Follow Us on Twitter

Obituary: Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Obituary by Jack Foley

POP legend Michael Jackson has died in Los Angeles at the age of 50.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s home around noon local time on Thursday (June 25, 2009) after he stopped breathing and suffered a suspected heart attack.

He was rushed by ambulance to a local medical centre, but reports of his death began to circulate shortly afterwards. A celebrity website (TMZ) was the first to break the news, but confirmation arrived soon after from the likes of the Los Angeles Times and the BBC.

The LA Coroner officially announced the death at half past midnight (GMT) on Friday, June 26 – just after lunchtime in LA on the 25th.

News of Jackson’s death has sent shockwaves around the world. The singer – best known for hits including Thriller, Billie Jean and Bad – had been due to begin a series of comeback concerts at London’s O2 Arena on July 13 despite concerns over his health.

It immediately became the No.1 news story in America and Japan, while news desks of countries throughout the world were flooded with messages of sympathy by Jackson’s many fans.

Legendary producer Quincy Jones, who worked with Jackson on both his Off The Wall LP and the seminal Thriller, told the TMZ website: “I’ve lost my little brother today and part of my soul has gone with him.”

He paid tribute to Jackson’s “talent, grace, professionalism and dedication”.

A legacy that will live forever…

Michael Jackson will forever be remembered for his unique blend of soul, funk and rock, as well as his live performances, which constantly saw him being hailed as one of the world’s greatest showmen.

He also sold records by the million and broke records along the way. He was a 13 time Grammy winner and a two-time inductee of the Music Hall of Fame.

But he found fame at an early age [11], achieving his first break in 1968 when the Jackson Five were signed to the Motown label.

Hits like I Want You Back, ABC and I’ll Be There all went to No.1 in the US in 1970, and the Jackson 5 became the first group in pop history to have their first four singles top the charts.

The songs themselves achieved a timeless quality and are regularly played on radio stations, on movie soundtracks and at weddings and party seasons.

However, as Michael got a feel for the business, he branched out on his own and enjoyed a string of solo hits, including Got To Be There, Rockin’ Robin and Ben, a paean to a rat.

The mid-‘70s, however, saw a downturn in both Michael and his brothers’ careers and Motown ended its interest in the group. But he wasn’t down for long and, while filming musical The Wiz, an all-black retelling of The Wizard of Oz, he met music producer, composer and arranger, Quincy Jones. The meeting was to form the basis of one of the most prolific collaborations in music history.

Jones already had a formidable reputation, having created hits for artists like Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and George Benson, but recognising Jackson’s raw talent, he provided a breathtaking platform from which it flourished.

Their first collaboration, Off The Wall, was released in 1979 and became the first album to provide four top 10 US hits for one artist, in the form of its title track, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Rock With You and She’s Out of My Life.

Then came Thriller. Comprised of just nine tracks, seven of which spawned hit singles, the album became the best-selling album of all time, with at least 55 million copies bought to date.

Among its hits were Billie Jean, Beat It and the title track, which also spawned the genre-defining John Landis-directed video – a 16-minute big-budget dance extravaganza featuring cutting-edge special effects and the voice of veteran horror actor, Vincent Price.

The success of Thriller prompted a purple patch in the singer’s career and he also recorded a series of hit duets with the likes of Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.

With McCartney, he dueted on The Girl Is Mine and the chart-topping Say Say Say, while with Jagger he delivered State of Shock.

That same year [1985], Jackson teamed up with Lionel Ritchie to co-pen the USA For Africa charity single, We Are The World, which reached number one in the US.

Jackson’s third Quincy Jones produced album Bad was released in 1987 and despite failing to sell as many copies as Thriller, it was still a massive success with hit singles including Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana.

It also featured another memorable video – this time a 17-minute Martin Scorsese-directed promo of the title track.

Having achieved such giddy highs for so long, however, Jackson found it hard to replicate his success with his next few releases and the pressures of fame and success began to show.

1991’s Dangerous featured a more stripped-down sound than its three predecessors and spawned the hits Heal the World and Black and White, but failed to sell as many copies as its three predecessors.

And then his profile was rocked by tabloid headlines surrounding his personal behaviour and court cases which increasingly threatened to damage the singer’s reputation.

In 1995, he released HIStory, a compilation of old hits and new material, but failed once again to sell as many copies as predicted – and seemed to be getting increasingly desperate to attract attention.

One song, in particular, They Don’t Care About Us, was described by former supporter Steven Spielberg as anti-Semitic, while his decision to surround himself by children and a rabbi at the 1996 Brit Awards ceremony in London caused widespread controversy.

By the time of the release of Jackson’s final album Invincible, in 2001, sales had all but dwindled and it failed to maintain a consistent chart position.

Jackson subsequently disappeared from the music scene but regularly made the headlines owing to some bizarre behaviour and court cases involving child molestation charges that threatened to tarnish his image.

He rode the storm, however, and owing to the continued support of his die-hard fanbase announced a series of comeback concerts earlier this year, which were due to have started at the O2 Arena on July 13.

The tickets sold out in record time and prompted rumours of new material from the singer. But many friends and medical experts had predicted the singer would find the 50-gig marathon a risky proposition that his body would struggle to cope with.

Many have since speculated that the tour, and its pressures, may have contributed to the singer’s untimely death.

Michael is survived by three children – Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II – as well as by his mother, Katherine, father, Joseph and eight siblings – including Janet, Randy, Jermaine and La Toya Jackson.

The world pays tribute to Michael Jackson

Leave your tribute…

  1. I’m in shock… Michael informed my choices as a music fan and his music spoke to me at an early age. No matter what you may have thought of some of his more recent behaviour, songs such as Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough will forever live as classics. RIP Michael… you will be missed

    James    Jun 26    #
  2. I’m numb. Michael was the greatest. I had tickets for the O2 Arena and I can’t believe I won’t be seeing him. His music lives on, though. An incredible talent…

    Sarah    Jun 26    #
  3. OMG… devastated. Woke up this morning and my world was shattered. Michael will live long in our memories and his music will continue to enrich the world. It is timeless.

    Mya    Jun 26    #
  4. God love and bless you, Michael…

    Enric    Jun 27    #
  5. The man was a musical genius. Thriller, Bad, Off The Wall, The Jackson 5… all timeless. If celebrity events overtook his music, maybe that says more about the times in which we live than anything about Jackson himself. His music, his live performances and his videos do the talking, and they’ll survive and live long after the memory of his controversies has died.

    Simon    Jun 30    #