Michael Jackson turns 50 today. Fifty! Jacko is five-oh!

Hard to believe, probably because the man hasn’t acted his age — or looked his age, for that matter — in years, but ever since he was a preteen he’s created timeless music, first with his brothers in the Jackson 5, then on his own as the biggest pop star of the ’80s. If you don’t own Off the Wall or Thriller, buy them right this instant. (Seriously, Jackson could probably use the royalty checks these days.) The former is a perfect combination of pop, soul, and disco, every track a winner, while the latter lives up to its title, a greatest-hits factory that cranked out one monster smash after another.

Below is a mix of singles, album cuts, and demos by Jackson, plus covers by other artists, hip-hop songs that sample his work, a pair of songs that employ his backing vocals, and a remix/update that lights a fire under the one weak track from Thriller. There’s even a special birthday wish from a 1991 Simpsons episode that featured the Gloved One’s speaking voice but not his singing voice: due to contractual red tape or something of the sort, MJ-style vocals were provided by singer Kipp Lennon.

Michael Jackson – Christmas Greeting From Michael Jackson, from A Motown Christmas Carol (1995)
The Jackson 5 – Stand! (1969), from Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5/ABC (2001)
The Jackson 5 – 2-4-6-8 (1970), from Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5/ABC
Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are (1972), from The Ultimate Collection (2004)
The Jacksons – All Night Dancin’, from Destiny (1978)
Michael Jackson – I Can’t Help It, from Off the Wall (1979)
De La Soul – Breakadawn, from Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
Michael Jackson – Burn This Disco Out, from Off the Wall
Robin Danar featuring Julian Coryell – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, from Altered States (2008)
Kenny Loggins – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong, from Keep the Fire (1979)
Dave Mason – Save Me, from Old Crest on a New Wave (1980)
Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine, from Thriller (1982)
Michael Jackson with Will.i.am – The Girl Is Mine 2008, from Thriller’s 25th-anniversary edition (2008)
SWV – Right Here/Human Nature [Human Nature Radio Mix] (1993), from Platinum & Gold Collection (2003)
David Mead – Human Nature, from Indiana (2004)
Michael Jackson – Sunset Driver [Demo] (1982), from The Ultimate Collection
Michael Jackson – Carousel (a.k.a. Circus Girl) [Demo] (1982), from the Thriller sessions
Michael Jackson – Bad (1987), from The Essential Michael Jackson (2005)
Michael Jackson – Remember the Time (1991), from The Essential Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson – You Rock My World (2001), from The Essential Michael Jackson
Leon Kompowski & Bart Simpson – Happy Birthday, Lisa (1991), from Songs in the Key of Springfield (1997)

Jackson was interviewed by Garry George for Crawdaddy magazine in 1972, when he was 13. Here’s one excerpt from George’s article:

“Who are your favorite singers and performers?”

“I like Three Dog Night, Moody Blues, Temptations, Diana Ross. And all Motown … and Crosby, Stills, Nash and that’s about it. Oh, and I especially like the Chi-Lites.”

“If Motown came to you and said ‘Michael, we want you to do an album with your favorite person,’ who would it be?”

“Diana Ross, or uh … Jethro Tull.”

(Thanks to Jeff Giles, Jason Hare, and Terje Fjelde for their help in hunting down some of the tracks for this mix.)

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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