In honor of what would have been the pop legend's 53rd birthday today (Aug. 29), The BoomBox takes stock of Michael's many eyebrow-raising career decisions, personal misadventures and musical triumphs and boils them down to a list of his 10 most memorable moments.
Michael Jackson's Acting Debut in 'The Wiz'
These days, it's common for musicians to jump into acting, but that wasn't always the case. In 1978, Jackson tested his acting skills in the film adaptation of the Broadway play 'The Wiz,' playing a scarecrow without a brain. A nearly unrecognizable Jackson wobbled his way down the yellow-brick road, alongside singer Diana Ross, who starred as Dorothy. Jackson sang, danced and even cracked a few jokes in a performance that showed off his artistic range.
Buying Neverland Ranch
Jackson always likened himself to the fictional character Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, and in 1988, he got his very own Neverland. The star purchased the sprawling estate -- located in Santa Barbara County, Calif. -- for somewhere between $16 and $30 million. He filled it with amusement-park rides and tons of animals and opened it to young fans. In 2007, the property went into foreclosure after Jackson failed to pay the more than $25 million he owed on the estate.
2009 MTV Video Music Awards Blunder
This moment will go down as one of the most awkward in MTV Video Music Awards history. During a special MJ birthday tribute, Britney Spears referred to Jackson as the "artist of the millennium." It seemed harmless enough, but when the superstar took the stage, he thanked MTV for giving him the "Artist of the Millennium" award, even though the network had done no such thing. MTV later apologized for the blunder, stating the wires got crossed.
Pepsi Commercial Accident
Still riding high off the success of his 'Thriller' album, Jackson signed on to reunite with his brothers for a Pepsi commercial. The result didn't end well. While shooting a performance scene, a pyrotechnic mishap caused Jackson's hair to catch on fire. He suffered second-degree burns on his scalp and underwent surgery to hide the scarring left from the accident. It is also believed that Jackson's addiction to painkillers started as a result of the incident.
Hanging His Baby Over a Balcony
During the latter part of his career, Jackson became increasingly private while raising his three children. In 2002, he made headlines for his unconventional decision to introduce his third son, Prince Michael II -- aka Blanket -- by dangling the baby over a hotel balcony in Berlin, Germany. Spectators looked on as Jackson flung the baby over the balcony, hitting his tiny foot on the railing before taking him back behind closed doors.
The 'Thriller' Video
In 1982, Jackson changed music history with his video for the title cut from 'Thriller.' At a time when music videos were still relatively new to the public, Jackson decided to make a 14-minute mini-movie in which he turns into a both a werecat and dancing zombie. The iconic piece was named the "most successful music video" by Guinness World Records in 2006, while the album remains music history's top seller.
Kissing Lisa Marie Presley on the MTV VMAs
In 1994, Michael Jackson shocked the world by announcing that he'd married Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie. While skeptics didn't believe the union was real, Jackson and Lisa Marie sought to quiet the naysayers by engaging in a very awkward lip-lock at that year's VMAs. "Nobody thought this would last," Jackson said before the smooch. As it turns out, everybody was right, because the couple divorced less than two years later.
Impromptu Performance During Child Molestation Trial
By 2005, Michael Jackson's second child-molestation trial had taken its toll on the pop star. He would often show up in court appearing weak and disheveled, but on one memorable day, he found his strength and launched into an impromptu performance on top of his SUV. Rocking a black suit and a white stripe around his arm, Jackson gave fans standing outside the courtroom a rare treat. He was later acquitted of all charges.
'This Is It' Press Conference
By 2009, Jackson had all but removed himself from the public eye, only to emerge one last time to announce his ambitious 50-date 'This Is It' concert series. Jackson held a press conference where he emphasized that the upcoming London performances would be his last. Sadly, the 50-year-old died of cardiac arrest just two weeks shy of opening night on June 25, 2009. Footage from the rehearsals later turned into the concert documentary 'This Is It.'
Moonwalking for the Very First Time
Michael Jackson wasn't always the King of Pop, but on the 1983 'Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever' special, he showed the world that he was itching to take the thrown. Dressed in what was later revealed to be his mother's sparkly black jacket, the then-24-year-old broke into the moonwalk during a performance of 'Billy Jean,' shocking viewers with his take on a '70s dance known as the backslide. The move catapulted Jackson into a league of his own, helping to earn him his crown.