers. The group played at local clubs and bars and supposedly were beaten and abused by their father if they performed poorly.
In 1969 the Jackson 5 were discovered and signed to Motown Records. The Jackson family moved to California where the Jackson 5 soon became national stars. Their first 4 singles "ABC", "I Want You Back", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There" all became #1 hits. Later hits include the trend-setting "Dance Machine". With Motown Records the Jackson 5 made 14 albums, and Michael recorded 4 albums as a solo artist.
In 1976 The Jackson 5 left Motown (and renamed themselves the Jacksons). Between 1976 and 1984 the Jacksons produced 6 records and toured internationally. In 1977 Michael Jackson starred in the film The Wiz (alongside Diana Ross). It was here that he met Quincy Jones (the producer of The Wiz), who would later produce Michael's three most acclaimed solo albums (Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad). Off the Wall (released in 1979) produced a record 4 #1 hits and sold 6 million copies in the United States.
In 1982 Michael Jackson released the Thriller album. Thriller produced 7 hit singles, broke records and quickly became the world's best selling album (to date it has sold over 50 million copies). The "Billie Jean" music video, released to promote Thriller, became the first video by a black artist to be aired on MTV, and the Thriller short film released as The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller became the world's best selling home video at the time. In 1983, while performing for the Motown 25th Anniversary Show on television, Jackson publicly performed the moonwalk (later his signature dance move) for the first time, stunning TV audiences. At the 1984 Grammy Awards Jackson was nominated for 12 awards and won a record-breaking 8 awards (now equaled by Carlos Santana) -- 7 for Thriller and 1 for his narrative on The E.T. Storybook.
In 1985 Michael was instrumental in organising the single "We Are the World" (co-written with Lionel Richie). "We Are the World" was sung by 44 different singers including Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and sold 7 million copies in the United States, becoming the best selling single of the year, to raise money for USA for Africa -- a charity working to raise awareness about and help starving people in Africa.
In 1986 Jackson starred in the George Luca/Francis Ford Coppola 3-D film Captain Eo, which was shown in Disney theme parks until 1998. Minute for minute it is the most expensive film ever produced, costing an estimated US $30 million to make. Jackson created two new songs for the film.
In 1987 Michael Jackson released Bad and began his first solo world tour. He performed to sold out audiences at each concert. The following year Jackson released a silly, playful movie and a serious, personal autobiography both titled Moonwalker.
In 1991 Michael Jackson was awarded a record breaking $890 million contract by Sony and released an album Dangerous. During the Dangerous world tour Jackson announced the creation of his Heal the World Foundation.
In 1993 Jackson was accused by a 13 year old boy of child molestation and pedophilia. Although the charges were never proven and some argue that they may have been spurious/blackmail - evidence to prove this was given, Jackson paid the boy a rumored $20 million in an out of court settlement.
In 1995 Michael Jackson released HIStory, a greatest hits album that also contained 15 new songs. In 1997 Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor a remix album with 5 new songs, and in 2001 he released Invincible -- the most expensive album ever -- which however sold only 2 million copies in the United States and 5-6 million worldwide (a disappointment considering Michael Jackson's previous success and the cost of the album).
Michael Jackson lives at his ranch in Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara County, California which he named "Neverland", after the magical kingdom featured in the children's story Peter Pan. He says that, like Peter Pan, he does not want to grow up. The Neverland Ranch, area 11 sq. km, contains a small zoo and amusement park. About once a week he invites a bus full of (especially sick and poor) children there to have a day of fun.
Jackson's second wife was Debbie Rowe. They had a son, Prince Michael, and a daughter, Paris, (named after the city where she was conceived). They were divorced in 1999. Rowe said that she let Jackson have the children as a gift. Around February 2002 he had another son, Prince Michael II, but called Blanket, born from a black surrogate mother; her identity has not been disclosed.
As a security measure against kidnapping, Jackon's children appear in public only with masks or veils to cover their faces. Jackson is a vegetarian and feels a strong connection to children and animals. His favorite pastimes include water balloon fights with children, climbing trees and sleepovers with children. He has written several songs sitting in his favorite tree at Neverland, which he calls Giving Tree, because it is so inspiring. He has several young friends whom he entertains at Neverland. His celebrity friends include actress Elizabeth Taylor and former child actor Macaulay Culkin (godparents of his first son and his daughter; for his friendship with Culkin see also his article), paranormalist Uri Geller and the rabbi Shmuel Boteach, who heads Michael Jackson's Heal the World Foundation. Jackson has had several plastic surgeries to modify his appearance.
