But Jackson's career took a darker turn in 1993 when a 13-year-old boy accused him of molestation. No charges were ever filed, and Jackson ultimately reached a financial settlement with the alleged victim's family — reportedly for millions of dollars.
Jackson has always denied the allegations and said he reached a settlement with the boy's family because he did not want a drawn-out legal battle.
However, Jackson has never really been able to escape the 1993 scandal. His record sales on subsequent albums have dwindled. His last studio album, 2001's Invincible, sold approximately 2 million copies — successful to most artists but a disappointment for the "King of Pop."
In the past decade, he has generated more headlines with his bizarre behavior and alleged cosmetic surgery than with his music as his hair has become completely straight and his skin has morphed into a pasty white. (Jackson has denied having extensive plastic surgery and blames his change in skin tone on vitiligo, a pigment disorder.)
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.
‘Why Can’t You Share Your Bed?’
Jackson stirred outrage when he dangled the baby from the balcony of a Berlin hotel last November. He denied purposely endangering his child, and authorities decided not to pursue charges.
All three children live with Jackson. They all appeared in British journalist Martin Bashir's documentary Living With Michael Jackson, but wore veils and masks to conceal their faces.
Jackson raised eyebrows during that documentary earlier this year when he told Bashir that he has allowed visiting children to sleep in his bed at Neverland Ranch.
"Why can't you share your bed?" Jackson said in the documentary, which aired in February on ABCNEWS' 20/20. "The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone."
He 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."
Will the Public Still Be Adoring?
Jackson's latest legal turmoil came as Epic Records released Number Ones, a greatest-hits collection featuring Jackson's No. 1 hit songs and his new single, "One More Chance."
So what does Michael Jackson see when he looks at the man in the mirror? He has referred to himself as Peter Pan, a man who never grew up because he never had a childhood. His brother Jermaine believes he is the victim of a "modern-day lynching." Groups of fans flocked toward Jackson's vehicle as it sat idle in traffic following his return to Nevada after being booked on the child molestation allegations in California.
Still, in the wake of his latest legal troubles and the residual baggage of the 1993 scandal, it remains to be seen whether the public and Jackson's fans are willing to stand by the fallen icon and give him one more chance.