Today marks the 14th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s 2009 death at the age of 50 as result of a cardiac arrest following an overdose of the surgical anesthetic drug Propofol.
In the years since his death, Jackson has remained a relevant pop culture figure – celebrated for the body of work he left behind, amid a legacy complicated by controversies.
Following Jackson’s death, a large memorial service was held in Los Angeles, amid a commercial nostalgia wave that saw a number of posthumous albums released, a documentary film titled This Is It, as well as shows and musicals scored to his work.
The molestation allegations that Jackson faced in 1993 and 2003 have also been reexamined publicly via the 2019 documentary film Leaving Neverland.
Here, DailyMail.com takes a look back at the life and times of the famed entertainer.
Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana on August 29, 1958 to father Joe Jackson and mother Katherine Jackson, the eighth-oldest child in a family of 10.
His siblings Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, and Janet Jackson have all been involved in the music business. Michael’s brother Brandon, who was Marlon’s twin, died after he was born due to health complications.
His parents both had musical backgrounds – Katherine played clarinet and piano, while Joe played guitar – and got their children into the business, with Michael beginning performing at the age of five.
Joe’s tutelage into molding his children’s into entertainers venture into abusive and violent territory, both by his own admission, and according to accounts from Michael and Janet.
He would have his children rehearse five hours daily after school, and use belts and cords to hit them with if their performances weren’t up to par.
Michael went into painful detail about the abuse he suffered at his father’s hands in the 2003 Martin Bashir documentary, Living with Michael Jackson, saying he felt ‘strong hate’ for his father at the time.
‘It was more than just a belt – cords, whatever was around – [he’d] throw you up against the wall as hard as you could,’ Michael said of his father, who died in 2018. ‘He would lose his temper. I was so fast, he couldn’t catch me half the time. But when he would catch me? It was bad. It was really bad.’
Joe told Piers Morgan in a 2013 CNN interview, ‘Parents, they are too soft on their kid. There’s no such thing about beating a kid. You whip them and push them over something they did and they remember that in a way that they will never do it again.’
He said that he ‘had to be that way because during those times, it was hard and you had a lot of gangs there in Gary, Indiana’ and he had to ensure his children ‘didn’t get into any kind of trouble.’
Joe continued, ‘My kids were brought up in a way so they respect people and they never were on drugs. Never went to jail, weren’t in no gangs … they were professional and nice.’
Joe said that he didn’t have any regrets about his parenting methods: ‘I’m glad I was tough because look what I came out with. I came out with some kids that everybody loved all over the world. And they treated everybody right.’
Michael found his first taste of fame with his brothers Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon as the musical group the Jackson 5, with Michael as the lead singer.
After releasing their first single Big Boy, the group opened for R&B performers such as James Brown, Gladys Knight and The Pips and Sam and Dave.
Motown founder Berry Gordy signed the group to the famed label in 1969, and they found success with collaborating with musical legend Diana Ross on the 1969 record Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5.
The group achieved their first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the single I Want You Back, and had subsequent success with the songs ABC and I’ll Be There. They also had The Jackson 5ive, an animated Saturday morning cartoon show from 1971 to 1972.
Eventually, creative differences between Joe and Gordy led the group to leave Motown in 1976 and sign with Epic Records.
Michael ventured out as a solo performer while a member of Jackson 5, with solo albums such as 1971’s Got to Be There, 1972’s Ben, 1973’s Music and Me and 1975’s Forever, Michael.
He also got involved in acting, portraying the Scarecrow in 1977’s The Wiz opposite Diana Ross and Nipsey Russell under the direction of Sidney Lumet.
Michael had his breakout success as a solo artist with the 1979 record Off the Wall, which marked a pair of firsts: His initial record with Epic Records, and first collaboration produced by Quincy Jones.
The album, a hit with critics, established Michael as a solo artist with hits such as the titular track, Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough, She’s Out of My Life and Rock with You.
Jackson worked with his brothers on the hit 1980 album Triumph and toured with them, finishing up in the trek for their 1984 album Victory.
His greatest success would come with the November 29, 1982 release of Thriller, which remains the best-selling album ever, Guinness World Records reported in 2021, with more than 67 million copies sold.
The record, which won eight Grammys on 12 nominations, was the top-selling album for 37 weeks and remained on the charts for 80 weeks, marking a milestone of the 1980s.
The record had seven hits in the Top 10, marked by the timeless staples Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean, as well as the hits Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) and Human Nature.
The video for the title track Thriller remains one of the most memorable and acclaimed in history, having been the first ever music video placed into the National Film Registry following Jackson’s death in 2009.
