Michael Jackson dies

Friday, June 26, 2009

Los Angeles - American pop icon Michael Jackson passed away on Thursday after suffering a heart attack at his rented home in a wealthy Los Angeles suburb.

The 50-year-old former "King of Pop" died at a time when he was preparing for a series of London concerts. Tickets to those concerts were already sold out.

Paramedics reached his rented home in Carolwood Drive at 12:21 pm Thursday, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Devin Gales.

Jackson, who was not breathing and was unresponsive when paramedics arrived, was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Paramedics performed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on Jackson, but failed to save him.

He was pronounced dead by the UCLA Medical Center at 2:26 pm local time, according to Craig Harvey of the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

An autopsy could be performed as early as Friday, but the exact cause of death may not be determined for six to eight weeks, depending on what type of tests are ordered, Mr Harvey said.

Jackson, who became known as the "King of Pop" with the success of albums such as "Thriller," "Bad" and "Dangerous," first rose to fame as a child singer with his four brothers, as part of the Jackson 5.

It was Michael who became a sensation, most notably with the 1979 release of the album "Off the Wall." His status as a musical superstar was cemented in 1982 after the release of the album "Thriller," which generated seven top-10 hits.

Over the course of his career, Jackson's personal life came under more and more scrutiny, most notably an obvious change in his skin tone. He told television hostess Oprah Winfrey in 1993 that the change was caused by a skin disease.

Also at that time, a 13-year-old boy claimed that Jackson had fondled him during a sleepover at his Neverland Ranch near Los Angeles. Jackson denied any wrongdoing and eventually reached a financial settlement with the boy's family.

In 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of child molestation charges in another high-profile case. He moved to Bahrain with his children after the trial, to avoid the constant media scrutiny in the United States. He sold his Neverland Ranch in 2008 amid financial difficulties.

Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, in 1994, but they divorced two years later.

He then married Debbie Rowe, a nurse, who through artificial insemination, became the mother of two of his children, Joseph and Paris. They divorced in 1999. Jackson had another son, Prince, with an unknown woman.

Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which hands out Grammy Awards, praised the 13-time Grammy winner in a statement.

"Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent and vision as Michael Jackson," Mr Portnow said.

"He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility and sheer star power carried him from childhood to worldwide acclaim."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement that the world has lost one of the most influential and iconic figures in the music industry.

"From his performances with the Jackson 5 to the premiere of the 'moonwalk' and 'Thriller', Michael was a pop phenomenon who never stopped pushing the envelope of creativity," Mr Schwarzenegger said.

"Though there were serious questions about his personal life, Michael was undoubtedly a great entertainer and his popularity spanned generations and the globe," Schwarzenegger, a former Hollywood action star, said in the statement.