Michael Jackson Dies at 50
Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop" who rose from poverty to stardom alongside his brothers in The Jackson 5 and solo success to become the most influential entertainer of his era, has died. He was 50.
Jackson suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital on Thursday. One of his brothers, Jermaine, said at a news conference that Jackson's personal doctor as well as paramedics and a team at UCLA Medical Center tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him.
See Michael Jackson's life in photos
Jermaine Jackson said cardiac arrest was the likely cause of death, but that it wouldn't be certain until an autopsy. Police said the body was with the coroner's office, and that robbery-homicide detectives would investigate, which is customary in high-profile deaths.
For all Jackson's accomplishments in music and humanitarian endeavors, his entire adult life was one attempt after another to recapture a childhood he felt he'd never known. The oddity of his fixation came to a dramatic climax in a criminal trial that led to his acquittal on child molestation charges.
Quincy Jones, producer of Jackson's most successful albums, said he was "absolutely devastated" by the news that Jackson was "taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age."
"To this day, the music we created together on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all ... talent, grace, professionalism and dedication," said Jones. "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."
Watch Jackson's most famous music videos
Jackson, responsible for 13 No. 1 songs, was preparing for a series of London comeback concerts he hoped would alleviate his massive debts and return him to the glory days of such hits as "Thriller," "Beat It," "Bad," and "Billie Jean." His singing and dancing abilities and iconic look — from his lone silver glove to his multi-zippered jackets — made him one of the most recognizable and celebrated human beings of all time.
Jackson's fame slipped in the 1990s as his chain of hits broke and he reached a legal settlement with the family of a boy who had accused him of molestation. Jackson was acquitted of separate molestation allegations in 2005 after a five-month trial that resulted in a unanimous not-guilty verdict.
He came from the most humble of backgrounds in Gary, Ind. His family's raw talent and the fierce will of his father, Joe Jackson, helped the Jackson Five achieve stunning early fame with Motown Records. Their hits included "ABC" and "I Want You Back." Jackson also yielded such solo hits at the time as "Rockin' Robin."
Jackson would later say that his early success robbed him of his childhood. He said his father would beat him and his brothers for missing steps in their dance routines, and that he never had a chance to live a normal life.
Check out Jackson's TV Guide covers
Jackson broke free from his Motown roots — and began his adult career — with 1979's Off the Wall. Recorded with Jones, whom Jackson had befriended while filming The Wiz, the album highlighted Jackson's gifts as a funk, soul, disco and pop artist and spawned the hits "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough," "Rock With You," and the title track.
But Jackson's biggest album — and the most successful album of all time — was his next collaboration with Jones. Thriller included some of his most-loved hits, including the title track, "Beat It," "Billie Jean," "Pretty Young Thing," and "Human Nature." It won a record-breaking eight Grammys, and helped usher in the music video era.
Jackson was one of the first African-American artists to thrive on MTV, and his success and the network's complemented one another. His video for "Thriller," a special-effects laden short film directed by John Landis, was by far the most audacious of its time and expanded the possibilities for music videos. It routinely tops lists of the best videos of all time.
He revolutionized dance as well — he debuted the moonwalk, his apparently gravity-defying signature move — at Motown's 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever celebration in 1983 to worldwide awe. He later said he had learned the move from ordinary children he had seen performing it.
See more photos of Jackson throughout his career
His exploits seemed like too many for one life: He co-wrote "We Are the World" to aid African famine relief. He married and divorced Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. He formed famous friendships with such icons as Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minelli, and inspired two generations of young performers, from New Edition to Justin Timberlake. His bizarre exploits included dangling his baby from a hotel balcony, and dramatically changing his face through plastic surgery.
He created a circuslike home called Neverland, based on his hero, Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. He once told an interviewer who asked if he emulated Peter Pan, "I am Peter Pan."
As his fame grew, any chance of normalcy evaporated. By the peak of his fame he was the subject of wild rumors both true and false, including at least one that he helped plant himself. Michael Levine, a prominent Hollywood publicist, confirmed that he helped Jackson and his manager Frank Dileo plant a story that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber to help promote his film Captain Eo.
He also spent much of his time with children, including Macaulay Culkin and three boys who would later accuse him of molestation. (The case in which Jackson was acquitted was the only one that went to trial.) He lavished attention on a chimp named Bubbles. And he sang about the life he felt he'd lost in songs like "Childhood":
Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth...
Before you judge me, try hard to love me.
The painful youth I've had
Have you seen my Childhood?
Jackson is survived by his three children: sons Prince Michael, 7, and Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11.