LOS ANGELES (AP) - Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted
"King of Pop" who emerged from childhood superstardom to become
the entertainment world's most influential singer and dancer before
his life and career deteriorated in a freakish series of scandals,
died Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The
Associated Press. He was 50.
The person said Jackson died in a Los Angeles hospital. The
person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department
paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30
p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics
performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the
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
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.
As years went by, he became an increasingly freakish figure. His
skin became lighter and his nose narrower. 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
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
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
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.
"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."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)