Michael Jackson hauls off his trophies after winning in eight categories at the 1984 Grammys (Associated Press photos)
From left, Jackson singing in 1972, performing in 1993, speaking at a news conference after his 2004 arraignment, and smiling at a 2009 press conference announcing his comeback concerts.
Michael Jackson won’t get his chance at a comeback.
The talented “King of Pop,” whose life had devolved over the past few years into a series of bizarre scandals, died today, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press.
The news was initially circulated on online gossip sites and Twitter. Here is what the AP is reporting now:
The person said Jackson died in a Los Angeles hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson was only 50 years old. But for music fans who grew up in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s – I’m an ’80s kid myself – we felt like we knew Michael Jackson his whole life.
Born Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Ind., he was the seventh of nine children for Joseph and Katherine Jackson. He was still a boy when he joined his older brothers in the hitmaking group the Jackson Five. His incredible musical and dance talents – along with his sparkling star power - were quickly apparent, and he became the leader of the group. He also embarked on a solo career in the early ’70s.
By the ’80s, when I was growing up, Jackson was a mega-star in his early 20s. I remember learning about Jackson from my older cousin, Dana, who plastered her room with magazine pages and posters and blasted his music nonstop. I didn’t mind: The music was incredible; the moniker “King of Pop” seemed appropriate.
Even more, Jackson broke the race barrier on MTV and set a new standard for live musical performances and music videos.
He was such a showman: My dad recorded the video for “Billie Jean” off a midnight music video countdown that ran on broadcast TV and our whole family watched it again and again. Dad kept that VHS tape for years, until it was just ragged; knowing him, he may even still have it.
Jacko’s 1982 album “Thriller” – which featured the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” ”Billie Jean” and “Thriller” – remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies, according to the AP.
He set a style trend with his single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket, and aviator sunglasses, and he got everyone attempting the moonwalk when he created the distinctive dance.
Later, he became known for other, less savory trademarks. He frequently grabbed his crotch while dancing, and his appearance was considerably – and frequently – surgically altered.
And then it got even weirder: He wore a germ mask, dangled his baby (whose face was shrouded) out a window, turned his Neverland ranch home into a zoo/amusement park, and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. Though he was acquited, the scandal took a terrible toll on his career and image, and he fell on hard financial times.
Perhaps the saddest part of Jackson’s sudden passing is that he never got the chance to redeem himself – to make his big comeback, get past the scandals and weirdness and reestablish himself as a serious musical star. He never had the opportunity get away from Wacko Jacko and back to the King of Pop, or at least just plain Jacko.
And the opportunity was in the offing: He was scheduled to play an unprecedented 50 shows at London’s O2 Arena. The first was scheduled for July 13.
Jackson was in rehearsals in Los Angeles for the concert, which AP reports was supposed to “an extravaganza that was to capture the classic Jackson magic: showstopping dance moves, elaborate staging and throbbing dance beats.”
If he had pulled off the shows - and managed to come across as not totally odd while doing it - he might have been back on the path to regain his pop crown.
As someone who still gets a thrill from hearing ”Thriller,” who can’t help dancing when “ABC” turns up in a movie or ad or on the radio, who goes back sometimes and watches the iconic “Billie Jean” video and just awes at how awesome Jackson once was, I’d like to think The Gloved One would have made the most of his comeback if he’d lived long enough to have the chance. It’s a true shame he didn’t get that chance.
Besides his legions of fans around the world, Jackson had children, siblings, parents, other family members and friends. Our thoughts are with them at this time.
My colleague, Carla Hinton, has written an excellent column about seeing Jackson perform live. Click here to read it.