Reverend Jesse Jackson
A leading civil and human rights activist, an influential political figure and renowned Baptist minister, Jesse Jackson has devoted his life and career to promoting peace, gender equality, and economic and social justice. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his history of playing a pivotal role in international diplomacy, frequently negotiating the release of hostages all over the world. He continues to serve as president of the Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition, a progressive organization fighting for social change, which he founded.
The legendary musician, composer, producer, arranger, conductor and multimedia entrepreneur has enjoyed unparalleled success across all forms of entertainment for over five decades. The all-time most nominated Grammy individual has collaborated notably with music icons such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and, of course, Michael Jackson with whom he produced the ubiquitous Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad albums. Jones continues to be one of the foremost creative forces in music, film, television and print.
The founder of Motown Records and the architect of The Sound of Young America, songwriter, record executive, and movie producer/director Berry Gordy has enjoyed more than half a century as one of America’s iconic figures in the world of entertainment. Under his direction, Motown became a model of black capitalism, and the home – quite literally, as the label was originally headquartered in Gordy’s house – of some of the greatest talent ever assembled under one roof. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
A musical triple threat, scoring countless hits as a writer, producer and performer, Smokey Robinson has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and has been honored with a special Grammy as a Living Legend. As a member of The Miracles and a solo artist, he recorded 37 Top 40 hits for Motown (including their first R&B Number One, Shop Around) and was vice president at the label for 28 years.
Four-time Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer Lionel Richie first found success with the Commodores, reaching the Top 10 pop singles chart ten times before going on to become one of the most popular solo artists of the ’80s with such classics as Say You, Say Me, Endless Love and Truly. Richie co-wrote the single We Are The World with Michael Jackson for the USA for Africa charitable foundation, and has raised over three million dollars for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Suzanne de Passe
Record executive, entrepreneur, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and entertainment mogul Suzanne de Passe began her Motown career in 1964 as personal assistant to Berry Gordy, rising to VP of creative operations, mentoring the young Jackson 5. She later became president of Motown Productions, where she produced many critically lauded specials and the Emmy-, Golden Globe-, and Peabody-winning miniseries Lonesome Dove. Currently running her own production company, de Passe was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1990.
Pop singer, dancer, actress, and television personality Paula Abdul rose from the Los Angeles Lakers cheerleading squad to become music video’s most-sought-after choreographer at the height of MTV’s first flush of success, working with The Jacksons on their Victory tour. At the end of the ’80s, she morphed again, becoming a chart-topping, multi-platinum vocalist. She won a Grammy for Best Music Video for Opposites Attract, and she has twice earned Emmy Awards for outstanding choreography.
Sugar Ray Leonard
Twice named Ring magazine’s Fighter of the Year, 1976 Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Leonard is widely considered one of the all-time greatest students of the sweet science. Leonard compiled a 36-3-1 record during a professional career in which he won six world title belts in five different weight classes and fought memorable contests against fellow boxing legends Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. Since retiring from boxing he’s remained active in the sport as a promoter, broadcaster and spokesperson. He is also noted for his charitable work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the recently formed Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation.
Iron Mike Tyson was one of the most feared and ferocious competitors ever to lace up a pair of boxing gloves. At 20 years, four months and 22 days, he became the youngest man ever to become heavyweight champion and then undisputed heavyweight champion, unifying the WBC, WBA and IBF world titles at the age of 21. He retired from competitive boxing in 2005 with a lifetime professional record of 50 wins (44 of which were by knockout) and just six defeats and is ranked number 16 on Ring magazine’s 100 greatest boxers of all-time.
One-time National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year, 15-time All-Star and four-time NBA championship winner, superstar Shaquille O’Neal has been a dominant force in pro basketball for over a decade-and-a-half. His entertainment prowess is by no means confined to the court, as he frequently appears both in movies and on television, and numbers four solo albums to his credit as a multi-platinum-selling recording artist. He also appeared on the track 2 Bad from Michael’s HIStory album.
Over the course of more than three-dozen films, director, actor, writer and producer Spike Lee has received both kudos and cudgels, but the simple fact is that he’s a commanding storyteller telling compelling stories, and that’s bound to affect people in a powerful way. Whether it’s with the fictional drama of Do The Right Thing or the real-life tragedy of When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts, Lee continually provokes us both to feel and think. He also directed Michael's short film for "They Don't Care About Us".
