With her own talk show, Ellen DeGeneres is one of America’s most well-known comedians, also serving as a prominent gay/lesbian role model.
Born on January 26, 1958, in Metairie, Louisiana, Ellen DeGeneres became big as a stand-up comedian before starring on her own sitcom, Ellen. In 1997, she came out as gay and has become a staunch advocate of LGBT rights.
She has been the host of her own award-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003, and married girlfriend Portia de Rossi in 2004.
Singer-songwriter Michael Jackson’s award-winning career as the King of Pop transformed the face of pop music and popular culture. He released the best-selling album in history, Thriller, in 1982.
He died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009 … 5 years ago.
Dubbed the “King of Pop,” singer-songwriter Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958. As a child, he performed as the lead singer of the Jackson family’s popular Motown group, the Jackson 5. Jackson went on to become one of the most internationally famous award-winning solo pop sensations to date. Jackson’s 2009 death stirred controversy and was ultimately ruled a homicide. Dr. Conrad Murray, who had been caring for the pop star at the time of his death, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on November 7, 2011, later receiving a four-year prison sentence.
Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, to an African-American working-class family. His father, Joseph Jackson, had been a guitarist but had put aside his musical aspirations to provide for his family as a crane operator. Believing his sons had talent, he molded them into a musical group in the early 1960s.
At first, the Jackson Family performers consisted of Michael’s older brothers, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie. Michael joined his siblings when he was 5 years old, and emerged as the group’s lead vocalist. He showed remarkable range and depth for such a young performer, impressing audiences with his ability to convey complex emotions. Older brother Marlon also became a member of the group, which evolved into the Jackson 5.
Behind the scenes, Joseph Jackson pushed his sons to succeed. He was also reportedly known to become violent with them. Michael and his brothers spent endless hours rehearsing and polishing up their act. At first, the Jackson 5 played local gigs and built a strong following. They recorded one single on their own, “Big Boy” with the b-side “You’ve Changed,” but it failed to generate much interest.
The Jackson 5 moved on to working an opening act for such R&B artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, James Brown, and Sam and Dave. Many of these performers were signed to the legendary Motown record label, and it has been reported that Gladys Knight may have been the one to tell Motown founder Berry Gordy about the Jackson 5. Impressed by the group, Gordy signed them to his label in 1968.
Relocating to Los Angeles, Michael and his brothers started work on their music and dancing with their father as their manager. They lived with Gordy and also with Supremes singer Diana Ross when they first arrived there. In August 1969, the Jackson 5 was introduced to the music industry at a special event, and later served as the opening act for the Supremes. Their first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, hit the charts in December of that year. It’s first single, “I Want You Back,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1970. More chart-topping singles quickly followed, such as “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.”
On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication after suffering cardiac arrest at his home on North Carolwood Drive in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. His personal physician, Conrad Murray, said he had found Jackson in his room, not breathing and with a barely detectable pulse, and that he administered CPR on Jackson’s bed to no avail.
Jackson’s death triggered an outpouring of grief around the world, creating unprecedented surges of Internet traffic and causing sales of his music and that of the Jackson 5 to increase dramatically. Jackson had also intended to perform a series of fifty comeback/farewell concerts entitled This Is It to over one million people at London‘s O2 Arena between July 13, 2009, and March 6, 2010.
A public memorial service for Jackson was held on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he had rehearsed for the London concerts the night before his death. The service was broadcast live around the world, attracting a global audience of up to one billion people. In 2010, Sony Music Entertainment signed a US $250 million deal with Jackson’s estate to retain distribution rights to his recordings up until 2017, and to release seven posthumous albums over the decade following his death. Jackson’s death is ranked No. 1 on VH1/VH1 Classic‘s list of 100 Most Shocking Moments in Music.