In just over fifty years of life, Michael Jackson performed more #1 hit singles than any other male solo act in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. Even though the peak of his popularity occurred over thirty years ago, his music and his impact on the world are still wide-spread. Michael and his music have provided the soundtrack to many of the highlights of our own lives, and as a tribute we have created a list of 13 highlights of Michael’s life—one for each #1 hit.
1. August 29, 1958: Michael is born to Joe and Katherine Jackson, becoming the 8th child in the now-famous Jackson family (his younger sister, Janet, would also become an accomplished singer in her own right).
While Michael’s relationship with his blue-collar father was never ideal, he would eventually recognize the role that his father’s harsh discipline and strict training regimen played in his musical improvement and success.
2. 1964: Michael joins his four older brothers to form the Jackson 5, a pop music group whose songs include hits such as “ABC”, “I Want You Back”, and “I’ll be There”.
The brothers mainly performed in talent shows and other amateur settings until the late 1960’s, where they gained a crossover popularity that lasted throughout the 1970’s.
3. 1971: The solo career of Michael Jackson begins. While Jackson would continue to tour with the Jackson 5 throughout the 1970’s, he began his illustrious solo career at the young age of 13.
4. January 24, 1972: Michael publishes his first solo album, Got to Be There with Motown records. He would go on to publish three more albums with Motown before leaving for Epic Records.
Michael’s desire to graduate from performer to songwriter fueled the decision to switch labels; Motown preferred to select and create the music for its acts itself, while Michael wanted to have more control over the creation of his music.
5. June 23, 1972: The film “Ben” debuts, for which Michael had performed a song by the same name. That theme song would go on to become the first of 13 Michael Jackson solo hits to reach #1 in the United States. He would not, however, reach the top of the charts again for another seven years.
6. August 10, 1979: Off the Wall, Michael’s first album with Epic Records, is released. Armed with the songwriting talents of Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Michael himself, the album went platinum and fully established Michael as a solo star.
7. February 27, 1980: For his work on the song “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, Michael receives his first Grammy award as the winner of the best male R&B performance of 1979. The song was also Michael’s first in which he assumed complete creative control.
8. November 30, 1982: Thriller is released, quickly becoming the best-selling album of all time (it currently stands at around 65 million copies sold, according to Guiness World Records). While Off the Wall established Michael as a star, Thriller established Michael as a king. The album broke records by winning Michael eight more Grammy awards, including the prestigious “Album of the Year’.
Seven singles were released from the album, all of which charted in at least the top 10.
9. December 2, 1983: With the help of director John Landis, Michael releases the “Thriller” music video. The innovative blend of film making and song had an immediate and long-lasting effect on popular culture. In fact, it remains the only music video to be included in the library of congress.
10. August 31, 1987: Michael continues his dominance of the 80’s with the release of The album would reach #1 in thirteen countries, and contained a record five singles that would go on to top the charts at #1 as well.
While Michael would release three additional #1 albums in later years (Dangerous, HIStory, and Invincible), Thriller and Bad remain the most successful and most well-known.
11. February 13, 1997: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. is born, the first of three children. (Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson – April 3, 1998; Prince Michael Jackson II – February 1, 2002.)
12. 2009: Michael plans a comeback tour, entitled “This Is It.” The tour originally included only 10 shows, but increased to 50 after an unprecedented demand for tickets. Within four hours, even those additional shows had been entirely sold out.
After months of preparation and anticipation, Michael would tragically pass away just weeks before the first show.
13. June 25, 2009: Michael dies as a result of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication. VH1 would call this the “Most shocking music moment” of all time. Following his death, sales of his music skyrocketed, and millions around the world mourned the loss.
Although Michael’s life was heartbreakingly short, the fruits of his genius still thrive and the world is a better place for it.