LOS ANGELES — The king is dead.
On the afternoon of June 25, music icon Michael Jackson’s heart suddenly stopped at his Hollywood home. Paramedics and doctors could not revive him. The media competition began. Gossip website TMZ.com reported it first, and soon ABC and NBC were quoting the celebrity gossip site as if it were CNN or BBC “"‚ as if it were a colleague. CNN confirmed it last, but the news was true all the same. The King of Pop was gone forever. Michael Joseph Jackson, age 50.
Fans responded quickly.
A swarm gathered at UCLA Medical Center with pictures of his face and shirts with his name.
As news of his death sent shock waves the world still mourned the passing of Farrah Fawcett, who lost her battle with cancer, and Ed McMahon, whose combination of medical illnesses took his life several days ago. Three icons in a matter of less than a week, and in its wake the public still grapples to cope with it. Yet it was Mr. Jackson’s death which proved to overwhelm the public.
Jackson once revealed in a televised interview that the most honest song he has ever written, the song he feels people should examine when it comes to him, is “Childhood” from the album HIStory. The first verse of the song reveals a poignant fact, “no one understands me.”
And in the aftermath of his sudden death, questions still abound in attempts to understand how this King of Pop, the artist who enamored fans with his dancing and music, could have fallen from grace so tragically.
Although we may never know the truth to the molestation charges pressed against him, the scandal was detrimental enough and made a lasting impression. Mr. Jackson lost credibility among many fans and friends as his antics grew increasingly questionable “" from wearing pajamas while on trial or jumping on the roof of his car before onlookers outside the courthouse.
What does remain is a prolific body of work which has inspired generations of musicians, artists and actors.
The beginnings of Michael Jackson, as one of seven musically gifted children, hail from Gary, Indiana. At age five, Mr. Jackson began to reveal his flair for singing during school recitals and eventually became a part of his father’s dream team later known as The Jackson 5. Michael quickly became the most adored brother, captivating audiences as the years went by and fame grew quickly.
After a momentous meeting with legends Barry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, and Diana Ross, it appeared that Mr. Jackson and his brothers were on their way to being stars with hits like “ABC,” “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There.”
The price of fame eventually came at a cost. Unlike most children his age, Mr. Jackson’s catapult toward the limelight cheated him from normal childhood experiences “" a factor that would become a recurring theme in his music and life.
Where most child stars fall into the shadows of entertainment history, Mr. Jackson developed into a man and flourished. And it appeared, with the success of his solo project “Off the Wall” that he might do well after all, but no one could have predicted what would happen in 1982.
Thriller, a compilation of songs that fused his R&B roots with rock and pop, forever bridged the gap between rock and soul. The diverse tracks and addictive melodies pushed the album to record heights. It remains the top selling album of all time. Added to the appeal of his music was the timing of another trend: MTV. Jackson saw the potential in using music videos and was one of the first to use it heavily to promote his work. The apex of this phenomenon came with the featurette video of “Thriller,” an homage to classic horror films, in which Jackson incorporated his own style, music and choreography.
This also marked a period of Michael Jackson’s change in appearance. Mr. Jackson, who was rumored to have undergone excessive plastic surgery, suffered from a debilitating skin disorder called Vitiligo which causes one’s skin pigmentation to become patchy in appearance. This would be the first in a string of social dissections of his eccentricities. Even though his life was often plagued by public scrutiny, the popularity of his music throughout the course of the 80s never faltered, as legions of fans copied his moves and style as “The Gloved One.”
In the end, while most people permanently decided to love, admire, or loathe Michael Jackson, it was the media that truly had the mood swings. There’s no doubt he was often the center of attention by tabloids and the press “" a fickle beast that one moment adored him and the next shut him down.
But the boy from Indiana, whose humble beginnings rooted in a band of brothers, who captivated the world in the 1960s, is gone. And the performer who showed us how to moonwalk, dance the Thriller, and ask the tender question, “Who’s Lovin’ You?” is long gone. And so, too, is the eccentric, increasingly insular celebrity. The legend of Michael Jackson will never be forgotten.
John M. Guilfoil and Brooklynne Peters of the Blast staff and Blast correspondent Ashley Dean contributed to this report.