Pop icon Michael Jackson dies at 50

Michael Jackson spoke at the memorial service for James Brown in Augusta at the James Brown Arena in late 2006.
Thursday, June 25, 2009 5:58 PM
Last updated 11:59 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the "King of Pop" and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday. He was 50.

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Michael Jackson, left, performs with James Brown during the BET Awards in Los Angeles. Jackson later presented Brown with a lifetime achievement award.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Michael Jackson, left, performs with James Brown during the BET Awards in Los Angeles. Jackson later presented Brown with a lifetime achievement award.

Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center after being stricken at his rented home in Holmby Hills. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him at his home for nearly three-quarters of an hour, then rushed him to the hospital, where doctors continued to work on him.

"It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home. However, the cause of his death is unknown until results of the autopsy are known," his brother Jermaine said. Police said they were investigating, standard procedure in high-profile cases.

Jackson's death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music's premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.

His 1982 album "Thriller" — which included the blockbuster hits "Beat It," ''Billie Jean" and "Thriller" — is the best-selling album of all time, with an estimated 50 million copies sold worldwide.

At the time of his death, Jackson was rehearsing hard for what was to be his greatest comeback: He was scheduled for an unprecedented 50 shows at a London arena, with the first set for July 13.

As word of his death spread, MTV switched its programming to play videos from Jackson's heyday. Radio stations began playing marathons of his hits. Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital. In New York's Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.

"No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow," Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend had sent him. "It's like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died."

The public first knew him as a boy in the late 1960s, when he was the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson 5, the singing group he formed with his four older brothers out of Gary, Indiana. Among their No. 1 hits were "I Want You Back," ''ABC" and "I'll Be There."

He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his backward-gliding moonwalk, his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and his high-pitched singing, punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasses were trademarks, as was his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.

"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words," said Quincy Jones, who produced "Thriller." ''He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

Jackson ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as the biggest pop sensations of all time. He united two of music's biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie, and Jackson's death immediately evoked comparisons to that of Presley himself, who died at age 42 in 1977.

As years went by, Jackson became an increasingly freakish figure — a middle-aged man-child weirdly out of touch with grown-up life. His skin became lighter, his nose narrower, and he spoke in a breathy, girlish voice. He often wore a germ mask while traveling, kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions, and surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, a storybook playland filled with toys, rides and animals. The tabloids dubbed him "Wacko Jacko."

"It seemed to me that his internal essence was at war with the norms of the world. It's as if he was trying to defy gravity," said Michael Levine, a Hollywood publicist who represented Jackson in the early 1990s. He called Jackson a "disciple of P.T. Barnum" and said the star appeared fragile at the time but was "much more cunning and shrewd about the industry than anyone knew."

Jackson caused a furor in 2002 when he playfully dangled his infant son, Prince Michael II, over a hotel balcony in Berlin while a throng of fans watched from below.

In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him, and of engaging in strange and inappropriate behavior with other children.

The case followed years of rumors about Jackson and young boys. In a TV documentary, he acknowledged sharing his bed with children, a practice he described as sweet and not at all sexual.

Despite the acquittal, the lurid allegations that came out in court took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.

Jackson was 4 years old when he began singing with his brothers — Marlon, Jermaine, Jackie and Tito — in the Jackson 5. After his early success with bubblegum soul, he struck out on his own, generating innovative, explosive, unstoppable music.

The album "Thriller" alone mixed the dark, serpentine bass and drums and synthesizer approach of "Billie Jean," the grinding Eddie Van Halen solo on "Beat It," and the hiccups and falsettos on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'."

The peak may have come in 1983, when Motown celebrated its 25th anniversary with an all-star televised concert and Jackson moonwalked off with the show, joining his brothers for a medley of old hits and then leaving them behind with a pointing, crouching, high-kicking, splay-footed, crotch-grabbing run through "Billie Jean."

The audience stood and roared. Jackson raised his fist.

