Michael Jackson was a case study in extremes: otherworldly talent coupled with crippling eccentricity.
Throughout his career, MJ captivated onlookers worldwide not only with his music, but with behavior that only grew stranger and more unseemly as time went on. In remembrance of the legend we lost two years ago Saturday, here are ten of the most shocking moments – good, bad, and odd – in Jackson’s life:
Jackson debuted the dance move that would become his signature during a performance of Billie Jean at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special. While the moonwalk may seem intimately familiar to us today (who out there hasn’t tried it at least once?), to the audience of 47 million watching the show that night in 1983, it was pure magic.
Pepsi commercial fire accident (1984)
Pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair ablaze on the set of a commercial for Pepsi. He was rushed to the hospital and treated for second-degree burns to his scalp, and would eventually become dependent on painkillers as a result of his injuries. Click below to watch video of the incident:
“Thriller” video (1983)
When the 13-minute video for Jackson’s song “Thriller” was released on December 2, 1983, it changed the concept of music videos forever. With its complete storyline, innovative make-up and costumes, and unforgettable choreography, “Thriller” elevated what had initially been an afterthought in the music business into an art form. Watch the video:
Check out our gallery of photos from Michael’s life:
Child molestation accusations (1993)
13-year-old Jordan Chandler said that Jackson had sexually abused him during Chandler’s visits to Neverland. During the investigation Jackson was subjected to a 25-minute strip search, but ultimately no charges were ever filed. He consistently proclaimed his innocence of the allegations, and eventually settled out of court with the Chandler family for an undisclosed sum. Watch Jackson’s statement to the public about the accusations:
Marriage to Lisa Marie Presley (1994)
The King of Pop kept his marriage to rock & roll royalty under wraps for nearly two months after the ceremony. Once he and Lisa Marie, daughter of Elvis Presley, came forward with the truth, many in the press dismissed the unlikely pairing as a sham to deflect attention from Jackson’s legal troubles. In response to their detractors, the couple stunned the audience of that year’s MTV Video Music Awards with an awkward on-stage smooch. Check out the video:
Marriage to Debbie Rowe (1996)
Both the public and the press found it quite surprising when Jackson turned up married to Rowe, who was his dermatologist’s nurse. He and Rowe went on to have two children, whose appearances also proved shocking: many have noted that Prince and Paris Jackson appear to have no African-American ancestry, calling into question their paternity. Jackson and Rowe divorced in 1999.
Dangles newborn son over a balcony (2002)
Shortly after son Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson II was born, Jackson was staying at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, Germany where fans somehow discovered his presence. He greeted them from the balcony of his suite, then dangled baby Blanket over the railing for a few seconds. The incident was met with widespread outrage but, as usual, Jackson saw nothing wrong with his behavior.
Admits to sharing bed with children (2003)
In an interview with British journalist Martin Bashir, Jackson openly discussed his sharing a bed with numerous children who had visited his home over the years as if it was the most natural idea in the world, calling it “a beautiful thing.” As an incredulous Bashir looked on, Jackson dismissed any notion that this behavior was inappropriate for a man in his 40s.
People of the State of California v. Michael Joseph Jackson sexual abuse trial (2005)
Jackson was charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy, giving him alcohol, and conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive at Neverland Ranch. Jackson again asserted his innocence, saying the family had attempted to extort money from him. He was acquitted of all charges. Watch Jackson speak out in his own defense prior to the trial:
Perhaps the most shocking Michael Jackson moment of all came June 25, 2009, when the singer was pronounced dead as a result of cardiac arrest. While he had been out of the spotlight for many years, Jackson was poised to begin a comeback tour that very summer, and his death came as a painful surprise to fans and family alike. The world truly lost one of its brightest stars. Watch video below of Michael’s brother Jermaine announcing the sad news: