The songs of Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009) are some of the most instantly recognizable and beloved of all in pop music history. The influence of this extraordinary performer was far-reaching and unparalleled. He single-handedly spanned the breach between several musical styles and redefined the music video as an art form.
Jackson started his career with his older brothers, first as the Jackson Brothers and eventually as The Jackson 5. Combining prodigious musical talent with a love of the soul and R&B sound of greats such as James Brown, the five young brothers were soon garnering the attention of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. Gordy signed the Jacksons in 1968 and the group made instant history when their first four singles all topped the charts. "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There" were just the tip of the iceberg for the talented quintet.
Though the group continued to have success, Jackson began flexing his own creative wings and between 1972 and 1975, he recorded four solo albums. Unlike the more traditional sound of his brothers' music, the songs of Michael Jackson had a distinct flavor all their own, veering ever further into the mainstream. "Got To Be There" and "Ben" were two of his biggest hits from this period and just a hint of what was to come. In 1979, his album, "Off The Wall," exploded onto the music scene, becoming the first solo album to generate four U.S. top 10 hits. The chart topping "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" showcased a hip, sleek, electrified style that launched Jackson firmly on his way toward superstardom as a solo performer.
Whatever doubt may have remained regarding his status as a star was obliterated with the 1982 release of the album, "Thriller." This one masterpiece would not only take the songs of Michael Jackson to a whole new level, it also helped to revolutionize the burgeoning music video industry. "Thriller" would become the best selling album of all time both in the U.S. and worldwide, a distinction it holds to this day. When it comes to highlighting a song of Michael Jackson from this era, it is almost impossible to choose just one. From "Billie Jean" to "Beat It," there was hit after hit and award after award, cementing his status as the unchallenged "King of Pop."
Though he was never able to equal the success of "Thriller," Jackson continued to blaze new musical pathways, from "Bad" in 1987 to his final release, "Invincible," in 2001. Such was his reach that albums of his music, both re-issues and new recordings not previously released, are still selling and topping the charts even after his untimely death in 2009. From child prodigy to groundbreaking songwriter and talented performer, there was only one Michael Jackson and he left a mark that will never be erased.
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- Ben 1972
(This R&B ballad, which topped the charts, was the title theme for the 1972 movie (which was the sequel to the 1971 movie, "Willard," about a killer rat).)
- Got To Be There 1971
(This song later also became a hit for Chaka Khan (1983).)
- I Wanna Be Where You Are 1972
- Just A Little Bit Of You 1975
- Rockin' Robin 1972
(This song was previously a hit for Bobby Day (1958) and the Rivieras (1964).)
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