Growing Up as Michael Jackson: Out of Hardship Came Success

Michael Jackson rocketed to the top despite a childhood of extremes.

ByABC News via logo
June 26, 2009, 8:06 AM

June 26, 2009— -- Before "Thriller," before the moonwalk, before the devastating accusations, Michael Jackson was a little boy from a blue-collar town that seemed a million miles away from the spotlight that would define his life.

Jackson died Thursday at age 50 after suffering cardiac arrest at his California home. An autopsy is scheduled for today with the results due this afternoon.

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Jackson grew up in Gary, Ind., the seventh of nine children born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson.

While Katherine Jackson instilled a love of God and an appreciation of country music into her young son, it was Jackson's father Joseph, a guitar-playing steel worker, who was credited with creating the nation's first boy band in the form of the Jackson Five.

On stage, little Michael joined big brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon, and by age 8 he was singing lead vocals. Two years later, he was taking Motown by storm, prompting Rolling Stone " to call him a prodigy with "overwhelming musical gifts."

Jackson was 11 years old when the Jackson Five set a chart record when the group's first four singles peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The group's popularity even spawned a Jackson Five cartoon.

Despite the success and the fame, fear and loneliness lurked behind the smiles and awards.