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When Michael Jackson Married Lisa Marie Presley and the Spice Girls Hit Number One

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May 22, 1989 – Public Enemy fires member Professor Griff for making anti-Semitic remarks  

In an interview with Washington Times reporter David Mills, Public Enemy’s "Minister of Information" Griff made a series of broadly prejudiced remarks – among others, "Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world." (This, in turn, was a quote from Henry Ford’s propaganda series The International Jew, a favored tome of Hitler.) The prejudiced words echoed several of Griff’s recent anti-Semitic and homophobic quotes in the British press, but the Times piece was the first to incur major fallout: Public Enemy were heavily criticized just as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was launching them to unprecedented mainstream success. 

Professor Griff left the group for approximately 6 years, and member Chuck D apologized on his behalf – though Chuck later explained the remarks as an offshoot of the group’s activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the decade-plus following his Times scandal, Griff has grown no less outspoken; he’s gone on record decrying the "hip-hop Illuminati" that controls pop culture and opposed President Obama during his run for the White House.

May 26, 1993 – Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley

Some images shouldn’t be indelible, but for the "TRL" generation, this is one of them: Michael Jackson theatrically kissing his wife, Lisa Marie Presley, onstage at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, and cooing, "And to think, they said it wouldn't last."

Ultimately, the marriage did not, but it was eventful while it lasted. Elvis’s daughter married the "King of Pop" just 20 days after her divorce was finalized from first husband Danny Keough; she and Jackson dated four months before becoming engaged. They married in a secret ceremony in the Dominican Republic shortly before Jackson’s child molestation accusations came to public attention; Presley was allegedly the one to convince Jackson to settle out of court and go into rehabilitation afterward.

Presley and Jackson separated in the winter of 1995 and divorced quickly thereafter. In a 2010 interview, Presley discussed Jackson’s death with Oprah Winfrey and said that she had been "naïve" in the marriage, and that the couple spent four years trying to reconcile after their divorce.

May 24, 1997 – the Spice Girls went to No. 1 on the US album charts, the third all-girl group to do so

The Spice Girls were a pop confection unlike anything else in the ‘90s: peppy and melodic, with war cries of "Girl Power!" punctuating every sassy verse. Their success, however, was serious business: when their album Spice topped the U.S. album charts, they became the third all-girl group ever to do so behind the Supremes and the Go-Gos.

Spice, their late 1996 debut, was a massive hit worldwide. The first single, "Wannabe", topped the charts in 31 countries, and the next two singles, "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1", hit No. 1 in 53 countries. America was quick to embrace Spicemania and the record want 8 times platinum in the States; overall, the album sold 23 million copies worldwide, handily becoming the top-selling album by a girl group in music history and one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Credited often as the predecessors of the late-‘90s teen pop explosion (see: Britney, Backstreet Boys), the Spice Girls were managed by music heavyweight Simon Fuller (creator of the "Idol" franchise) in England. Members Victoria Beckham (née Adams), Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, and Emma Bunton released two albums together---Spice and 1997’s Spiceworld—as well as a successful movie tied into the latter before Halliwell left the group in 1998. Their third album, 2000’s Forever, was their last, but paved the way for the astronomical ticket sales of their 2007 reunion tour…and more than a few Union Jack baby tees still hanging in closets today.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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