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World mourns Michael Jackson

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The world mourns the death of "King of Pop" Michael Jackson who suddenly died at age 50.

Jackson became ill at his home his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Jermaine Jackson said his brother's personal doctor and paramedics tried to resuscitate Jackson at his rented home in Holmby Hills. A team of doctors at UCLA Medical Center also tried for more than an hour.

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He cautioned that the cause of his death would not be known until an autopsy was performed, but he believed the pop star died of cardiac arrest.

Jackson's longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor released the following statement.
"My heart&my mind& are broken. I loved Michael with all my soul and I can't imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together. I was packing up my clothes to go to London for his opening when I heard the news. I still can't believe it. I don't want to believe it. It can't be so. He will live in my heart forever but it's not enough. My life feels so empty. I don't think anyone knew how much we loved each other. The purest most giving love I've ever known. Oh God! I'm going to miss him. I can't yet imagine life with out him. But I guess with God's help... I'll learn. I keep looking at the photo he gave me of himself, which says, "To my true love Elizabeth, I love you forever." And, I will love HIM forever."

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.

The Man and His Music

Michael Jackson liked to call himself the King of Pop and in his heyday it was no exaggeration he could sing and boy, could he dance.

Michael Joseph Jackson was born Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary. He 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.

He had been perfecting his act since the age of five when he would sing with his brothers in clubs around their hometown Gary, Indiana

The Jackson 5 soon came to the attention of Motown's Berry Gordy the rest, as they say, is history.

The public first knew him in the late 1960s, when as a boy he was the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson 5, the music group he formed with his four older brothers. 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."

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 album remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 100 million copies worldwide.

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.

Bizarre Behavior

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.

They divorced after less than two years of marriage in 1996. Months later he announced that Debbie Rowe was expecting the first of their two children they married but never lived together and eventually divorced.

They had two children together: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., known as Prince Michael, now 12; and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11. Rowe filed for divorce in 1999.

Jackson also had a third child, Prince Michael II. Now 7, Jackson said the boy nicknamed Blanket as a baby was his biological child born from a surrogate mother.

As Jackson grew older, it was his bizarre behavior not his music that drew headlines.

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."

In 2002 he caused a furor by dangling his 9 month old son from the balcony of a German hotel while a throng of fans watched from below.

A couple of years later Jackson gave an impromptu performance outside a California court where he was charged with molesting a 13 year old boy and one day arrived at trial wearing pajamas.

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.

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.

In interviews Jackson talked about the price of superstardom and about how lonely it was . He said "it hurts to be me" pain that in the end, even the music couldn't stop.

Fan Reaction

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.

Kathleen Magnaye of New York was at Los Angeles' Venice Beach when she received a frantic call from her boyfriend. She raced to Jackson's house with her 14-year-old sister to take photos.

"We're devastated," said Magnaye, 23. "I've been listening to him since I was 5 years old. My mom would put him on in the house."

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.

"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.

"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. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died."


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