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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Singer Michael Jackson dead at 50

Singer Michael Jackson dead at 50

Legendary pop star had been preparing for London comeback tour

Michael Jackson had been planning to start a series of comeback concerts in London and had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the past two months. Promoters of the shows said in March that he had passed a lengthy physical examination.

Pop icon Michael Jackson died Thursday after being taken to a Los Angeles hospital in cardiac arrest, officials said. He was 50.

The "Thriller" superstar was unconscious and not breathing when Fire Department paramedics were summoned to Jackson's Bel Air home by a 911 call at 12:26 California time.

They desperately tried to resuscitate the faded King of Pop as a cherry-red ambulance sped him to UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

"You've got to save him!" aides to the star screamed as he was wheeled into the hospital on the stretcher, the Web site reported.

Jackson's mother and his sister LaToya were seen rushing into the hospital, apparently after he had already died.

The cause of death was unknown. The Los Angeles County coroner said an autopsy would be performed Friday.

Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, said through her lawyer she was "inconsolable" at the news.

"I lost my little brother today and part of my soul went with him," music mogul Quincy Jones said as tributes began pouring in.

In a sign of Jackson's enduring magnetism, crowds of mourners gathered outside the hospital within minutes of the news breaking.

Rev. Al Sharpton flashed a 25-year-old snapshot of Jackson and himself during a press conference outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

"We thought we'd see him moonwalk one more time," Sharpton said.

Jackson's death capped a life of dizzying superstardom and bizarre scandal and ended his bid to make a comeback with 50 sold-out concerts planned for London this summer.

He was training for the upcoming gigs with Lou Ferrigno, the star of the TV show The Incredible Hulk.

Longtime Jackson family lawyers Brian Oxman accused unnamed "enablers" of pushing the star too hard physically as he prepared for the tour.

The music legend burst onto the pop scene as a child star with the Jackson 5 nearly four decades ago. The group from Gary, Ind., produced hits like "ABC" and "I Want You Back."

He became the world's most popular musician when he went solo in the '70s. Once a sure-fire hit machine, he holds the record for the biggest-selling album with "Thriller."

He also wowed fans with monster hits like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It."

Millions of fans imitated his famed moonwalk dance and he was known worldwide as the Gloved One for his trademark handwear.

But personal and professional woes have eclipsed his talent for years.

He was acquitted in 2005 of molesting a young fan at his Neverland Ranch and caused an uproar by dangling one of his three children out of a Berlin hotel window in 2002.

His latest recordings suffered from tepid sales and a rumored comeback album never materialized.

Jackson's first wife was Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis, whom he married in 1994.

It was a match made in showbiz heaven but they split less than two years later.

He later married Australian Debbie Rowe and they had two children, Prince, 12 and Paris, 11, though she gave up her parental rights.

A third child, Prince Michael II, was reportedly born with the help of an anonymous surrogate mother.

Jackson had faced serious financial problems in recent years as sales wilted. Some reports said he was as much as $500 million in debt.

He faced certain foreclosure on Neverland until he managed to refinance the mortgage on the 270-acre spread.

Some analysts said he could make more than $200 million from this summer's concerts in Britain.

Jackson moved with his kids to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf after his molestation trial, but returned to Los Angeles in recent months.

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