30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson's Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop

Trista - January 25, 2019

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
The Jackson family home in Gary, Indiana. Wikimedia.

27. The Family Shared a 2 Bedroom House

While the family had stable employment and more economic opportunity than many African Americans of the era, they still lived on a much lower rung of society. Despite Joe’s full-time job and Katherine’s part-time work, the family could only afford a two-bedroom house for two adults and nine children. The house still stands and looks quite small. It’s hard to imagine so many talented children under a tiny roof.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Katherine Jackson. E! Online.

26. Michael’s Mother Converted the Family to Jehovah’s Witnesses

Katherine Jackson was raised Baptist, while Joe was raised Lutheran. However, in 1963 Katherine converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, and her husband and children soon followed. Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for refusing blood transfusions, refusing military service, and their extensive door-to-door missionary work. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses do not observe birthdays, Christmas, or Easter as they believe the holidays have pagan roots that should not be tolerated.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
The Jackson family. Wikimedia.

25. Music Ran In the Family

Michael’s father, Joe, was a professional guitar player, often performing on weekends with a blues band, The Falcons, to earn extra money for the family. One of the members of The Falcons later went on to find fame with a doo-wop group, The Spaniels. Michael’s mother, Katherine, played both clarinet and piano and loved country-western music. As a young woman, she had hoped to be a country-western star but placed that dream on the back-burner to focus on her family.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
A map of Chitlin’ Circuit venue locations. Medium.

24. The Jackson 5 Got Their Start on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”

The “Chitlin’ Circuit” was the nickname of a group of nightclubs and music venues throughout the Midwest and South that were friendly to black performers. During an era of segregation when even Sammy Davis Jr. was sometimes denied entry with the rest of the Rat Pack, finding black-friendly clubs was a vital part of every black musician’s career. Joe Jackson had his children tour these clubs extensively, including even strip clubs that would traditionally not allow children to enter.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
The Jackson 5 performing at TV special in 1972. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

23. The Jackson 5 Won Amateur Night at the Famed Apollo in Harlem

The Apollo Theater in Harlem is an infamous beacon for black cultural acts. Countless comedians, actors, and musicians have gotten their start on the stage of the Apollo. Joe Jackson entered his children’s group, The Jackson 5, in the theater’s weekly amateur night contest as part of their “Chitlin’ Circuit” tour, which they won. Other famous amateur contest winners include Jimi Hendrix, only three years before the Jackson 5 win in 1967.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
A still from Soul Train. IMDB.

22. Michael Popularized The Robot Dance on Soul Train

Soul Train was a long-running television program featuring live music, most frequently from R&B, soul, and dance performers many of whom were African American. The Jackson 5 appeared on the show to perform “Dancing Machine,” during which Michael performed the robot dance. The unique dance was a hit, and Michael’s performance helped popularize the dance around the country in a fad that would foreshadow his later moonwalking performance.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, and others at the Studio 54 opening. The Daily Beast.

21. Jackson Frequented Studio 54

Michael Jackson moved to New York City in 1978 in order to film the notorious box-office flop The Wiz. While living in New York, Jackson was a frequent attendee of the infamous Studio 54 nightclub. While most famous for its disco scene, Studio 54 was also home to many early hip-hop performers which had an enormous influence on Jackson and his later music. He was particularly affected by beatboxing he saw at Studio 54.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson. Biography.

20. Jackson Broke His Nose in 1979, Which Led To Numerous Rhinoplasties

During a dance routine, Jackson slipped and landed on his face breaking his nose. While he immediately had a medical rhinoplasty to correct the damage, it was not successful, and he reportedly had significant problems breathing through his nose. This led to additional rhinoplasties to attempt to repair his airway. Jackson used Dr. Steven Hoefflin for his numerous surgeries, a plastic surgeon who worked for countless other celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Ivana Trump.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
The cast of “The Wiz” (L-R Ted Ross, Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor) pose for a publicity shot in 1978 in New York, New York. Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images.

19. Quincy Jones Agreed to Produce Jackson’s Fifth Solo Album After Collaborating on The Wiz

While The Wiz was a box-office failure that did little for Jackson’s career by itself, it led to a producing partnership that would drastically evolve Michael’s style and allow him to reach higher pinnacles of fame. Famed producer Quincy Jones arranged the score for the film and agreed to produce Michael’s next solo album while they were working on the film together. Off the Wall, the first collaboration between Jones and Jackson, cemented his status as a solo star.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson performing. Wikimedia.

18. Jackson Had The Highest Royalty Rates In the Music Industry in the 1980s

Thanks to the break-out hits of “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Jackson secured a record 37% royalty on his album’s profits. After the massive cultural zeitgeist of Thriller which helped to launch the new Music Television Channel (MTV,) Jackson was able to command an even higher record-setting royalty from his record label. In 1984 he received $2 of every album sold, which amounted to 25% of all record sales.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson with the “Thriller” zombies. The Source.

17. “Thriller” Is the Only Music Video Preserved By the Library of Congress

The short film music video for “Thriller,” directed by famed National Lampoon series director John Landis, shocked the nation and helped launch MTV. The iconic dance quickly became a feature of weddings and parties, and Jackson’s red suit became a frequently mimicked cultural icon. The cultural impact of the video was so significant it is still the only music video preserved by the Library of Congress to achieve its aim of preserving the hallmarks of American media and culture.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson. YouTube.

16. Jackson Suffered Second Degree Scalp Burns Filming a Pepsi Commercial in 1984

Jackson was the star of a high-budget Pepsi ad in 1984 that featured the pop star performing against a backdrop of fireworks. Sadly, one of the pyrotechnic devices misfired and shot a flaming projectile at Jackson. Due to being covered in stage makeup and hair products, his head was quickly engulfed in flames which led to second-degree burns all over his scalp. The pain from the injuries led to Jackson overusing prescription painkillers, a recurring issue in later years.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson with President Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Jack Kightlinger/White House/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

15. Ronald Reagan Gave Jackson a Humanitarian Award

Michael Jackson was a generous philanthropist. He supported HIV/AIDS causes at a time when such support was still controversial and unpopular. The Thriller singer also created his own foundation, the Heal the World Foundation, in 1992 with the intention to help underprivileged youth enjoy a healthy and happy childhood, something Jackson never had. He also contributed to humanitarian causes including relief to Kosovo war victims. He also toured AIDS-ravaged countries in Africa, including Gabon and Egypt.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop

Michael Jackson’s star on the walk of fame. Wikimedia.

14. Jackson Allowed the Press to Spread Rumors About Him

Believing that any press was good press, Michael Jackson allowed the media to spread many untrue rumors about him, including that he slept in an oxygen tent to stay young and that he attempted to purchase the elephant man’s skeleton. He didn’t think arguing with the press would do any good, as they were deeply invested in using his name and fame to drive headlines. Michael Jackson only began to fight back during the sexual assault accusations.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Jackson’s wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

13. Jackson Consistently Denied Allegations of Skin Bleaching

Michael Jackson went to his grave denying that he ever bleached his skin. While some people close to him claimed that he did, in fact, bleach his skin others stated that he merely wore thick, pale cake makeup to even out the patchy appearance caused by his vitiligo. Jackson publicly spoke of his vitiligo diagnosis, notably on Oprah Winfrey’s television show, and again denied trying to change his race or bleach his skin. His autopsy confirmed vitiligo.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson’s signature. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

12. Jackson Hated The Press’ Nickname of “Wacko Jacko”

While Jackson peacefully allowed the media to spread countless rumors about him, their moniker of “Wacko Jacko,” given due to his reportedly childish behavior and strange antics profoundly bothered him. He made no effort to deny patently false and strange stories, like that of attempting to purchase Joseph Merrick’s skeleton, but being called crazy by the same people who published falsehoods was deeply offensive to him.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
The USSR flag. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

11. Jackson Was The First Westerner To Appear In an Ad on USSR Television

1984’s Pepsi commercial wasn’t famous only for severely burning its star. It also became the first Pepsi ad to broadcast in the communist USSR on purchased airtime. Only one had aired earlier, free of charge, during the Goodwill Games in 1986. Michael Jackson also became the first western star to appear in an advertisement in the Soviet Union. His lyrics were allowed to be aired in English with no Russian dubbing or Cyrillic alphabet subtitles.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Elizabeth Taylor at the Neiman Marcus store in Dallas, Texas.

10. Elizabeth Taylor Popularized Jackson’s Moniker of “King of Pop”

Elizabeth Taylor, a personal friend of Jackson, presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 1989, saying that he was “the true king of pop, rock and soul.” Taylor’s famous quip quickly popularized the name “King of Pop” for Jackson, which persisted throughout the rest of his career. Taylor would later go on to hold her eighth and final wedding, to Larry Fortensky, at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
An aerial image of the Neverland Ranch site. Wikimedia.

9. Jackson Began Building the Infamous Neverland Ranch in 1988

Michael Jackson built Neverland ranch to create the childhood he never had, going so far as to name the home after the mythical realm in Peter Pan where children never grow up. Jackson had several amusement-park rides installed at the ranch alongside a working railroad and petting zoo. The home became sullied for Jackson after the numerous accusations of child molestation arose from visitors to the property. He never lived there again after infamous 1993 trial.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson. Brides.com.

8. Jackson Married Elvis Presley’s Only Child, Lisa Marie, in 1994

The year 1993 was a difficult time for Michael Jackson. It was the height of the first round of sexual assault and child molestation charges against him. Throughout this period he relied on his friend Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, for support. In 1994, the two wed. Many in the media claimed that the marriage was a sham to try to improve Jackson’s public image. They amicably divorced two years later.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson graffiti in Santa Cruz, California. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

7. Jackson’s Father, Joe, Was Physically and Emotionally Abusive

Often described as one of Hollywood’s cruelest fathers, Joe Jackson was incredibly physically and emotionally abusive towards his children. Focused on their success at any cost, Joe would beat his children with belts for mistakes and often mocked them. His daughter, La Toya, even claimed that her father sexually abused her as a child. In her later years, she retracted these claims and blamed them on an abusive husband.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
A statue of Michael Jackson. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

6. Joe Jackson Ridiculed Michael For His “Fat Nose” As a Child, Leading to Michael’s Obsession With His Appearance

In addition to beating his children, Joe Jackson also mocked and berated his children to ensure their hard work and compliance. For Michael, this often took the form of his father mocking his “fat nose,” a particularly brutal insult given the history of racial prejudice towards African American facial features, including noses. Michael said in interviews that this mockery led to a lifelong dissatisfaction with his appearance.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson performing. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

5. Witnesses Saw Joe Beat and Trip Michael

Michael was far from the only person to level physical abuse charges against his father, Joe. One witness saw Joe push a young Michael so that he tripped into a drum set. The man reported that Michael was pretty banged up from the fall. Others saw Joe take a belt to the young boy to enforce perfect rehearsals. It appears that Joe’s behavior was a rather open secret in the music industry, with many being aware of his disciplinary tactics.

 

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson performing in 1988. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

4. Michael Was So Afraid of His Father He Would Often Vomit or Faint When Forced to Be Near Him

Michael seemed to receive the brunt of his father’s disciplinary abuse. He was both the youngest member of the Jackson 5 and its breakout star, so his performances had to be perfect. Witnesses reported that Joe beat Michael and sometimes even tripped him to cause him to fall into instruments or off stages. Michael was reportedly so terrified of his father he would vomit and faint in his presence. He also had nightmares throughout his life.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Joe Jackson in 2007. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

3. Joe Jackson Later Admitted to Whipping His Son

Both of Michael Jackson’s parents later revealed the physical abuse of their sons. While some of Michael’s brothers claimed their parents only disciplined them, not abused, Michael consistently called his father abusive. Katherine Jackson admitted to whipping but argued that it was an acceptable punishment in the era in which they raised their children. Joe also confirmed the beatings but, like his wife, denied they were abusive but rather discipline.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Joe Jackson in 2014. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

2. Joe Would Watch His Children Rehearse With a Belt In Hand, and Beat Them for Any Mistakes, Especially Michael As the Star of the Family

Numerous accounts from bystanders and witnesses have confirmed that Joe Jackson was a brutal perfectionist towards his children. Michael reminisced about times his father would watch them rehearse for hours on end, sitting in a chair with a belt ready. If any mistakes were made, especially by the young star Michael, their father would launch into punishment with the belt. One cannot even imagine the stress of having to rehearse cheerful music under the threat of painful punishment endlessly.

30 Real Facts About Michael Jackson’s Childhood and How He Became The King of Pop
Michael Jackson in Vegas. Wikipedia.

1. Jackson Claimed He Had No Childhood, Only Work, Which Led to His Lifelong Focus on Children and Childhood

When Jackson spoke of his childhood, it was often regarding the extreme loneliness he felt due to having no companions his own age other than his brothers. Jackson worked nonstop from an extremely young age and wasn’t able to enjoy any of the ordinary experiences typical of American childhood. This lack led Jackson to have a fixation on youth and happy childhoods, which drove him to build Neverland ranch and start his Heal the World Foundation.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Biography – Michael Jackson

Hubpages – How Michael Jackson’s Childhood Experiences Affected His Adult Life

Biography – Michael Jackson: Inside His Early Years in Gary, Indiana With His Musical Family

NPR – The Origin (And Hot Stank) Of The ‘Chitlin’ Circuit’

Song Facts – Dancing Machine by The Jackson 5

EUR Web – Nov. 3, 1973: The Day ‘The Robot’ Dance Became Famous

Medium – How Much Plastic Surgery Did Michael Jackson Actually Have?

Time Magazine – Behind the Scenes of The Wiz With Michael Jackson

The Washington Post – Five Myths About Michael Jackson

Associate Press – The Aftermath of Michael Jackson and Oprah: What About His Face?

The VOX – The Whitewashing Of Michael Jackson

The Guardian – The Michael Jackson Accusers: ‘The Abuse Didn’t Feel Strange, Because He Was Like A God’

Vanity Fair – 10 Undeniable Facts About the Michael Jackson Sexual-Abuse Allegations

Biography – Inside Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley’s Head-Scratching Marriage

US Magazine – Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley: A Timeline of Their Brief Marriage

NBC News – New Details About 1993 Jackson Case

Opera News – Why Michael Jackson Was Stripped Naked, Arrested and Some Other Things You Never Knew About Him

Little Things – Michael Jackson’s Relationship With Race And Police Are Relevant Again 11 Years After His Death

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