In the last decades of his life, headlines focused less on Jackson's music and more on his bizarre behavior, marriages and child molestation suspicions. His record sales dwindled. Jackson's last studio album, 2001's "Invincible," sold just more than 2 million albums (8 million worldwide) -- successful to most artists but a disappointment for the "King of Pop." Despite hitting the top of the music charts worldwide, Jackson hadn't had a No. 1 single in the United States since 1995's "You Are Not Alone."
Jackson was married briefly to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis. A three-year marriage to his dermatology nurse, Debbie Rowe, followed, and she bore him a son and a daughter, Prince Michael I and Paris. Jackson had a third child, Prince Michael II, by another, unidentified woman in 2002.
Jackson stirred outrage when he dangled a then-infant Prince Michael II from the balcony of a Berlin hotel in November 2002. He denied purposely endangering his child, and German authorities decided not to pursue charges.
There have been reports of financial trouble ever since his 2005 child molestation trial. Last year, he was forced to sell his famous Neverland ranch. In April, 2,000 items from his Neverland estate will be up for auction at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The entire sale is estimated to bring in between $1.5 million and $3 million, according to Darren Julien, the head of Julien's Auctions, which is conducting the sale.
It remains to seen whether Jackson will be remembered primarily for his music or the child molestation scandals that followed him. Despite his acquittal, some critics -- and former fans -- had lingering questions about his friendships with young boys that lasted to his death.
Though he dubbed himself "The King of Pop," Jackson also believed he was a modern-day version of Peter Pan, saying that he never had a childhood. He said he built his Neverland ranch not only as a refuge for himself but for children -- especially those who are ill or less fortunate -- to enjoy.
Jackson's fans and detractors will always debate his public persona, but his legacy in the music industry is undeniable. He won 18 Grammys in his career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as both a solo artist and member of the Jackson 5. Jackson's revolutionary videos for "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" put MTV on the map. His influence is found in some of today's chart-toppers, such as Usher, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, who say they grew up listening to him. Jackson was also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
ABC News' Russell Goldman, Sarah Netter and Dan Childs contributed to this report.