Friday, June 26, 2009

Articles on the late MJ

The Los Angeles coroner, Fred Corral, said that Jackson was pronounced dead after arriving at UCLA Medical Centre in full cardiac arrest. A post mortem examination is likely to take place today.

Paramedics who responded to an emergency call to the singer's home in Los Angeles said that he had stopped breathing by the time they arrived. His brother Jermaine told reporters: "My brother, the legendary King of Pop , passed away on Thursday June 25 at 2.26pm.

"We believe he suffered a cardiac arrest at his home, however the cause of his death is unknown until the results of the autopsy are known. The personal physician who was with him at the time attempted to resuscitated him."

A spokesman for the medical centre added: "When he arrived at hospital at approximately 1.14pm a team of doctors including emergency physicians and cardiologists attempted to resuscitate him for a period of more than one hour, they were unsuccessful."

A Los Angeles police spokesman said that police robbery-homicide detectives have been ordered to investigate, which is common in high-profile cases.

Jackson's mother Katherine and sister La Toya had rushed to the singer's bedside at the hospital, while hundreds of tearful fans gathered outside.

Earlier, the singer's father Joe said that he had been told his son was "in a bad way".

Jackson is widely credited with revolutionising pop music with albums including Thriller, Bad and Dangerous but his career was tainted with allegations of child abuse.

He was due to perform a highly anticipated 50-date "farewell" residency at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, south-east London, starting next month. Fears for his health emerged after he postponed the earliest dates, and his aides were forced to deny that he was fighting skin cancer.

Jackson lived as a virtual recluse following his 2005 acquittal on charges including child molestation and kidnap.

While lauded by fans and critics for his infectious pop songs, pioneering dance moves and innovative videos, his increasingly eccentric behaviour earned him the nickname "Wacko Jacko".

He repeatedly denied undergoing cosmetic surgery, despite very visible changes to his face and skin tone, and was criticised for forcing his three children to wear veils whenever they were in public.

Last night leading figures in the entertainment industry expressed their shock at news of his sudden death, which was broken on the US celebrity website TMZ.

Quincy Jones, the music producer who worked with Jackson on Thriller, said: "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news."

Paying tribute to the singer's "talent, grace, professionalism and dedication", he added: "I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

Jackson's friend, the illusionist Uri Geller, said there had been no indication that the singer was in a frail condition. "I really have no words. He was a young and terribly fit man and he was getting ready for performances in England. He was just fine, the last I heard."

There was speculation that the pressure of his upcoming London dates may have been too much for him. Jackson last toured 12 years ago.

AEG Live, which organised the O2 concerts, said Jackson had passed a lengthy physical exam in early 2009.

But Max Clifford, the publicist and friend of Jackson, said: "You wonder if the strain of getting fit for this major tour proved too much. In recent pictures he looked anything but healthy. He was always someone who seemed to find it difficult to cope with fame."

Born in 1958, Jackson made his musical debut with four of his older brothers in the Jackson Five before embarking on a solo career.

His 1982 album Thriller - which included the hits Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller - is still the best-selling album of all time, with more than 26?million copies sold. His lifetime sales tally is estimated at 750?million.

In 1994, he married Lisa Marie Presley, the 26-year-old daughter of Elvis Presley. The couple separated two years later and Jackson later married Debbie Rowe, a 37-year-old nurse he met while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997. They had two children, Prince Michael and Paris Michael Katherine, before divorcing in 1999.

Jackson had custody of the two children and of a third, Prince Michael II, whose mother's name has never been made public.

For legions of fans around the world, such grave suspicions meant little.Jackson styled himself "The King of Pop" and for them he was just that. An unrivalled catalogue of dancefloor-filling hits – from the joyous ABC to the infectiously basslined Beat It and the pastiche-horror anthem Thriller - seems certain to ensure that his musical legacy survives and thrives well beyond the memory of the legal proceedings that tainted his reputation and his life during its last years.

That his recorded and onstage achievements have been able to overwhelm the seriousness of the charges laid against him is possibly the greatest testament to his talent.

