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Culture

Death of ‘King of Pop’ at 50 raises many questions

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-27

Celebrities and fans around the world mourn the death of music icon Michael Jackson at age 50 after an apparent cardiac arrest, and amid speculation of prescription drug abuse. Authorities say definitive autopsy results could take weeks.

Michael Jackson was taking prescription drugs as he battled to get into shape for his gruelling concert comeback due to get underway in London next month, a lawyer for the family said Thursday.
   
Jackson, who fought long-running battles with prescription medication throughout his career, was taking the drugs after suffering injuries during training for his comeback, attorney and spokesman Brian Oxman said.
   
The Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed the death of the 50-year-old "King of Pop" after he reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest.
   
Oxman told CNN that he had harbored concerns about Jackson's use of drugs, saying members of the star's entourage were "enablers" and comparing his case to the drug overdose death of Playboy centerfold Anna-Nicole Smith.
   

"This is not something that has been unexpected... because of the medications which Michael was under," Oxman said from the hospital where Jackson's family members had gathered.
   
"The people who have surrounded him have been enabling him... if you think that the case of Anna-Nicole Smith was an abuse, it was nothing to what we have seen in Michael Jackson's life.
   
"I do not know the extent of the medications that he was taking but the reports we had been receiving in the family is that they were extensive," Oxman added.  
  
Meanwhile Jackson's former publicist Michael Levine said in an email to AFP that he was unsurprised by the death.
   
"I must confess I am not surprised by today's tragic news," Levine said.
   
"Michael has been on an impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years. His talent was unquestionable but so too was his discomfort with the norms of the world.
   
"A human simply can not withstand this level of prolonged stress."

 

 

Fans worldwide grieved for Jackson on Friday, while many friends hailed his "genius" but raised questions about the King of Pop's entourage and drug consumption.
   
Fans from Paris to Sydney planned candlelit vigils for the 50-year-old superstar who died on Thursday from a cardiac arrest. At the Glastonbury pop festival in Britain, thousands danced to Jackson's best-known songs such as "Thriller" and "Billie Jean."
   
US President Barack Obama thought the troubled megastar was a "spectacular  performer, a musical icon," his spokesman said in a first White House reaction to Jackson's demise.
   
"The president also said that he had aspects of his life that were sad and tragic, his condolences went out to the Jackson family and fans that mourned his loss."
   
Some of the biggest names in entertainment also paid tribute.
   
Pop diva Madonna called Jackson "one of the greats" of music. "I can't stop crying over the sad news," she told celebrity website People.com. "The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever."
   
Beatle Paul McCartney hailed Jackson as a "massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul."
   
Singer Liza Minnelli called Jackson "a genius talent, who revolutionised show business." Actress Elizabeth Taylor, another of Jackson's longstanding friends, was "too devastated" to issue a statement, her spokesperson said.
   
Quincy Jones, who produced the "Thriller" album, said: "To this day, that music is played in every corner of the world, and the reason is because he had it all -- talent, grace and professionalism."


   
The star's first wife Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, said: "I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible. I am heartbroken for his children, who I know were everything to him, and for his family."
   
"Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson," film director Steven Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly.

 

Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of London department store Harrods, said he would erect a statue in honour of Jackson, as he did for the late Princess Diana.
    
French electronic music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre said Jackson was an Elvis "in reverse."
   
"All great American musicians are ones that made the link between black and white music, and Michael was obsessed with that colour change, both physically and musically."
   
Tommy Mottola, the former head of Sony Music who released Jackson's records for 16 years, said the singer had a place in the pantheon of American music.
   
"In pop history, there's a triumvirate of pop icons: Sinatra, Elvis and Michael, that define the whole culture," he told the Los Angeles Times.
   
But many lamented the pressures of his eccentric private life, financial troubles and his planned comeback.
   
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger highlighted Jackson's influence but said there were "serious questions" about the singer's personal life.
   
Jackson was a "universal star" whose "tragic" destiny places him alongside Monroe, Dean and Elvis, France's Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said.
   
All "ended (their lives) in a manner not very different to his, devoured by medication in great solitude," he told Europe 1 radio.
   
Jackson's former producer and friend Tarak Ben Ammar denounced the pop icon's doctors as "criminals" who had taken advantage of his hypochondria.
   
"It's clear that the criminals in this affair are the doctors who treated him throughout his career, who destroyed his face, who gave him medicine to ease his pain," he told French radio.
 

Date created : 2009-06-26

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