The extraordinary rise of Michael Jackson started in the tough steel mill town of Gary, Ind.
Jackson was the seventh of nine children, and by age 5, he was performing with his brothers in The Jackson Five – driven by his ambitious and demanding father, Joseph. Correspondent Harold Dow reports on Jackson's musical career and fortune.
"He is the entire package. He has everything. He can sing, he's one of the best dancers around, charismatic and energetic and creative," says Motown legend Smokey Robinson.
The Jackson family was signed by Motown in 1968.
"It was four or five No. 1 records in a row when he first came out of the box. 'ABC,' 'I Want You Back,' 'Stop The Love You Save,' 'Boom, Boom, Boom' – all fantastic great records. Classic records, amazing performances," says music critic Nelson George, who has followed Jackson's career and profiles him in a book coming out in January.
"He was this phenomenal child star, a Mickey Rooney or Judy Garland," adds George. "There's a whole generation of people who grew up with Michael Jackson. People grew up with him and they had an affection for him."
The Jackson Five took the country by storm, playing Ed Sullivan, their albums going platinum. But it was in 1979, with producer Quincy Jones, when Jackson, now 21, really broke out. His album, "Off The Wall," rang up $37 million in sales.
In 1982, it was "Thriller," which made $115 million -- nearly every single song on the album made it to No. 1.
"It was insane," says George. "It kept selling and selling and selling -- seven No. 1 singles. 'Thriller' was a phenomenon like no other pop music was."
And Jackson backed up his sales with electrifying performances.
"His appearance at Motown 25, when he did the moonwalk, was on par with the Beatles on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,'" says George. "Everyone saw it, and everyone was talking about it."
With the hits came armloads of Grammys and truckloads of money. And he created the new world of music videos.
"Michael was probably the world's first music video artist, and made it into huge extravaganza," adds George.
Jackson, now a multi-millionaire, began to hone a sharp business sense, seeking out expert advice as Sir Paul McCartney told 48 Hours 14 years ago.
"We were chatting and he just came up to me and said, 'I'm going to buy your songs.' I said, 'Get out, great. A good one.' And we just carried on … It's a bit of an old joke, very funny. I still thought he was kidding. Just a few weeks later, somebody rang me up and said, 'Michael Jackson's bought your songs.'"
Essentially, Jackson now controlled the rights to most of The Beatles' music -- an incredibly brilliant business acquisition which guaranteed him millions of dollars in income, basically forever.
"By our estimates, Michael has earned something in the neighborhood of $500 million dollars -- give or take $50 million," says Brett Pulley, a senior editor for Forbes magazine.
But even as Jackson grew richer and more successful, his personal life began to turn. Under a media microscope, his behavior, appearance and sometimes bizarre lifestyle began to make Jackson more of a circus side show than a musical superstar.
Against this backdrop, Jackson's record sales and popularity began to plummet. "In terms of the music thing, it's been going on for a while," says George. "It's been at least a 10 year process."
And while his income was dropping, Jackson continued to live lavishly. "The real issue is spending," says Pulley. "We see this anecdotal evidence of this outrageous spending -- the million dollar watches, 10,000 bottles of perfume ... There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that the spending has run amok."
In a recent British documentary, Jackson racked up more hundreds of thousands of dollars of knick-knacks and furnishings -- in one day.
Jackson has reportedly spent more than $50 million on his estate at Neverland Ranch. Amusement park and all, it costs an estimated $4 million a year to maintain.
"There's every indication that he is running low. One is that he is taking loans against assets," says Pulley.
Is Jackson broke? Pulley doesn't think so. "People tend to forget that Michael has a couple valuable assets -- one very valuable asset, that's 50 percent of Sony ATV, what people call the Beatles catalog," says Pulley. "What it really is, is that he bought the Beatles catalog ... The issue for Michael is liquidity."
Whatever his financial status and legal problems, Michael Jackson has some very loyal fans, some so loyal that many will not believe the accusations being leveled against him today.
"Maybe they're right, maybe the fans are right, maybe Michael didn't do any of this stuff. Maybe this kid is delusional, maybe as this case unfolds, we'll learn more -- that this kid is not a reliable witness. Just because he's accused doesn't mean he's done it," says George.
We witnessed his rise. Are we witnessing his fall today?
"I don't know that we are," says Robinson. "I can't imagine Michael doing the stuff that they are saying that he's doing. He's being condemned by the media. They're pointing toward his guilt, and he hasn't been proven guilty at all."