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Michael Jackson, 'King of Pop' Dead at 50

Los Angeles Sentinel, News Report, Evan Barnes Posted: Jun 26, 2009

He was a trailblazer. An icon. A world-renowned entertainer and humanitarian. A legend that paved the way for and inspired future entertainers.

These words barely encapsulate what Michael Jackson meant to the music industry, his fans , the Black community and a world that watched him grow up and leave a wealth of memories during his nearly 40-year career.

The beloved King of Pop died Thursday afternoon after going into cardiac arrest and falling into a coma. Jackson, 50, was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with his family by his bedside.

According to reports, paramedics responded to a call at his Bel-Air home at 12:26 p.m. when Jackson was unconscious and not breathing. Family spokesman Brian Oxman said the entertainer had suddenly collapsed at the home. He slipped into a coma as paramedics tried to revive him on the scene.

The news was first reported by TMZ and later confirmed by the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets. Crowds gathered at the hospital and continue to swell the area throughout the day.

Jackson was in the middle of preparing for a 50-show comeback tour in London this summer and was renting the home as a rehearsal space.

Reaction on various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has been immense as fans shared their reflections, discussed favorite songs and consoled each other. Message boards on various websites were flooded with comments and video postings.

Carrying on the legacy of Black performers such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson, Jackson dazzled fans with his dance moves, blew them away with his voice and moved them with his love for not just them but humanitarian causes around the world.

He first made waves with his brothers as the Jackson 5. Starting their career in 1966, they became one of the biggest acts of the 1970s and were regarded as the first Black teen idols to achieve mainstream acceptance.

His solo career started with singles in the 1970s but when his 1979 album Off the Wall was released produced by mentor Quincy Jones - it reached astronomical levels, peaking with 1982s Thriller which sold an estimated 109 million albums worldwide, 28 million in the United States alone.

Starting with I Want You Back in 1969, the Jackson 5 had a string of hits on the R&B and pop charts over the decade, including ABC, Ill Be There, Dancing Machine, and Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).

Fans fell in love with the youngest member and his trademark smooth, high-pitched vocals. Even as the groups career took off, Jacksons solo career was being developed. His first single Got to Be There was released in 1971 and his first No. 1 single Ben followed in 1972.

His star continued to shine as he starred in the 1978 film The Wiz with another mentor, Diana Ross. When Off the Wall was released, it was an enormous success with hits such as the title track, the ballad Shes Out of My Life, and No. 1 hits Rock With You and Dont Stop til You Get Enough.

Few, however, could predict the success that his next album Thriller would be. A sonic, nine-song masterpiece that sounded like few albums of the era or before it, it launched Jackson into a stratosphere only reserved for acts such as The Beatles and Elvis Presley.

Seven of the tracks became Top 10 singles, including No. 1 hits Billie Jean and the genre-crossing Beat It. It won a then-record seven Grammys, including Album of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards. It was the best selling album for 1983 and 1984. The title track launched a groundbreaking 13-minute video that has since has been regarded as the greatest of all time.

It also broke racial barriers at MTV. In 1982, his videos for Billie Jean, Beat It, and especially Thriller made him the first Black pop star of the video era after the network was accused of not playing videos by Black artists.

While Black entertainers such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles had achieved significant solo success, he was arguably the first Black superstar to achieve universal acclaim. He was hailed by many as redefining what being a superstar and a Black superstar could be.

Thriller-mania also introduced the world to Jacksons famous move, the moonwalk. Performed during Motown 25 in 1983, it was a move that shocked everyone as he appeared to walk backwards on air.

As his star remained bright, he used his profile to raise awareness for noble causes. He and Lionel Richie co-wrote the anthem We Are the World in 1985 to raise aid for Africa and along with Quincy Jones, help gather numerous singers around the country to participate.

Subsequent albums Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and Invincible (2001), all reaching No. 1 on the Billboard album charts and launching memorable hits such as The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror, Black or White, and what is now his final Billboard Top 10 hit You Rock My World.

The 1990s were a decade of turmoil as his personal life and publicized trials dominated most of his headlines. He still created hits with You Are Not Alone and Scream, a much anticipated collaboration with sister Janet Jackson, and released a greatest hits compilation HIStory in 1995.

In 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of child molestation charges in Santa Barbara. His comeback shows this summer at the O2 Arena in London hoped to refocus public awareness on his music, legendary dance moves and ability to entertain like few others had done.

Funeral arrangements were pending at press time.

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