Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

(Investigator 157, 2014 July)

Michael Jackson, the "king of pop", died on June 26, 2009, aged 50, only days before his planned comeback attempt.

The singer, known in later life as "wacko Jacko", was one of the most commercially successful and talented entertainers of modern times. His album sales by 2005 totaled 130 million including Thriller (1982) 30 million, Bad (1987) 23 million, and Dangerous (1991) 23 million. Such sales put him in the same bracket as Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

At age 6 Jackson joined his brothers Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Marlon as the Jackson Five and had his first hits with them in the 1960s. In 1969 the Jackson family moved from Gary, Indiana, to California where the Jackson Five signed to the Motown record label and had a string of hit singles.

In a TV interview in later life Jackson spoke of the strict training program which his father enforced "with a belt … and with whatever lay around." Jackson said, "We were terrified…we hated him." The terror made Jackson "vomit".  

Renamed "The Jacksons" in 1975 the group recorded and performed into the 1980s. But Jackson's greatest success was from 1979 to 1987 as a solo artist when the albums Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987) marked him as not just a great singer but also dancer, innovator and producer. Jackson practiced for hours every day — every gesture, every step, every movement.

Jackson co-wrote We Are The World for the African famine relief campaign in the 1980s.

He donated some of his profits from albums and concerts to the Heal the World Foundation, a charity he founded for underprivileged children. During his life Jackson donated about $US300 million to 39 charities.

He probably also donated to Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) until he left them in 1987.  

Jackson’s eighth album Dangerous (1991) saw his popularity begin to slide.

The "wacko" label became pervasive as Jackson:

•    Changed skin color (attributed to lupus and vitiligo);
•    Had facial operations that changed his features;
•    Slept in an oxygen chamber to extend his longevity;
•    Tried to contact John Lennon's ghost;
•    Had a monkey live in his house;
•    Tried to get a British knighthood;
•    Offered to buy the bones of the Elephant Man;
•    Built a fantasy land where crowds of kids visited;
•    Built a huge statue of himself;
•    Became addicted to pain killers;
•    Relied on "charlatan doctors" and became drug dependent;
•    Invited teenage boys to sleep in his bedroom and went to trial for child molestation in 2005;
•    Reportedly converted to Islam;
•    Dissipated his huge fortune by impulse spending;
•    Was pushed around in a wheelchair in 2007, and disguised himself as a woman;
•    Got a reputation of being unreliable — "He tells barefaced lies … like dealing with a sociopath." (The Weekend Australian Review 2009, June 20-21, p. 18)

In the TV production Michael Jackson What Really Happened, Jackson's "right hand man", Tom Jones, who accompanied him on tours for 17 years, claimed much of the wackiness was a smokescreen. Jackson, he said, created a circus-like character for the media attention it gained.

Jackson also paid off the parents of some of the boys who slept in his bed. La Toya, a sister of Jackson, publicly declared, "I have seen cheques to the parents of these children." The 1993 incident cost $22 million to settle out of court.

After the 2005 trial Jackson went to Bahrain as guest of Sheik Abdullah bin Hamad the second son of the king. Dozens of court cases were still pending and in 2007 the Sheik joined the queue. He had funded Jackson’s lifestyle but Jackson then allegedly reneged on business deals.

Before his death Jackson was living in a rented $100,000 a month mansion and rehearsing six hours daily on a vegetarian diet and vitamins pills.

Michael Jackson died in June 2009 but the drama continued:

•    When Jackson announced he would do a final concert, some observers claimed his hands seemed bigger and his voice lower and this fueled rumors that look-alikes did some of his concert routines.

•    Deborah Rowe (former nurse working for Jackson’s dermatologist) with whom Jackson was married (1996-1999) and had two children (in 1997 and 1998) claimed he was not the father — the marriage was unconsummated and a sperm donor was used.

•    The dangerous sedative Diprivan, used by anesthetists, was reportedly found in Jackson’s home. (Sunday Mail 2009, July 12, p33)

•    Jackson’s bedroom was found outfitted with an intravenous drip and oxygen tanks.

•    At his death Jackson had debts of $400 million and faced 30 lawsuits. The autopsy revealed osteoarthritis of the vertebrae and damaged lungs and that he had taken drugs to kill pain, to sleep, and to energize himself. He had worn wigs since 1984 when burns left him partly bald.

•    Jackson’s doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for tackling Jackson's sleep problems by administering a drug that suppresses breathing and lowers blood pressure. (The Australian 2009 July 29, p. 9)

As regards Jackson's three children, reports on the Internet implied Jackson's mother, Katherine, was making respectable JWs of them:
Paris 13, Prince, 14 and Blanket, nine, were seen looking incredibly smart as they accompanied their grandmother Katherine Jackson, their legal guardian, to a Jehovah's Witness chapel at the weekend…

Prince Jackson got his collar straightened by a family friend before he entered the church at Woodland Hills, Los Angeles yesterday.

Blanket - real name Prince Michael Jackson II - even had his long hair tied back in a ponytail…

Paris … was in a modest black long-sleeve shift dress with white embroidery around the hem, collar and cuffs…
(Jody Thompson, September 23, 2011)
In 2013 the teenagers apparently rebelled:
Paris and Prince have decided to stop going door to door. Every Sunday, Paris, 15, and her brother Prince Michael, 16, would venture door-to-door in Calabasas, Calif., collecting donations for Jehovah's Witness. However … Paris … absolutely hated it!

For more information about Michael Jackson's remarkable life including his involvement with JWs see Investigator #103.