The First Time News Was Fit to Print: Michael Jackson

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Every now and again, we head into the archives of The New York Times to find the first time the paper covered a particular topic. With the media offering non-stop coverage of his memorial service today, let's look back at what the Times had to say about Michael Jackson when he was just getting started:

Michael Jackson

April 25, 1973

MJ-1973The Jackson Five, black and from Detroit, were the pioneers, and their weeny-bopper attraction is Michael, now aged 14, who at this year's Academy Award ceremonies sang "Ben," the only love song written so far to a real, live rat.

Merchandising right ahead, Michael's recording company has recorded him as a solo artist. his latest album is Music and Me, which is a further example of his career direction. To have him sing such an emotive tearjerker as the old teen-age ballad "Too Young" is to move him far away from the Jackson Five's early roots, which were solidly commercial rhythm and blues.
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To pop purists, this may be regrettable, but commercially it is an astute move toward maturity and longevity. After all, Michael Jackson is 14 and already they are talking about how old David Cassidy (of the Partridge Family) appears to be to the teeny-boppers.

Keep reading for early reaction to 'Thriller,' Bubbles and more.

Off the Wall

October 21, 1979

The Evolution of Pop Soul
off-the-wallThe fall's best new pop-soul record, Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, is also Motown-related in that Mr. Jackson grew up in the Motown fold as the boy wonder-lead singer of the Jackson Five. Off the Wall is his first solo album since the Jackson family signed with Epic several years ago, and it marks his ultimate transition from child star to adult singing idol. The album teams Mr. Jackson with producer Quincy Jones, the brilliant jazz and pop arranger-conductor-composer.
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Although at this point in his career, Michael Jackson may lack Stevie Wonder's emotional depth, he's already the equal of both Mr. Wonder and Smokey Robinson, the other obvious Motown prototype, in technical control.

Thriller

December 19, 1982

Michael Jackson's Thriller: Superb Job
thrillerSince he caught the public's fancy as a bouncing, spinning, piping, 11-year-old mini-superstar in 1970, Michael Jackson has been a full-fledged celebrity, living a celebrity's life. That's worth remembering, because it means that today, one must guard against the assumption that he is a mature, fully formed artist and human being. He is certainly a seasoned veteran: His whole life has been shaped by entertainment, and he is a practiced - sometimes too practiced - performer, recording star and film actor. But he remains a young man, and with luck he will continue to mature.
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Thriller is a wonderful pop record, the latest statement by one of the great singers in popular music today. But it is more than that. It is as hopeful a sign as we have had yet that the destructive barriers that spring up regularly between white and black music - and between whites and blacks - in this culture may be breached once again. Most important of all, it is another signpost on the road to Michael Jackson's own artistic fulfillment.

"We Are The World"

February 27, 1985

Artists Join in Effort for Famine Relief
we-are-the-worldOn March 11, Columbia Records will release "We Are the World," a new song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and performed by a chorus of 45 pop stars calling themselves USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). Roughly 90 percent of the proceeds...will be donated to African famine relief. Another 10 percent will go to fight homelessness and malnutrition in the United States.

"We Are the World" is an American response to "Do They Know It's Christmas?," the single that was recorded late last year in London by Band Aid, a group of British rock stars. The record became the most successful single in British history, selling 3.5 million copies in Britain and 2.5 million in the United States and raising $9.2 million.
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What had begun as a supersession of black singers expanded after Bruce Springsteen agreed to become involved. Some of the stars who ended up donating their talents were Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Paul Simon and Dionne Warwick.
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The We Are the World album, which Quincy Jones is supervising, will include previously unreleased tracks by a number of major stars. Linda Ronstadt is contributing "Keeping Out of Mischief," Prince "Tears in Your Eyes," and Bruce Springsteen a live version of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped."

Bubbles

September 14, 1987

Jackson Conquers Tokyo
MJ-BubblesMr. Jackson arrived at Narita Airport Wednesday, and although the concerts' sponsors, N.T.T., Pepsico and Nihon Television, attempted to keep his arrival date and time a secret, hundreds of fans were there to greet him.

Mr. Jackson's pet chimpanzee Bubbles, who has received almost as much publicity here as the rock star, arrived a few hours earlier, wearing a red and white striped shirt and denim overalls. Bubbles was accompanied by three members of Mr. Jackson's staff.

Department stores in Tokyo have been selling stuffed chimpanzees called "Michael's Pets" in honor of Bubbles. And the ice-cream store chain Hobson's advertised it was celebrating the beginning of Mr. Jackson's concert tour by giving away a free scoop of ice cream to each customer who purchased a $21 stuffed Bubbles.

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