Michael Jackson, Pop Icon, Is Dead at 50

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June
26 2009

Michael Jackson, Pop Icon, Is Dead at 50

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LOS ANGELES - Michael Jackson, the fallen King of Pop, is dead. The singer, songwriter and dancer whose career reached unprecedented peaks of sales and attention, died Thursday at 1:07 p.m. Pacific time, a Los Angeles city official said. He was 50.


Mr. Jackson, in a coma, was rushed to U.C.L.A. Medical Center, a six-minute drive from the rented mansion in which he was living, shortly after noon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics. A hospital spokesman would not confirm reports of cardiac arrest.


As with Elvis Presley or The Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full impact he had on the world of music. At his height, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world and has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which was born in part as a result of Mr. Jackson's groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.


From his days as the youngest brother in the Jackson 5 to his solo career in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Jackson was responsible for a string of hits like "I Want You Back," "I'll Be There," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Billie Jean" and "Black and White" that exploited his high voice, infectious energy, and ear for irresistible hooks.


As a solo performer, Mr. Jackson ushered in the age of pop as a global product - not to mention an age of spectacle and pop culture celebrity. His early career with his brothers gave way to a solo act in which he became more character than singer: his sequined glove, his whitened face, his Moonwalk dance move became embedded in the cultural firmament.


But not long after his entertainment career hit high-water marks - Thriller," from 1982, has been certified platinum 28 times by the Recording Industry Association of America - it started a bizarre disintegration. His darkest moment undoubtedly came in 2004, when he was indicted - though later acquitted - on child molesting charges. A young cancer patient who claimed the singer had befriended him and then sexually fondled him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif.


But Mr. Jackson was an object of fascination for the press since the Jackson 5's first hit, "I Want You Back," in 1969. His public image wavered between that of the musical naif, who only wanted to recapture his youth by riding on roller-coasters and having sleepovers with his friends, to the calculated mogul who carefully constructed his persona around his often baffling public behavior.


Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform a 50 concerts in at the O2 arena London beginning next month and continuing into 2010. The shows were positioned as a potential comeback, with the potential to earn him up to $50 million, according to some reports.


But there has also been worry and speculation that Mr. Jackson was not physically ready for such an arduous run of concerts, and Mr. Jackson's postponement of the first of those shows from July 8 to July 12 fueled new rounds of speculation about his health.


"The primary reason for the concerts wasn't so much that he was wanting to generate money as much as it was that he wanted to perform for his kids," said J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography, "Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness," was first published in 1991. "They had never seen him perform before."


Mr. Jackson is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.


The performer's eccentric lifestyle took a severe financial toll. In 1987 Mr. Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it Neverland, he outfitted the property with amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million, according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum.


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