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Of all nicknames ever given to musicians, arguably none fits better than "The King of Pop" for Michael Jackson. Jackson burst on to the scene as the 10-year old frontman of the Jackson 5—a fraternal pop group that first captured the nation with their debut single "I Want You Back" in 1969. Backed by brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and Jermaine, the Jackson 5 enjoyed a lucrative, successful career, selling well over 15 million copies of their Motown and CBS releases. Though the group was flying high, there have been many allegations (filed, in some cases, by Michael Jackson himself) against the band's manager and father, Joe Jackson—an abrasive, ex-steel worker—claiming that he physically and verbally abused his sons, forcing them into situations too complex and pressure-packed for kids their age. None seemed more affected than the group's (at times) seemingly reluctant frontman.
While Michael Jackson continued to be involved with the group until 1984, he released, Got to Be There, his first solo album on Motown in 1972. While he released albums through the '70s, Jackson's fifth studio album, 1979's Off The Wall was the one that really got the ball rolling. The album features classics like "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" and represented the maturation of a boy to a young man ready to take over the world. The Quincy Jones-helmed project set off a golden partnership between the two that would go on to move over 150 million albums worldwide.
The group's next collaboration would be set a new standard for what pop music could be, 1984's gargantuan, soulful pop classic, Thriller. Very little can be written about Thriller that hasn't been already, but the numbers don't lie. The disc is the highest selling of all time, moving in upwards of 110 million units worldwide. It is full of classics, such as "Billie Jean," "Thriller," "Beat It," and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," all of which are still undeniably compelling over 25 years after their original release.
Five years later, Jackson released Bad, which was another huge success. The album has a much tighter, streamlined pop sound than Thriller, but still features Michael Jackson's signature voice and songwriting, as well as Quincy Jones' expert production. The album has sold over 30 million copies to date. He followed it up with the epic, 78-minute Dangerous (1991). It would go on to sell over 32 million copies, boasting by an astonishing 10 singles. From the late '70s to the '90s, Michael Jackson cemented his status as the biggest pop star on the planet, and, possibly, the biggest pop star of all-time. But that fame came with a price. Beset by personal problems and allegations of child abuse, Jackson only released one album after Dangerous, 2001's lackluster Invincible.
Jackson died, as he lived, in a confusing manner and under intense scrutiny. He succumbed to a heart attack on June 25th 2009, possibly induced by a toxic combination of prescription drugs. He was 50 years old.