Forget about the scandals, the accusations of child molestation, the dangling baby, the skin bleaching, the increasingly bizarre appearance, drug abuse, the pet monkey, all the tabloid trash talk, even the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Elvis had his own reputation for misbehavior. The Stones were busted on more than one occasion. The Who messed up hotel rooms, and Zeppelin abused its groupies. Madonna and Lady Gaga? Hell, they've been repeatedly found guilty in the court of good taste. And damn if Prince, errr Prince Harry, that is, hasn't caused a stir of his own. When you're in the spotlight, every move you make is open to scrutiny.
But today, we're talking specifically about Michael Jackson, born 54 years ago on August 29, 1958. Be assured, we're not out to excuse Jacko's abnormal behavior. However, Jackson's career can't wholly be overshadowed by his unfortunate life choices. Jackson was an extremely talented superstar, one of the most exceptional icons the world has ever known, and a man -- or man-child, if you will -- who was loved worldwide, an indisputable legend. So rather than disparage him for any ill-advised antics, we offer a few of the incredible highlights from Jackson's brilliant performing career.
10. Michael at the helm of the Jackson 5
They were initially little more than teeny-bopper sensations, an Afro-haired, bell-bottomed, high-stepping quintet whose primary appeal was to the little girls who egged them on. And yet their songs proved far more than mere guilty pleasures, particularly such hits as the irresistibly infectious "ABC," "I Want You Back" (hip enough to be covered by Graham Parker), and "I'll Be There," Michael's first step toward a solo career.
9. Nailing it with Off the Wall
Michael matured, showing that he had it all: Wholesome looks (pre-surgery), singing skills ("Don't Stop 'Til You Got Enough" and "Rock With You," each a major milestone in the evolution of the modern pop and R&B crossover), and superb songwriting skills (ditto that last part). It also garnered a slew of awards, millions in worldwide sales, and the highest royalty rate in the history of the recording industry. Michael had arrived.