The King of Pop was one of the most compelling figures of the 20th century. There was his young start, his tumultuous family life, and his utter domination of the music charts. Then, later, the scandals and mystery that followed him throughout his final years. It would be an understatement to say that Michael Jackson led an extremely controversial and complicated life. So, how much do we know about the original thriller? Read on for undeniable facts about Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.
1. They Were a Musical Family
Many people think that Michael Jackson was thrust into show business the minute he was born, but that’s not necessarily the case. His parents were interested in music, granted, but in 1958 when Michael was born, they were both still working regular jobs. However, it was soon after Michael’s birth that his father, Joe Jackson, got the wheels rolling on a musical project for his sons.
2. He Completed the Group
Joe Jackson enlisted Michael’s older brothers Jackie, Tito, and Germaine to form a group called the Jackson Brothers. At the age of six, Michael began to play congas and tambourine as part of their backing band, but when he showed his family that he could sing, they expanded the group and renamed it the Jackson 5.
3. He Did More Than Most Kids His Age
We know the Jackson 5 for hit songs like “ABC,” but before they ever struck it big, they were a hardworking touring group. Before Michael was even 10, the Jackson 5 were touring the US—and some of the places they played were a little less age-appropriate than others. While they’d play high school dances, they were also frequently featured at clubs and cocktail bars—sometimes as openers for striptease acts.
4. He Lived in Fear
Before he’d hit his teen years, Michael Jackson was already experiencing great success with the Jackson 5—but behind the scenes, he was living a nightmare. His father Joe was an exacting perfectionist, and would often beat and berate Michael during the Jackson 5’s rehearsals. Michael later revealed that Joe would sit in a chair as the boys rehearsed, holding a belt and waiting for the moment when one of them would make a mistake.
5. They Got Rich & Famous
Despite all the persecution that Michael underwent at the hands of his father, he did say that Joe’s perfectionism compelled him to become a better and more disciplined performer—and of course, it eventually paid off. The Jackson 5 had their first #1 single with “I Want You Back” in 1970, and it was followed by another string of hits that cemented the group’s fame—and made the Jackson family rich.
6. He Grew Up
By this point, Michael was undeniably the lead singer and the main attraction in the Jackson 5. At the same time, he was also transforming from child star to teen idol, with all the attention that came with it. While he continued to perform with the Jackson 5, he also released his first solo albums.
7. He Wanted to Do More
Jackson spent the next few years splitting his time between the Jackson 5—who eventually just became the Jacksons—and his solo career. Jackson didn’t just want to sing: he was also developing his dancing skills and began to write songs for himself and the Jacksons. He was destined to be a superstar—but there were more than a few bumps along the way.
8. He Had a Huge Disappointment
In 1978, Jackson left his family and moved to New York City to star in a musical. Sadly, a heartbreak was lurking around the corner for Jackson. Getting cast as the Scarecrow in the Wiz was a dream come true for Jackson, but then film was a huge flop both critically and commercially. It was a crushing blow, but Jackson bounced back—his next solo album, Off the Wall, became a massive hit.
9. He Wanted More
However, it wasn’t good enough for Jackson. He’d inherited the perfectionist gene from his father, and after all the work that he had put into Off the Wall, he expected it to do much better than it did, and thought that it should have won the Grammy for Record of the Year. This perceived “failure” made him even more determined to produce an album that would become not only a massive hit, but have lasting influence.
10. He Was Isolated
During this time, Jackson had become more and more independent from his family. On one hand, this meant that he had greater creative freedom—but there was also a dark side to it. In the years between Off the Wall and Jackson’s next album, he confessed that he was desperately lonely.
He detailed his isolation in an interview, saying “Even at home, I’m lonely. I sit in my room sometimes and cry. It’s so hard to make friends… I sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home.”
11. He Had a Vision
Despite his troubles at home, Jackson remained hopeful about the next step in his career. He came up with one goal: to create an album where “every song in a killer.” That album ended up being 1982’s Thriller—and it was the album that finally gave Jackson what he wanted and what he’d been working for. It first became the best-selling album of all-time in the US, and later, the world.
