It isn’t often that a person can write a song called “We Are Here to Change the World,” and actually say that he did it. Today (Aug. 29) would have been Michael Jackson’s 57th birthday, and appropriately enough, the late King of Pop is trending all over social media thanks to fans who will never let him go.
Michael Jackson was arguably the single most talented entertainer to ever walk among us. He had a period of genius that most artists spend their entire lives attempting to capture. He was also deeply-flawed, unable (or unwilling) to avoid controversy, and when he passed away was a shell of his former self — albeit, still working on that next great comeback.
In an effort to wish the Gloved One a happy birthday, let’s look back on 5 days when Michael Jackson changed the world:
August 24, 1969
Although the Jackson 5 were well-known in their hometown of Gary, Indiana, it wasn’t until they auditioned for producer Barry Gordy that they got their big break. Saying that Michael “reminded me of a young Frankie Lymon,” Gordy signed the group to his Motown label and soon after booked the band to perform at the Miss Black America Pageant in New York City. Since the event was televised, it would make history — as the first television appearance of Michael Jackson. Singing the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” 10-year-old Michael grabbed the audience immediately, thrusting his pelvis and imitating James Brown and even getting the audience to sing along with him; popular music was changed forever.
March 25, 1983
For the 25th anniversary of the legendary Motown Records label, producers put together a very special evening showcasing such performers as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and a reunion of the Jackson 5. Michael would only perform if he also received some screentime to highlight his solo career — and wow, did the spotlight shine brightly that night. Press “play” on the YouTube clip below to see the very definition of the words “electric performer,” and listen to the crowd’s reaction when MJ breaks out the moonwalk — arguably the most significant moment in dance history.
December 2, 1983
As hard as it may be to remember now, there was a time when African American artists were virtually nonexistent on MTV. Michael Jackson changed that forever with the premiere of “Thriller,” a 13 minute mini-movie that redefined the music video as we know it. Directed by “An American Werewolf in London” filmmaker John Landis and costing more than a half-million dollars to produce, Jackson brought zombies into mainstream America decades before “The Walking Dead.” The video became so popular that MTV began running it every hour on the hour — essentially guaranteeing that the black presence on MTV would go up 25 percent. In the years to come, shows like “Yo MTV Raps!” would dominate the channel, and everyone from Madonna to Guns N Roses to Britney Spears would make insanely expensive “event” videos.
January 28, 1985
At this time, Michael Jackson was the biggest musical act in the world; he had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to. Displaying his generous spirit, he elected to team up with Lionel Richie to write “We Are the World,” a song that the pair would eventually record alongside a star-studded super chorus dubbed USA For Africa. Surrounded by Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and dozens more, Jackson created an iconic song that sold books, posters, shirts, buttons — and 20 million records. All in, Jackson’s efforts led to tens of millions of dollars for African relief — and set the gold standard for celebrity charity.
June 13, 2005
Long after the music had essentially faded, Michael Jackson was still one of the most famous men in the world — albeit, a reclusive one who provided endless fodder for tabloids and tell-alls. “People v. Jackson” was the name of the 2005 trial that had a 13-year-old boy accusing the King of Pop of charges including child abduction and attempted child molestation. The trial became a media circus, as most things did in this later stage of Jackson’s life. On this date, the jury found Jackson not guilty of all charges, as millions stood by breathlessly awaiting the verdict. It put a final chapter on a legal battle that rivaled OJ Simpson’s trial for drama, eccentric characters, and redefinition of the phrase “celebrity trial.”