In honor of Michael Jackson’s 65th birthday, here are some facts you need to know about him
OPINION: Although the King of Pop left us way too soon 14 years ago, his legacy still lives on.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Sunshine. Moonlight. Good times. Boogie!
Tell me you didn’t just hear that in Michael Jackson’s voice.
On this day in 1958, a legend was born.
Michael Jackson didn’t immediately know he was going to be a legend; no one did, but what he accomplished in his lifetime set and broke records and gave everyone else something to aspire to. He was truly the King of Pop.
These days, people still want to argue over who will be heir to the throne, but the truth is, the King of Pop died on June 25, 2009, and there will never be another.
Don’t bother commenting on my personal site, sending me DMs, or @ing me on Twitter because as the Thriller Maker’s No. 1 fan, I shan’t be argued with about any of this.
Argue with your friends who think that Harry Styles dude really be doing something.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about Michael Jackson and his legacy, and I just wanted to share a few facts that, again, I will not debate with you or argue about.
Michael Jackson was the voice of The Jackson 5
Yes, I know he had four other brothers on the stage with him, two of whom could strum a funky guitar, and I don’t want to take none of that away from them, but Michael was clearly the star of that group.
His youthful vocals were so bright and pure. Every song he sang on was a hit, whether the mainstream considered it a hit or not. That boy had talent!
Mimicking James Brown’s moves as he danced on stage and making his voice tremble in all the right places when he sang those love songs he was too young to understand, he showed right from the start that he was destined for greatness.
I know they were called the Jackson 5, but they could have easily been Little Michael Jackson and Them Four Other Dudes for all I care.
Michael Jackson was the voice of The Jacksons
When they left Motown and had to leave behind the name The Jackson 5, they became The Jacksons. They added little brother Randy to the group and had a weekly television variety series that also included appearances by their three sisters — Rebbie, LaToya, and Janet.
They were a hit, and they showcased the maturation of their talents with a string of six albums — “The Jacksons” (1976); “Goin’ Places” (1977); “Destiny” (1978); “Triumph” (1980); “Victory” (1984); and “2300 Jackson Street” (1989).
You know what all of those albums have in common? Every hit song that you love from them has Michael on lead vocals.
Check the records because you know I’m not lying. Every single song we all love and put on replay from those Jacksons albums is really a Michael Jackson hit.
He released his “Off the Wall” in between the releases of “Destiny” and “Triumph,” so he was already well on his way to becoming a solo superstar. By the time Victory was released, he was well into his “Thriller” era, and every single one of us who went to see the Jacksons on that “Victory” tour really went to see Michael.
Yes; I’m speaking for all of us.
“Off the Wall” is Michael Jackson’s greatest album
When we talk about an artist’s greatest album, it’s not necessarily about record sales.
I say this because people want to always say “Thriller” was Michael Jackson’s best album, but I would argue that it was his most commercially successful album, but not his best.
If we are going strictly off performance, “Off the Wall” is his best, hands down. His vocals are so pure, and his sound is so clear. That album is absolute fire. 10/10 with absolutely no skips. I listen to it from front to back every single time.
His performance is the only thing we remember from “Motown 25”
Quickly and without using Google, tell me who else performed at the Motown 25 celebration that aired on NBC on May 16, 1983.
You can’t, and do you know why you can’t?
You can’t because the only thing anyone remembers is Michael Jackson performing Billie Jean and doing the moonwalk for the first time on national television.
I got chills just typing that.
I was two months shy of my 12th birthday. We were watching that special as a family, and because it was such a big deal, we were watching it on the big floor model television in our sunken living room instead of on the smaller television in the family room where my parents usually made us kids watch TV.
As a proud member of Generation X, I can say with certainty that the target audience for that special was our Boomer parents. The vast majority of guests and performances were artists from their teenage years. We had to sit patiently and wait for them to get through Smokey Robinson and whoever else we didn’t care about because we were only there to watch Michael Jackson.
When he and his brothers appeared on stage, me and my siblings moved closer to the television. My dad kept yelling for us to back up, but we didn’t listen because, baby, Michael Jackson was on TV!
The performance started out with him singing hits from The Jackson 5 and The Jacksons with his brothers, and that was good enough for us. We at least knew those songs, but then something happened.
The other people with the last name Jackson left the stage, and Michael was standing there by himself. He spoke into the microphone about how great it was to perform those songs from “the good old days” with all his brothers “and Jermaine” (that “and Jermaine” was the shadiest shit ever, but I digress). He basically said that was then and this is now, and the drumline from Billie Jean started playing.
I screamed so damn loud my daddy threatened to make me go to bed. I knew I wasn’t going to bed before I got to see my celebrity crush. I was in love with him at this point and had written so many letters addressed to the Hayvenhurst address. My daddy was just going to have to be mad.
Suddenly the show wasn’t about the Boomers no more. It was for us!
Michael started singing “Billie Jean,” and we sang along word for word. We had the “Thriller” album on vinyl in our house, and it was on heavy rotation (more on that in a minute).
When Michael hit that moonwalk, I lost my shit again, and my dad yelled and glared at me, but he didn’t send me to bed like he threatened because I think even he was mesmerized by this young superstar with whom he shared a first name.
The next day at school, and for generations to come, that’s all anyone talked about relating to the Motown 25 special. Berry Gordy who? Martha and the whomst? Baby, that was a mini Michael Jackson concert. What are you talking about?
A happy family memory
This isn’t so much a “fact” about Michael Jackson as it is an example of my family bonding over him.
One day, we were all riding in the car together. It was me, my two siblings, and my parents.
I don’t remember where we were going, but the radio was on, and at some point, Michael’s “P.Y.T.” came on.
My mom tells this story, and she always laughs when she does because she says that the three of us kids were all singing the song word for word in the backseat. My dad kept looking at us through the rearview mirror. He was amused, but he wasn’t totally unprepared for what happened next.
The song hits the breakdown where the voice goes “Pretty young thing!” and there’s a “ugh!” kind of grunt and it goes “You make me sing” and there’s a rhythmic breathing that follows to the cadence of “ah ah ah ah ah,” and my mom says the three of us kids did it perfectly in unison, including my baby sister who was only about 4 or 5 at the time.
My mom says my dad was so tickled by it that he just started cracking up in the car and kept laughing at the memory of it for the rest of the ride.
Aww. Michael Jackson brings families together.
Michael Jackson revolutionized the music video
No, I will not be explaining any further. I’ll just leave you with these examples.
In summation, Michael Jackson is the pop music G.O.A.T. He is often imitated, but never duplicated.
We only got one, and he’s gone now.
The rest of these dudes are quite literally his sons.
No, I will not be taking any questions.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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