12. He Knew What to Do
Of course, it wasn’t a straight line upward to success. While the album initially sold tons of copies in 1982, its popularity began to decline in 1983—but Jackson was determined to keep it at the top of the charts. He came up with an idea for another music video that would cause a resurgence, but his record company was content to let the album rest on his laurels.
That wasn’t good enough for Jackson, so he convinced MTV to fund the video. That video, of course, was the iconic “Thriller,” and it was such a huge hit that MTV committed to playing it twice every hour—despite the fact that it was 14 minutes long.
13. Their Problems Flared Up
Jackson was officially one of the most in-demand entertainers in the world, and the production for the “Thriller” video was an ambitious affair—with its fair share of dark drama behind the scenes. Director John Landis relayed an incident where Joe Jackson came to visit his son on set, only for Michael to ask for him to leave. Joe refused, and law enforcement eventually had to come physically remove him from the premises…and the dramatics it didn’t end there.
14. He Was Threatened
Jackson had been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness by his mother, Katherine. When the church leaders got wind of the macabre themes of the song’s video, they sent him a vicious warning. They claimed that the video promoted demonology and all but promised that he’d be excommunicated if it ever saw the light of day. Jackson was terrified.
15. He Panicked
Upon learning the church’s plans to cast him out, Jackson’s reaction was utterly heartbreaking. He nearly scrapped the entire video that he’d worked so hard on. Eventually, he came to a compromise with the help of his assistant, and added a disclaimer to the video that stated that it did not reflect his personal beliefs.
The video was eventually released, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses lightened their stance. It also wound up boosting the sales of Thriller, just as Jackson had intended.
16. He Blew Everyone Away
Around the same time, Jackson appeared on a TV special called Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, but only on the condition that he be allowed to perform solo. His performance was absolutely mind-blowing. It was on that special that he showed off his new favorite dance move—the now iconic “Moonwalk.” Although dancers had been using variations of the moonwalk dance for years, it immediately became associated with Jackson and his song “Billie Jean.”
17. It Was Based On a Real Crazed Fan
“Billie Jean” is one of Jackson’s most famous songs—but few know the disturbing story behind it. Jackson initially claimed that it was about the groupies his brothers had to deal with in the Jackson 5, but his biographer later revealed that Michael had a crazed fan of his own. In 1981, he began receiving letters from a fan who claimed that he was father of one of her twin babies. That’s red flag #1—but that’s not the worst part.
18. They Got Worse and Worse
At first, Jackson ignored the letters, but the woman continued to write to him and plead with him to pay attention to his own “flesh & blood.” They began to bother Jackson, and caused him to have nightmares. Finally, they culminated with a truly horrifying package. In it was a photograph of the woman, a firearm, and a letter that told him that he should shoot himself at a specific time.
The letter claimed that the woman would kill her child and then herself at the same time, so that they could all experience the “next life” together—and it got even more strange from there.
19. It Haunted Him
Jackson’s reaction to the woman’s final plea was utterly chilling. It was claimed that he had the woman’s photo framed and hung it up in the family dining room. Later, the family learned that the fan had eventually been sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Jackson then used this disturbing sequence of events as inspiration for “Billie Jean.” Yikes!
20. He Was Hurting
The stress of being one of the most in-demand stars in the world, if not the most, weighed heavily on Michael Jackson—but that wasn’t the only thing he had to worry about. Behind the scenes, he was in the midst of an excruciating battle. He didn’t show it, but he was in poor health, and in 1984, he finally got some answers when he was diagnosed with a form of lupus that leaves painful lesions on the skin. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the only health problem that would haunt the singer.
21. He Was in a Painful Accident
The drama of “Billie Jean” didn’t end with the song’s bizarre origin story. In 1984, Pepsi requested to make a commercial featuring Michael Jackson and using that particular song. During the making of the ad, disaster struck. A pyrotechnic effect exploded at the wrong time, and Jackson’s hair caught on fire. He had to be rushed to hospital—and the effects were gruesome.
22. Recovery Was Difficult
Jackson suffered from second degree burns on his scalp as a result of the fireworks display gone wrong, and doctors had to perform procedures to help hide the scars that were left. On top of that, the deal with Pepsi had been a huge one, but Jackson had to take them the court as a result of the accident.
