Michael Jackson, King of Pop, Dead at 50

International pop icon Michael Jackson dies after suffering cardiac arrest.

June 25, 2009, 6:16 PM

June 25, 2009 — -- Michael Jackson, the self-anointed "King of Pop" who revolutionized music but whose legacy was marred by allegations of child molestation and bizarre behavior, died after suffering cardiac arrest Thursday.

He was 50 years old and preparing for what he had said would be his final series of live performances.

Jackson's older brother, Jermaine Jackson, 54, told the media that emergency room doctors worked to resuscitate the pop star for one hour after he arrived at the hospital.

"They were unsuccessful," he said. Michael Jackson's personal physician was with the singer when he collapsed in his home and worked to try to revive him.

"May Allah be with you, Michael, always," Jermaine Jackson said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was called to Jackson's residence at 12:26 p.m. P.T. Paramedics performed CPR on Jackson, who was not breathing when they arrived at his home. He was rushed to LA Medical Center, just six miles from his home.

Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of legendary rock and roll innovator and pop megastar Elvis Presley, was married to Jackson from 1994 to 1996.

"I am completely shocked and saddened by Michael's death. My heart goes out to his children and his family," said Presley in a statement.

Watch "The Life and Death of Michael Jackson" on a special edition of "20/20" TONIGHT at 9 p.m. ET.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who some would say was one of Jackson's closest friends, was "too devestated by the passing of her dear friend" to issue a statement, according to her publicist.

"For a long time he was unquestionably the most famous person on the planet," Jed Hilly, the executive director of the Americana Music Assocation, told ABCNews.com.

Brooke Shields, who briefly dated Jackson, also issued a statement on his passing.

"My heart is overcome with sadness for the devastating loss of my true friend Michael. He was an extraordinary friend, artist and contributor to the world. I join his family and his fans in celebrating his incredible life and mourning his untimely passing," said Brooke Shields.

Italian legend, Sofia Loren who was friends with Jackson, told Italy's ANSA news agency, "There will never be another Michael Jackson…I am devastated. The world has lost an Icon, with his songs he gave the world a treasure."

"I hope he finds the peace he needs after so much suffering," she added.

Chris Connelly, an ABC News contributor, was one of the last people to interview Jackson, and said today that the pop star was "determined to convey that he had greater things ahead of him."

"The word he spoke with the greatest emphasis was the 'More!' that he exclaimed when I asked if he could still do all his famous moves and hit all those notes at the age of 50," said Connelly of his August 2008 phone interview with Jackson.Connelly asked Jackson if he had received his AARP membership, a question that garnered a laugh from the star.

"In an all-too-short life that in so many ways was filled with enigmatic emotions, or troubling ones, his laugh sounded fresh, clear and altogether genuine," said Connelly. "If only there had been more of those."

Jackson's death came less than a month before the start of a scheduled series of so-called comeback concerts. From July 13 to March 6, 2010, Jackson was scheduled to perform 50 sold-out concerts at London's O2 Arena.

Jackson is survived by his three children, Prince Michael I, Paris and Prince Michael II.

Fans last heard from Jackson during a press conference in London last March, where he assured about 2,000 fans that his upcoming concert would be his "final curtain call."

"I just want to say that these will be my final show performances in London," he said to the screaming crowd. "This will be it. When I say this is it, this will be it."

Born Michael Joseph Jackson in Gary, Ind., in 1958, "The King of Pop" was the fifth of nine children of Joe and Katherine Jackson. Both parents instilled a love of music early in their children's lives: Katherine taught them folk music while Joe, a budding guitarist, managed them and molded their musical work ethic.

Michael was only 4-years-old when he started singing with his older brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon and formed the original Jackson 5.

The brothers were discovered by Motown singers Diana Ross and Gladys Knight and pianist Billy Taylor after a performance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y. Motown Records founder Berry Gordy would soon sign them to a contract.

Gordy's investment paid off: The Jackson 5 broke through to national stardom in 1969-70 with four consecutive hit songs. Energetic, dancing prepubescent Michael was the standout of the group.

"I saw so much of myself as a child in Michael," Diana Ross told a reporter in 1970. "He was performing all the time. That's the way I was. He could be my son."

From 'Thriller' to Oddball

While still a member of the Jackson 5, Jackson made his first solo album, "Got to Be There," in 1972. He began to define himself as a solo artist with the 1979 release of "Off the Wall." However, he became an international phenomenon when "Thriller" sold 16 million copies worldwide in 1983.

