Michael Jackson, during one of the most watched, most memorable moments in television history: his live performance of pop music smash "Billie Jean" on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983 NBC special).
Watch Rick Baker, creator of the legendary Thriller music video's special zombie makeup, speak on "getting along great" with Jackson, the explosive entertainer's surprisingly introverted offstage demeanor and more. Press play-arrow
Michael Jackson, the international music icon known as “The King of Pop,” whose chart-topping career spanned five decades, died June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles. He was 50.
Jackson suffered cardiac arrest at his home Thursday afternoon, and paramedics were unable to revive him.
There had been recent reports that Jackson was in poor health, and a forthcoming London concert series was postponed by a few days.
Jackson, who began performing as a child, left an indelible mark on the music industry. His 1980s hits, including “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” have become classics.
In addition to his recording achievements, Jackson was an electrifying live performer known for often imitated, never replicated, dance moves such as his signature “moonwalk.”
He also set a new standard for music videos with “Thriller,” a horror-film spoof that Jackson wrote and produced with director John Landis in 1983. Jackson won two Grammy Awards for the “Thriller” video, and MTV named it the best video ever made.
In recent years, Jackson was often in the news for his financial and legal troubles, including the auctioning of personal items and the battle over his Neverland ranch in southern California.
His public image was further compromised by his personal appearance, which changed considerably over the years, and his relationship with his children.
But throughout everything, he remained one of the world’s most successful musicians. He won 13 Grammy Awards and sold 750 million albums worldwide.
Born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, Jackson began his music career at the age of five, when he joined his brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine as the lead singer of the family music group, the Jackson Five.
In 1968, the Jackson Five signed with Motown Records and moved to California. The group dominated the charts in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and its first four singles, “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There,” all became No. 1 U.S. hits. The Jackson Five recorded 14 albums and Michael Jackson recorded four solo albums with Motown.
In 1978, Jackson made his film debut in The Wiz, playing the Scarecrow, with Diana Ross in the lead role of Dorothy.
Jackson’s first big solo success was the 1979 album Off the Wall, which spawned a record-breaking four No. 1 singles in the U.S. and earned Jackson his first American Music Award.
His 1982 album Thriller made him a musical phenomenon. Produced by Quincy Jones, it spanned a number of pop genres and spent for 37 weeks on top of the charts.
Thriller produced seven hit singles. His Bad, Dangerous and HIStory albums also were bestsellers.
In 1985, he was a key participant in the star-studded benefit single “We Are the World,” written by Jackson and Lionel Richie, which raised $60 million for hunger relief in Africa.
More recently, however, Jackson became better known for his troubled life, and his legal and financial problems, which included a variety of lawsuits from former business associates and creditors.
In 2003, British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Jackson over a period of eight months for an ITV network documentary called Living with Michael Jackson. ABC purchased the rights to broadcast it to American audiences on 20/20.
Revelations about Jackson's personal life in the documentary were one of the factors that resulted in his trial on charges of child molestation. He was acquitted of all charges, but the experience reportedly was difficult for the troubled star.
Rumors of a comeback tour and another album have emerged many times, but never materialized.
Jackson had two brief marriages — to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of another music legend, Elvis Presley, whom he married in 1994, and to Deborah Rowe, whom he married in 1996.
He had two children with Rowe: a son, Prince Michael Jackson Jr., and a daughter, Paris Michael Katherine. A second son, Prince Michael II, was born in 2001, to an anonymous surrogate mother.
In addition to The Wiz, Jackson appeared in Captain Eo, a 3-D film shown in Disney theme parks that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and executive produced by George Lucas. He also made numerous television appearances on variety shows, specials, awards shows and more.
Jackson earned two Primetime Emmy nominations—a 1983 nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for the special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, and a 1990 nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics for another special, Sammy Davis, Jr., 60th Anniversary Celebration.