How well do you know Michael Jackson? 7 surprising King of Pop facts to test your trivia

_An Illuminating Path_, 1998 by David LaChapelle. Courtesy of the artist.

As London’s National Portrait Gallery presents Michael Jackson: On the Wall – an exhibition celebrating the superstar’s influence on contemporary art – GEORGE DAVIES resurfaces some little-known facts about the Moonwalking, record-breaking, undisputed King of Pop


He followed the Yellow Brick Road with Diana Ross

The singers became close after a young Jackson was signed to Motown, the record label that also represented Ross’ group, The Supremes. They performed at each other’s concerts and co-starred in The Wiz, a 1978 reimagining of The Wizard of Oz in which Ross played Dorothy and Jackson the Scarecrow. Ross remained a mentor and confidante to Jackson, and in a 1982 interview he described her as the kind of person he could tell “the most private of secrets. And she tells me her secrets as well.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis edited his autobiography

When the Thriller music video was being filmed in October 1983, so fierce was the hype around it that Marlon Brando, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Fred Astaire all visited the set, with Onassis convincing the pop star to write his memoirs. “She was the only person in America who could get him on the phone,” said Stephen Davis, who ghost-wrote Jackson’s 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk.

Jackson appeared as a special guest on Diana Ross’ television special in 1981
Michael and his brother Marlon performing at a concert on The Jacksons’ 1982 Victory Tour

He was very particular about footwear

Jackson would only dance in Florsheim loafers and even patented a special pair that assisted him in his signature gravity-defying, 45-degree lean in the Smooth Criminal video. Eye-catching socks were another essential – one design reportedly featured nearly 5,000 rhinestones that would flash under the stage lights for the benefit of fans at the back of arenas.

Silver-screen dance legend Fred Astaire was impressed by Jackson’s moves

Fred Astaire admired his moves

In 1983, the day after Jackson’s performance on the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, Fred Astaire picked up the telephone to let the singer know: “You’re a hell of a mover. Man, you really put them on their asses last night.” Jackson was stunned. “It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life,” he said later, “and the only one I had ever wanted to believe.”

Jackson broke the internet first

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, he almost took the internet with him. After experiencing an incomprehensible amount of visitors, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google News crashed. CNN reported a fivefold increase in traffic, too.

He was more than just the King of Pop

In 1992, during his world tour, Jackson became a prince of the Kingdom of Sanwi in West Africa’s Republic of Ivory Coast. An elaborate crowning ceremony was performed involving official papers and a golden throne. Following his death, the kingdom held a royal funeral and mourned their prince for two days.

Jeff Koons immortalized him in sculpture

Known for garish pop-culture commentaries that challenge conventions of taste, artist Jeff Koons created a delightfully kitsch rendering of Michael Jackson and the singer’s beloved pet monkey Bubbles in 1988. It’s part of the artist’s series, Banality, which sent Koons’ career stratospheric.

Michael Jackson: On the Wall is at the , London, from June 28 until October 21, 2018

Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988 © Jeff Koons

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