The King of Pop: The Life & Times of Michael Jackson

It’s been seven years since Michael Jackson died, and even though he is no longer with us physically, his mystique, cultural impact and legacy lives on. So today, we're honoring the man, the music and the moon walk. We love you, Michael.

ESSENCE.COM Jun, 25, 2016

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From his gold plaque in front of the world famous Apollo Theater to the myriad of books, documentaries and monuments paying homage to the King of Pop, he lives on. 

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Michael Jackson was born on August 29th 1958 in Gary, Indiana. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of months shy of his 51st birthday six years ago. In his lifetime, Jackson rose from musical prodigy to the most influential figure in 20th Century pop culture.

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Michael Jackson and Diana Ross’s bond is one of the most storied friendships of all time. Here, they are with Michael’s brothers during the early days.

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Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Jackson 5 doing their shimmy across stages from Harlem to Hollywood?

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Diana and Michael have a little fun with MJ’s brothers in a classic convertible in 1970.

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Before he took the fedora to another level, Michael helped to inspire many with his apple jack style hat. We dig how he slightly rocked it to one side over his massive Afro.

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Micheal works it out onstage wearing colorful bell bottoms, butterfly-collared shirts and platform shoes. Youngsters all over America tried to copy the Jackson 5’s winning style.

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No way are we implying he invented the Afro, but Michael is definitely responsible for giving the hairstyle its staying power in the 1970’s.

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A family that dresses together, stays together. Here, the three youngest members of the Jackson clan, Janet, Michael and Randy, bring in the new year on “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” in 1973.

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In 1978, Michael and Diana starred together in The Wiz as Scarecrow and Dorothy. Joining them in the cast were Nipsey Russell (Tin Man) and Ted Ross (Cowardly Lion).

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Michael eased on down the road in style as he expanded his resumé with a big-time acting gig in “The Wiz.”

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Michael Jackson and Stephanie Mills both starred in “The Wiz” — she on Broadway; he on the big screen — and they dated briefly as well.

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From “Off the Wall” to “Bad,” Michael Jackson’s style quotient has been through the roof since he stepped onto the scene. Even when his big brothers were on stage with the child prodigy, it was M.J.’s appeal that forced the world to recognize the man who would be King.

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Janet looked up to big brother Michael from the start, and the two remained close as their careers blossomed.

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Michael and Janet cut a rug together back in the late 1970s. Both artists were known for their remarkable dancing skills and stage performances.

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Big bro Michael and lil’ sis Janet take a break during a photo shoot in the late 1970s. Michael’s Afro was on full blast while Janet opted for a side-swept Afro puff.

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The Jackson clan get their sail on back in the summer of 1978. As usual, Janet and Michael are side-by-side. (From left to right) Marlon, Michael, Janet, Tito, Randy and Jackie.

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Michael cozies up to Diana as the two hang backstage with his siblings in Chicago in 1979.

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MJ bedazzles and serenades the crowd.

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As a young man, the world realized that this talent they had come to love as a child was now growing into something legendary.

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Not many have the confidence to pull off high-water pants, much less to then pair them with glitter socks. The look is, well, quintessential M.J.

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Michael Jackson and Diana Ross worked numerous red carpets together, including the 1981 Academy Awards.

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Michael jokes around backstage.

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Michael Jackson is flanked by fans and loyalists after a performance.

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MJ takes the lead as The Jackson back him up.

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Pictured here with his good friend and mentor Diana Ross, Michael sports an unexpected bow tie. “The Boss” follows suit.

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Michael rarely strayed away from his signature penny loafers, often pairing them with thick athletic white socks as pictured here. The look was reportedly inspired by another icon Fred Astaire.

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Michael does what he does best as he delivers a kinetic performance.

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MJ busts one of his famous stances as he moves the crowd.

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Michael relaxes outside of a limo while on tour.

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Michael Jackson ascended to the top of the charts and broke record after record with his music.

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The maestro and his muse: Quincy Jones met Michael on the set of The Wiz and went on to produce three of Jackson’s biggest hit records: “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” and “Bad.”

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Maureen (aka “Rebbie), Janet and LaToya join Michael on stage as he accepts his Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal in 1984.

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Michael Jackson teamed up with the ex-Beatle Paul McCartney for the duets “The Girl Is Mine” and “Say, Say, Say.”

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Jackson gave traditional military gear a flashy spin like only the King of Pop could.

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Cardigan sweaters like these were in heavy rotation for Michael in the 1980’s.

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A large part of the Jheri Curls craze in the ’80s was due to Michael Jackson.

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Michael and Diana took this beautiful shot in January 1980. Pure perfection!