There was a bright side though—when they paid him a $1.5 million settlement, he donated it to a hospital in California, and they created the Michael Jackson Burn Center.
23. He Reunited With His Family…
Although Michael was a bona fide superstar solo artist at the time, he was still a Jackson. It’s really not known why he decided to join the Victory tour with his brothers in 1984—he didn’t need the money, and could’ve successfully pulled off a tour of his own. Maybe it just came down to family ties. Either way, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster.
24. …But It Didn’t Go So Well
Although Joe Jackson was no longer the manager for any of his sons, he worked with the concert production team to come up with a way to generate more revenue from ticket sales. They sold advance tickets via postal money order that would allow buyers to enter a ticket lottery…but only in blocks of four, and at $30 a piece. The price was astronomical compared to other stars of the day, and that wasn’t even the worst part.
25. It Was Greedy
On top of that, Joe Jackson and his colleagues would then take that money and invest it until the venues were secured, and then reap the profits. Everyone was in favor of the plan…except for Michael. He knew it was a selfish cash grab, and warned them that it would look bad. They went ahead with it anyway—and predictably, people were furious.
26. It Screwed Over His Fans
The scheme made buying tickets impossible for many of Michael’s black fans, or any fans experiencing financial insecurity. The community was outraged, and Michael received hundreds of letters about the fiasco—but one in particular broke his heart. It was from an 11-year-old fan named Ladonna Jones, who told him that she’d been working odd jobs and saving for months to see him, but would never be able to afford a four-ticket block.
Michael knew he had to do something.
27. He Redeemed Himself
Jackson held a press conference and announced that not only had he changed the entire ticket sales system for the tour, but that he would also be donating all of his profits from the tour to charities. As for the young fan, Ladonna Jones? He made sure that she was able to come to the Dallas concert on the tour, where she received VIP treatment.
28. You Could Cut the Tension With a Knife
Jackson may have agreed to go on tour with his brothers, but after the ticket debacle, he began to distance himself from the family’s business side—and on the tour, it got downright icy. He traveled separately from them on a private jet while they flew commercial. When they did have to share vans or helicopters, Michael would bring his famous friends to ride with him, to his brothers’ chagrin.
Frequently, three lawyers would do the communicating between the brothers: one for Michael, one for Jermaine, and one representing the rest. Yikes.
29. It Was the End
The disasters didn’t end there. As it went on, the tour’s costs expanded and profits shrunk. Co-producer Don King made a speech excoriating Michael for the way he treated his family—a speech that Michael found deeply hurtful. Finally, on the last date of the tour, Michael made a stunning announcement. He said that it would be the last time he performed with his brothers.
Not only was this a shock to fans—it shocked the Jacksons too, as he hadn’t said a thing to them about it beforehand.
30. They Wouldn’t Leave Him Alone
By the mid-80s, Michael Jackson was the biggest star in the world. Following the success of Thriller, the pressure was on—but the attention was utterly oppressive. Jackson’s appearance had begun to change, and people noticed. His skin was getting paler and paler, and the media spread vicious gossip that he was bleaching it.
31. He Was Suffering in Secret
However, they didn’t know the truth behind it all. In 1986, Jackson’s dermatologist diagnosed him with vitiligo, a disorder where the skin suddenly loses pigment in patches. Jackson was extremely sensitive about his appearance, and used makeup to even everything out, which contributed to his pale appearance. Still, that didn’t stop cruel speculation from the press.
32. Tabloids Went Overboard
Throughout the mid-80s, Jackson was the subject of bizarre rumors—each stranger than the next. Some tabloids reported that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen tank in order to slow down the aging process, while others claimed that he used female hormones to make his voice soft. There were also the rumors that he was involved with Elizabeth Taylor—or that he was, at the very least, disturbingly obsessed with her. And that wasn’t all.
33. Controversy Seemed to Follow Him
No matter what Michael Jackson did, tabloids couldn’t help but create strange narratives around him—not that his odd behavior did anything to deter him. It was around this time that he purchased a chimpanzee named Bubbles, who accompanied him on a tour of Japan. There were also reports that he was attempting to buy the remains of Joseph Merrick, AKA “The Elephant Man.”