Propelled by songs such as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," as well as his unique "moonwalk" dance and his music videos, "Thriller" became the second-greatest-selling album of all time. He appeared in magazines worldwide as fans imitated the moonwalk and wore the single sequined glove and high-water pants he popularized at one point. Not even an accident during filming of a Pepsi commercial where his hair caught fire could stop Jackson from becoming a pop icon.

After "Thriller," Jackson's physical appearance began to change drastically. The headlines didn't focus on it at the time, but when Jackson released "Bad" in 1987, he appeared to have much more feminine facial features.

His complexion, once brown, morphed into a pasty white. His once-flat nose was reshaped, his cheekbones were more defined and his hair -- once a Jeri-Curled Afro -- was completely straightened.

Jackson denied having extensive plastic surgery and blamed his change in skin tone on vitiligo, a pigment disorder.

Then his behavior appeared to become increasingly odd, with reports that he slept in a hyperbaric chamber and tried to buy the Elephant Man's bones. In 1991, around the time of the release of "Dangerous," he began calling himself "The King of Pop" with no explanation but in apparent homage to his influence and his record-breaking success as an artist. However, Jackson was still recognized primarily for his talent and perhaps perceived as benevolently eccentric.

The Child Molestation Cloud and Trial

But Jackson's career took a darker turn in 1993 when a 12-year-old boy accused him of molestation. Jackson always denied any wrongdoing and was never charged in that case. Santa Barbara County, Calif., prosecutors decided not to pursue a criminal case when they said the alleged victim refused to testify. Jackson ultimately settled a civil suit filed by the boy's family for a reported $20 million. But suspicions of child molestation continued to follow Jackson and he went on trial after a boy who appeared with him in "Living With Michael Jackson" accused him of wrongdoing.

Jackson raised eyebrows during the documentary when he talked about his fondness for having innocent sleepovers with children at Neverland. While holding hands with his accuser in his criminal case, he said, "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone."

Jackson insisted the practice was innocent and involved nothing of a sexual nature. "I give them hot milk, you know, we have cookies. It's very charming. It's very sweet. It's what the whole world should do."

However, Santa Barbara County prosecutors did not think the practice was so innocent, and the documentary led to a raid of Neverland and Jackson's arrest for child molestation.

A California jury of eight women and four men acquitted Jackson of molestation, attempted molestation, playing minors with liquor, and conspiracy stemming from an alleged attempt to hold hostage the accuser and his family at Neverland after the documentary aired. Jackson's defense argued that the alleged victim and his family made up the allegations in an attempt to get money.

In the last decades of his life, headlines focused less on Jackson's music and more on his bizarre behavior, marriages and child molestation suspicions. His record sales dwindled. Jackson's last studio album, 2001's "Invincible," sold just more than 2 million albums (8 million worldwide) -- successful to most artists but a disappointment for the "King of Pop." Despite hitting the top of the music charts worldwide, Jackson hadn't had a No. 1 single in the United States since 1995's "You Are Not Alone."

Jackson was married briefly to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis. A three-year marriage to his dermatology nurse, Debbie Rowe, followed, and she bore him a son and a daughter, Prince Michael I and Paris. Jackson had a third child, Prince Michael II, by another, unidentified woman in 2002.

Jackson stirred outrage when he dangled a then-infant Prince Michael II from the balcony of a Berlin hotel in November 2002. He denied purposely endangering his child, and German authorities decided not to pursue charges.

There have been reports of financial trouble ever since his 2005 child molestation trial. Last year, he was forced to sell his famous Neverland ranch. In April, 2,000 items from his Neverland estate will be up for auction at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The entire sale is estimated to bring in between $1.5 million and $3 million, according to Darren Julien, the head of Julien's Auctions, which is conducting the sale.

Clouded Legacy

It remains to seen whether Jackson will be remembered primarily for his music or the child molestation scandals that followed him. Despite his acquittal, some critics – and former fans -- had lingering questions about his friendships with young boys that lasted to his death.

Though he dubbed himself "The King of Pop," Jackson also believed he was a modern-day version of Peter Pan, saying that he never had a childhood. He said he built his Neverland ranch not only as a refuge for himself but for children -- especially those who are ill or less fortunate -- to enjoy.

Jackson's fans and detractors will always debate his public persona, but his legacy in the music industry is undeniable. He won 18 Grammys in his career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as both a solo artist and member of the Jackson 5. Jackson's revolutionary videos for "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" put MTV on the map. His influence is found in some of today's chart-toppers, such as Usher, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, who say they grew up listening to him. Jackson was also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

ABC News' Russell Goldman contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events