A source close to Michael Jackson tells ET that the international superstar and pop-music legend has passed away earlier Thursday afternoon. He was 50.
The King of Pop, who will be forever immortalized for his world-famous, trademark dance moves and chart-topping success, was arguably one of the most popular recording artists of all time, his success peaking during the 1980s.
Jackson was born in Gary, IN on August 29, 1958. Before he became a solo artist, Jackson was the youngest member of the Jackson Five, the explosive '60s band formed by his four older brothers -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon Jackson -- put Jackson on the path to stardom.
Jackson's talent was brought to the attention of producer Quincy Jones, who cast him in the role of Scarecrow in 'The Wiz' (1978), a musical based on 'The Wizard of Oz.' The film also featured Diana Ross and Richard Pryor. The rising pop star reunited with Jones in 1982 with the mega-hit album, Thriller. The title track, along with "Beat It," "The Girl is Mine," and "Billie Jean," would make him an indelible icon of pop culture. The album garnered seven Grammy awards. His unmatchable musical talent was coupled with an intriguing idiosyncratic image that, in later years, overshadowed the singer's own success. But the '80s marked Jackson as a contemporary legend.
Jackson's eccentric persona was perpetuated with the help of his one-gloved hand. In 1993, a mother accused Jackson of molesting her 13-year-old son during a visit. The case was eventually settled out of court for a reported $20 million. Still, America remained enamored with the pop star; a reported 62 million viewers tuned in to his 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey. The later years of his career and personal life proved to be a tumultuous affair. The change was perhaps foreshadowed most significantly a year after he married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley. His album, HIStory, released in 1995, failed to become the success it was anticipated to be. His 2001 album, Invincible, which reportedly cost $30 million to produce, would suffer the same fate.
During the same year, in November, he married former nurse Debbie Rowe. She gave birth to Prince Michael Jackson I in 1997. Two years later Jackson and Rowe filed for divorce. In November 2003, more legal trouble emerged when a 12-year-old boy claimed that Jackson molested him at his Neverland Valley Ranch. A year later Jackson gave his DNA sample to authorities after police searched his estate for evidence.
In 2005, Jackson was tried and exonerated of child molestation, conspiracy and alcohol charges that could have sent him to prison for nearly 20 years.
Despite the tribulations in his personal life, Michael Jackson's mark in history never faded. He has inspired young pop stars like Justin Timberlake and Usher, and his classic, instantly recognizable songs continue to be heard in dance clubs and households across the world.
Jackson is survived by his three children: Prince Michael Jackson I, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.
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