The seventh child of a hard-driving father committed to turning his sons into superstars, a young Michael Jackson was pushed in front of the public at the tender age of five and told never to lose their attention. He succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, leading the Jackson 5 to stardom by the age of 12 before embarking on a solo career that would see him become nothing less than the most popular and successful solo male pop star of the modern era. On this day in 1996, he set a record that has since been surpassed only by one other performer, Mariah Carey: Jackson earned his 12th #1 hit as a solo artist when the R&B ballad "You Are Not Alone” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Jackson’s incredible run of chart-topping hits began in 1972 with the release of his fifth single, “Ben,” from the motion picture of the same name. A touching ballad about a sensitive boy’s devotion to a rat, “Ben” may seem a strange pop-cultural artifact in retrospect, but it raised few eyebrows at the time, when it made Jackson the third-youngest recording artist (after Stevie Wonder and Donny Osmond) to earn a solo #1 hit. It would be another seven years before Jackson again reached the top of the pop charts, but when he did, it marked the beginning of a 10-year run as great as any in pop history.
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” were Jackson’s second and third #1 hits, both from the Quincy Jones-produced 1979 album Off The Wall, a triumphant release that would be dwarfed by the success of the 1982 follow-up album, Thriller. Thriller yielded Jackson’s fourth and fifth chart-topping hits in “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” while becoming one of the biggest-selling albums of all time and causing Time magazine to call Michael Jackson “A one-man rescue team for the music business.” Five years later, Jackson anointed himself the “King of Pop” and released the album Bad, which gave him his sixth through 10th #1s with “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana.” “Black or White,” from the album Dangerous, became his 11th chart-topper in 1991.
“You Are Not Alone,” which topped the pop charts on September 2, 1996 was written and co-produced by the R&B star R. Kelly. And though a court in Belgium ruled in 2007 that Kelly had plagiarized "You Are Not Alone” from a Belgian song called “If We Can Start All Over,” it nevertheless stands as Michael Jackson’s 12th, and final (barring any posthumous releases), solo #1 hit.