“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.” – Michael Jackson
The King of Pop was one of the most compelling figures of the 20th century. From his young start, to his tumultuous family life, to his utter domination of the music charts, to the scandals and intrigue that followed him throughout his final years, Michael Jackson led an extremely controversial and complicated life. So, how much do we know about the original thriller? Read on for 48 facts about the man himself.
48. Thanks I Guess?
In 2011, Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Fulham Football Club in England, commissioned a statue of Michael Jackson out front of Fulham’s home field, Craven Cottage. Al-Fayed was a friend of Jackson’s and he had the statue built as a tribute to the singer. The reaction to the statue was… less than ecstatic. Not only was the statue itself criticized for being just OK at best, many Fulham fans wondered what exactly Jackson had to do with the club. One fan said it made the team “a laughing stock,” and another thought it was an April Fools Joke. In response to the criticism, Al-Fayed “Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.” Yeesh.
The team changed ownership in 2013, and the new owners removed the statue from Craven Cottage. The next year, when Fulham was relegated from the Premier League, Al-Fayed blamed the team’s woes on the new ownership getting rid of his beloved statue.
47. Stop Calling!
In the “Thriller” music video, there’s a barcode that happens to be the same amount of digits as a phone number. This led to the widespread rumor that the code was actually Michael’s own phone number, prompting countless fans to try their luck and call. Unfortunately for them, it was not Michael’s number. In Washington, it belonged to a hair studio that was receiving up to 50 calls per day at one point, and in Ohio, it belonged to a woman who recalls the kids who called being quite nice, while the adults being generally “pretty rude and ignorant.”
46. Michael Jackson: 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. 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.
Some 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!
45. Finding Neverland
Neverland Valley Ranch Jackson’s 2700-acre ranch near Santa Ynez, California. It contains Jackson’s house, an amusement park co-designed by Macaulay Culkin, a private theater, a dance stage, and exotic animals.
44. Healing the World
Through his “Heal the World” Foundation, Jackson spearheaded airlifts of food and medical supplies to war-torn Sarajevo, instituted mentoring, immunization and drug-abuse education programs and paid for a Hungarian child’s liver transplant.
43. The Beatles Catalogue
Despite rumors, Michael’s estate does not own the right to the entire Beatles catalogue. For example, the family of the late George Harrison owns songs he wrote, including “Something,” and Sony music owns 50% of the catalogue after Jackson sold it to them because he needed the money. He did own a large part of the Beatles’ catalogue for a time, which led to a permanent rift in his and Paul McCartney’s relationship, but he never owned all of it.
42. A Terrible Mistake
Jackson shocked his fans when he dangled his third child, infant Prince Michael II, more commonly known as Blanket, over a balcony on the fourth floor of a Berlin hotel for all hovering fans to see. He later stated that he made “a terrible mistake.” Yeah, that’s one way to put it…
41. Staying on top.
His greatest hits compilation, Michael Jackson: Number Ones, sold six million copies worldwide following its release in November 2003, peaking at Number 1 in most countries.
40. To My Dear Friend Elton
In 1997, Jackson released an album titled Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. He dedicated the album to his friend Sir Elton John, who had helped him through his addiction to prescribed painkillers. It went on to sell six million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling remix album of all time.
39. Leave Me Alone, Please
In January 2000, Jackson announced he was considering retiring from the music industry because he was tired of the non-stop publicity. To be fair, when you live a life like Michael’s, publicity tends to follow you around.
38. Heal the Kids.
In 2001, Michael addressed the Oxford Union about child welfare as part of his “Heal the Kids” initiative. At times, Michael almost came to tears, especially when talking about his own childhood and his relationship with his father. Those who have studied Michael’s psychology often cite the speech as providing great insight into Michael’s views on children. The central theme of the address: children all around the world should be unconditionally loved by everyone.
37. A Drive With Marlon and Liz
Michael attended the memorial service for the late Marlon Brando in August 2004, along with Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn. Three years earlier, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando had jumped in a car together after 9/11—the three of them, no entourage—and drove to Ohio to escape New York City.
36. Thank You, Mr. President
MJ wasn’t honoured exclusively for his music. The man was much more than a pop icon.
He received a Presidential Humanitarian Award at the White House in May 1984, getting recognized for his contribution to the government’s campaign against drunk driving. His hit song “Beat It” was featured in television advertisements aimed at educating people about the dangers of driving under the influence.
35. The King and the Prince
Michael’s hit song “Bad” from 1987 was supposed to be a duet with fellow ’80s superstar Prince, but Prince opted out. Prince said in an interview that he did not wish to sing the line “Your butt is mine.”
34. Jackson on Surgery
Despite a number of surgeons that claimed that Jackson has undergone multiple facial surgeries, Jackson wrote in his 1988 autobiography “Moon Walk” that he only had two rhinoplastic surgeries. Michael attributed puberty and diet to the noticeable change in the structure of his face.