Actress, activist, fitness guru, environmentalist, and writer Jane Fonda has been a fixture on the American cultural landscape over the course of five decades, reinventing her career countless times – and winning a pair of Academy awards in the process. From Barbarella to Klute, and Coming Home to On Golden Pond, Fonda has remained a riveting screen presence. Her charitable work extends to literally dozens of causes, and in 2008, Fonda was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. She befriended Michael in the 1970s.
Four-time Grammy-award winner and five-time pop singles chart topper, British-born, Australian-raised Olivia Newton-John has enjoyed a wildly successful musical career spanning four decades. Starring – and singing – alongside John Travolta in Grease, she scored a Number One hit with You’re The One That I Want, and her smash Physical was 1981’s top-selling single. After surviving breast cancer, she’s advocated tirelessly for prevention and awareness of the disease, and is raising funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, the southern hemisphere’s most advanced treatment facility.
Fifteen-time Grammy-winning songwriter, composer, arranger and producer David Foster has made a life’s work of turning singers into superstars, and has produced artists ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Alice Cooper and Barbra Streisand to Michael Jackson. True to his Canadian roots, he produced records for fellow countrymen Gordon Lightfoot, Michael Bublé and Céline Dion, and composed the official theme to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. He’s also lent his musical talents to well over 300 charitable events and organizations.
Keyboardist, musician, songwriter and producer Teddy Riley is widely credited as being the godfather of the R&B/hip hop fusion known as New Jack Swing. Riley’s platinum-plated roll call of credits includes such superstar artists as Mary J. Blige, Tom Jones, Keith Sweat, and *NSYNC, as well as his own bands, Guy and Blackstreet. Riley also co-produced a string of hits for Michael Jackson, including Remember The Time and In The Closet from the Dangerous album, for which he won a Grammy.
As half of one of the premier production teams (along with Terry Lewis) in the history of pop music, James Samuel Jimmy Jam Harris III has amassed an astonishing musical legacy: over 100 albums that have gone gold, platinum, or multi-platinum; an incredible15 Number One hits and 25 Number One R&B chart toppers; plus Grammy awards in three different decades, among countless other accolades. In addition to his production work, Jam currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of The Recording Academy. He co-produced several songs on Michael's HIStory album including the smash hit "Scream".
By the time director John Landis hit 30, he’d already helmed two of the ’70s signature comedy smashes, Kentucky Fried Movie and National Lampoon’s Animal House, launching a wildly successful career that includes The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Coming To America. His 1981 cult horror classic An American Werewolf In London inspired Michael Jackson to engage Landis to direct a ground-breaking project that changed the face of MTV – and all of music video – forever: Thriller.
Movie director, screenwriter and producer John Singleton splashed into the national consciousness in 1991, when his movie Boyz N The Hood received Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay and Director. That same year, he directed the video for Michael Jackson’s single, Remember The Time, featuring Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson. Among his most notable films are the remake of Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Poetic Justice. Singleton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.
The versatile actor, comedian and producer changed the face of late-night television as host and Executive Producer of his eponymous Emmy-winning talk show. During its historic five-year run, Hall provided a forum for cutting edge comedy, politics and the television debut of pop superstars such as Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, among countless others. Since his hilarious turn alongside Eddie Murphy in their smash hit feature film Coming To America, Hall has enjoyed success in a variety of genres, lending his voice talent to animated features, co-starring in dramatic series and hosting numerous television shows and specials.
Widely respected as both a dancer and a Tony award-winning choreographer, Savion Glover made his Broadway premiere at 12 in The Tap Dance Kid and debuted on film four years later in Tap. Returning to Broadway after five years in the cast of Sesame Street, he starred in the hit musical Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk. In 2003, Glover appeared on the MJ retrospective DVD The One. Recently, he founded the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap in New Jersey.
Television and movie producer, personal manager, writer, educator and social activist Ken Kragen was instrumental in the making of We Are The World, the international hit single that raised funds for the USA for Africa charity. Among his management clients have been World co-writer Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton-John and many others. He received the United Nations Peace Medal for his charitable works, including the creation of We Are The World and the Hands Across America event.
During his tenure as vice president at Michael Jackson’s musical home, Epic Records, Frank Dileo received over 80 gold and platinum awards and was credited for masterminding the imprint’s meteoric rise from number 14 to number two in market share among American labels. Upon leaving Epic, Dileo acted as Michael’s personal manager for several years, and helped spur Jackson’s career to enormous success. Dileo subsequently founded Dileo Entertainment Group, a management and publishing company based in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1974, Greenberg became the youngest executive ever to head a major label when he was named president of Atlantic Records. He later went on to co-found Mirage Music and WTG Records, and was tapped by Michael to be president of Jackson’s MJJ Music label. At MJJ, he oversaw the marketing and promotion of the platinum-selling soundtrack to the movie Free Willy, and worked with artists including 3T, Tatyana Ali, Rebbie Jackson, and the platinum-selling group Brownstone.
Anthropologist and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on chimpanzee social life and is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a global organization dedicated to conservation projects in Africa. Winner of countless awards and honorary doctorates, Goodall has written nearly two-dozen bestselling books on zoology, anthropology and ecology. She was designated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2002, one of only 15 people ever to receive the honor. She spent an historic day at Neverland with Michael which inspired him to write "Heal The World".
A master illusionist and endurance artist, David Blaine has been called a modern-day Houdini in the press and inspired director Jonathan Demme to label him the most exciting thing in America. Blaine befriended Michael Jackson not long after burying himself in an underground tomb for seven days in New York City, one of the many endurance feats with which he’s captured the attention of audiences worldwide. In 2008, Blaine broke the world record for holding one’s breath for a staggering 17 minutes and four seconds.
From his early days as a member of the multi-platinum group Tony! Toni! Toni! through his career as a solo performer and award-winning producer of such artists as Joss Stone, The Roots, Snoop Dogg and John Legend (among others), Raphael Saadiq has long been a standard-bearer for ‘old school’, timeless-sounding soul. In 2000, his song Untitled garnered D’Angelo a Grammy, and in 2002, he picked up a statuette of his own for Love Of My Life. He met Michael many times while they were recording their respective albums simultaneously at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles.
A former Chippendales dancer and performer at Walt Disney World, Cris Judd was brought to the attention of Michael Jackson, and he parlayed his appearance with Michael on the 1995 MTV Video Awards into a role as one of the lead dancers on Jackson’s Dangerous and HIStory world tours. Judd subsequently choreographed videos for a wide variety of hits including Ain’t It Funny and I’m Real for Jennifer Lopez, Usher’s My Way, and Julio Iglesias’ Tango.
A four-time winner of the MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography and a winner of three American Choreography Awards, Travis Payne teamed up with Michael Jackson on the short film Ghosts, as well as working with him on the HIStory tour and the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Payne’s choreography has appeared widely on television, from sitcoms to award shows to commercials. As a director, he has made music videos with Jon Secada and Fame star Irene Cara, among others.
Australian dancer, choreographer, producer, and songwriter Wade Robson began performing at the age of five, and before he turned ten years old had danced and acted in Michael Jackson videos, multiple commercials, films and TV shows. Wade co-wrote and produced What It’s Like To Be Me from Britney Spears’ multi-platinum album Britney and four songs from *NSYNC’s Celebrity album, including the Grammy-nominated single, Gone. He has also won two Emmy awards for his choreography on So You Think You Can Dance.
Former chief executive officer of Sony Pictures and studio chief at Columbia, Peter Guber is one of Hollywood’s must influential executives. The films he has directly produced and executive produced have earned over $3 billion in worldwide revenue and have been nominated for more than 50 Academy Awards. During his tenure at Sony, he helped Michael to develop his long-term strategy for multimedia - especially cinematic - projects. Guber is currently chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, which he founded in 1995.
Alan Buz Kohan
Active in the television, music and entertainment industry for over 40 years in the multiple roles of writer, composer, lyricist, producer, arranger and creative consultant, Kohan has been head writer for more than 200 television specials and series, including the Emmy award-winning Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. He has received 31 National Emmy nominations and 13 wins, the second-highest individual total in Academy history. As a composer and lyricist he has written a number of million-selling records including Gone Too Soon for Michael Jackson.
Kimora Lee Simmons
President/creative director of Phat Fashions, actress, designer and author Kimora Lee Simmons began her career in the industry at the age of 13, chosen personally by fashion czar Karl Lagerfeld to model for Chanel. In 2006, she published her self-help bestseller, Fabulosity: What It Is And How To Get It. An enthusiastic philanthropist and patron of the arts, she established the Kimora Lee Simmons Scholarship Fund and is an active member of many youth advocacy organizations.
As a member of legendary soul group Earth, Wind & Fire, bassist Verdine White has won six Grammy awards, and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. White is also co-founder of the Wright Life Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing music lessons, scholarships and grants to underprivileged youth. In 2008, the classically trained bassist was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by Bass Player magazine. He met Michael many times while they were recording their respective albums simultaneously at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles.
