Michael Jackson, the child star turned King of Pop who set the world dancing but whose musical genius was overshadowed by a bizarre lifestyle and sex scandals, died on Thursday, Reuters reported. He was 50.
Jackson was pronounced dead at about 2:26 p.m. PDT (5:26 EDT) after arriving at a Los Angeles hospital in full cardiac arrest, said Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. The cause of death was not known and an autopsy would likely take place on Friday, he said.
Jackson's sudden death had been reported earlier by U.S. media, which said he was taken ill at his home and rushed to the hospital by paramedics who found him not breathing when they arrived.
Known as the "King of Pop," for hits that included "Thriller" and "Billie Jean," Jackson's dramatic, one-gloved stage presence and innovative dance moves were imitated by legions of fans around the world.
He transformed music videos and his lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he received, made him one of the most successful entertainers of all time.
But Jackson's belief that "I am Peter Pan in my heart", his preference for the company of children, his friendship with a chimp, his high-pitched voice and numerous plastic surgeries also earned him critics and the nickname "Wacko Jacko."
Jackson, who had lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation, had been scheduled to launch a comeback tour from London next month.
Quincy Jones, who helped arrange the music on the album "Thriller" and produced the "Off the Wall" album, told MSNBC: "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news."
"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."
Jackson had been due to start a series of concerts in London on July 13 running until March 2010. The singer had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the past two months. The shows for the 50 London concerts sold out within minutes of going on sale in March.
"Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent, and vision as Michael Jackson," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy in a statement.
"He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility, and sheer star power carried him from childhood to worldwide acclaim."
There were concerns about Jackson's health in recent years but the promoters of the London shows, AEG Live, said in March that Jackson had passed a 4-1/2 hour physical examination with independent doctors.
Outside the hospital in Los Angeles about 200 fans and reporters gathered on Thursday, waiting for confirmation of Jackson's death or condition.