33. Here Come Old Flat Top
Jackson’s favorite Beatles song was “Come Together.” In fact, you can find his version of the song on HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. Jackson and Paul McCartney first met and became friends in the mid-1970s, when, according to Jackson, McCartney tried to sell him a song, “Girlfriend,” for Jackson’s upcoming solo album.
32. On Top of the World
On may 1st 2001, “Thriller” was voted at #1 by VH1 on their countdown of the Top 100 Greatest Videos Of All Time. Did you expect anything else?
31. Even the King Falters
In 2006, Jackson played at the World Music Awards in London, but while his performance was highly anticipated, many of his fans left disappointed. They had paid up to £500 to see the King of Pop and expected him to perform “Thriller,” but instead they only got to see Chris Brown’s recreation of the hit song. When Michael finally took the stage, it was only to take part in a chorus of “We Are The World.” Though some fans might have been disappointed, they didn’t realize that he would never perform live again.
30. The Jackson Estate
Katherine Jackson’s 50% share of the Jackson Estate is to be held in a lifetime trust for her benefit. Upon Katherine Jackson’s death, the balance of her trust is to be divided equally among Michael’s children Paris, Prince, and Blanket.
29. Good to be Bad.
Jackson was the highest earning singer of 1988-1989, earning $125 million from his worldwide “BAD” album tour. Now that’s not BAD at all.
28. Sold Out
Jackson was seen by a record 500,000 people during his seven day stand at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1988, a crowd which included royals Charles and Diana (when they were still together). The concert ended with his second encore, during which he performed “Man in the Mirror.” In 2012, to commemorate the shows, a concert film called Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 was released.
27. A Sad Day
On June 25, 2009, paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department received a 911 call at 12:21 pm. They arrived three minutes and seventeen seconds later, at which point Jackson was reportedly not breathing. The recording of the emergency call was released by the LAFD on June 27, 2009. Paramedics are reported to have wanted to pronounce him dead at the scene, but a doctor insisted he be taken to a hospital. CPR was performed on the way to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where they arrived at 1:14 pm and continued for an hour. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm. Following his death, 20% of his estate (more than $100 million) was donated to children’s charities, part of the more than $300 million Jackson donated to charity throughout his lifetime.
26. Thanks Again, Mr. President
After Michael’s death, US President Barack Obama sent a letter of condolence to the Jackson family. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama viewed Jackson as a “spectacular performer and a music icon.”
25. Jackson in Paint
An Andy Warhol’s head-and-shoulders portrait of Jackson made the cover of Time magazine on March 19, 1984.
24. Swag After Death
The gold coffin seen at his memorial is a rare design called “the Promethean.” It cost $25,000 and was made of solid bronze, plated with 14-carat gold. The coffin was hand-polished to a mirror finish and lined with velvet. It was identical to the coffin used to bury James Brown in 2006. No one can say Michael didn’t go out in style.
23. Super Jackson
In 1991, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced a film project called MidKnight that would star Jackson as a meek young man who secretly changes into a heroic singing and dancing knight at the stroke of midnight. The film was part of Jackson’s $1 billion re-up with Sony Music. The project fell apart due to contractual issues, as well as fallout after the 1993 child molestation allegations against him.
22. Kissy Kissy
In 1992, Jackson received his very first screen kiss in the John Singleton-directed music video “Remember the Time.” Seeing as his first music video was “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” in 1979, he managed to make it over a decade before getting a smooch.
21. Mourning the loss.
After Michael’s sudden death, Madonna and Diana Ross said they could not stop crying. Jackson’s former wife, Lisa Marie Presley, said Michael had told her he was afraid he would end up like Elvis Presley, her father. Elizabeth Taylor, a long-time friend, said she “can’t imagine life without him.” Liza Minnelli told CBS, “When the autopsy comes, all hell’s going to break loose, so thank God we’re celebrating him now.” Jamie Foxx, stated: “We want to celebrate this black man. He belongs to us and we shared him with everybody else.
20. This Is It
When he died, Jackson was in the middle of preparations to begin a residency at London’s O2 Arena, during which he would have performed 50 shows. The film This is It covers his preparations for the landmark concert series, and not long after its release it would go on to become the highest grossing documentary and concert movie of all time, unsurprising given the circumstances.
19. Remember This
One thing many perhaps didn’t realize about Jackson was that he had an incredible memory. In fact, many people even claimed he had a photographic memory. He could remember names, stories, and information relating to encounters with people many years before.
18. Getting Deep
Wesley Snipes, who got to know Jackson while making the ”Bad” music video, was surprised at the singer’s ability to hold long and detailed conversations about topics such as psychology, metaphysics, and social issues. Hey, we’d be surprised too.
17. Jackson and the Lost Boys
It has been implied that much of Jackson’s self-described “Peter Pan” persona as an eccentric and childlike man was created and imposed by his managers. In later years, friends described his desire to be Peter Pan as a major piece of who he was. In an interview, he was asked:
Q: You don’t want to grow up?
