'I'll always be Peter Pan in my heart,' he once said.
What was it about Michael Jackson that made his millions of fans worldwide so loyal and devoted? How did his charisma, unique magic and strangeness rule Pop for so long? Did his eccentricities only boost his standing? Which of those stellar sparkling records (750 million sold) stand the test of time and which were caught in a moment? Was he the greatest live performer ever? And how did he hold up under the persistent glare of publicity, criticism and rumour? What was it like to be Michael Jackson?
Michael Joseph Jackson was on stage almost since he could walk. His musician father coaxed the family into performing: by the age of six Michael had joined his brothers in the spotlight. It rapidly became evident that he was a singing/dancing musical prodigy. He was soon the focus of The Jackson Five, who by 1969 were Motown hit-makers and who enjoyed international success into the Seventies. It was inevitable he'd become a solo superstar, and after 1979s Off The Wall he dominated the 1980s with landmark albums Thriller and Bad. The former remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with 47 million copies sold. These albums spawned a stream of classic genre-bending hit singles which married funk, pop, soul and rock. Such trademark tropes as the moonwalk and the white glove became household icons. Jackson's videos fuelled the rise of MTV. His live shows prompted mass hysteria.
In the 1990s his appearance changed and he became the subject of media scrutiny, a mysterious figure prone to shyness and illness who constantly defied predictability. His records still sold in huge quantities. Two marriages - one to Elvis Presley's daughter - and fatherhood only seemed to provoke more scandal, despite his considerable services to charity. His final years were marked by trauma, trials and tabloid witch-hunts, yet in one fell swoop the announcement of his death meant that in the eyes of his countless fans Michael Jackson would always, invincibly, be The King of Pop.