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Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter, entertainer, dancer, arranger, music producer, choreographer, actor, businessman, musician, and philanthropist. Often referred to as the “King of Pop”, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contributions to music, dance, and fashion, 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 brothers 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 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 records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. 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 Dance Hall of Fame as the first and only dancer from pop and rock music. Some of 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 Jackson won hundreds of awards, which made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. In what would have been Jackson’s 52nd birthday on 29 August 2010, he became the most downloaded artist of all time. Jackson constantly traveled the world attending events honoring his humanitarianism and the 2000 Guinness Book of Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities.
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 case was settled out of court for about $25 million and $2 million 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 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 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief and a live broadcast of the public memorial service viewed around the world. In March 2010, Sony Music Entertainment and Jackson’s estate signed the largest music contract ever, with a $250 million deal to retain distribution rights to his recordings until 2017, and to release seven posthumous albums over the decade following his death.