He has gone through personal scandal, family squabbles and numerous career quakes but Michael Joseph Jackson remains one of the planet's best known figures.
Child star: Jackson in 1972
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, projecting a self-confident image which belies the private personality he shows today.
Despite his age, he managed to make chart-toppers like I Want You Back and I'll Be There completely credible.
By the time he was 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.
"My father beat me. It was difficult to take being beaten and then going onstage.
1958: Born Gary, Indiana
1969: Jackson Five hit success
1972: Got To Be There is first solo hit single
1979: Off The Wall released
1982: Thriller is worldwide hit
1987: Bad follows suit
1992: Dangerous released
2001: Invincible gets a lukewarm reception
2003: Greatest hits album, new single One More Chance released
"He was strict; very hard and stern."
Michael Jackson's first solo release was the ballad Got to Be There.
As a cute child singing sentimental but catchy ballads, he was a hit.
But eclipsed by their biggest star, the Jackson Five's fortunes began to slip.
In 1978, Jackson starred as the Scarecrow in an all-black pop version of The Wizard of Oz, called The Wiz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy. But it was a box office disaster.
Animals and toys
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.
He was really launched as an adult star with Off The Wall in 1979, a collaboration with legendary producer Quincy Jones.
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.
But the rumours about Jackson's behaviour grew.
He seemed to be trying to capture the youth he never had, surrounding himself with animals and toys.
TROUBLED PRIVATE LIFE
1994: Child abuse allegations settled out of court
1994: Marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. Lasts 17 months
1997: Marriage to Debbie Rowe, Prince Michael I born
1998: Daughter Paris Michael Katherine is born
1999: Splits from Debbie Rowe
2001: Celebrates 30 years in showbiz with huge concert
2002: Prince Michael II born, first seen on Berlin balcony
2003: Row over UK TV documentary
In 1982 he released the very adult album Thriller, the most successful album of all time, selling more than 47m copies and winning seven Grammys.
It produced a run of hits such as The Girl Is Mine - a duet with Paul McCartney - Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller.
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 had become a myth and as his career headed for the stratosphere, rumours about him started to gain mythical proportions too.
He was said to be trying to change his appearance with plastic surgery, 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.
Jackson's latest single was released on 18 November 2003
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.
But in 1993, allegation of sexual abuse were made by a 13-year-old friend of Jackson's, and police were called in.
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.
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 at his huge Neverland ranch in California.
He marked 30 years in showbusiness in 2001 with a huge concert, starring Britney Spears, N'Sync, and a reunion of the Jackson Five.
A new album, Invincible, met with a lukewarm reception.
In 2002, his third child, Prince Michael II, was born to a mystery mother.
But the first time the world saw him threw Jackson into yet more controversy - as he dangled the infant out of a hotel window in Berlin, causing an international outcry.
There, the seeds were sown for yet further trouble. British journalist Martin Bashir filmed the scenes in Berlin for a documentary, transmitted in February 2003.
Baby Prince Michael II is shown to the world in Berlin
In it, Jackson admitted to sleeping in the same room as children at his Neverland ranch, and a 12-year-old boy who had survived cancer was seen cuddling up to him.
The film sparked another international storm - although he received a more sympathetic reception from fans in the US - and Jackson claimed he had been "betrayed" by Bashir.
He even went as far as to release his own film showing Bashir praising his "spectacular" relationship with his children.
2003 has since brought more upheaval for the famously secretive star.
He has been hit by a flurry of lawsuits by former aides and promoters amid rumours that he is on the verge of bankruptcy - a claim his current advisers deny.
Whatever the truth of Jackson's life, his musical career seems doomed to be eclipsed by the myths and legends surrounding him.