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Jackson: A Life Lived In the Spotlight


International pop star Michael Jackson experienced what must have been some of the highest and lowest moments of his life under an unrelenting media spotlight, before his sudden death Thursday at the age of 50.

The performer known for stunning dance moves and a blend of pop, rock, and soul music gained fame early in a group with his four older brothers, known as The Jackson Five. But he reached superstardom during his young adult years, when his solo career yielded albums such as 1979's "Off the Wall," and "Thriller," in 1982, which became the top-selling album of all time.

Jackson also became an early innovator in the world of music video, when the genre was first developing in the early 1980s. His videos for the "Thriller" album had a cinematic quality that involved complicated dance routines and sometimes even storylines, that were unlike anything that had been done before.

He created an iconic, angular style of dance that incorporated pantomime techniques, lightning-fast changes, and his signature "moonwalk." The move mesmerized audiences as he glided backward while appearing to walk forward. His singing was similarly unique, mixing soul-like ballads with dance jams punctuated by hoots and shrieks.

Jackson was also a power player in philanthropy during the 1980s. In 1985 he helped organize the USA for Africa famine relief effort, assembling a star-studded cast to record the anthem "We Are the World," which was written for the occasion and became a top-selling single.

In his private life, however, he was reclusive and eccentric. He fashioned himself as a modern-day Peter Pan, saying he had never had a chance to enjoy his childhood. He surrounded himself with children, even going so far as to build a zoo and amusement park at his California home. Throughout his adult life he underwent a series of plastic surgeries to alter his nose and chin, dramatically altering his face.

He was married twice, first in 1994 to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of late rock and roll legend Elvis Presley; and later to a then-unknown woman, Debbie Rowe, who was the mother of his first two children. Neither marriage lasted longer than three years.

Jackson fathered a third child, reportedly by an unidentified surrogate. But meantime he was accused of inappropriate relationships with children, culminating in a child-molestation case for which he was acquitted in 2005. His legal troubles led to financial troubles and a retreat from the public eye.

Earlier this year, Jackson announced a series of comeback concerts in London scheduled to begin in July. When tickets went on sale in March, they sold out within minutes.

Now, fans are clustered around significant places in his life to pay tribute: the Apollo Theater in New York City, the gates of his Los Angeles home, his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Even in death, Michael Jackson has not escaped the spotlight.

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