In his career Michael Jackson has received a slew of awards including 18 Grammy Awards. Estimates for his album sales worldwide range from 200 million to well over 300 million. His Thriller video is considered by some the best music video of all time. MTV and Rolling Stone recently named four of his songs ("Billie Jean" #5, "I Want You Back" #9, "Beat It" #23 and "Rock with You" #82) among the 100 greatest pop songs of all time.
In the 1980s Michael Jackson released a progression of solo albums of slickly-produced synthesizer-heavy pop.
In what was perhaps the "Golden Age" of the video clip, some of Jackson's videos were virtually short films with considerable plots, impressive special effects, and featuring Jackson's distinctive dance style.
Jackson admits that several young children, especially pre-adolescent boys (including Macaulay Culkin when he was younger and his younger brother Kieran) have slept in the same bed as him, but he denies having had sex with any of them. He has admitted that he still sometimes sleeps with a child in the same room including his 12 year old friend Gavin, but it was implied that they do not sleep in the same bed (they have told about an occasion where each was happy to sleep on the floor and let the other have the bed). Conversely, Jackson lets his children stay with his friends, for example with Barry Gibb. He emphasizes that children need and deserve lots of love. Not sexual, but like having hot milk and cookies, tucking them in, telling a bed-time story, etc.
In late 2002 new scandal arose surrounding Jackson. His most recent album, Invincible, had disappointing sales figures. Instead of blaming this on what was, by most fans and critics, considered mediocre music, he blamed his record label and industry executives, most notably the legendary producer Tommy Mottola, whom Jackson likened to Satan. Jackson also recorded a song featuring various celebrities on vocals in an attempt to raise funds for disaster relief following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. However, the song was never released when it was discovered the producer of the song had previously worked as a producer of homosexual pornography.
In October 2002 it was revealed by various international banks that Jackson was in financial debt into the tens of millions of dollars due to various unpaid loans.
A Granada Television documentary about Jackson, in which he was extensively interviewed by UK journalist Martin Bashir, was shown in February 2003. This was very special, for it had been extremely rare for Jackson to allow such access to his personal life, or indeed to talk so freely about his traumatised childhood. However, he continued to remain guarded on issues concerning the alleged cosmetic surgery to his face (although he admitted having had surgery on his nose). In one of his favorite shops and in the renting of rooms in hotels he demonstrated extravagant spending (see also below).
In the UK, children's charities Barnardo's and the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) have voiced their concerns.
Under California law, merely sleeping with a child, without "affirmative, offensive conduct," isn't criminal, said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. in a statement. 
Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir and complained that the film gives a distorted picture of his behaviour and conduct as a father , and has released video footage of statements of Bashir to demonstrate this; a selection has been shown in a Fox Network special , which also includes interviews with people close to Jackson. They include Debbie Rowe, who says that it is on her request that the children wear masks in public. He has filed complaints at the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission of the UK. Gavin's mother, while supporting Jackson, has also complained about the documentary, for including Gavin in it without her consent and especially for creating a distorted image of his friendship with Jackson.
Amongst many seemingly far-fetched rumors that circulate about him, he is believed by some people to be the same person as his sister, LaToya Jackson. United Kingdom bookmakers allow punters to bet on this subject, with odds of 500-1 payable on the presentation of evidence that they are the same person. . This could be a safe bet for the bookmakers, considering that they have been photographed together many times, and Michael is reputedly a foot taller than LaToya.
In 2002, a promoter sued Jackson in a court in Santa Maria, California, claiming that he reneged on a deal to perfom on a series of millennium concerts crossing the International Date Line on the evening of December 31, 1999 - January 1, 2000. Jackson lost the case, and is appealing.
In 2003 he has a legal dispute, set for trial June 18, with his former financial adviser Union Finance and Investment Corp. of South Korea, who claims that Jackson owes the firm $12 million in fees and expenses and that Jackson's extravagant spending may lead to his bankruptcy.
Catchphrases: "Cha'mone!", "Heeeee heeeee!"