US singer and songwriter, who became the topselling pop artist of the 1980s.
Born in Gary, Indiana, he was the youngest of the original Jackson Five, a successful black pop group of the 1970s consisting of the five (later six) Jackson brothers. He sang on most of the group's recordings but released songs under his own name as early as 1971 when ‘Got to Be There’ became a major hit. However, his full-time solo career did not start until 1979, when Off the Wall became the best-selling album by a black artist to date. The up-tempo album Thriller (1982) was even more successful and Jackson's remarkable skill as a dancer was exploited to the full in spectacular accompanying videos. With world sales of over forty million, Thriller remains the biggest-selling album of all time. A series of hit singles from the album and its successor, Bad (1987), confirmed Jackson's status as the most successful entertainer of the decade.
However, by the time the Dangerous album – another huge seller – was released in 1991 Jackson's music was in danger of being eclipsed by a plethora of stories about his reclusive lifestyle, especially such eccentricities as his exotic pets, extreme vegetarianism, and extensive cosmetic surgery. The publicity surrounding Jackson became still more intense in 1993, when the Los Angeles police announced that they were investigating claims that the singer had sexually abused a thirteen-year-old boy. After months of lurid rumours, a private settlement was reached, with Jackson paying the boy's family some $26 million. Sales of the double album HIstory (1995), which contained both old hits and some new songs alluding to the scandal, showed that the affair had done little to diminish his commercial appeal. Jackson has had two very brief marriages, firstly (1994–95) to Elvis Presley's daughter Lisa Marie and secondly (1996–9) to Debbie Rowse, the nurse of his plastic surgeon. In 2005 he was acquitted of seven charges of child abuse following a revelation in an interview in 2003 that he had shared his bedroom with child ‘friends’. Poor health and financial problems dominated his later years. He died just before the start of a series of 50 concerts in London, planned to restore his finances.