Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group the Jackson 5 when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with “I Want You Back.” By age 11, Jackson was appearing on TV, and by age 14 he had released his first solo album. A Jackson 5 TV cartoon series appeared in the early ’70s, and in 1976 the Jackson family, including sister Janet Jackson, launched a TV variety show called The Jacksons that ran for one season. Throughout the 70s, media attention focused on Michael, who piped vocals in his high voice for “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and many other Top 20 hits.
Jackson released several solo albums in the ’70s, but his great breakthrough came in 1979 with Off the Wall. He became the first solo artist to score four Top 10 hits from one album, including “She’s Out of My Life” and “Rock with You.” His next album, Thriller (1983), became the biggest selling album up to that time, selling some 45 million copies around the world. This time, he scored seven Top 10 singles, and the album won eight Grammies. Although his next album, Bad (1987), sold only about half as many copies as Thriller, it was still a tremendous best-seller. In 1991, Jackson signed an unprecedented $65 million record deal with Sony. That year, he released Dangerous.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jackson developed a reputation as an eccentric recluse. He moved to a 2,700-acre ranch called Neverland, which he outfitted with wild animals and a Ferris wheel. He underwent a facelift and nose job and was rumored to have lightened his skin through chemical treatment, though he claimed his increasing pallor was due to a skin disease. In 1993, scandal broke when Jackson was publicly accused of child molestation and underwent investigation. The case settled out of court. In 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley; the couple later divorced. Jackson married Deborah Rowe in 1996, and the couple had two children, Prince and Paris, before divorcing in 1999.
On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of sexual molestation of a young boy, Gavin Arvizo, in criminal court.
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles, California, just weeks before a planned concert tour billed as his “comeback.” He was 50 years old.
A 2019 documentary, Leaving Neverland, raised two more credible allegations of sexual abuse from when Jackson was alive. Jackson's family and estate continue to deny the claims.
READ MORE: The Final Days of Michael Jackson