Remembering a Pop Icon: Michael Jackson

A single sequin glove, gravity-defying dance moves, and transcendent music videos were Michael Jackson’s trademarks as a pop icon and musical innovator. But as brightly as his musical star shined, Jackson’s record-setting successes were often eclipsed by legal woes and eccentric behavior.

Jackson, 50, died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering cardiac arrest. Paramedics performed CPR on the superstar who was not breathing when they arrived at his Los Angeles home; Jackson was rushed to the hospital that afternoon.

A team of doctors unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate Jackson for more than an hour. An autopsy to determine cause of death was planned today, his brother Jermaine told reporters, Thursday.

The superstar’s sudden death came as he prepared to kick off a sold out 50 show comeback concert series in London, July 13. Seventy-five thousand tickets sold four hours after going on sale in March,  according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The singer told about 2,000 fans that the concert series would be his “final curtain call,” during a news conference at the arena in March, according to MTV News.

Jackson debuted on the music scene in the1960s as part of the popular soul quintet The Jackson 5. The group spawned several No. 1 hits including “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There.”

Emerging from the group as a solo act, Jackson proved his prowess as an entertainer with the 1982 album release, “Thriller,” which included break out hits, “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and the title track. The musical work catapulted the singer into superstardom, selling an estimated 50 million copies worldwide and becoming the top selling album of all time.

Perhaps the most captivating performer of all time, Jackson became know for his backwards gliding moonwalk and glitzy stage shows which allowed the performer to transcend racial and cultural lines, cementing his status as a world icon. Unable to deny his star power, Jackson became the first African American to have his music video played on MTV.

Jackson “had it all – talent, grace, professionalism and dedication,” music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement upon hearing about the entertainer’s death.  “I’ve lost my little brother, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

His influence on music has been felt for decades and in today’s iconic performers, including Beyonce, Usher, Brittany Spears, and many more, who have all imitated the singer, including donning trademark fedora hats, high-hemmed pants, and white socks while replicating Jackson’s dance moves.

Jackson “will forever be remembered as the greatest entertainer and the most dynamic force in the recording industry that the world has ever seen,” said Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Despite his unparalleled success, Jackson’s public persona was marred by eccentric behavior and legal woes which plagued the crooner.  In 1993, allegations of child molestation emerged when a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of sexual abuse. The singer denied any wrongdoing, charges were never pressed and Jackson settled with the boy’s family out of court. More accusations surfaced in later years, with one leading to Jackson’s arrest in 2004.

At times appearing in public wearing pajama pants and surgical masks, Jackson’s odd conduct was accentuated by his constantly changing appearance throughout the 1990s. Controversy over the singer erupted as his skin changed from a deep brown to pale white. The star said he was diagnosed with vitiligo, attributing his sensitivity to sunlight and lighter skin to the skin condition.

Following the 1993 sexual abuse accusations, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of legendary rock star Elvis Presley. Some saw the nuptials as a farce and an attempt to rebuild his public image. Months after his short-lived marriage to Presley, Jackson went on to marry nurse Debbie Rowe. They had two children together, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Rowe filed for divorce in 1999, after which he fathered a third child, Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson, whom the pop star once dangled over a hotel balcony while fans watched below.

Born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson in 1958, Jackson was one of nine children– six brothers and three sisters. The Gary, Indiana family lived modestly in a working-class neighborhood. He started performing as a six-year-old with his four brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon. The brothers were eventually signed to Motown Records, one of the most influential music labels in history. Motown birthed many other international superstars including R&B sensation Diana Ross and singer songwriter Smokey Robinson.