OBITUARY: Michael Jackson: A life of hits and scandal
By Andy Goldberg Jun 25, 2009, 23:12 GMT
Michael Jackson\'s life of stardom and scandal almost read like a Hollywood morality tale - a classic story of the troubles of a genius in the spotlight, a cultural icon who ultimately died Thursday discredited, sad and broke. EPA/STR
Los Angeles - Michael Jackson's life of stardom and scandal almost read like a Hollywood morality tale - a classic story of the troubles of a genius in the spotlight, a cultural icon who ultimately died Thursday discredited, sad and broke.
The cause of death was not known, but news reports said he suffered a cardiac arrest that put him in a coma.
The seventh of nine children, he was born in Gary, Indiana in 1958. His father was a domineering steel mill employee and his mother was a devout Jehovah's Witness. He later claimed he was physically and mentally abused by his father - and blamed his future problems on his troubled childhood.
He was a child superstar at the age of 11, a confident dancer and a precociously talented singer, mimicking all the fanciest riffs of the leading R&B musicians of the time. Jackson led his family pop group, the Jackson Five, to the top of the charts in 1968 with hits like ABC, I want You Back and I'll Be There.
He starred as the Scarecrow in the Wiz in 1978, and launched his career as a solo star in 1979 with Off the Wall, which generated four top ten US hits. But he hit the jackpot with his sensational 1982 album Thriller which is often cited as the best-selling album of all time, with worldwide sales between 47 million and 109 million copies.
These songs redefined the modern music video and forced MTV to start showing black performers, ensuring the success of the fledgling music station and paving the way for the acceptance of rap and hip- hop as mainstream musical styles.
Elevated to the stardom level of The Beatles and Elvis, he also introducing a new level of mega-stardom through his music and clothes, his dance moves and his massive live concert tours.
He also made history by organizing the recording of the charity song We are the World, which gathered a supergroup of performers to raise consciousness about the plight of Africa.
But gradually Jackson created fewer hits and more tabloid headlines thanks to his odd behaviour and plastic surgery. Whereas once he was widely seen as the best dancer in the entertainment world, he spent much of his later years sealed off from the world in his fantasy childhood estate, named Neverland, after the setting of the book Peter Pan.
He appeared increasingly unhealthy whenever he was caught in public.
At the centre of his scandal-ridden life was his strange relationships with boys. He was accused of two instances of child molestation at Neverland, in 1993 and 2003.
Although he settled the first case without any admission of wrongdoing and was cleared of all charges after a media-saturated trial in the second case, the ordeals wreaked havoc on his already fragile psyche and turned him into a freak in the world's celebrity sideshow.
Never clear about his sexuality, Jackson's two-year marriage to Lisa-Marie Presley sparked intense speculation. Then he married his nurse Debbie Rowe, who became the mother of his two older children Michael Joseph Jackson, also known as Prince, and Paris Jackson. The mother of his third child Prince Michael Jackson has never been identified.
Talk of financial ruin was common in the last two decades of his life, as was talk of lucrative comebacks that were always cancelled. He was planning a series of 50 sold-out shows in London later this year, and 50 more in Los Angeles.