How Will Case Affect Michael Jackson's Legacy?

ByABC News
November 21, 2003, 1:04 PM

Nov. 21 -- He prefers to be recognized as the "King of Pop," but it seems that Michael Jackson will be remembered either as a misunderstood and unfairly maligned music legend or a child molester.

Jackson's arrest on child molestation allegations involving a 12-year-old boy and the media spectacle surrounding his surrender and booking with California authorities illustrate how tragic his life has become and how far his career has fallen. He has denied the allegations, calling them a "big lie," as he awaits formal charges and arraignment, scheduled for Jan. 9.

But his fall from a beloved entertainer who first rocketed to fame as a member of the The Jackson Five with his brothers and then moonwalked into legendary stardom with solo albums such as Thriller, Bad and Dangerous is undeniable.

A Life in the Spotlight

In his videos, Jackson, 45, has often portrayed himself as an adored international star swarmed and trailed by thousands of screaming fans. He first became a star as the lead singer of The Jackson Five, and grew into a teen idol. Jackson has never really known a life without music and celebrity.

Born Michael Joseph Jackson in Gary, Ind., in 1958, he is the fifth of nine children of Joe and Katherine Jackson. Both parents instilled a love of music early in their children's lives: Katherine taught them folk music while Joe, a budding guitarist, managed them and molded their musical work ethic. Michael was only 4 when he started singing with his older brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon and formed the original Jackson Five. (Younger brother Randy joined the group in 1976 when Jermaine left.)

The brothers were discovered by Motown singers Diana Ross and Gladys Knight and pianist Billy Taylor after a performance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Motown Records founder Berry Gordy would soon sign them to a contract.