By then he had cemented his place in pop culture. He got the plum Scarecrow role in the 1978 movie musical "The Wiz," a pop-R&B version of "The Wizard of Oz," that starred Diana Ross as Dorothy.

During production of a 1984 Pepsi commercial, Jackson's scalp sustains burns when an explosion sets his hair on fire.

He had strong follow-up albums with 1987's "Bad" and 1991's "Dangerous," but his career began to collapse in 1993 after he was accused of molesting a boy who often stayed at his home. The singer denied any wrongdoing, reached a settlement with the boy's family, reported to be $20 million, and criminal charges were never filed.

Jackson's expressed anger over the allegations on the 1995 album "HIStory," which sold more than 2.4 million copies, but by then, the popularity of Jackson's music was clearly waning, even as public fascination with his increasingly erratic behavior was growing.

Cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm that stops the heart from pumping blood to the body. It can occur after a heart attack or be caused by other heart problems.

Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde said Jackson's star power was unmatched. "The world just lost the biggest pop star in history, no matter how you cut it," Werde said. "He's literally the king of pop."

Jackson's 13 No. 1 one hits on the Billboard charts put him behind only Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Mariah Carey, Werde said.

"He was on the eve of potentially redeeming his career a little bit," he said. "People might have started to think of him again in a different light."

VIDEO:

Michael Jackson's Musical Impact

Fans react to the death of Michael Jackson

Comments (242) Add comment
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CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/25/09 - 06:38 pm
0
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Wow, no one saw this coming!

Wow, no one saw this coming!

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 06:44 pm
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What a waste of good talent

What a waste of good talent he could have died with a positive impact on the world. Instead he chose the world of perversion. I hope he made his peace! Just goes to show you maybe able to buy your way out of jail, but not out of death.

charliemanson
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charliemanson 06/25/09 - 06:45 pm
0
0
They said that Michael

They said that Michael Jackson would become paranoid when he heard other famous people dying. He had the belief system that people die in groups of three. Therefore, i guess it was Ed MCMahon, Farrah Fawcett and now him. Condolence goes out to the Jackson family.

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 06/25/09 - 06:47 pm
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0
TM. you're a ghoul. He DID

TM. you're a ghoul. He DID have a positive impact on this world through his music. He was a sad, sick man, but you have no right to speculate as to his "salvation". Pay attention to your own.

onethickdiva
1558
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onethickdiva 06/25/09 - 06:51 pm
0
0
Trey what an awful thing to

Trey what an awful thing to say. Yes, he had his transgressions and he also had his day in court. He was a brilliant entertainer and the rest of the world will mourn the loss of a legend. BTW your statement should have contained the word "waste" not "waist".

imdstuf
10
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imdstuf 06/25/09 - 06:51 pm
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0
Michael Jackson gave money

Michael Jackson gave money and other things to charities, performed tor raise money and awareness. People like Trey cast stones at him, yet I bet he loves Mark Stanford.

Rose
17
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Rose 06/25/09 - 06:57 pm
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He was a great entertainer.

He was a great entertainer. In the early 1980s my oldest son had a Jackson tape and a boom box, and would pick at a neighbor. The neighbor hated black people, so when my son saw him outside, he would play the Michael Jackson tape. The neighbor would cuss my 16 yr old son out, then run inside and beat the walls. My son would smile and not say a word.

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:00 pm
0
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Well if he wasn't a sick

Well if he wasn't a sick freak I would have said Sorry to hear such a great person to pass. He was a sick freak, and I hope he made his peace with God before he died. What about the little boys he slept with. He was a disgusting person who deserved to rot in jail.

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:01 pm
0
0
I am sure this a sad for the

I am sure this a sad for the Nambla crew, but not for me.

jg41160
6
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jg41160 06/25/09 - 07:02 pm
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0
TM, judge yourself and make

TM, judge yourself and make your peace.

workingmom
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workingmom 06/25/09 - 07:03 pm
0
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So sad to hear of the death

So sad to hear of the death of such a great entertainer, even with his faults. I had the pleasure of attending one of his concerts a while back. It was by far, the best live performance I have ever seen. I hope his family is allowed to grieve in private before the media completely takes over.