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Wearing a bright-red motorcycle jacket just wasn’t eye-catching enough for the King of Pop. Jackson put the extra-zippered version on everyone’s must-have list in the 1980’s making it an iconic piece of American fashion.

Admit it: You had (or wanted) one. Bad.

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Michael, standing beside Diana, joined music’s finest to sing “We Are The World,” a song co-written by Jackson to benefit famine victims in Ethiopia, at the World Music Awards.

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Michael Jackson, on top of the world.

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Michael Jackson’s epic “Thriller” video was a game-changer.

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Michael Jackson’s singular white glove is the stuff of legend.

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Ms. Ross was on hand to see the King of Pop walk away with several awards for his work on the “Thriller” album at the 1984 American Music Awards.

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Sheryl Crow rocks out with Jackson during the BAD Tour. “I can’t speak highly enough about what I got to witness every single night for nearly two years,” Crow told MTV News of her time as a backup singer for the King of Pop.

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Madonna and Michael turned heads at the 63rd Annual Academy Awards. Their arrival sparked rumors of an ongoing romance between the megastars at the time.

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There’s no love like family love, as Janet and Michael prove here at the 1993 Grammy Awards.

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The room wasn’t big enough for this star power. Michael and Diana join Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin at the Lincoln Memorial on January 17, 1993, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

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MJ didn’t take himself too seriously. His gravity-defying move in his video for “Smooth Criminal” is legendary. He joked to LL Cool J that he had an “Indian swami come in and do a ritual to make it happen,” fooling the rapper for at least an hour until he confessed he was just kidding.

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Michael Jackson was always trying to top himself when it came to his videos. The clip for “Remember the Time” featured a cast that included Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and the gorgeous Iman, who helped take the video to the next level.

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Naomi Campbell and the star get close during his video for “Keep It in the Closet.”

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Michael and Diana stole the spotlight during a performance at the Democratic National Committee’s “A Night At The Apollo” in 1992.

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MJ rocks it out.

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The top-selling brother and sister joined forces on “Scream,” the first single from Michael’s album “HIStory” in 1995. The video remains the most expensive video of all time at $7 million.

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Michael and Janet embrace after winning the MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video (“Scream”) in 1995.

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The King of Pop and the Godfather of Soul take it to the next level.

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Sisters LaToya and Janet were two of MJ’s biggest supporters through legal issues.

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Fans were surprised when the King of Pop wed the daughter of the King of Rock-n-Roll, Lisa Marie Presley. Though the marriage was short-lived, the couple seemed happy, like here in France in 1995.

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Jackson is escorted by Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor during Liza Minnelli’s wedding in 2002. “I don’t think anyone knew how much we loved each other,” Taylor said in statement after his death. “The purest, most giving love I’ve ever known.”

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Michael and actress Brooke Shields were longtime friends. She was on hand to see him accept the Legend Award at the 1993 Grammys.

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Exaggerated gold and silver hardware on otherwise basic clothing almost seemed like a prerequisite for the pop icon.

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Michael Jackson seemed to do very little quietly. Even when he sported a simple white T-shirt and basic black slacks, we took note. Hey, when you got it, you got it.

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We miss you, Michael.

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Michael and Diana presented at the 1996 World Music Awards in Monaco.

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Fans in New York braved summer heat and drenching rains outside Harlem’s Apollo Theater to take part in a public memorial service on June 30, 2009.

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Following Jackson’s death, tribute events in Krindjabo, an Ivory Coast village, were held from July 31 to August 2, with fans mourning the death of the superstar in a series of special events that organizers say attracted up to a million people.

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At his memorial service in Los Angeles, fans poured out into the streets to show their love.

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Family, friends and loved ones gathered Thursday, July 3, to say their final goodbye to Michael Jackson. The Jackson Family, from left, Janet, Randy, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon pay last respects to their brother at Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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Katherine Jackson, with Joe by her side, holds back tears at her son’s funeral service.

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Chris Tucker was on hand for Michael Jackson’s homegoing.

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La Toya Jackson was extremely close to her brother.

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There wasn’t a dry eye in the building when Paris Katherine took to the stage to say a few words about her dad at the memorial service. “He was the best father ever,” she said.

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Quincy Jones attends the funeral of his one-time muse. Jones was the driving force behind MJ’s classic albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller.”

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Legendary music producer Berry Gordy and pioneer entertainment businesswoman Suzanne De Passe pay their last respects to Michael Jackson. Both were instrumental in the success of The Jackson 5.

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Though she didn’t attend the public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael’s longtime friend, was one of the stars in attendance at the funeral.

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The Jackson brothers await Michael Jackson’s coffin outside the Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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Jackson was interred in the Great Mausoleum, where he will be joining Hollywood legends such as Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and W.C. Fields.

