Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana on August 29, 1958. He was the eighth of ten children in the Jackson family, a working-class African-American family living in a two-bedroom house on Jackson Street. His mother, Katherine Esther Jackson (née Scruse), played clarinet and piano, had aspired to be a country-and-western performer, and worked part-time at Sears. She was a Jehovah's Witness. His father, Joseph Walter "Joe" Jackson, a former boxer, was a crane operator at U.S. Steel and played guitar with a local rhythm and blues band, the Falcons, to supplement the family's income. Joe's great-grandfather, July "Jack" Gale, was a US Army scout; family lore held that he was also a Native American medicine man. Michael grew up with three sisters (Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet) and five brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy). A sixth brother, Marlon's twin Brandon, died shortly after birth.
In 1964, Michael and Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers—a band formed by their father which included Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine—as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine. Michael said his father told him he had a "fat nose", and physically and emotionally abused him during rehearsals. He recalled that Joe often sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, ready to punish any mistakes. Joe acknowledged that he regularly whipped Michael. Katherine said that although whipping came to be considered abuse, it was a common way to discipline children when Michael was growing up. Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon denied that their father was abusive and said that the whippings, which were harder on Michael because he was younger, kept them disciplined and out of trouble. Michael said his youth was lonely and isolated.
Later in 1964, Michael began sharing lead vocals with Jermaine, and the group's name was changed to the Jackson 5. In 1965, the group won a talent show; Michael performed the dance to Robert Parker's 1965 song "Barefootin'" and sang the Temptations' "My Girl". From 1966 to 1968, the Jacksons 5 toured the Midwest; they frequently played at a string of black clubs known as the Chitlin' Circuit as the opening act for artists such as Sam & Dave, the O'Jays, Gladys Knight, and Etta James. The Jackson 5 also performed at clubs and cocktail lounges, where striptease shows were featured, and at local auditoriums and high school dances. In August 1967, while touring the East Coast, they won a weekly amateur night concert at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
The Jackson 5 recorded several songs for a Gary record label, Steeltown Records; their first single, "Big Boy", was released in 1968. Bobby Taylor of Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers brought the Jackson 5 to Motown after they opened for Taylor at Chicago's Regal Theater in 1968. Taylor produced some of their early Motown recordings, including a version of "Who's Lovin' You". After signing with Motown, the Jackson family relocated to Los Angeles. In 1969, Motown executives decided Diana Ross should introduce the Jackson 5 to the public—partly to bolster her career in television—sending off what was considered Motown's last product of its "production line". The Jackson 5 made their first television appearance in 1969 in the Miss Black America pageant, performing a cover of "It's Your Thing". Rolling Stone later described the young Michael as "a prodigy" with "overwhelming musical gifts" who "quickly emerged as the main draw and lead singer".
Jackson has been referred to as the "King of Pop" for having transformed the art of music videos and paving the way for modern pop music. For much of Jackson's career, he had an unparalleled worldwide influence over the younger generation. His influence extended beyond the music industry; he impacted dance, led fashion trends, and raised awareness for global affairs. Jackson's music and videos fostered racial diversity in MTV's roster and steered its focus from rock to pop music and R&B, shaping the channel into a form that proved enduring. In songs such as "Man in the Mirror", "Black or White", Heal the World, "Earth Song" and "They Don't Care About Us", Jackson's music emphasized racial integration and environmentalism and protested injustice. He is recognized as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time by Guinness World Records. He is considered one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.