If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make a change
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Gary, Indiana, childhood home of Michael Jackson c 2010
Few people, if anyone, realized the gift that came into the world on August 29th, 1958, in the small town of Gary, Indiana, when Michael Jackson was born. There are few people now who do not know his name and even fewer who fail to recognize his contribution to the entertainment industry. He is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most successful entertainer of all time. Most people think they knew him, and yet few of us knew the real
The town of Gary is located across the state line from Chicago, but is still very much considered a suburb of the Windy City and is known for large steel mills operating in the manufacturing industry. In fact, Gary was founded in 1906 by the US Steel Corp as home for its new plant: Gary Works, named after the founding chairman of the company. The area prospered for over 50 years, growing in both population and economy, but due to the socio-economic issues (both racial and international trade) of the 1960s, the town – like most urban centers reliant on a single industry (steel) – experienced a downward spiral of decline. It was in this context that Michael Jackson experienced as much of a childhood as he possibly could.
The eighth of ten children of Joe Jackson – who sang in the rhythm and blues group, The Falcons – Michael lived a troubled youth, often being whipped and abused verbally as well as physically. In the late' 60s and early '70s, he joined with his brothers to form the hugely successful Jackson 5, whose first four singles peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 ("I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I’ll Be There") in 1968-69.
Michael went solo in the latter half of the 1970s and hit it huge with the 1982 album Thriller
– the best-selling album of all time (estimated 65 million copies worldwide as of 2013) and one which earned him seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards. I shouldn’t have to tell you which of his songs are on this album and I’d challenge anybody to find a fan of music who doesn’t own it in their collection (I bought my copy in 1992 when I was only 12 years old).
In 1987, five years later, MJ followed up Thriller
, an underrated album by comparison, but one which spawned seven hit singles of its own (nine of the total eleven were released) including "Man in the Mirror," which featured a gospel choir and humble, reflective, and transformative lyrics, and was said to have been one of Jackson’s favorites.
The song is told from the point of view of Jackson himself – or a fictitious, wealthy man – walking the streets of a dark and dingy city. He notices the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the downtrodden and the lyrics are his epiphany. He wants to change the world, but doesn’t know how. It comes to him while singing that if he truly wants to create a lasting and positive impact on the world, he’ll need to start with himself. If each person changed for the better, then all of us would add to the world changing for the better.
Unfortunately, the years of abuse and the absence of his own personal childhood eventually manifested in negative ways. Jackson opened up Neverland Ranch, a compound complete with roller coasters, petting zoos, and other attractions that appealed to his inner child. Additionally, he spent so much time surrounding himself with children it wasn’t long before allegations of child molestation scandals hit the headlines. Finally, in 2009, MJ died of a doctor-induced drug overdose, during his This Is It
comeback tour rehearsals. It was a fitting end to such a tormented life.
The shame of Jackson’s life is that he was born with an almost superhuman musical ability. Between songwriting, singing, dancing, and producing, he was a modern marvel of an entertainer. Often, however, great insanity goes along with great genius. MJ’s legacy will thankfully remain with us for as long as people listen to music. He will always be remembered and he will always be missed.
~ Justin Novelli
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