Michael Jackson, the singer, songwriter and dancer who earned the title “King of Pop” in a career that reached unprecedented peaks of sales and attention, died Thursday, a Los Angeles city official said. He was 50.
Superstar | It’s easy to forget, now, that as a young man, “Michael Jackson did things that seemed like they hadn’t been done before,” the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said during the 8 p.m. Eastern hour. Mr. Cooper’s guests fondly recalled the glitter glove and the Moonwalk. “It was otherworldly,” agreed John Norris, a former MTV News correspondent. “It’s hard to even talk in 2009 about what the era of the superstar was like.”
Twitter | Our sister blog Bits notes that Michael Jackson topped the charts on Twitter Thursday evening as tens of thousands of people reached to the singer’s death. “He was my childhood,” one user wrote, summing up many of the mournful comments.
Jackson Facts According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Mr. Jackson is the 17th-best selling act of all time, with total sales of 61.5 million in the U.S. Note that this is U.S. sales only. But his most recent album, “Invincible,” released in 2001, has sold only 2.1 million copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Reaction in New York | Mr. Jackson first performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1969 at the age of 9. The Jackson 5 won Amateur Night. “We will always remember Michael in our hearts as a true Apollo legend, known for his professionalism and grace,” said Jonelle Procope, the president of the Apollo Theater Foundation. “Our sympathy goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed.”
From our colleague Tim Arango: It wasn’t exactly a moment like “The Kiss in Times Square,” memorialized by the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1945 after the Japanese surrendered to end World War II, but as they have for decades during major news events, people gathered in Times Square Thursday evening after news broke of Michael Jackson’s death.
At around 7 p.m. tourists were clogging blocked-off sections of Broadway in Times Square, gazing at an ABC News ticker above the ESPN Zone restaurant, snapping pictures of the crawling text telling the world that Jackson had died. Others were facing south, peering up at a Fox News screen. A CNN news crew asked bystanders for reactions.Two Weeks Ago | The celebrity news site TMZ said it had last seen Mr. Jackson on June 9 as his convoy drove away. On that day, a videographer shouted, “Can you still moonwalk?” The window of Mr. Jackson’s vehicle rolled down and the frail-looking singer could be heard saying, through a veil that covered his mouth, “why wouldn’t I be able to?” He flashed a peace sign and the window rose back up.
More Reaction | “I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” the music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement read by MSNBC. Mr. Jones said Mr. Jackson “had it all — talent, grace, professionalism and dedication.” Mr. Jones added, “I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”
Carlos Diaz, a correspondent for the entertainment news show “Extra,” suggested on MSNBC that this is “the day that pop music died.”
John Landis, who directed Mr. Jackson’s most memorable music video, “Thriller,” said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Jackson “was an extraordinary talent and a truly great international star.”
“He had a troubled and complicated life and despite his gifts, remains a tragic figure,” Mr. Landis said.
Update | A Los Angeles city official confirmed that Michael Jackson is dead. The official said he died at 1:07 p.m. Pacific time.
NBC, which had scheduled a one-hour tribute to Farrah Fawcett tonight at 10 p.m., has now expanded that special to two hours, beginning at 9 p.m., to cover the deaths of both Ms. Fawcett and Mr. Jackson. CBS will broadcast a special report covering both deaths at 10 p.m. ABC will air a special report at 9 p.m. as well.Music Memorials | Expect a number of Jackson music marathons in the days to come. According to our colleague Stuart Elliott: WCBS-FM, the oldies station in New York, is broadcasting some of Mr. Jackson’s greatest hits. The station said it would have special programming later in the day.
Mr. Jackson was one of the icons of MTV’s early days in the 1980’s. Our colleague Steve Reddicliffe says that the music channel is now playing the music videos for “Beat It” and “Thriller,” accompanied by a “breaking news” graphic on the screen about the singer’s death.L.A. Times Reports Jackson Is Dead | The newspaper cited “city and law enforcement sources.” The networks and CNN are also broadcasting the news, citing the Times story.