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Joe Jackson arrives with Michael’s children Paris and Prince Michael.

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Latoya Jackson, an outspoken supporter of her brother, arrives at the funeral for her brother at Forest Lawn Glendale Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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The Rev. Al Sharpton arrives at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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Chris Tucker arrives to Michael Jackson’s funeral.

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Katherine Jackson’s attorney Londell McMillan makes his way inside Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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Elizabeth Taylor arrives to Michael Jackson’s funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif., on Thursday Sept. 3, 2009. Jackson is scheduled to be interred in the Great Mausoleum, where he will be joining Hollywood legends such as Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and W.C. Fields.

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Joe Jackson leaves the family residence in the Encino section of Los Angeles for his son’s funeral.

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The Jackson family consoles Paris Katherine Jackson, Michael’s daughter, at the service for her father at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on July 7.

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Paris Jackson, Prince Michael Jackson I and Prince Michael Jackson II appear onstage during their father’s memorial service.

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Janet Jackson comforts niece Paris Katherine Jackson at the memorial service.

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Randy Jackson hugs Prince Michael Jackson at the memorial service.

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Jermaine Jackson tosses the rose from his lapel onto his brother’s casket, while performing at Michael Jackson’s public memorial service.

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Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Houston, Texas, shares a few words on behalf of the U.S. Congress.

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Rev. Al Sharpton stays close by the Jackson family as they prepare for Michael’s service.

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Janet Jackson comforts Michael’s children Paris Katherine Jackson, Prince Michael Jackson II and Prince Michael Jackson, as Paris speaks about the amazing father her dad was.

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Bernice King and Martin Luther King III share their heartfelt condolences with the Jackson family.

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Stevie Wonder renders a sweet performance at the memorial service.

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Reverend Jesse Jackson leaves the Michael Jackson family compound on July 6.

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Joe Jackson departs the Jackson family compound for the memorial service for his son.

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Randy Jackson, younger brother of Michael Jackson, departs the Jackson family compound for the memorial service.

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Director Kenny Ortega speaks at the service.

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Motorcade arrives to Forest Lawn Memorial Park on July 7, 2009, in Los Angeles.

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John Mayer offers a touching instrumental performance of “Human Nature.”

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Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, arrives at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park on July 6.

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Usher hugs LaToya Jackson after performing during Michael Jackson’s memorial service.

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Michael Jackson’s public memorial service at Staples Center.

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Martin Luther King III and actress Brooke Shields attend the service.

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Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles is where Michael Jackson was laid to rest.

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La Toya Jackson leaves Forest Lawn Memorial Park on July 6 in Los Angeles, after privately mourning her brother with the family.

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Queen Latifah reads a poem written by Maya Angelou.

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Usher, music pioneer Suzanne de Passe and Earvin “Magic” Johnson chat backstage at the service.

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Wesley Snipes heads inside the Staples Center.

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Ticketed fans wear their love for Michael on their sleeves

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Chris Brown attends Michael Jackson’s memorial service.

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Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz sing “I’ll Be There.”

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Smokey Robinson reads letters from Nelson Mandela and Diana Ross during the service.

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Fans fortunate to snag tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial service enter the Staples Center.

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Fans take photos outside the Staples Center on July 7.

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Janet Jackson attends her brother’s memorial service.

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Don King leaves the Jackson family compound for the memorial service.

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Jennifer Hudson gives an inspiring performance.

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Singer Usher performs “Gone Too Soon” at the service.

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Jennifer Hudson performs at the service.

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Brooke Shields and Earvin “Magic” Johnson share memories of Michael Jackson.

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Jennifer Hudson and Usher celebrate the legacy of Michael Jackson at his public memorial service.

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From left, Randy, Marlon, Tito, Jackie and Jermaine serve as pallbearers as they carry their brother’s body into the Staples Center.

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Michael Jackson’s casket is displayed at the public memorial service on July 7, after being carried in by his brothers.

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Lionel Richie, longtime friend of Michael Jackson, performs.

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Producer Berry Gordy shares fond memories during the service.

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Basketball players Kobe Bryant and Earvin “Magic” Johnson pay tribute to MJ.

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Katherine Jackson arrives with Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, to the service.

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Fans signed a large poster outside the Staples Center.

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At last year’s BET Awards, Janet Jackson’s words made us all teary. “To you, Michael is an icon,” she said to the crowd of inspired artists and fans. “To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in our hearts.”

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Luckily, your genius lives on in your music. May God bless you on your journey.

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Fedoras were a style staple for this tastemaker and “Smooth Criminal.” Whether black or white, he wore them well.


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