Singer, songwriter. Born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, as the seventh of nine children. Jackson and his brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and Jermaine were assembled into a singing group when Michael was only five years old. Despite his extremely young age, he soon distinguished himself as a singer and dancer of prodigious ability. No mere child prodigy, Michael had a gift for vocal phrasing that was not only well beyond his years, but would have been astonishing in a performer of any age. After winning several talent contests, the Jackson 5, as the group was called, signed a recording contract with the trailblazing soul label Motown and proceeded to rule the charts in the late 1960s and early '70s with such hits as "I Want You Back," "Stop, the Love You Save," "ABC," and "Dancing Machine." By 1972, Michael had begun releasing solo albums, and he sang the hit title song to the movie Ben.
Michael and the group (with the exception of brother Jermaine) left Motown in 1975, signing with Epic Records, which also gave Michael a solo deal. Two years later, he starred in the film version of the hit musical The Wiz, which also featured singer Diana Ross and comic Richard Pryor. Quincy Jones, who produced the soundtrack album, became one of Michael's longtime friends and collaborators. The year 1979 saw the release of Jackson's extraordinarily successful album Off the Wall; this record included the hit singles "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and eventually sold some 10 million copies.
The singer had matured into a dynamic adult entertainer, but he also began to make his mark as a songwriter, crafting durable pop that synthesized rock and disco.
Jackson's next album, Thriller, was a quantum leap for him both creatively and commercially.