The Jackson family’s former home at 2300 Jackson Street is a popular destination for fans seeking a glimpse into Michael’s earliest days, but the city of Gary has more to offer. Several of the schools and nightclubs where the young Jacksons first performed as amateurs are still in use, and The King of Pop Hometown Tour offers Jackson trivia and anecdotes to curious visitors. The Jackson family is cooperating with the city on plans to convert the house into the Michael Jackson Museum, followed by construction of a Michael Jackson Performing Arts Center.
(Katherine Jackson and Rebbie Jackson return to Gary in 1987, James Mitchell/Ebony Collection via AP Images)
Motown, Detroit, Michigan
Founded in 1985 by Berry Gordy’s sister Esther, the Motown Historical Museum (aka ‘Hitsville USA’) is steeped in the history of Motown’s early years in Detroit, offering a chance to literally stand in the shadow of great artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and of course, the Jackson 5. Three decades of original stage costumes and rarely-seen photos of Motown artists are all on display, including Michael Jackson’s legendary Motown 25 ensemble. The museum is celebrating Michael’s life with a dedicated Jackson 5 exhibit that will be open through October.
(AP Photo / Carlos Osorio)
Leaving Indiana for the larger stages of the so-called “Chitlin’ Circuit”, Michael and his brothers opened for famous acts of the time, including Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, and The O’Jays. The famed Regal and Avalon Theaters were top venues in Chicago’s predominantly African-American South Side, and featured beautiful artwork and architecture from the 1920s. The old Regal was demolished in 1973, but the Avalon was reborn in 1987 as the New Regal Theater, and still showcases plays and concerts by black artists.
(Photo courtesy of WikiCommons)
Harlem, New York
The pinnacle of success as musical newcomers came at the legendary stage of the Apollo Theater, where the Jacksons won the prestigious Amateur Night at the Apollo in 1967. The Apollo inducted Michael into its Walk of Fame this year, accompanying a new Smithsonian exhibit and short film on its storied past. Visitors can also view the ‘Grieving Wall’ adorned with messages from the thousands of fans who flocked to the theater’s doorstep in the wake of Michael’s death.
(AP Photo / Jason DeCrow)
Motown’s film adaptation of the funk-inspired reimagining of The Wizard of Oz was Michael’s first movie appearance as an adult, and his talent shined in his role as the Scarecrow. Touring the locations of The Wiz is an interesting trip through the city’s landmarks, and gives fans of this cult favorite a new appreciation for the inspired production designs. Coney Island and the World’s Fair Pavilion are notable icons, but Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, where many interior scenes were shot, offers a hip café complete with rarely-seen behind-the-scenes photos.
(Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures)
Thriller, London, UK
Thriller was groundbreaking for Michael’s career, and for the entire music industry. Its complex group choreography and cinematic staging set the template for all serious music videos since 1983. But for fans who aren’t content with the on-screen version, London’s Lyric Theatre offers Thriller – LIVE, a multimedia extravaganza featuring a talented cast of musicians and dancers gyrating through Jackson’s hits.
(Photo courtesy of the Lyric Theatre)
Bad, Brooklyn, NY
Bad continued Michael’s collaboration with Quincy Jones, and expanded his reach and repertoire into the harder sounds of rock and rap. The video is often shortened for broadcast, but its story of a bright, college-bound boy who tragically strives to prove his loyalty to his old street friends still resonates today. Interviews at the time offer a glimpse into Michael’s creative process, but for a more tangible connection, visitors to Brooklyn can explore Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station. Dancing is optional.
(Video still courtesy of MJJ Productions)
Even before We Are the World, Michael was fascinated by Africa. The influence of its people and culture saturated his work from his early choreography based on gazelles and cheetahs to his Egypt-inspired Remember the Time video. Michael’s ‘Inside Africa’ diplomatic tour in 1992 took him to the capitals of Egypt, Tanzania, Senegal, Gabon, and Ivory Coast – where he was crowned king by the people of Sanwi, an enclosed kingdom near Abidjan.
(AP Photo / Adil Bradlow-File)
Neverland, Santa Barbara, CA
Of all Michael’s residences around the world, none is more iconic than the Neverland Valley Ranch, a combination sanctuary and playground, wrapped in rumors and recriminations. While the ranch served as a home for Michael’s biological and extended family for only 7 years, the constant stream of hangers-on, paparazzi, and individuals of questionable intent raised a lingering pallor over the palatial grounds. With new glimpses beyond the gates, fans are lobbying the Jackson family to reclaim Neverland in their name, creating a living museum for future generations, much like Graceland in Memphis.
(Fans gather at the front gates of Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch, AP Photo / Michael A. Mariant)
In 30 years of touring, no continent has more thoroughly embraced Michael as a pop icon than Asia. In the Philippines, his music is used in viral videos of dance rehabilitation therapy for prisoners, while Chinese fans mourn his passing as one of their own, although Michael only briefly set foot in the country. Recent speculation that Michael was adopting Islam before his death has caused some fans to embrace him even more tightly as a symbol of political self-discovery and free thought.
(The famed “Cebu Dancing Inmates” perform a tribute to Jackson, AP Photo)
Michael’s boundless creativity was perhaps best matched by the ‘imagineers’ of Disney, who collaborated with the star on the ambitious project, Captain EO. A high-concept combination of movie, music video, space adventure, and amusement park ride, the much-hyped unveiling of Captain EO presaged Michael’s later forays into worldwide media manipulation. In celebration of their work together, and in response to fans across the world, Disney is reinstating Captain EO at its parks, Disneyland, Cal., Walt Disney World, Fla., Disneyland Paris, France, and Tokyo Disneyland, in Japan.
(AP Photo / Disneyland Resort)
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In honor of the anniversary of his passing, theGrio presents fans with the top travel destinations to follow Michael Jackson’s life and career. From his humble beginnings in Gary, Indiana, to a king’s throne in Ivory Coast, absorb a little bit of Michael’s history at each stop on our tour.