The iconic video, which was directed by John Landis, debuted on MTV on December 2, 1983, as part of a 14-minute short film featuring Jackson turning into a zombie, flanked by undead dancers.
Jackson further left his imprint on pop culture in 1983 when he unfurled his famed moonwalk dance.
‘In the world of pop music,’ The New York Times reported in January of 1984, ‘there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else.’
A transaction that would lead to a seminal moment in Jackson’s life and career came with him inking a $5 million deal to be the face of PepsiCo’s New Generation ad campaign in November of 1983.
He wound up suing the company when in 1984, after he suffered second- and third-degree burns while filming a commercial and pyrotechnics effects led to his hair catching fire.
The incident began Jackson’s well-documented history of taking pain medication; and led him to undergo plastic surgery, which he would continue to throughout his life, with his appearance changing drastically in the years ahead.
Despite the traumatic incident, Jackson continued to dominate the 1980s with his work writing and singing on the classic ensemble We Are the World by USA for Africa, in which he had a significant series of lines.
The song, which Jackson penned with Lionel Richie, also featured stars Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Huey Lewis and Willie Nelson, as well as late icons such as Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte and Ray Charles.
The 1985 song was produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, and raised more than $75 million to combat African poverty.
In 1986, he starred in Captain EO, a 3D film penned by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola which was shown at Disney parks.
Following up on the success of Thriller, Jackson on August 31, 1987 released Bad, also embarking on an international tour in support of the album.
While not as commercially successful as its predecessor, the album was still a smash hit, garnering five No. 1 singles: Bad, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror, and Dirty Diana.
Jackson in 1988 purchased for $17 million a 2,700 acre estate in Los Olivos, California, where he built his Neverland Ranch compound, where he would reside until 2005.
Notable features on the property included a Ferris wheel, train, zoo for exotic animals and a movie theater that seated 50 people.
Jackson and his extravagant lifestyle was a focal point of the tabloid media throughout much of his later life and career, leading to his 1987 single Leave Me Alone about the scrutiny he faced.
In the late 1980s, reports about Jackson indicated that he had sought medical assistance to lighten his skin tone, and slept in an oxygen chamber.
He addressed the former in a 1993 TV interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying he had been living with the skin condition vitiligo.
Jackson put out his eighth solo record Dangerous on November 26, 1991,which spawned singles such as Black or White, Remember the Time and Will You Be There.
Jackson garnered controversy with the video for the single Black or White – which was directed by Landis and featured Macaulay Culkin – for a sequence in which he made provocative physical gestures and destroyed buildings and vehicles, later editing the part out.
The year 1993 marked a turning point in Jackson’s life and career: While he started off in strong fashion headlining halftime show of Super Bowl XXVII and joining Fleetwood Mac onstage at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration, things would soon go downhill when he was accused of fondling a 13-year-old boy during a sleepover at the Neverland Ranch.
Authorities scoured the property and said they did not recover any evidence to align with the allegation.
In December, he appeared on TV and denied the allegations in a detailed statement that made international headlines.
‘There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part – these statements about me are totally false,’ he said in the clip, broadcast from the Neverland Ranch. ‘As I have maintained from the very beginning, I am hoping for a speedy end to this horrifying, horrifying experience to which I have been subjected.’
In the broadcast, Jackson decried the media’s reporting of the story, and said he had been undergoing treatment for a dependency on pain medication.
‘I ask all of you to wait to hear the truth before you label or condemn me – don’t treat me like a criminal, ’cause I am innocent,’ he said.
In the statement, Jackson delved into detail about the investigation.
‘I have been forced to submit to a dehumanizing and humiliating examination by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department earlier this week,’ he said. ‘They served a search warrant on me, which allowed them to view and photograph my body including my penis, my buttocks, my lower torso, thighs, and any other area that they wanted.’
Jackson described the probe as ‘the most humiliating ordeal of my life, one that no person should ever have to suffer.’
Jackson defended himself as a champion for children, saying he had ‘tried to help thousands upon thousands of children to live happy lives.’
He added, ‘I am not guilty of these allegations, but if I am guilty of anything it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world; it is of loving children of all ages and races, it is of gaining sheer joy from seeing children with their innocent and smiling faces, it is of enjoying through them the childhood that I missed myself.’
Jackson eventually settled out of court in 1994 with the family of the boy who accused him.
In August of 1994, he made headlines in marrying Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
Amid skepticism that Jackson had sought to clean up his image with the union, the couple split in 1996. Lisa Marie Presley died this past January 12 at the age of 54 following multiple cardiac arrests.
