From the age of 11, Michael Jackson showed incredible musical talent, outshining his brothers in the Jackson 5. The Indiana-born pop star went on to achieve superstardom in a life packed with platinum albums and controversies.
AFP - Michael Jackson was a child prodigy, a musical genius and remains one of the most idolized artists on Earth.
The 50-year-old pop megastar was hospitalized Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest. Both the Los Angeles Times newspaper entertainment website TMZ.com said the pop icon had died after paramedics could not revive him.
For all his fame and legions of fans, Jackson has lived as a virtual recluse since he was acquitted in 2005 on charges of child molestation and plotting to kidnap his young accuser.
Despite his acquittal, the trial was a body blow from which the pop music superstar has yet to recover.
Four years later, the 50-year-old is still worshipped by fans for revolutionizing music, dance and music videos at the peak of his success.
Jackson is scheduled to launch a comeback tour, with the first of four London concerts set for July 13. The kickoff concert was pushed back from July 8 because of the "sheer magnitude" of the show, promoters and producers AEG Live said.
Jackson told fans at a brief press conference in London in March that the performances -- his first major shows for more than a decade -- would be his "final curtain."
In recent years, the attention which has been paid to Jackson, a father of three, has been less flattering, focusing on apparent cosmetic surgery -- which he denies -- his baby dangling antics and a decade of swirling child abuse allegations.
Born on August 29, 1958, Jackson made his show business debut with four of his older brothers in the Jackson Five pop group, and went on to lead the stage clan with a piping soprano and dazzling dance moves.
By 1969, the group had signed a contract with Motown Records, becoming one of the last great acts to emerge from the legendary label.
The Jacksons produced seven platinum singles for Motown, selling over a million, and three multi-platinum albums, selling more than two million. They moved to CBS's Epic Records in 1976.
Despite the early success, Jackson was to recall those years as unhappy and lonely ones. Eventually the family act broke up, as Jackson went solo.
In 1979, Quincy Jones produced Jackson's first solo album for Epic, "Off the Wall," a huge disco-oriented success that sold 10 million copies.
They teamed up again in 1982 for what would be Jackson's breakthrough album as a composer and co-producer, "Thriller," which became the top-selling album of all time, with sales exceeding 41 million.
According to Robert Thompson, an expert in pop culture at the University of Syracuse, New York, Jackson's later problems can be traced back to the phenomenal success of "Thriller."
"He got to the point that he was so rich, so powerful and so famous, that he was allowed to kind of withdraw from any kind of reality," Thompson told AFP.
"Thriller" was followed by "Bad" in 1987 (20 million sold) and "Dangerous" in 1991 (21 million sold), with videos whose auto-erotic dance contrasted with Jackson's sweet, childlike personality offstage.
A pop culture icon with enormous wealth, Jackson in 1991 signed a deal with Sony Music described as the most lucrative contract ever for a recording artist. Although Jackson's share was not disclosed, Sony estimated the sales potential at a billion dollars.
But in 1993, a 13-year-old boy made sex abuse allegations against his former pal Jackson, and prosecutors and police launched an investigation.
A year later, Jackson struck an out-of-court agreement with the family under which he paid out a total of 23.3 million dollars, a deal which Jackson has said he now regrets.
The deal halted the criminal case, which was being pursued by Tom Sneddon, the chief prosecutor in Jackson's trial.
As Jackson's life was complicated by his meteoric rise to fame, he also started undergoing a dramatic physical transformation.
Over the years, his skin has become much lighter and he appears to have had extensive plastic surgery on his face. Vanity Fair magazine reported in 2003 that the tip of his nose is actually a prosthesis.
In 1994, he stunned the public by marrying Lisa Marie Presley, the 26-year-old daughter of Elvis Presley.
The marriage lasted less than two years and was a hot topic for the tabloids. However, the renewed interest in Jackson's love life did not spark interest in his music.
In June 1995, he released the double album "HIStory, Past, Present and Future -- Book I" to negative reviews and weak sales -- despite Sony Music's 40-million-dollar investment. And Jackson's next album, "Invincible," flopped.
Jackson then married Debbie Rowe, a 37-year-old nurse he met while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997. They had two children, Prince Michael and Paris Michael Katherine, before divorcing in 1999.
Jackson had custody of the two children and of a third, Prince Michael II, born to an unknown woman, when in November 2002 he came under fierce public criticism for dangling his youngest child from a fourth-floor hotel balcony in Berlin for photographers.
Adding to his woes Jackson has also been hit by a flurry of lawsuits from former aides and promoters and from a slew of people suing over alleged unpaid bills. Last November, Jackson and a Bahraini prince struck an "amicable" deal to avoid going to court in a seven-million-dollar lawsuit.
The extent of Jackson's financial woes is unclear, with conflicting reports about the singer's assets and debts.
Date created : 2009-06-26