34. He Hated Their Nickname for Him
These bizarre incidents caused the tabloids to give him the nickname “Wacko Jacko”—a cruel cut that hurt him deeply. However, Jackson’s odd behavior and fixation on the trappings of childhood would persist throughout the next two decades—and bring a lot of unwanted attention to the singer and his personal life.
35. He Was Bad
Rumors or no rumors, fans were still hotly anticipating the singer’s next album—and it didn’t disappoint. They waited five years for Bad, and it shot up the charts, producing five #1 singles. Jackson reunited with Pepsi to sponsor the tour for it, which was not only insanely profitable, but also nearly two years long. It also earned him his most endearing nickname: “The King of Pop.”
36. He Confronted the Rumors
Among other things, it was Jackson’s appearance in the music video for the song “Bad” that sparked further talk about his changing appearance. He finally addressed it all in his 1988 autobiography Moonwalker, saying that his face had changed as the result of three plastic surgeries, puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a different hairstyle, and, finally, stage lighting.
37. There Was Jealousy
In the 70s, young Michael had been the undeniable star of the Jackson 5—but that didn’t sit well with all of his siblings. In particular, Jermaine Jackson was jealous of his brother’s stardom. Jermaine thought he deserved to lead the group over his little brother, and while both of them were groomed for solo careers, it’s undeniable that Michael’s went a little bit better.
The jealousy never faded later in life, and Jermaine was quoted by family friends as saying “That should have been me,” many times.
38. They Lost a Brother
Michael was just one of Joe and Katherine Jackson’s nine children, but there was actually another, tenth child. Marlon Jackson was born alongside his twin brother, Brandon, but Brandon tragically passed within 24 hours of birth. At Michael’s funeral, Marlon gave a eulogy and asked Michael to give their lost brother a hug for him.
39. He Wanted His Boundaries
Jackson was incredibly private about his personal life. Aside from a short relationship with Tatum O’Neal, he wasn’t really attached to anyone during the 80s. He appeared opposite former model Tatiana Thumbtzen in the video for “The Way You Make Me Feel” and even brought her on tour with him—but one day, she crossed a line.
During a performance of that song on the Bad tour, Thumbtzen kissed Jackson without his permission. Once they got off stage, he effectively fired her and sent her home from the tour.
40. He Built His Own Paradise
Partway through the Bad tour, Michael Jackson purchased a large parcel of land near Santa Ynez, California and built what would become the infamous Neverland Ranch. He enlisted child star Macauley Culkin to help design it. There was a Ferris wheel, carousel, movie theater, and zoo—and also, a team of 40 security guards patrolling the grounds at all times.
41. He Let It All Out
While rumors about Jackson had spread for years, he finally broke his silence about many of them in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993. He denied the allegations about the hyperbaric chambers, skin bleaching, and purchasing the Elephant Man’s bones. There were two things that he did elaborate on for the first time: He revealed that he had vitiligo, which he had never told the public before, and he talked more about his childhood persecution at the hands of his father.
Audiences were rapt—but there was another bombshell around the corner.
42. The First Accusations Came
Just a few months after the Oprah interview, Jackson’s name again made headlines—this time, for a truly disturbing reason. In August 1993, a man named Evan Chandler accused Jackson of having an inappropriate relationship with his son, 13-year-old Jordan Chandler. There was no denying that the two knew each other—Jordan Chandler had been a frequent guest at the Neverland Ranch.
Evan confronted his ex-wife June, who had custody of Jordan, with suspicions that their son had been in an inappropriate relationship with Jackson, and June dismissed his worries—but then, she quickly changed her mind.
43. They Tried to Get Money Out of Him
The Chandlers had their son examined by a psychiatrist, who came to the conclusion that there was reason enough to believe that their son had been inappropriately involved with Jackson. At first, they kept the discussions about what had happened between their lawyer and Jackson’s, in an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement. When they thought that Jackson’s proposed $350K was too low, they went public.
