Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop”, was a world-renowned singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. He rose to fame as a child star with his brothers in the Jackson 5, before becoming one of the most successful solo artists of all time. However, behind the dazzling lights and adoring fans, Jackson faced immense challenges that almost made him give up on his music career entirely.
From an early age, Jackson was thrust into the spotlight and had to endure intense scrutiny from the media and public. As a child star, every minor detail of his life was analyzed and picked apart. This intense attention only grew more invasive and unrelenting as Jackson got older and continued to find success as a solo artist. No matter what he did, it seemed he could not escape criticism about his changing appearance, speculative stories about his private life, and accusations that he was strange or weird.
This nonstop scrutiny took a major toll on Jackson’s mental health. He often felt misunderstood and overwhelmed by the constant spotlight on his personal life. “You can’t imagine the pain I’ve suffered because of false stories and rumors,” Jackson once lamented. The pressure to be perfect while living life under a microscope made Jackson feel isolated and caused him to have intense bouts of self-doubt. “Deep inside, I feel that I’ve stretched myself, almost beyond endurance, through a performance pressure I’ve had to deal with,” he said.
In addition to the media attention, Jackson also faced many personal struggles behind-the-scenes. In 1984, Jackson was badly burned while filming a Pepsi commercial, requiring extensive plastic surgery and pain medication over the years. He also suffered from vitiligo, a condition that caused discoloration and loss of pigmentation in the skin. To treat this, Jackson bleached his skin, which further altered his appearance and fueled rumors that he was trying to become white.
Jackson increasingly turned to painkillers and sedatives to cope, becoming dependent on drugs like Xanax, Valium and Ativan. His friend and collaborator Corey Rooney observed, “He was probably the most sad, most depressed person I ever met in my life.” Behind the scenes, Jackson was fighting a difficult battle with addiction and mental health issues made worse by fame.
By the late 1990s, the combination of unrelenting media attacks and personal struggles took an immense toll. Jackson told his managers he no longer thought he could continue to handle the pressures of being a celebrity. “I don’t know if I can take this kind of pressure much longer,” he confessed. “I don’t know if I can deal with all this madness. I feel I’m being absolutely crucified by these stories and these lies.”
Jackson even contemplated giving up his music career altogether, worried that the negative publicity was overshadowing his art. “At some point, I just became so weary, tired, battled, I didn’t really care. I just thought, ‘I cannot deal with this madness. I’m not going to put up with this,’” he recalled. “I actually thought about totally giving up music at one point because I just felt so battered.”
For a time, it seemed the King of Pop might truly be ready to abdicate his throne. But in the late 1990s, three key developments enabled Jackson to regain hope and continue his legendary career.
First, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of rock icon Elvis Presley. The marriage ended after only two years, but gave Jackson emotional support during difficult times. “I found the strength through my music to go on,” Jackson said. Second, Jackson became a father in 1997 with the birth of his son Prince, followed by daughter Paris in 1998. Being a dad rejuvenated and inspired him. “My children – they mean so much to me,” Jackson said.
Finally, Jackson geared up for two major events in 2001 – staging elaborate 30th anniversary concerts in New York and releasing his final album Invincible. The outpouring of fan support touched Jackson. “My fans have always been so incredibly supportive of me,” he said. “No matter what, my fans never turned their backs on me.” Reinvigorated, the King of Pop put retirement plans aside and reclaimed his throne.
Michael Jackson’s trials are a testament to his resilience and determination. Despite unimaginable pressure and personal pain, he persevered to share his artistic genius with the world. Though he briefly contemplated walking away, he found the strength through family, fans and music. Thankfully for music listeners everywhere, Jackson decided his story was not yet over. His timeless music and magical performances will forever reign in our hearts as the King of Pop.