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Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

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George Rose/Getty ImagesThe crowns fit: Michael Jackson was the King of Pop; Elvis Presley was the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Both men commanded the pop-culture landscape, as much as the charts.

Both men influenced their industry, as well as scores of artists.And both men died suddenly and barely into middle age.Jackson, whose lifetime of hits sold more than 750 million albums worldwide, whose landmark Thriller broke records and racial divides, whose smooth moves revolutionized dance as much as pop, and whose penchant for headline-making helped burnish his brand, and, following child-abuse allegations, helped tarnish it as well, died today after being found unconscious at his Los Angeles-area home.Jackson suffered a heart attack around noon, according to father Joe Jackson, and never recovered.

He was prounced dead at 2:26 p.m., officials said.Music's eternal Peter Pan was 50.From child star to music icon—reflect on Michael Jackson's life with our collection of photos.In the end, the King of Pop outlived Presley, whose daughter Lisa Marie Presley Jackson would wed, by just eight years."There's really no question if you're going to talk about the most looming, dominant figure in 20th century pop music," pop-music expert and USC associate professor Josh Kun tells E! News, "Michael Jackson is that person.""He became synonymous with what pop was, and what it still is today."Born Aug.

29, 1958, in hardscrabble Gary, Ind., Jackson was a nightclub performer by the age of 5.

The first gig, with older brothers Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine, earned the group $8, and, according to a Billboard history of the charts, a whole lot more in tips.

In 1969, the brothers were signed to Motown Records.

Their band, the Jackson 5, with then 11-year-old Michael providing the electrifying lead vocals, scored their first No.

1 hit in 1970: "I Want You Back." "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" followed.In 1979, Jackson released his first solo album, Off the Wall, an influential work in its own right, that produced hits such as "Rock With You."Then came Thriller.Released in 1982, Thriller represented the pinnacle of Jackson's recording career.

Back before albums were cherry-picked by iTunes-downloading consumers, Thriller produced seven hit singles—"Beat It" and "Billie Jean," among them—and there were only nine songs in the collection."We call a lot of things king-sized," Syracuse University pop-culture expert Robert J.

Thompson tells E! News.

"In this case, it was not hyperbole.

He even dressed like royalty."On Grammy night in 1983, Jackson, glimmering in a military-style jacket, hiding behind a pair of shades and teasing with his trademark lone glove, carted off eight awards: seven for Thriller and one for his work on a children's recording of that year's film phenomenom, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.Thriller ended up selling more than 104 million copies worldwide.

In the United States, it spent years jockeying with the Eagles' greatest-hits collection for bragging rights as the nation's all-time best-seller.In the early 1990s, Jackson, who'd increasingly positioned himself as a kid-championing, if not kid-friendly, performer, suffered a near-knock-out career blow when he became the focus of a child-molestation investigation.

Criminal charges were never filed in the matter; Jackson reached a reported $23 million settlement with his young accuser in 1994.On the charts, Jackson rebounded with the 1995 hit "Scream," a joint howl with Janet Jackson, the most famous of his siblings.But in 2003, Jackson was in trouble again.

Authorities in Santa Barbara County, home to Jackson's Neverland Ranch, raided the fairyland complex.

Another child-molestation case.

This time, Jackson was booked and charged.

A salacious 2005 trial followed.

In the end, Jackson was acquitted of the charges.Even with all the blows, Kun says, Jackson's star never fully dimmed.

"Elvis is still very much remembered for the glory days of his career," he says.

"And with Michael Jackson, that's what people are going to remember the most."In late 2007, Jackson, approaching his 50th birthday and looking back on the 25th anniversary of Thriller, described himself as grateful for his run."I'm very proud that we opened doors, that it helped tear down a lot," Jackson told Ebony magazine.

"Going around the world, doing tours, in stadiums, you see the influence of the music."Jackson is survived by his three children and his considerable immediate family, including parents Joe and Katherine, his Jackson 5 bandmates and brothers, including Randy, a member of the post-Motown Jacksons, and sisters Janet, Rebbie and La Toya.More to come...(Originally published June 25, 2009, at 2:55 p.m.

PT) From child star to music icon—reflect on Michael Jackson's life with our collection of photos.
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