44. They Took It to Law Enforcement
In late August of 1993, the Chandlers went to the LAPD, who began a probe into the charges against Michael Jackson. To say the investigation was thorough would be an understatement. They searched the Neverland Ranch, questioned 30 children who had regularly spent time there, and interviewed Jackson’s limo driver, who dropped a bombshell. He claimed that he’d driven Jackson to the Chandler home every night for a period of 30 days. However, that wasn’t all.
45. He Was Trying to Get Money Out of Him
Law enforcement also began to investigate Evan Chandler, the father of the boy, for extortion. They were given recorded phone calls where Chandler implied that he’d ruin Jackson’s career and life. On one call, when asked what the effect would be on his son, Evan Chandler replied “That’s irrelevant.” LAPD also found that Chandler had gambling debts in the tens of thousands of dollars.
46. It Slipped Through Their Fingers
Still, LAPD went through with the investigation—but then, they were stopped in their tracks. Jackson and Chandler’s lawyers had come to an agreement and they settled for $25 million out of court. The LAPD had lost Jordan Chandler as a witness, and they had no choice but to drop the case—but as we all know, the accusations didn’t end there.
47. She Turned Against Him
Shortly after the accusations became public, Michael’s sister La Toya publicly denounced her family for being silent collaborators and allowing him to take advantage of the young children he was frequently seen in the company of. She went even further to say that the family knew about pay-offs made to one particular child’s family for an amount close to $1 million.
There were allegedly letters Katherine had written to Michael in which she called him a slur and discusses these payments. But that wasn’t all.
48. They Picked Their Side
The family defended itself and Michael against the allegations, essentially throwing La Toya under the bus. However, long-time family friend Stacy Brown wrote in the New York Post that he heard Jermaine mention those specific letters from Katherine to Michael, which would mean the allegations were true. Either way, the accusations of misconduct continued over the years.
49. There Was a Dark Aftermath
The effects on Jackson of the scrutiny that came with the accusations was chilling. He was unable to eat and dropped 10 pounds. It eventually got so bad that he lost consciousness and had to be fed intravenously. He eventually had to cancel his ongoing tour. Finally, Jackson finally spoke to the media and responded to the allegations for the first time—and his statement was shocking.
50. He’d Been Hiding Something
When Jackson finally addressed the accusations made against him, he revealed a disturbing secret: his ongoing addiction to painkillers. He’d become dependent on them since the 1984 Pepsi ad incident where he’d received painful burns, and he’d been using them even more since the Chandler family matter had been made public.
51. He Got Help
Jackson’s problems with painkillers had reached a horrifying apex in late 1993. While flying to the UK with close friend Elizabeth Taylor, he could barely stand up, and a search at the airport found 18 vials of medicine in his suitcase. He was rushed to the home of Elton John’s manager, and then a private clinic, where he began to receive treatment to help him kick the habit. Sadly, it wouldn’t be enough.
52. It Nearly Ruined Him
Jackson denied the accusations against him, and he later talked about how horrible and humiliating the entire experience had been. While many fans stood by him, it had a cooling effect on his career, and he lost many brand partnerships and opportunities. His health problems continued, and he even collapsed on stage while making a special for HBO.
53. She Stood by Him
During this period, Jackson had the unwavering support of Elizabeth Taylor—and it made the rest of his family furious. Katherine Jackson reportedly hated her and felt that Taylor had taken her son away from her and replaced her in his life. On her visits to Neverland Ranch, she would go so far as to refuse to sit where Taylor had previously sat at the table.
54. He Prioritized Her Over His Own Mother
While her behavior may come across as jealous and possessive, Michael did prefer to spend time with Taylor over his family, and he made that very clear to them. When he was hospitalized in the 90s, for example, Katherine had to make an appointment to see him, whereas Taylor was allowed to see him anytime she wanted.
Eventually, the whole family developed a burning resentment for Taylor and went to therapy about it on Janet Jackson’s dime. It didn’t help.
55. He Used Bizarre Methods
Even though he was, at one point, the biggest popstar in the world, Michael’s extreme shyness never left him. One very strange way he would try to overcome his bashfulness is by surrounding himself with life-sized mannequins, like the ones you would see in store display windows. Creepy, but creative.
56. He Got Hitched
Following the horrible period of disturbing accusations and close media scrutiny, Jackson shocked the tabloids yet again. In 1993, he proposed to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley. The two had been close friends for years, and he had become increasingly dependent on her. The pair married in May 1994, but it was far from a fairy tale.
57. It Didn’t Last
The media considered Jackson and Presley’s marriage to be a complete publicity stunt in order to shift the focus from the allegations against him (and to boost her flagging singing career). Within two years, the pair got divorced, citing irreconcilable differences. Presley didn’t seek out any money in the divorce—she only asked to be able to use her maiden name again. However, that didn’t stop her from laying their relationship bare later on.
58. He Was Looking for Support
Presley reported that throughout the time when Jackson was dealing with the accusations against him, they would speak on the phone every night, and she would comfort the fragile singer. She was worried about his health, and on one call, she claimed that he was high, incoherent and delusional—but that wasn’t all.
59. He Wasn’t Exactly Smooth
Jackson’s proposal to Presley wasn’t exactly the stuff that romance novels are made of. During one of their many phone calls, he said to her: “If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?” Sounds like more of a plea than a proposal. Either way, it worked on Presley.
60. They Orchestrated It All
When it was reported that Jackson had paid a settlement to the family of his accuser, many saw it as an admission of wrongdoing—but there’s one dark detail that few know. The settlement—and the negotiations for it—had all been arranged by Jackson’s insurance company, against Jackson’s wishes.
61. It Wasn’t What He Wanted
The insurance company likely saw the settlement as a way to prevent further damage to Jackson’s career and assets, which they had a financial interest in. A decade later, one of Jackson’s lawyers stated that he regretted the involvement of the insurance company, who made it seem like it was a way for him to maintain his innocence and get the case dropped.
62. His Words Were Risque
Despite the damage to his career, Michael Jackson’s next release, a 1995 double album of greatest hits and new songs titled HIStory became a hit. Still, controversy followed wherever he went. The Anti-Defamation League complained about slurs in his song “They Don’t Care About Us,” and he went on to change the lyrics as a result.
You’d think he’d stay out of the headlines after that, but oh no…
63. He Got Married…Again
While on tour to promote the album, Michael Jackson did something completely out of left field. He married his long-time dermatologist’s nurse, Debbie Rowe. Even more surprising? She was already six months’ pregnant at the time. It all seemed a bit odd—she wasn’t quite as glamorous as his last wife, Lisa Marie Presley.
Later, Presley revealed what she knew about Rowe.
64. He Wanted Kids
Jackson had wanted to start a family for a long time, and Rowe knew it. She proposed to him that she would bear his children even before he got together with Presley. Then, when Jackson and Presley split, he finally took her up on her offer. They had two children together: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (later nicknamed Prince), and Paris Jackson.
65. It Didn’t Last
Functional as it was, the media scrutiny was hard on Rowe, and the pair ended up divorcing in 1999. Jackson received full custody of the two children, and Rowe received a handsome cash settlement and a house. All parties were happy…at first.
66. He Wanted to Be a Movie Star
Though Jackson didn’t end up with a particularly notable filmography, you could fill a book with all of the movies he was supposed to be in. When it came out that Tim Burton was directing a remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jackson recorded an entire soundtrack for the film in the hopes of landing the role of Willy Wonka. In the end, he had his heartbroken.
67. They Rejected Him
The movie was going in a different direction, but the producers loved the idea of using Michael’s soundtrack, so they offered to pay him a huge sum of money and to give him a small, supporting role. Jackson was deeply offended by the offer—it was Wonka or bust for him—so he dropped out of the project completely. Other roles Jackson was in talks for at one point or another? Spider-Man, Quasimodo, Peter Pan, a mime, and allegedly even Jar Jar Binks!
68. His Family Welcomed Another
As Jackson’s children grew, he realized he wanted to expand his family—but the incessant attention from his brief marriage to Debbie Rowe had turned him off of, erm, more conventional arrangements. So, he decided to conceive by artificial insemination and use an anonymous surrogate mother. In 2002, his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (or “Blanket”) was born—but it wouldn’t be Jackson without a shocking moment.
69. He Made A Terrible Mistake
Jackson stunned the world when the media broadcast footage of him dangerously dangling his third child, infant Prince Michael II, over a balcony on the fourth floor of a Berlin hotel for all hovering fans and photographers to see. He later stated that the incident had been “a terrible mistake.” Yeah, that’s one way to put it…
70. It Fanned the Flames
The controversy didn’t end there. In 2003, a documentary aired that stoked even more negative attention into Jackson’s activities at home called Living With Michael Jackson. In it, Jackson defended his bizarre lifestyle, and claimed that he saw no problems in having sleepovers with minors. However, there was a backlash.
71. The Filmmaker Was Criticized
The documentary’s filmmaker, Martin Bashir, was accused of exploiting Michael, and Jackson even came out with video he’d taped himself during his interviews with Bashir that made it seem like Bashir’s footage had been taken out of context. Either way, larger problems were lurking around the corner.
72. The Doc Made Them Suspicious
A young boy who had credited Jackson’s kind treatment to helping him beat cancer was featured in the documentary. His name was Gavin Arvizo. In the show, Jackson admitted that Arvizo and his sibling had stayed in Jackson’s bed, but clarified that he’d slept on the floor. Even though Arvizo’s mother criticized the documentary filmmaker, the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services began to investigate Jackson and the Arvizos.
73. He Was Finally Charged
Throughout the investigation, the Arvizos changed their tune, with Gavin accusing Jackson of having an inappropriate relationship with him, and his mother even claiming they’d been held captive at Neverland Ranch. Soon after, law enforcement detained Michael Jackson.
74. He Fought Back
The trial was long and hundreds of witnesses were prepared to testify on either side. Jackson’s team portrayed the Arvizos as a family of grifters who attempted to use Gavin’s cancer to take advantage of celebrities and poked holes in Gavin and his brother’s testimony. Ultimately, Jackson was found not guilty—but the trial left an even larger stain on his reputation.
75. He Lost His Home
In March of 2006, California state authorities ordered Jackson to close the Neverland Ranch and fined him more than $100,000 for failing to pay the staff there or maintain proper insurance. He was drowning in lawyer’s fees and loans he’d taken out, and had to sell some of his catalog rights to pay back his debtors. It was a heartbreaking further blow after the controversy of the previous year.
76. He Was Going to Make a Comeback
For the next three years, Jackson was fairly reclusive but continued to work on new music. Three years after his trial, he planned a triumphant final tour called This Is It. It would also act as something of a comeback, and he began the extremely intense preparation for it in March 2009. Sadly, he’d never get to see his dream come true.
77. They Couldn’t Save Him
On June 25, 2009, paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department received a 9-1-1 call at 12:21 pm. Jackson was in medical distress. They arrived three minutes and 17 seconds later, at which point Jackson was reportedly not breathing. Paramedics are reported to have wanted to pronounce him dead at the scene, but a doctor insisted he be taken to a hospital.
Paramedics performed CPR on Jackson on the way to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where they arrived at 1:14 pm and continued for an hour. Sadly, it wasn’t enough. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm. He was 50 years old.
78. It Caught Up to Him
Jackson’s substance use was a problem for decades of his life, and it ended up playing a major role in his passing. An autopsy revealed that he had a variety of substances in his system, one of which, Propofol, had caused cardiac arrest. Immediately, all eyes turned to the doctor who had provided him with the Propofol.
79. But Someone Else Was to Blame
The night of Jackson’s passing, his physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, had been there to give him the cocktail of prescriptions that Murray claimed he needed to sleep. Following the autopsy, law enforcement detained Murray and charged him with voluntary manslaughter. During a trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years—although he was released after less than two due to overcrowding.
80. They Cut Them Off
Although all of the Jacksons tasted musical success, debts started to pile up over the years and the family began relying heavily on Michael and Janet, who were bringing in the most money as their careers continued to shine. However, Michael and Janet eventually cut off their siblings and parents in 2003, for reasons unknown—but that was around the time Michael was facing costly court proceedings.
81. Joe Wanted His Share
Michael went so far as to leave his father and siblings out of his will so that when he passed in 2009, his money was put into a trust meant for his children and Katherine, who was named their guardian. The rest of the money not used for the trust went to charity. Joe did not take this lying down and filed a petition for $15,000 per month for living expenses, which he withdrew a year later, again for unknown reasons.
