Pop star Michael Jackson dies at age 50
Advertiser News Services
Michael Jackson, the record-breaking, sensationally gifted “King of Pop” who emerged from childhood superstardom to become the entertainment world’s most influential singer and dancer, and the tabloid world’s most disturbing celebrity, has died. He was 50.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma.
Earlier, TMZ reported that Jackson had died of cardiac arrest.
Los Angeles Fire Capt. Steve Ruda told the Times that paramedics responded to a 911 call from Jackson's home at 12:21 p.m., PDT. When they arrived, he said, Jackson was not breathing. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda said.
Hundreds of reporters gathered at the hospital awaiting word on Jackson’s condition. Sources told the Times that family members rushed to Jackson’s bedside, where he was in a coma.
The circumstances of Jackson’s death remain unclear. Law enforcement sources said Los Angeles police detectives have opened an investigation into the death, although they stressed there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The detectives plan to interview family members, friends and Jackson’s doctors to figure out what happened. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office will determine a cause of death.
A source told TMZ that Jackson was dead when paramedics arrived. Once at the hospital, the staff tried to resuscitate him but he was completely unresponsive, the Web site reported.
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” — remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies.
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves, his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove and tight, military-style jacket were trademarks second only to 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. In fact, he united two of music’s biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie.
But 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 surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
“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.”
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. The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Jackson was preparing 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. He was in rehearsals in Los Angeles for the concert, an extravaganza that was to capture the classic Jackson magic: showstopping dance moves, elaborate staging and throbbing dance beats.
Singer Dionne Warwick said: “Michael was a friend and undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest entertainers that I fortunately had the pleasure of working with. ... We have lost an icon in our industry.”
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson’s rented home, was roped off with police tape.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jackson has just died,” a woman boarding a Manhattan bus called out, shortly after the news was announced. Immediately many riders reached for their cell phones.
So many people wanted to verify the early reports of Jackson’s death that the computers running Google’s news section interpreted the fusillade of “Michael Jackson” requests as an automated attack for about half an hour last evening.
In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed news 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 sent to his telephone.
“It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated," Harris said. "I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”
Jackson is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.