|Michael Jackson had battled a series of damning allegations about his private life [AFP]
The death of Michael Jackson aged 50 marks a tragic end to a long, bizarre, and sometimes farcical decline from his career peak as the 1980s as the self-styled "king of pop".
At the time he was popular music's premier all-around performer, dominated the music charts and gained millions of fans around the world.
His death comes four months after announcing plans to perform a series of shows in London beginning in mid-July with a gruelling series of 50 live shows.
At his peak Jackson built a reputation as the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his "moonwalk" dance moves and his high-pitched voice.
He ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as the biggest pop sensations of all time.
His single sequined glove and tight, military-style jacket were also his trademarks, second only to his ever-changing appearance.
The London concerts, billed as his last major live shows, were an effort to reclaim some of the glory days.
He is believed to have been rehearsing for the concerts at his rented LA home when he collapsed.
'King of Pop'
Jackson's fame reached its highest point as a solo artist, after leaving his brothers in the already hugely-successful Jackson 5, later known as the Jacksons.
|Jackson's appearance changed radically during his career [AP]
His 1982 album Thriller
went on to become the world's then top-selling album of all time, with sales exceeding 41 million copies.
But while Jackson's 1987 album Bad was also a strong seller and helped him maintain his position as the biggest solo musical artist in the world, critics and fans alike began to pay increasing attention to dramatic changes in Jackson's physical appearance.
Jackson repeatedly denied that he had had a series of plastic surgery sessions, claiming that a rare skin condition was responsible.
His changing physical appearance though was the most visible manifestation of an increasingly bizarre and freakish personality.
He often wore a germ mask while travelling or in public; claimed a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles was one of his closest companions; and transformed his Neverland ranch into a storybook playland filled with toys, rides and animals where he surrounded himself with children.
|Jackson's Neverland ranch housed his increasingly bizarre life [AP]
Revelations that he slept in an "anti-ageing" oxygen tent - that resembled Cinderella-style glass sarcophagus -
added to the media frenzy over a star dubbed by the tabloids 'Wacko Jacko.'
In the personal realm, Jackson had spent recent years countering a series of damaging allegations about his private life.
His revelation in a TV documentary that he had shared his bed with children – a practice he said was sweet and not at all sexual – did little to quell the allegations.
Many critics said his admission, at the very least, showed how out of touch he was with real life.
In 2005 the singer was acquitted of charges alleging that he had committed abuses against children and that he had plotted to kidnap the youth who had filed a complaint against him.
Three years earlier he had caused a furore when he playfully dangled his infant son, Prince Michael II, over a hotel balcony in Berlin while a throng of fans watched from below.
More recently Jackson was said to have been hit by financial difficulties and was forced to sell his Neverland ranch in order to pay creditors.
Jackson leaves three children, the first from an anonymous surrogate while he was married to Lisa Marie Presley, who he divorced in 1996, and two to Debbie Rowe, who he divorced in 1999.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies