How did he go from a superstar beloved by millions to "Wacko Jacko" in such a short period of time?
A panel of experts weighed in on that on The Early Show Saturday Edition.
J. Randy Taraborrelli, Jackson's biographer and a CBS News consultant, shared his observations, as did Mike Walker, gossip editor of the National Enquirer, and Fab 5 Freddy, former host of "Yo! MTV Raps" and now a television producer and filmmaker.
Jackson, Walker told co-anchor Erica Hill, "had a very controlled childhood. His father was very tough on those boys (the brothers making up the Jackson Five). That's a matter of fact; everybody knows it.
"Michael was the meal ticket. Michael, by 1972, when he was 12-years-old, was already breaking away to do his first solo album. That was not his decision, of course. It was Joe Jackson's.
"He was under great control, great constraints. He couldn't mix with other kids, he couldn't go out, he couldn't get a driver's license, he couldn't drive. For years this went on.
"But when Michael finally started to come into his own, he suddenly realized that he'd become, you know, big enough so that he didn't need to worry about Joe Jackson anymore, and you could almost see him start to come alive and realize he could do great things with this enormous talent he had. Once he got that freedom, he started experimenting just a little too much with things."
Taraborrelli pointed to the 1980s, when, as he put it, "Michael decided that he was perhaps not sensational enough in real life and he wanted to become something bigger and something more fantastic, and he started posing in oxygen chambers for publicity purposes, and lots of hype went out to the media that wasn't necessarily true at that time. And it began, sort of, like this image-making process that was more Captain Marvel than the real, organic Michael Jackson. And eventually, he started actually living up to that kind of (image)."
Freddy said, "When somebody is so blessed and so many amazing things happen to someone, 750 million records sold, no matter what you do ... you're still going to be a major topic of news. Michael understood that game. He understood how to play it on all levels, and he did."
Did he really understand how it to play it?
"Absolutely," Freddy responded.
Did he see that there'd been such a big disconnect form his fans as time went on?
"I think the thing about Michael," Freddy replied, "which I think you cud look at as an example in what he did in his music (is) he created the environment on his records that he wanted to create. I think the environment that he lived in is what he wanted. I think he had a struggle to balance out what he wanted for Michael, and how we look at it from the outside world. I mean, it's just the sad nature of what we do. We have a billion dollar gossip industry that wants to stick the knife in and turn it. Seven-hundred-fifty million records sold, bottom line. That's it."
Walker appeaered to take exception to one remark from Freddy.
"To says there's a big industry that likes to stick a knife into him - the National Enquirer reported that he was intravenously taking drugs as early back as the 1980s," Walker noted. "He was, he admitted it himself, in the '90s, that he had a drug problem, he had a very severe drug problem. He was also ... trying to be something larger than life. And a lot of things were converging. Plus, he had all these sexuality problems: He didn't get married until late, the marriage was to the daughter of Elvis Presley, which was a very weird situation."
"It's just unfortunate," Freddy countered, "that people want to just spend so much time harping on the negative, not celebrating a great life. Let's celebrate that."