By a stroke of luck (or, perhaps, fate), MTV was fortunate to launch just before
Back in 1981, he wasn't yet a global brand or a cultural icon — he wasn't even the King of Pop. Rather, he was just ascending to the throne. He'd had some hits (1972's "Ben," the first two cuts — "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" — from 1979's Off the Wall), and he was ready to forever distance himself from his early years with the Jackson 5, but no one knew what to expect from him next.
Needless to say, we were all blown away with that next step. Released in 1982, Thriller was ... well, it was everything: a milestone release, a decade-defining collection of tunes, the biggest-selling album of all time and — most importantly — Michael's coronation. He was officially and forever the King of Pop, a title he held until his death Thursday (June 25) at the age of 50 and one that will probably be his forever.
And, again, whether it was due to luck or fate, MTV was there for that meteoric rise and everything that followed. Of course, there were his videos, which were not so much promotional vehicles for his songs as they were mini-movies, big-budget showcases for Michael Jackson: The Icon.
But MTV's relationship with Jackson didn't just end with his videos. The King of Pop was always there to raise the bar at the Video Music Awards, including his epic medley during the '95 show — which began with him stripping out of his jacket and breaking into "The Way You Make Me Feel," climaxed with him belting out "You Are Not Alone" backed by a full gospel choir and featured renditions of hits like "Scream," "Beat It," "Black or White" (complete with fret-bending mega solo from Slash) and "Billie Jean" in between. He also showed young guns 'NSYNC how it was really done in a surprise performance at the '01 awards. Jackson eternally brought the house down.
There were also legendary non-performance moments, all of which became pop-culture touchstones, like his awkward kiss with then-wife Lisa Marie Presley that opened the 1994 VMAs, which was intended to ward off the couple's detractors but didn't quite succeed. Or the legendary exchange at the '02 awards, where Britney Spears presented Jackson with a birthday cake, which Jackson mistook as an award proclaiming him to be the Artist of the Millennium.
MTV News was there for the less-than-light moments too. We were outside the Santa Maria, California, courthouse in November 2003 when Jackson was charged with 10 felony charges related to lewd acts with a minor, and we were there again in 2005 when Jackson was acquitted on all charges. We covered his 1996 divorce from Presley, the 2002 baby-dangling incident from the balcony of a Berlin hotel and the drama surrounding his 50-date run at London's O2 arena, which now, sadly, will never take place.
It was, to say the least, an eventful relationship, and now, sadly, it's come to an end. We'll miss Michael Jackson in every conceivable way, not just as an entertainer and a generator of headlines, but as an icon, an innovator and a legend. There will truly never be another like him.
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we've got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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