He first became a star as a young boy, then endured superstardom, scandals and a legal prosecution, but as he turns 50, Michael Jackson told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview that he's "having a wonderful time, just relaxing."
Speaking by phone from his home in California, at times so softly he was barely audible, Jackson said he was listening to James Brown and preparing for his 50th birthday Friday, when he will "just have a little cake with my children and we'll probably watch some cartoons" -- before he gets right back to work.
Does turning 50 mean he now has an AARP card?
"Not that I know of!" Jackson said, laughing.
He said he still can do all his famous dance moves and "more."
"I feel very wise and sage, but at the same time very young," he said.
Reflecting back, Jackson said the happiest time in his life was probably when he was recording his hit solo albums "Thriller," released in 1982, and "Off the Wall," released in 1979. Those albums -- which were accompanied by a string of hit singles and videos and corresponded with the 1983 debut of his signature dance, the "moonwalk" -- propelled him to the height of his stardom.
"That meant very much to me and seemed to be received so beautifully by the public and the world," he said. "I enjoyed it very much."
Asked to pick a single song as his greatest achievement, Jackson went back to the same period.
"Oh boy, that's a hard one," he said, before singling out "We Are the World," "Billie Jean" and "Thriller."
But Jackson was not content to rest on his laurels, saying, "I am still looking forward to doing a lot of great things."
He hopes to release new music and tour, though he doesn't have dates set.
"I am writing all the time," he said. "I love composing and the whole thing. But I am also raising my children and enjoying it and teaching them to ride bicycles and how to read. I love it."
He said he hopes to "be myself" in his future work, but also that he is "inspired by many great artists," noting he wished he could have worked with Brown or Fred Astaire.
He sees his influence in some of today's artists, specifically mentioning Chris Brown.
He said he sacrificed his childhood with "a lot of hard work," and that he remembers "giving up your life for the medium."
But he'd do it all again.
"I think I would," he said. "It is very much worth it. I have always loved show business and have always enjoyed making people happy through that medium. I love the celebration of music and dance and art. I just love it."
Asked if he'd like his two sons and daughter to have the same sort of upbringing as him, he said he'd prefer to let them "enjoy their childhood as much as possible."
"I let them go to the arcade and go to the movies and do things," he said. "I want them to get to do the kind of things I didn't get to do. So, I fill them with a lot of enjoyment that way -- a lot of amusement. You know?
"I get pretty emotional when I see them having a wonderful time," he added, "when they are on a ride and they are screaming and they are happy. ... It makes me emotional, 'cause I see they are having a real good time."
Jackson said his kids "love music ... they are very much into the arts," but that, "I don't push them."