The ultimate entertainment industry insider, having been witness to, and part of, history in the making ever since he joined Motown Records in the 1970s. Jones worked in the Creative Division, handling career development for Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Rick James, the Commodores, among others, and had an incalculable impact on every stage and facet of the Jackson 5’s artistic development.
Deborah Nadoolman Landis
Two-time president of Hollywood’s Costume Designers Guild, Deborah Nadoolman Landis has been one of the industry’s top designers for three decades, creating fashions for such popular hit movies as Animal House, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Coming To America. She created the iconic red jacket seen in Michael’s video for Thriller (directed by her husband, John Landis). The Academy Award-nominated Landis also holds a PhD in the history of costume design and has published several books on the subject.
Universally recognized as one of the most distinctive photographers and music video directors working today, Matthew Rolston first gained widespread notice for his images on the inside spread of Bad in 1987. He also took the superlative shot of Michael that graced Ebony magazine’s cover in commemoration of Thriller’s 25th anniversary. His photographs have appeared in magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Rolling Stone and his work has been exhibited at The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Institution.
With a body of work spanning almost four decades, photographer Neal Preston has spent virtually his entire career behind the velvet rope, traveling the world with a who’s who of pop royalty including Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and countless others. He is the most-assigned photographer in People magazine’s history, and his award-winning work has been exhibited at such varied institutions as the Smithsonian and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As art director and chief photographer for Motown from 1972-75, Jim Britt had the ultimate backstage pass to practice a craft he had been honing for more than a decade. While at the label, he shot publicity and cover images for the entire Motown family, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Bobby Darin and, of course, Michael Jackson. He was later a co-creator of the much-beloved Jazz Bakery nightclub, and is a member of the International Cinematographers Union.
Educated at the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography, Steve Whitsitt began working for Michael in 1990, assisting on the set of the Black Or White music video. He also shot the cover image for the single Smile, depicting Jackson as Charlie Chaplin. He subsequently relocated to North Carolina where he photographs architectural interiors for designers, builders and architects. His first book, The Kitchen Guide, was published in 2008.
If you wish to see the work of painter Nate Giorgio, you need look no further than the clamshell cover of this book or our chapter openers, where his ink sketches of Michael have been reproduced. In 1984, he signed an exclusive contract to be Michael Jackson’s personal artist and created dozens of paintings that were displayed in Jackson’s home and used on commercial projects. His other commissions include the Beatles’ Apple Corps, and the estates of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.
Michael Jackson first contacted David Nordahl, who was already a well-established realist painter, in 1988 after seeing one of his canvases in director Steven Spielberg’s office. Nordahl became a portraitist for Michael as well as a friend. In 17 years, the artist turned out literally thousands of drawings for Jackson and nearly a dozen epic commissions, including the iconic Michael, which measures over 11 feet wide and nearly seven feet tall.
In 1998, Michael commissioned French painter Céline Lavail (who is also known under the alias Crafty Sprite) to create several portraits of him, most notably the works Archangel, Inspiration and Peter Pan, painted between 1998 and 2000. Lavail currently works and lives in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris.
Serena Kim is a freelance writer with a passion for music, food and fashion. She has worked in the A&R and publicity departments at several record labels, including Jive and EMI. After having survived as a New York City DJ, she served as Vibe magazine's features editor. Since then, her byline has appeared in Glamour, The Washington Post and Smithsonian. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, daughter and pug.
Serena contributed the essays "You've Got A Friend", "Man On A Mission", "Painting A Picture" and "Out Of This World".
Kim Morgan is a film, music and culture writer whose work has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, GQ, LA Weekly, MSN Movies, Salon, The Oregonian, The Huffington Post, IFC.com, Garage and her own website, Sunset Gun. She has also served as critic on AMC, VH1, Reelz and Starz; contributed to a variety of documentaries; and sat in for Roger Ebert as guest host of Ebert & Roeper And The Movies. She currently lives in Hollywood, California, with her two muscle cars.
Kim contributed the essays "Maestro Of Moves", "Moving Pictures" and "Dressed To Thrill".
Thane Tierney is an award-winning record producer, radio personality and journalist. A 20-year veteran of the music industry, he founded Universal Music Group's Hip-O Select label, and has also worked at Warner Bros., Rhino, Hannibal, Rykodisc and Enigma. His editorials have appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and San Jose Mercury News. He lives in Inglewood, California, with his wife and several cats.
Thane contributed the essays "The Boy Genius", "The Voice" and "The Studio Wizard".