He was a trailblazer. An icon. A world-renowned entertainer and humanitarian. A legend that paved the way for and inspired future entertainers.
These words barely encapsulate what Michael Jackson meant to the music industry, his fans , the Black community and a world that watched him grow up and leave a wealth of memories during his nearly 40-year career.
The beloved King of Pop died Thursday afternoon after going into cardiac arrest and falling into a coma. Jackson, 50, was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with his family by his bedside.
According to reports, paramedics responded to a call at his Bel-Air home at 12:26 p.m. when Jackson was unconscious and not breathing. Family spokesman Brian Oxman said the entertainer had suddenly collapsed at the home. He slipped into a coma as paramedics tried to revive him on the scene.
The news was first reported by TMZ and later confirmed by the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets. Crowds gathered at the hospital and continue to swell the area throughout the day.
Jackson was in the middle of preparing for a 50-show comeback tour in London this summer and was renting the home as a rehearsal space.
Reaction on various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has been immense as fans shared their reflections, discussed favorite songs and consoled each other. Message boards on various websites were flooded with comments and video postings.
Carrying on the legacy of Black performers such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson, Jackson dazzled fans with his dance moves, blew them away with his voice and moved them with his love for not just them but humanitarian causes around the world.
He first made waves with his brothers as the Jackson 5. Starting their career in 1966, they became one of the biggest acts of the 1970â€™s and were regarded as the first Black teen idols to achieve mainstream acceptance.
His solo career started with singles in the 1970â€™s but when his 1979 album â€œOff the Wallâ€ was released â€“ produced by mentor Quincy Jones – it reached astronomical levels, peaking with 1982â€™s â€œThrillerâ€ which sold an estimated 109 million albums worldwide, 28 million in the United States alone.
Starting with â€œI Want You Backâ€ in 1969, the Jackson 5 had a string of hits on the R&B and pop charts over the decade, including â€œABC,â€ â€œIâ€™ll Be There,â€ â€œDancing Machine,â€ and â€œShake Your Body (Down to the Ground).â€
Fans fell in love with the youngest member and his trademark smooth, high-pitched vocals. Even as the groupâ€™s career took off, Jacksonâ€™s solo career was being developed. His first single â€œGot to Be Thereâ€ was released in 1971 and his first No. 1 single â€œBenâ€ followed in 1972.
His star continued to shine as he starred in the 1978 film â€œThe Wizâ€ with another mentor, Diana Ross. When â€œOff the Wallâ€ was released, it was an enormous success with hits such as the title track, the ballad â€œSheâ€™s Out of My Life,â€ and No. 1 hits â€œRock With Youâ€ and â€œDonâ€™t Stop â€˜til You Get Enough.â€
Few, however, could predict the success that his next album â€œThrillerâ€ would be. A sonic, nine-song masterpiece that sounded like few albums of the era or before it, it launched Jackson into a stratosphere only reserved for acts such as The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Seven of the tracks became Top 10 singles, including No. 1 hits â€œBillie Jeanâ€ and the genre-crossing â€œBeat Itâ€. It won a then-record seven Grammys, including Album of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards. It was the best selling album for 1983 and 1984. The title track launched a groundbreaking 13-minute video that has since has been regarded as the greatest of all time.
It also broke racial barriers at MTV. In 1982, his videos for â€œBillie Jean,â€ â€œBeat It,â€ and especially â€œThrillerâ€ made him the first Black pop star of the video era after the network was accused of not playing videos by Black artists.
While Black entertainers such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles had achieved significant solo success, he was arguably the first Black superstar to achieve universal acclaim. He was hailed by many as redefining what being a superstar â€“ and a Black superstar â€“ could be.
â€œThrillerâ€-mania also introduced the world to Jacksonâ€™s famous move, the moonwalk. Performed during â€œMotown 25â€ in 1983, it was a move that shocked everyone as he appeared to walk backwards on air.
As his star remained bright, he used his profile to raise awareness for noble causes. He and Lionel Richie co-wrote the anthem â€œWe Are the Worldâ€ in 1985 to raise aid for Africa and along with Quincy Jones, help gather numerous singers around the country to participate.
Subsequent albums â€œBadâ€ (1987), â€œDangerousâ€ (1991) and â€œInvincibleâ€ (2001), all reaching No. 1 on the Billboard album charts and launching memorable hits such as â€œThe Way You Make Me Feel,â€ â€œMan in the Mirror,â€ â€œBlack or White,â€ and what is now his final Billboard Top 10 hit â€œYou Rock My World.â€
The 1990â€™s were a decade of turmoil as his personal life and publicized trials dominated most of his headlines. He still created hits with â€œYou Are Not Aloneâ€ and â€œScream,â€ a much anticipated collaboration with sister Janet Jackson, and released a greatest hits compilation â€œHIStoryâ€ in 1995.
In 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of child molestation charges in Santa Barbara. His comeback shows this summer at the O2 Arena in London hoped to refocus public awareness on his music, legendary dance moves and ability to entertain like few others had done.
Funeral arrangements were pending at press time.