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:05 pm
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I'm sure the queers and the

I'm sure the queers and the Nambla crew are crying. I have no sympathy for anyone that molest little boys. He should have been hung along time ago.

jg41160
6
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jg41160 06/25/09 - 07:10 pm
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He was a great entertainer.

He was a great entertainer. Condolences to his family and fans.

R2
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:22 pm
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RIP Michael. We loved the

RIP Michael. We loved the music that you gave the world.

R2
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:25 pm
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Trey is just jealous because

Trey is just jealous because he could have (if he had a job) never make the money that Michael made, nor have the fans that he had. Sour grapes. Forget you Trey.

R2
0
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:26 pm
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Oh yeah Trey, don't forget

Oh yeah Trey, don't forget the Nambia crew reigns!!!! In the house and in the White House. So who's zooming who?

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:29 pm
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I just hate Child Molesters.

I just hate Child Molesters. If he would have done good with his talent. He could have made himself a Positive roll model and died with dignity. Instead he died a known to the world as a child molester.

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:30 pm
0
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Oh yeah Trey, don't forget

Oh yeah Trey, don't forget the Nambia crew reigns!!!! In the house and in the White House. So who's zooming who?
Posted by R2 on Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:26 PM That's Nambla, maybe you should look up the definition.

R2
0
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:40 pm
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We don't care about you Trey.

We don't care about you Trey.

Barf Obama
0
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Barf Obama 06/25/09 - 07:44 pm
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He will be going to the

He will be going to the morgue for a cool one.

R2
0
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:45 pm
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He was found not guilty of

He was found not guilty of the charge. Did you ever wonder why the parents let their children go stay with him? Where are your boys at right now? He changed the music world, no matter what. Why did Elvis rape a 14 yr old girl and then proceed to live with her? We all have freaky things going on, yet Elvis is known more for his music contribution than anything. Why did Jerry Lee Lewis rape then marry a 14 yr old girl? Yet he still had star power. I don't care what you say. MJ was an artist supreme and sold MORE records and had MORE hits from ONE album than has been sold to date. Get over it!

Barf Obama
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Barf Obama 06/25/09 - 07:49 pm
0
0
He was a good baby boy

He was a good baby boy sitter.

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:50 pm
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R2 It was legal to marry a 14

R2 It was legal to marry a 14 year old at the time . The laws were just pushed up to 16 less than a decade ago.

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 06/25/09 - 07:51 pm
0
0
Besides they were way before

Besides they were way before my time!

R2
0
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R2 06/25/09 - 07:55 pm
0
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They raped those young girls

They raped those young girls and paid their way out of a charge. Money speaks. Funny how when you want to weasel out of things it was before your time. Elvis and Jerry Lee were wrong, but they got away with it. You said your piece, now move on. Let other people grieve and stop being a jerk.

Fiat_Lux
15424
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Fiat_Lux 06/25/09 - 07:56 pm
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0
So much talent, such a sad

So much talent, such a sad life that ended way too early. RIP.

Dixieman
14943
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Dixieman 06/25/09 - 08:01 pm
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Who. Cares. Not. Me.

Who.
Cares.
Not.
Me.

RedViqueta
0
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RedViqueta 06/25/09 - 08:02 pm
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So in R2's world, it's bad to

So in R2's world, it's bad to rape girls and marry them, but good to rape boys and pay them off...

Rothinzil
0
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Rothinzil 06/25/09 - 08:05 pm
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Things look good for his Back

Things look good for his Back From the Dead album due out in August. Excellent PR.

joeuser
0
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joeuser 06/25/09 - 08:07 pm
0
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Hey, the man is dead. Now is

Hey, the man is dead. Now is NOT the time to criticize him; save that for another day or do that to the living. Pray for his family and friends as they grieve. Life is short. It could be you or me next. Make sure you are right with God.

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