A: No, I am Peter Pan.
Q: No you’re not, your Michael Jackson.
A: I’m Peter Pan in my heart.
16. Impersonating Himself
In 2008 while at a Halloween party with his kids, people thought he was a Michael Jackson impersonator.
15. Thank Tou For Tour Service
Jackson greeted thousands of American troops in a US army base south of Tokyo in 2007. About 3,000 troops and their family members gathered in a fitness center at Camp Zama. Jackson, after shaking hands with and thanking the troops for their service, spoke to the crowd and said, “Those of you in here today are some of the most special people in the world. It is because of you in here today, and others who so valiantly have given their lives to protect us, that we enjoy our freedom.”
14. It Just Keeps Going
The music video for his song “Thriller” ran 13 minutes and 33 seconds, the longest music video ever at its time. This record was broken by Mike Skinner with the video for the song “When You Wasn’t Famous,” but “Thriller” still holds its place as the greatest music video of all time, something Mike Skinner can’t take away.
13. Kind to Those in Need
In June of 2003, the day after his neighbor and friend of 25 years Gregory Peck died, Jackson went to Peck’s house to help his widow plan the memorial service. Peck had once publicly praised the singer as a model parent.
12. The Spirit of Childhood
Some of Jackson’s favorite pastimes were water balloon fights and climbing trees. He wrote several songs sitting in his favorite tree at Neverland, which he called Giving Tree, after the Shel Silverstein story, because it was so inspiring.
11. All Hail the King of Pop
Michael wasn’t just called “The King of Pop”—it was official. He was presented with an “Artist of the Decade” award by Elizabeth Taylor in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul.”
10. Goodbye to Neverland
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.
9. Change and Controversy
Jackson hired Martin Scorsese to direct the “Bad” music video. When the video aired on television, it sparked controversy because Jackson’s appearance had changed dramatically. Jackson’s skin color had been a medium-brown for the duration of his youth, but his skin had gradually become paler since 1982. This was now so noticeable in the video that the entire press took out widespread coverage and claimed that Jackson had bleached his own skin. In 1993, Jackson claimed that his changing skin color was due to a skin disorder.
8. Until Death Do Us Part
Soon after Jackson’s death, a man who accused him of child abuse was found dead in his own New Jersey apartment. That man was Evan Chandler. He had committed suicide.
In the summer of 1993, Evan Chandler accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing his 13-year-old son, Jordan. Evan confronted his ex-wife June, who had custody of Jordan, with suspicions that their son had been in an inappropriate relationship with Jackson, but June dismissed his worries. Eventually, Michael made an out-of-court settlement over the matter for an estimated $15 million.
7. First Love
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 sex terrified him so he backed off. For years, it was widely believed that Jackson had lost his virginity to O’Neal, but in 2004 she shocked the world when she categorically denied this in her book. 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.
6. Jermaine’s Jealousy
Young Michael was the undeniable star of the Jackson 5, and 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.
5. Give Him A Hug For Me
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 died 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.
4. Lonely In A Crowded Room
Michael Jackson was by far the most famous man in the world during the 1980s, but fame didn’t make him happy. Perhaps in part due to his abusive childhood, Jackson was extremely depressed during the height of his career, nearly always feeling sad and alone. 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.”
3. Up In Flames
Jackson’s drug abuse was a problem for decades of his life, and it ended up playing a major role in his death. It’s believed that his addiction to painkillers began in 1984, after a horrific accident during a Pepsi commercial shoot. Faulty pyrotechnics on the set made Jackson’s hair catch on fire, and he ended up suffering second-degree burns all over his scalp. The pain caused by these burns was excruciating, not to mention the brutal reconstructive surgery and subsequent recovery period that he needed to endure. He turned to drugs to cope, and sadly they would stick with him from there on out, until they finally caught up to him in 2009.
2. Abusive Childhood
Michael got his start in his family band, the Jackson 5. The Jacksons were managed by their father, Joe, who pushed them all extremely hard. Yes, he made them one of the biggest acts in the world, but his “management style” amounted to child abuse. In an interview with Oprah, Joe admitted to using a belt strap to beat his children and not regretting it because, in his view, it kept them out of trouble and away from the gangs of their neighborhood. Michael detailed further instances of abuse in his autobiography Moonwalk, claiming that if any of the kids made some kind of mistake, Joe would hit them.
1. Nip and Tuck
Jackson underwent extensive plastic surgery during his life. Plastic surgeons debate the number and scope of Michael’s surgeries, but older Michael Jackson looked drastically different than 1976 Michael. One reason some have given as to why he got started on the road of plastic surgery was the cruelty of his own father. Michael was a sensitive teenager, and when Joe Jackson discovered he felt self-conscious about the size of his nose, he gave his son a cruel nickname: Big Nose. Years of teasing led Michael to develop a habit of wanting to cover up his nose, and he would eventually have several surgeries to make it smaller.