Few moments define Usher's career quite like that night in September 2001, when he stood opposite Michael Jackson at a sold-out Madison Square Garden and shared a dance. Usher juked, Jackson followed suit, the two traded moves. “I love you!” Jackson said, pointing. “I love you!” Usher replied, pointing back. It turns out, Usher might be the closest thing we have to Jackson since Jackson himself—a singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, and consummate performer whose appeal seems to transcend genre and demographics. A pop star who’s hovered in the spotlight for three decades running, with little sign of slowing down.Born Usher Raymond IV in 1978, and raised in Chattanooga and Atlanta, Usher started his career at age 10, making the rounds and honing his craft on Atlanta-area talent shows. See him on Star Search, circa 1991, singing Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” wading through a sea of admirers (“I was a ham,” he joked later). That performance led almost instantaneously to a deal with LaFace Records, then home to TLC and Toni Braxton, with Usher releasing his self-titled debut album when he was just 15. He went on to become one of the most bulletproof figures in pop, capable of straddling club music (2004’s “Yeah!”), ballads (2004’s “Confessions Part II”), boundary-pushing R&B (2012’s “Climax”), and the kind of borderless, big-tent anthems everyone seems to agree on (2008's “Love in This Club”). His 2004 album, Confessions, reportedly inspired by his breakup with TLC star Chilli, went not just Platinum but Diamond; his 2010 single “OMG” made him only the fifth artist in history to have No. 1 singles in three consecutive decades—behind, among others, Michael Jackson. In late 2018, he celebrated his 40th birthday by releasing “A”, his ninth studio album. Additionally, Usher has also acted (in television, in movies, on Broadway), taken an ownership stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, mentored a young Justin Bieber, and worked on both American Idol and The Voice, all while maintaining a steady presence in a variety of philanthropic causes. In 2011, he was given a Freedom Award by the National Civil Rights Museum.
BORNOctober 14, 1978