82. There Was a Real Billie Jean
It should come as no surprise that many out there claim to be Michael’s son or daughter. However, Brandon Howard’s claim just might legitimate. Brandon not only looks like Michael, but his mannerisms are spookily similar. Brandon’s mom knew Michael in the 1980s, when she was going by a very familiar name—Billie Jean. Brandon believes Michael is his father and even took a DNA test, the results of which stated there was a 99.9% match.
Before jumping to support Brandon, though, it’s important to note the dental sample Brandon used for the test was 30 years old and purchased from an auction. And, let’s not forget Michael himself spoke out on this issue with his lyrics: “She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son.”
83. Who’s the Father?
Paris and Prince continue to receive a lot of speculation and disbelief in their parentage. Debbie Rowe, their biological mother, was married to Michael for three years, during which time the couple never shared a home. Rowe claims she had children as a present to Michael, yet several men have come forward to say they are the kids’ biological father instead of Michael.
84. She Doesn’t Believe What They Claim
Years after her father’s passing, Jackson’s daughter Paris made a shocking accusation against Dr. Conrad Murray. She claimed that he’d taken her father’s life on purpose, saying “My father was murdered.” Jackson had always been paranoid, and thought that people were out to get him—concerns that he shared with Paris when he was still alive. She said: “It sounds like a total conspiracy theory […] but all real fans and everybody in the family knows it.”
85. They Were Also to Blame
Paris also accused AEG, the promoters of Jackson’s final tour, of overworking him and being partially responsible for his passing. The Jackson family also sued AEG Live, claiming that they facilitated his overdose. It was actually AEG Live which hired Murray as Michael’s doctor. The Jacksons ultimately lost the case, but maintain their disgust for the company.
86. The Persecution Was Horrible
Despite the fact that he was one of nine children in the family, Jackson has said that his childhood was excessively lonely. Jackson’s father Joe would also berate him about his physical appearance—specifically telling him that he had a “fat nose” and giving him the nickname “Big Nose.” This cruel insult stuck with Jackson.
87. It Changed Him
Later in life, Jackson went to great lengths to change the shape and size of his nose through cosmetic means, undergoing at least two surgeries. Many doctors have speculated that Jackson underwent even more procedures during his life, considering the drastic change to his face over the years.
88. He Had a Famous Girlfriend
Tatum O’Neal was Jackson’s first girlfriend and, allegedly, his first real love. Jackson once said in an interview that during their time together, she had tried to seduce him, but the idea of intimacy terrified him so he backed off. For years, it was widely believed that Jackson had lost his virginity to O’Neal.
89. She Denied What He Said
In 2004, O’Neal shocked the world when she revealed the truth about their relationship in her tell-all memoir. According to her, the two of them kissed, but never did anything more—the tabloids had made their relationship seem far more scandalous than it had been in real life. However, she also denied Michael’s claim that she tried to seduce him.
90. Macca Was His Mentor
Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney worked on a number of songs together in the early 80s, when Michael was still relatively green about the music business. McCartney taught him about the value of music publishing rights—and years later, Jackson turned around and used that knowledge to deal McCartney a crushing blow.
91. He Used the Knowledge Against Him
In 1984, a catalog of the publishing rights to nearly 4,000 songs came up for sale, which included most of the Beatles’ material. McCartney had already tried to buy the catalog, without any luck. At first, Jackson offered to buy it with him, but then McCartney suddenly dropped out. Jackson bought the catalog alone—but McCartney was completely blindsided by the move, and the two would never work together again.
92. His Accuser Took His Own Life
Soon after Jackson’s passing, a man who had made horrific accusations against him was found dead in his own New Jersey apartment. That man was Evan Chandler. He had taken his own life. Chandler had been the one to claim that Jackson had an inappropriate relationship with his son all the way back in 1993, spurring the first LAPD investigation into Jackson.
They had also suspected Chandler of simply trying to get money from Jackson. While the family had received that large cash settlement, it wasn’t exactly a happy ending for them.