King of Pop Michael Jackson is dead: official

Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:47pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson, the child star turned King of Pop who set the world dancing but whose musical genius was overshadowed by a bizarre lifestyle and sex scandals, died on Thursday. He was 50.

Jackson was pronounced dead after arriving at a Los Angeles hospital in full cardiac arrest, Los Angeles coroner Fred Corral said. The cause of death was not known and an autopsy would likely take place on Friday, he said.

Jackson's sudden death had been reported earlier by U.S. media including the Los Angeles Times and the TMZ entertainment website, which said he was taken ill at his home and rushed to the hospital by paramedics who found him not breathing when they arrived.

Known as the "King of Pop," for hits that included "Thriller" and "Billie Jean," Jackson's dramatic, one-gloved stage presence and innovative dance moves were imitated by legions of fans around the world.

His lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he received, made him one of the most successful entertainers of all time.

But Jackson's belief that "I am Peter Pan in my heart", his preference for the company of children, his friendship with a chimp, his high-pitched voice and numerous plastic surgeries also earned him critics and the nickname "Wacko Jacko."

Jackson, who had lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation, had been scheduled to launch a comeback tour from London next month.

Quincy Jones, who helped arrange the music on the album "Thriller" and produced the "Off the Wall" album, told MSNBC: "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news."   Continued...

<p>Michael Jackson waves to supporters as he leaves the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in California, June 13, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer</p>