From this book's first chapter: "To be able to float free, with gravity exerting no impact. To live in Neverland. To be idolized-to be loved-by millions around the world.
"These seem completely unreasonable dreams. But from a boy from Gary, Indiana, who was special from the first, they became more than dreams. They became fundamental needs. And they were achieved during a lifetime that was stunning in its highs and lows, and that was, ultimately, far, far too short.
"Far too short and, more sadly still, perhaps poised for a triumphant next chapter. We will never know."
While that is true-we will never know-we can revisit and celebrate that extraordinary life, and we do so in words and pictures in this special commemorative book. Although Michael Jackson lived just 50 years, he spent the great majority of that time in the public eye. We loved his as a boy, radiating joy and dancing up a storm in the Jackson 5, his falsetto tenor pouring forth from car radios coast to coast. We were subsequently thrilled by his reinvention as the biggest pop star on the planet, with "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" blasting from boom boxes around the world.
The best pictures from each era are here. As you would expect, LIFE magazine, then the country's preeminent photo journal, was onto the Jackson 5 story early-in fact, we put the family on our cover when Michael was still a lad. He made the cover several more times, and he allowed LIFE exclusive access to his private California sanctum called Neverland. We have combed through our archives and found all the famous shots as well as several surprises, including never-before-seen pictures that show the boy and then the man in an unguarded, personal way. Also, we have taken the best from the portfolios of the world's top rock 'n' roll photographers and created, we think, a complete picture of this endlessly compelling entertainer.