By Clark Collis
Updated June 25, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

One of music’s most successful and influential artists, Michael Jackson died earlier today in Los Angeles at the age of 50, the L.A. County coroner’s office confirms. No cause of death is available yet. During his nearly half-century career, Jackson recorded a series of pop classics as part of the Jackson 5 and then became a massive solo star. His 1982 album Thriller has been certified platinum 28 times in the U.S. and is the best-selling original collection ever released.

Jackson was born in Gary, Ind., on Aug. 29, 1958, and by the age of 6 the prodigiously talented singer and dancer was performing alongside his brothers. The Jackson 5 signed to Motown in 1968 and released a string of huge hits including “ABC” and “I Want You Back.” Jackson entered the charts as a solo artist in 1972 with the song “Ben,” and in 1978 he appeared in the big screen musical The Wiz alongside Diana Ross. The following year, his album Off The Wall established Jackson as a solo superstar. Yet, even the success of that release would be dwarfed by Thriller, which included a raft of global smashes, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”

Jackson followed up Thriller with 1987’s Bad, which itself eventually sold in the region of 30 million copies worldwide. But the star’s public profile was badly damaged in the ’90s when he was accused of child sex abuse, and in recent years he had become an extremely reclusive figure. Despite his reputation as one of pop’s greatest dancers and all-round in-concert showman, he also effectively abandoned touring. However, Jackson had planned to play a series of dates in London, starting next month.

While his personal life often attracted criticism and controversy, the oft-dubbed King of Pop’s influence on the musical realm is unarguable. That influence was demonstrated in 2008 when Kanye West,, Fergie, and Akon all contributed to the remixes featured on the 25th anniversary reissue of Thriller. In his long career Jackson also worked with some of pop’s most talented artists, including both Paul McCartney and Thriller producer Quincy Jones.

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