As a scrawny kid from Gary, Ind., in child-sized bell-bottoms and a radiant smile, Michael Jackson first stepped onto the scene at age 11 as part of the unforgettable Jackson 5. The Motown group, one of the biggest pop acts of the 1970s, was made up of Jackson and his four brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine (later replaced by Randy) and Marlon. (Sisters Rebbie, La Toya and Janet did not join the group.) The Jackson 5 were introduced to the public by Diana Ross on Aug. 11, 1968, in a performance at a club in Beverly Hills, Calif., and made their first television appearance at the Miss Black America Pageant in New York. Their first single, “I Want You Back,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts by January 1970. Their next three singles all reached No. 1 as well, making the Jackson 5 the first musical act in history to achieve such a feat. Michael launched a solo career in 1971 with the hit “Got to Be There,” and while he continued to perform with his brothers, it was already clear that the other Jacksons needed the precocious teenager more than he needed them. The group’s fortunes dwindled through the early 1970s, and Michael left the group after the 1984 Victory tour.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller became a worldwide sensation and established the artist as a transcendent superstar. “Jackson is the biggest thing since the Beatles,” TIME declared. Thriller sold 45 million copies, the most of any album in history until recently; at its peak, more than a million copies flew off shelves each week. When the title track’s 14-minute video which redefined music video as an art form aired in December 1983, MTV aired it twice an hour in response to popular demand. The next year, the album won a record eight Grammy Awards. -TIME
Remembering Michael Jackson!