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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 11:13 GMT
Jackson's life in the spotlight
Michael Jackson
Jackson is still close to some of his eight siblings
BBC News Online looks back at his turbulent life and career of one of the world's biggest stars.

After personal scandal, family squabbles and numerous career quakes, Michael Joseph Jackson remains one of the planet's best known figures.

Born in 1958, Jackson has spent his whole life in the public eye as he began performing at the age of four.

Though the youngest member of the Jackson Five, he became the group's lead vocalist and front man, projecting a self-confident image which belies the private personality he shows today.

Michael Jackson
The child-singer had to grow up fast, touring with The Jackson Five
Despite being very young to be singing about such emotions, he managed to make chart-toppers like I Want You Back and I'll Be There completely credible.

By the time he was aged 10 the Jackson Five had signed to Motown Records and were well on the road to US success, bullied into fame by their father Joe.

"There is a lot of sadness in my past life," Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in 1993.

Solo success

"My father beat me. It was difficult to take being beaten and then going onstage.

Michael Jackson with Korean children
Charity work - here in Korea - is a major interest
"He was strict; very hard and stern."

Michael Jackson's first solo release was the ballad Got to Be There, followed quickly by Rockin' Robin and Ben.

As a cute child singing sentimental but catchy ballads, he was a hit but the fortunes of the Jackson Five began to slip, despite a change of name to The Jacksons in 1976 and Michael's career being put on hold.

He did act in a 1978 all-black pop version of The Wizard of Oz, called The Wiz which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and Jackson as the Scarecrow, but it was a box office disaster.

Michael Jackson
Jackson's flamboyant concerts are legendary
Rumours began of slightly odd behaviour at this time, with Michael said to be seeking solace in the Scarecrow role and going home at night with his make-up still on.

But Jackson had worked on the soundtrack album with legendary producer Quincy Jones and this collaboration would prove fateful.

Jones and Jackson worked together again on Off The Wall in 1979, the project which really launched Michael Jackson as an adult star.

Rumours

The album topped the UK and US charts and had the singles Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, for which Jackson won a Grammy, and Rock With You.

Meanwhile Motown cashed in on his new found fame by re-releasing a track from the 70s - One Day In Your Life which topped the UK charts.

But the rumours about Jackson's behaviour grew.

Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson
Jackson is close friends with actress Elizabeth Taylor
He seemed to be trying to capture the youth he never had, surrounding himself with animals and toys.

In 1982 he released the very adult album Thriller, the most successful album of all time, selling more than 47m copies.

It produced a run of hits such as The Girl Is Mine - a duet with Paul McCartney - Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller.

Thriller won Jackson a further seven Grammy awards, but he had only just begun.

He landed the largest individual sponsorship deal in history from Pepsi in 1983 and his involvement in the 1984 Victory tour sparked the greatest demand for concert tickets in history.

Michael Jackson
The singer's mask-wearing fuelled rumours of health obsessions
Michael Jackson had become a myth and as his career headed for the stratosphere rumours about the him started to gain mythical proportions too.

Marriage

He was said to be trying to change his appearance by plastic surgery, to be the Messiah, to be taking drugs to make his skin white and to be obsessed with his own ageing process.

Later, he would blame his changing appearance on a skin pigmentation deficiency.

But at the time Jackson seemed to do nothing to stop the rumours and got on with his own life, recording Bad, which appeared in 1987.

His next release was Dangerous in 1992, which received more critical acclaim than Bad.

In 1993 allegation of sexual abuse were made by a 13-year-old friend of Jackson's, and police were called in.

Michael Jackson
Signature videos, like Thriller, featured tales of magic and transformation
Jackson settled with the boy's family a year later, for an estimated $20m, and the criminal investigation was dropped in 1994.

Despite his categorical denials of any wrong-doing, there was a media frenzy, heightened by Jackson's 1994 marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis' daughter, which some claimed was a publicity stunt.

The marriage soon collapsed.

Children

Jackson remarried in 1997, this time to a 37-year-old nurse called Debbie Rowe.

The couple have two children; Prince Michael Junior, born in 1997 and Paris Michael Katherine, born in 1998.

Rowe filed for divorce in 1999, leaving Jackson with the children.

Jackson is devoted to his children, who are attended to by a range of nurses, nannies and other childcare experts at his Neverland ranch.

Michael Jackson with Debbie Rowe
Jackson is now divorced from Debbie Rowe
In January 2000 Michael Jackson announced he was considering retirement, citing his weariness at publicity as a reason.

Now things seem to have turned around - Jackson is about to release his first album since 1995, Invincible although reports from the US suggest it is not of the quality of previous albums.

His forthcoming reunion concerts with his brothers will be a much-needed chance to publicise Jackson the performer and not Jackson the myth and icon.

See also:

05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Jackson hobbles into UK
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Injured Jackson keeps Oxford date
23 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Jackson to 'surprise world'
15 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Jackson launches second charity
11 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Jackson sued over diamond watch
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