Propelled by songs such as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," as well as his unique "moonwalk" dance and his music videos, "Thriller" became the second-greatest-selling album of all time. He appeared in magazines worldwide as fans imitated the moonwalk and wore the single sequined glove and high-water pants he popularized at one point. Not even an accident during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in which his hair caught fire could stop Jackson from becoming a pop icon.
After "Thriller," Jackson's physical appearance began to change drastically. The headlines didn't focus on it at the time, but when Jackson released "Bad" in 1987, he appeared to have much more feminine facial features.
His complexion, once brown, morphed into a pasty white. His once-flat nose was reshaped, his cheekbones were more defined and his hair -- once a Jeri-Curled Afro -- was straightened.
Jackson denied having extensive plastic surgery and blamed his change in skin tone on vitiligo, a pigment disorder.
Then his behavior appeared to become increasingly odd, with reports that he slept in a hyperbaric chamber and tried to buy the Elephant Man's bones. In 1991, around the time of the release of "Dangerous," he began calling himself "The King of Pop" with no explanation but in apparent homage to his influence and his record-breaking success as an artist. However, Jackson was still recognized primarily for his talent and perhaps perceived as benevolently eccentric.
But Jackson's career took a darker turn in 1993 when a 12-year-old boy accused him of molestation. Jackson always denied any wrongdoing and was never charged in that case. Santa Barbara County, Calif., prosecutors decided not to pursue a criminal case when they said the alleged victim refused to testify. Jackson ultimately settled a civil suit filed by the boy's family for a reported $20 million. But suspicions of child molestation continued to follow Jackson and he went on trial in 2005 after a boy who appeared with him in "Living With Michael Jackson" accused him of wrongdoing.
Jackson raised eyebrows during the documentary when he talked about his fondness for having innocent sleepovers with children at Neverland. While holding hands with his accuser in his criminal case, he said, "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone."
Jackson insisted the practice was innocent and involved nothing of a sexual nature. "I give them hot milk, you know, we have cookies. It's very charming. It's very sweet. It's what the whole world should do."
However, Santa Barbara County prosecutors did not think the practice was so innocent, and the documentary led to a raid of Neverland and Jackson's arrest for child molestation.
A California jury of eight women and four men acquitted Jackson of molestation, attempted molestation, playing minors with liquor, and conspiracy stemming from an alleged attempt to hold hostage the accuser and his family at Neverland after the documentary aired. Jackson's defense argued that the alleged victim and his family made up the allegations in an attempt to get money.