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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Music's misunderstood superstar
Michael Jackson fan
Mr Jackson's devoted fanbase always believed in his innocence
Michael Jackson's name may have been cleared by a California court, but even his most ardent admirers know he will not return to anything like a normal life.

The 46-year-old singer has been a figure of fun for certain sections of the media - especially the UK's voracious tabloids - for more than 20 years.

While the stain of the child abuse allegations will have been erased with his acquittal, the conditions that allowed Mr Jackson's reputation to be dragged through the mud remain.

It began when Mr Jackson's career was at its critical and commercial peak in the 1980s. His second solo album, Thriller, had been an enormous global hit, while in 1984 he won eight Grammy awards.

Mr Jackson was in his mid-20s, and the world had the child star of just 15 years before fresh in its memory.

But on Thriller's cover, fans saw Michael Jackson's nose was a little more defined than it had been before. His skin looked a little lighter.

Gradually, stories about the young man who had spent his entire life in the spotlight began to emerge. Some were true, while others were flatly denied.

One story which was true could have had tragic consequences - in 1984 his hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial. He suffered second-degree burns, but fully recovered.

Bubbles the chimp

Later that year, he attended the American Music Awards with actress Brooke Shields - then 19 - and a 13-year-old child star, Emmanuel Lewis, whom he credited as "one of his inspirations".

The rumour mill began to turn.

Michael Jackson in 1984
Michael Jackson took a child actor to a 1984 awards show
At the time, this was set against a background of stories which verged on the ludicrous. Pet chimpanzee Bubbles was introduced to the world in 1986.

In unbroadcast footage from the Martin Bashir interviews shown to the jury, Mr Jackson described how he shared his toilet with Bubbles, who also learned to help dust his bedroom.

There was also the tale of Mr Jackson sleeping in an oxygen chamber to help him stay young. He has denied the story, as well as a bid to buy the skeleton of John Merrick, the "Elephant Man" of the 19th Century.

But it helped the UK press coin the name Wacko Jacko. In this atmosphere, friendships with young boys were seen as a harmless eccentricity.

It certainly did not harm his record sales - by 1987, Bad was the world's biggest-selling album. But fourth album Dangerous, released in 1991, was less successful and critically derided.

Darker stories

Wacko Jacko - where'd that come from? I feel that when you do that to me. It's not nice. Don't do it. I'm not a 'wacko'
Michael Jackson in 1997
As the 1990s dawned, the stories about Jackson took on a darker edge.

In 1993, he was interviewed live by Oprah Winfrey, where he said his lightening skin colour was due to a skin disease. He also claimed to be "in love" with Brooke Shields.

He also spoke of his relationship with father Joseph - claiming he was beaten, something Joseph has denied.

Later that year, his world caved in on him when police investigated allegations he molested 13-year-old Jordan Chandler, the son of a Los Angeles dentist.

He was on tour in the Far East at the time, and close friend Elizabeth Taylor flew out to Singapore to offer her support, appearing on stage with the singer.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1990s
Friends: Mr Jackson with Bubbles the chimp
No charges were brought, and the case was settled out of court with a reported $20m payment to the Chandler family.

The marriages

Marriage to Lisa Marie Presley in 1994 looked to some observers like an attempt to revive his image. It ended in acrimony 19 months later.

A second marriage, to dermatological assistant Debbie Rowe in 1996, resulted in two children - son Prince Michael, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine.

During this period, Mr Jackson gave a surprise interview to US TV journalist Barbara Walters in Paris, following the death of the Princess of Wales.

He complained bitterly about press intrusion into his life - mimicking the noises of paparazzi motorcycles - and media coverage of his life.

Michael Jackson
Mr Jackson was first hit with abuse allegations in 1993
"Wacko Jacko - where'd that come from? Some English tabloid. I have a heart and I have feelings. I feel that when you do that to me. It's not nice. Don't do it. I'm not a 'wacko'," he said.

But while interest in Michael Jackson the celebrity continued unabated, Michael Jackson the musician was facing difficulties as the new millennium dawned, with 2001 album Invincible selling poorly.


Rowe filed for divorce in 1999, and Mr Jackson retreated to his Neverland ranch, and took to wearing a mask in public.

In 2002, it emerged that Mr Jackson had fathered a third child - son Prince Michael II - by an unknown mother.

The child made its debut by being dangled off the edge of the third-floor balcony of a Berlin hotel in front of fans - leading to a controversy over whether he was a fit father.

Michael Jackson
Debbie Rowe gave birth to two of Mr Jackson's children
Speculation also mounted over the state of Mr Jackson's finances as he became engaged in a public spat with his record company, Sony.

Shortly before his arrest in 2003, he threw open the gates of Neverland for a $5,000-a-ticket party. But by then, Martin Bashir's documentary had already aired in both the UK and US, opening another unwanted chapter in his life.

But if clearing his name was a battle, recovering from the ordeal he has faced over the past 18 months will be the biggest challenge of his life.

Take a look back over Jackson's career to date


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