LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson, who became known the world over as the “King of Pop” before his life and career deteriorated in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 50.
The circumstances of Jackson's death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to the hospital, Ruda told the newspaper.
“It's completely shocking isn't it?” said Derek Brown, 27, executive assistant to the CEO at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma and a member of the local band Crocodile.
Brown's wife and bandmate, Rachael Brown, 27, said she cried when she heard the news of Jackson's death.
“Oh, man, I'm so bummed,” she said. “I just absolutely love Michael Jackson. ... He influences what I write now ... The last time I cried about something like this, I cried when (famous New York nightclub) CBGB's closed, and when (Thursday news broadcasts) started playing his videos, oh man, it was rough.”
Jackson's death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music's premier performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
“His influence on popular music and popular culture was, aside from Elvis and the Beatles, ... the most of all-time,” said Travis Searle, 28, owner of Guestroom Records in Norman and Oklahoma City.
Jackson began as a child performer in Gary, Ind., with the Jackson 5, which included his brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon. The Jackson 5 performed at the Tulsa Assembly Center in July 1972 and at the Myriad in March 1973.
Jackson's “Off the Wall,” released in 1979, was produced with Quincy Jones and contained four No. 1 hits.
Oklahoman entertainment writer George Lang said ