LOS ANGELES - (AP) - Michael Jackson, the sensationally giftedchild star who rose to become the "King of Pop" and the biggestcelebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakishseries of scandals, died Thursday. He was 50.
Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Ed Winter,the assistant chief coroner for Los Angeles County, confirmed hisoffice had been notified of the death and would handle theinvestigation.
The circumstances of Jackson's death were not immediately clear.Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Departmentparamedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedicsperformed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told thenewspaper.
Jackson's death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre,sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he waspopular music's premier all-around performer, a uniter of black andwhite music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated thecharts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album "Thriller" - which included the blockbusterhits "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" - remains thebiggest-selling album of all time, with more than 100 millioncopies worldwide.
The public first knew him in the late 1960s, when as a boy hewas the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson 5, themusic group he formed with his four older brothers. Among their No.1 hits were "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "I'll Be There."
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation,known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and hishigh-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His singlesequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasseswere trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgicallyaltered appearance.
"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such ayoung age, I just don't have the words," said Quincy Jones, whoproduced "Thriller." "He was the consummate entertainer and hiscontributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I'velost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone withhim."
Jackson ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as thebiggest pop sensations of all time. In fact, he united two ofmusic's biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley'sdaughter, Lisa Marie.
But as years went by, Jackson became an increasingly freakishfigure - a middle-aged man-child weirdly out of touch with grown-uplife. His skin became lighter, his nose narrower, and he spoke in abreathy, girlish voice. He surrounded himself with children at hisNeverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept apet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-oldcancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plyingthe boy with alcohol and groping him. The case took a fearsome tollon his career and image, and he fell into serious financialtrouble.
Jackson was preparing for what was to be his greatest comeback:He was scheduled for an unprecedented 50 shows at a London arena,with the first set for July 13. He was in rehearsals in Los Angelesfor the concert, an extravaganza that was to capture the classicJackson magic: showstopping dance moves, elaborate staging andthrobbing dance beats.
Singer Dionne Warwick said: "Michael was a friend andundoubtedly one of the world's greatest entertainers that Ifortunately had the pleasure of working with........we have lost anicon in our industry."
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of hisdeath spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center,which is near Jackson's rented home, was roped off with policetape.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jackson has just died," a womanboarding a Manhattan bus called out, shortly after the news wasannounced. Immediately many riders reached for their cell phones.
In New York's Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowdwhen a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people beganrelaying the news to friends by cell phone.
"No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow," Michael Harris, 36, ofNew York City, read from a text message a friend sent to histelephone. "It's like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will alwaysremember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died."