At his prime, Michael Jackson was the undisputed biggest selling act in the world. Jackson's career spanned 40 years, spawning nine solo albums of original music and innumerable compilation and remix projects. His last album, Invincible, was released in 2001. For some, Michael will be most fondly remembered by those who watched him grow up through the 19 albums he recorded as the precocious lead singer of The Jackson 5 and later as the young adult star of The Jacksons. He sold a combined, worldwide total of 750 million records over his career, 50 million for Thriller alone. Twenty-seven years after the 1982 release of Thriller, Michael Jackson still holds the record for the best selling album of all-times. Other commercial highlights include the best-selling Victory tour with his brothers, the Jacksons, and the co-writing (with Lionel Richie) of the first major charity single "We Are The World" for USA for Africa, a star-studded effort that resulted in a number one single that earned millions for famine relief.
The recipient of innumerable awards and industry accolades, Jackson won a total of 13 Grammy Awards throughout his solo career. He also appeared at or near the top of the Billboard charts over 100 times, with the album Thriller resting at #1 for 37 non-consecutive weeks for two years.
More than a record-breaker, Jackson was a trend-setter in a video arts and pop culture. He was one of the first entertainers to be the star of a successful cartoon, the Jackson 5. He was a pioneer of slick, pop locking choreography. Millions emulated his red leather jacket, his white glove, even the jheri curl he first sported in the 1980s. He was the first black performer to have a video receive airplay on MTV, opening the door for subsequent generations of black musicians and video artists. His Thriller video was the first music video to become a best-selling home video, where he dominated as the leading video talent for nearly a decade. His talent as a video artist culminated in the 1986 3-D short film Captain Eo, which was shown in Disney amusement parks IMAX theaters for 12 years. He also performed as the "Scarecrow" in the movie version of the Broadway hit, The Wiz.
As the singer and songwriter of the landmark 1979 album, Off The Wall, Jackson with producer Quincy Jones was among the first to blend soul, rock, rhythmic pop, and electronic music with a highly melodic, global appeal. The sound formulated on Off The Wall and taken to its commercial zenith on Thriller has been emulated by a generation of young stars who cite Jackson as an influence, from Usher to Justin Timberlake. Michael Jackson will be remembered as one the biggest international stars in the history of music. Jackson died on June 25, 2009.
L. Michael Gipson