The scandal had a profound impact on Jackson’s reputation and career, as he failed to live up to previous heights with the release of his 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I.
The album featured collaborations with his sister Janet, The Notorious B.I.G., Slash and Shaquille O’Neal.
It included the tracks You Are Not Alone; Scream, a duet with Janet that set a record with a $7 million video, the most expensive ever; and They Don’t Care About Us, a track that spawned controversy over anti-Semitic lyrics.
Jackson, following his split from Presley, exchanged vows with nurse Debbie Rowe later in 1996. They had two children, welcoming son Prince in 1997 and daughter Paris in 1998. Upon their 1999 divorce, Jackson got full custody of the two children. In 2002, He went on to welcome a second son, Prince Michael Jackson II – later known as Blanket, and now Bigi – with a surrogate.
Jackson’s final studio album came with the 2001 release of Invincible, which was the priciest record ever made at the time, for $30 million. It hit the top spot of the Billboard 100 and spawned the singles You Rock My World, Cry and Butterflies.
It was made at a time Jackson was in legal wrangling with Sony over his master recordings, and made pointed comments at Sony exec Tommy Mottola.
Michael was steeped in controversy again in 2002 when he was pictured holding his baby son Blanket over a balcony in Berlin, Germany.
He later issued a statement apologizing for the incident, saying it had been a ‘terrible mistake.’
He added, ‘I offer no excuses for what happened. I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.’
In that timeframe, Michael had also taken to wearing surgical masks publicly (around two decades before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak) and putting masks on his children in public outings.
The year 2003 brought about more problems for Jackson, who garnered controversy with an interview with journalist Martin Bashir in the TV documentary Living with Michael Jackson.
In the interview, Jackson said he felt there was nothing inappropriate in sleeping in the bed with children who weren’t his, calling it ‘a beautiful thing’ and critics of his ‘ignorant’ to that.
He said in the special, ‘There’s some guy trying to heal a child … I have slept in a bed with many children.’
When asked if he thought his stated actions were right, he replied, ‘It’s very right – it’s very loving, that’s what the world needs now, more love, more heart.’
Jackson in November of 2003 was arrested in Santa Barbara, California, two days after Neverland was raided. He was indicted on 10 counts including lewd conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, and extortion.
Jackson through his lawyer Mark Geragos denied the allegations, posted $3 million in bail and gave his passport to authorities.
The criminal case went to trial in February of 2005, attracting ample media attention with more than 130 witnesses taking the stand. In the trial, Jackson’s accuser said in a videotaped deposition that Jackson had let him drink wine then molested him.
Amid the jury’s issues with his accuser’s testimony and testimony his accuser’s mother Janet Arvizo gave, Jackson was ultimately found not guilty of all of the charges June 14, 2005.
Janet Arvizo subsequently entered into a plea agreement in connection with fraud and perjury in her testimony during the 2005 trial.
Jackson’s personal image and reputation took a hit following the second trial, and he had kept a low profile in the years before his 2009 death, ahead of a planned comeback with a series of shows in London at the O2 Arena.
Before that could happen, Jackson died at 50 on June 25, 2009 after suffering cardiac arrest in the Los Angeles mansion he was living in. Authorities in February 2010 deemed his death as the result of acute propofol intoxication.
Jackson had been administered the powerful drug by his personal doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, who told investigators that the singer called the substance (which he took via an IV drip) ‘milk’ and said he needed it to sleep.
Jackson’s death spurred a tidal wave of international tributes from fans both in person and on burgeoning social media platforms.
Jackson’s family, including his three children – who had not been seen publicly without masks on prior to that time – was on hand for a highly-viewed July 7, 2009 memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
‘I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine – and I just wanted to say I love him so much,’ Paris, then 11, said at the service.
A private funeral for Jackson’s family and friends was held in Glendale, California at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, with Presley and Taylor among those in attendance.
Eventually, Murray’s care of Jackson fell under scrutiny after the singer’s death, amid questions about his judgment in giving Jackson the substance in certain doses, and not meeting safety precautions in administering the drug.
Jackson’s death was ultimately deemed a homicide by investigators and in November of 2011 – more than two years after the entertainer’s passing – Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison.
Jackson had an unprecedented career in music, as one of the best-selling artists of all-time, who won 13 Grammys over 38 nominations. Honors included Best Male R&B Vocal Performance on Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough in 1980, Album of the Year for Thriller in 1984 and Record of the Year for Beat It the same year.
He was also given the Grammy Legend Award in 1993, and posthumously, The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He had been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.