Few could generate the hysteria that Jackson could. Whether propelled into a stadium arena from a trapdoor or exiting it via jetpack, screams of adulation – sometimes lasting minutes – were guaranteed. And that was without his even opening his mouth, or gyrating the hips and ankles that could propel him backwards (while apparently walking forwards) in a dance move with which he will ever be associated: The Moonwalk.

When the vocals did come, however, they hinted at the bizarre personal life that lay behind Jackson's musical career. Neither manly bass, hot funk nor steamy soul, his timbre was set apart from the vocal traditions of America's greatest black singers – from Marvin Gaye to James Brown. His boyhood treble endured, it seemed, well into adulthood. For much of his career that did not matter. The falsetto cries that greeted each new crotch-grabbing dance move seemingly referred to the classic eroticism that infused so much of that black music.

But as the years passed, the enduringly whispery, high-pitched voice carried with it the sombre suggestion that Jackson had failed to move on from his childhood years – and, indeed, was determined to remained rooted in a reassuringly pre-pubescent world. Whatever his musical reputation, it was clear that he sought the company of children in ways that most adults found, at best, distasteful and ill-advised, and at worst illegal and depraved.

Michael Jackson was born on August 29 1958 at Gary, Indiana. His father Joseph, a steelworker, had pursued a less than brilliant career as a musician and was determined that his children would succeed where he had failed. The young Michael showed amazing early promise, and from the age of four he would stand in front of his four older brothers as the lead singer of the family group, The Jackson 5.

After winning talent contests and becoming local celebrities, they were discovered by Gladys Knight, and were signed to Berry Gordy's Motown label. The subsequent move to Los Angeles meant separation from Jackson's beloved mother Katherine, a devout Jehovah's Witness, but Michael soon found a surrogate mother in Motown's biggest act, Diana Ross.

After a year of recording and grooming for stardom, The Jackson 5 released their first single, I Want You Back, in November 1969, which became a US chart-topper. Over the next seven years, The Jackson 5 released 13 albums and became huge stars, even having a cartoon series based on them. "Baby" Michael, the focal point of the band, endured a whirlwind of recording, touring, television appearances, and media attention.

The demands on him were not eased by Joseph, who took his role as manager to the band more seriously than that of father. He demanded a merciless work ethic, often resorting to taunts and even physical abuse to get the best out of his sons. Years later, Jackson was still tormented by the fact that Joseph "never told me he loved me". Always softly spoken, polite and reserved, he withdrew further into himself, only really coming to life when performing. Work was always Jackson's escape, and in this time he also released several solo albums and started writing his own songs.

In 1976, the family split with Motown and signed to Epic records under the name The Jacksons. After two lacklustre albums, it seemed as if their reign of success was over, but the brothers persuaded Epic to give them greater artistic control, and they made a triumphant return with the disco-inflectedDestiny (1978).

The following year, as part of his bid to escape the confining clutches of his family, Jackson, now 21, moved to New York to appear as the scarecrow inThe Wiz, an all-black film version of The Wizard of Oz, starring Diana Ross. He formed a bond with the film's musical director, Quincy Jones, and later that year, the pair worked together on Jackson's hugely successful Off The Wall(1979). It was on this album that Jackson's adult solo sound came to fruition, and he began to firmly eclipse his work with the Jacksons. He also found his form as a songwriter with the hit single Don't Stop (Til You get Enough). After another tour and album with his brothers, Jackson started work on what was to become Thriller (1982).

The album spent 37 weeks at the top of the US charts, spawned four US number one singles – including the self-penned Billy JeanGotta Be Startin' Somethin', and Beat It – and went on to sell 46 million copies, making it the most successful album of all time. The video for the album's title song, directed by film director Jon Landis, was half an hour long and cost 10 million dollars. Infused, like many of his greatest tracks, with a simple but driving bassline, its also featured a Hammer House of Horror-style voice-over from Vincent Price. It was the dance routines, however, expertly choreographed and performed, that set Jackson apart from other performers. Dressed and made up as zombies, they shuffled, stamped, clapped, and boogied, as the undead never had before. At the head of the file was Jackson himself, transformed in the song from dream date to nightmare stalker, enthralling viewers around the world.

Thriller's enormous success made Jackson an international media icon, his single sequinned glove, his unlaced sneakers, and his Moonwalk instantly recognisable the world over. But it also made him the target of unwanted attention.

He then bought a Californian ranch. Having always identified strongly with Peter Pan, he called his new home Neverland. Here he started building up his collections of amusement park rides, mannequins, and animals (among them the infamous Bubbles, the chimpanzee). Jackson also embarked on a course of plastic surgery. Nicknamed "Big nose" by his brothers as a child, and repeatedly described as "ugly" by his father, he had never been happy with his appearance.

His increasingly strange transformation prompted a media frenzy, with allegations that he was trying to look like his friend Elizabeth Taylor (among others). There was also his ever-whiter skin, a result, said his publicists, of the skirt condition vitiligo, but deemed by critics as a deliberate effort to escape his blackness.

The more famous Jackson got, the more he retreated into his own world, and the more rumours of his increasingly odd behaviour titillated the public. "Wacko Jacko", as he was now called in the British tabloids, allegedly had an eating disorder, slept in an oxygen tent, tried to buy the remains of the Elephant Man, and wore a surgical mask on his rare public outings.

In 1987, Jackson released Bad, which once again was a huge worldwide hit, but inevitably failed to match the success of Thriller despite Jackson's massive and gruelling world tour. For the first time, his music took second place to his lifestyle in the public's attentions. Dangerous (1991) was not exceptional, and it seemed that Jackson's detachment from reality meant that he was no longer in tune with his audience. But the gradual decline in record sales was as nothing compared to the scandal which broke in 1993, from which his career was never to fully recover.

Jackson, who had been denied a childhood, had always felt a special affinity for children. Throughout his adult life he raised millions of dollars for children's charities. But his affection for children did not stop there. He clearly felt he could trust them, preferred their company to that of adults, and often invited them to stay at Neverland.

There had always been doubts about Jackson's sexuality; a claimed teenage liaison with Diana Ross was hotly denied by her, a brief relationship with Tatum O'Neal following a first date at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion came to nothing. Over the years, Jackson's image was repeatedly tarnished by rumours.

The father of Jordan Chandler, one of Jackson's young "friends", took accusations of molestation to the police. They were unable to press charges after the 13-year-old boy declined to testify, having received an undisclosed settlement (believed to be $26 million) from Jackson.

This payment damned Jackson as guilty in the eyes of many, despite his emphatic denials. Pepsi dropped his sponsorship deal, and the following year he was admitted to a British drug rehabilitation clinic for treatment for addiction to the painkillers morphine and demerol.

While Jackson's considerable number of diehard fans around the world refused to believe the worst of their idol, for the majority of people Jackson became at best a joke, and at worst a criminal using his wealth to escape justice. Many of Jackson's subsequent acts seemed like stunningly ill-advised and cynical attempts to rehabilitate his image.

Neither of his two marriages, firstly to Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa-Marie in 1994, and secondly to his dermatologist's assistant Debbie Rowe in 1996, lasted more than two years. The fact that he had two children with Rowe (allegedly by artificial insemination) – Prince Michael, born in 1997, and Paris Michael, born in 1998 – made the liaison seem only more grotesque.

Rowe later complained to a newspaper that she had hardly seen her children since their birth. According to the tabloids, they were brought up in a fittingly freakish manner, with six nannies and six nurses, and toys and cutlery thrown out after a single use.

Jackson's next three albums, HIStoryPast Present and Future Part 1 (1995),Blood On the Dancefloor (1997), and, in 2001, Invincible (said to be the most expensive ever recorded), all performed underwhelmingly, despite enormous promotional budgets. The HIStory album generated a hit single with Scream, although a large part of its appeal was due to the collaboration of his sister Janet, who had begun to eclipse him in popularity.

For the British public, Jackson's image as a slightly sinister figure of fun was cemented by his friendship with the celebrity spoon-bender Uri Geller (at whose wedding he was best man), and Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, whom he accompanied to a Fulham versus Wigan football game at which the away supporters chanted "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles".

In March 2001, Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He followed this with a concert at Madison Square Gardens to celebrate his 30th anniversary in showbusiness. Despite the roster of celebrity guests such as Britney Spears and Marlon Brando, the concert received terrible reviews for its expensive tickets, poor organisation and general self-indulgence.

In 1985 Jackson had been a linchpin of the all-star USA for Africa charity recording, We Are the World. It was indicative of how his star had waned that, in October 2001, he was prevented from appearing on A Tribute To Heroes, the televised fund-raiser for victims of the September 11 attacks. The self-styled "King of Pop" was no more.

For many, Jackson calling for a "greater understanding between children and adults" in a lecture at the Oxford Union to publicise his Heal The Kids "initiative" was deeply offensive, as was his being made UN Special Ambassador for Children in 2001. But there seems little doubt that Jackson's love of children, however misguided, was genuine. In 1999 he told a journalist: "If it wasn't for the children I'd throw in the towel." Michael Jackson was as much a victim as he was an offender, a victim of his upbringing, and of the modern obsession with celebrity.

In 2003 Jackson was charged with seven counts of sexually abusing a another young boy, Gavin Anzio, whom he had entertained at "sleepovers" at Neverland. When the case came to court two years later Jackson claimed that he and Gavin had merely watched television together in bed, a claim supported by his friend Elizabeth Taylor. He spent much of the trial in a wheelchair, explaining that he was in serious pain owing to a broken vertebra.

The trial was the centre of an extraordinary media circus reminiscent of the OJ Simpson case, and lasted five months, ending in the singer's acquittal on all counts. But the sordid details that had emerged during the proceedings had done nothing for his reputation, and the verdict could hardly be deemed a triumph. Jackson remained beleaguered, and he went to live in Bahrain at the invitation of Sheikh Abdullah. It was now rumoured that Jackson was in severe financial difficulties: he was said to have borrowed more than $250 million against his music publishing interests; Neverland was closed down to save money; he became bogged down in protracted lawsuits.

Martin Bashir's television documentary about Jackson in 2003 revealed that the singer had blown $6 million in a single store; he had also paid his second wife $ 6.5 million between 1996 to 1999 for her to renounce her conjugal rights to their two children; and it was estimated that he had managed to spend around $1 billion in earnings and borrowed money in 20 years.

In recent months there had been much fanfare about a projected comeback tour. The singer had been due to launch a series of concerts in London on July 13 which would continue until March next year. The dates had sold out three months ago within five hours of the tickets going on sale. According to the promoters of the shows, AEG Live, Jackson had been subjected to, and passed, an intensive medical examination before the tour was announced.

He made a brief, and typically mysterious, appearance at the O2 to publicise the events, punching the air and announcing "This is it!" in a voice a full octave lower than his customary girlish whisper; some observers even began to wonder whether they were not being addressed by a lookalike.

After Britain, the tour was due to take in Europe and the Far East before concluding in the United States in 2011.

Jackson often said he felt like "the loneliest person in the world". In 1982 he narrated the storybook LP of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, another outsider from children's fiction he identified with. He said: "ET's story is the story of my life in so many ways." Unlike ET, Jackson never found a home except on stage, which was, he said in 1979, "where I'm supposed to be, where God meant me to be".

Jackson is survived by his two children.

The singer, who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, converted to Islam in a ceremony at a friend's house in Los Angeles.

He is said to have sat on the floor and worn a small hat while an imam officiated.

According to The Sun, the ceremony took place while Jackson, 50, was recording an album at the home of Steve Porcaro, a keyboard player who composed music on his Thriller album.

The former Jackson 5 star was counselled by David Wharnsby, a Canadian songwriter, and Phillip Bubal, a producer, who have both converted.

A source said Jackson had appeared a "bit down" and added: "They began talking to him about their beliefs, and how they thought they had become better people after they converted. Michael soon began warming to the idea.

"An imam was summoned from the mosque and Michael went through the shahada, which is the Muslim declaration of belief."

Last year his brother, Jermaine Friday, suggested Jackson would convert having taken an interest in Islam since Friday's conversion in 1989.

"When I came back from Mecca I got him a lot of books and he asked me lots of things about my religion and I told him that it's peaceful and beautiful," said Friday.

"He read everything and he was proud of me that I found something that would give me inner strength and peace.

"I think it is most probable that Michael will convert to Islam.

"He could do so much, just like I am trying to do. Michael and I and the word of God, we could do so much."

Rest In Peace Mikaeel

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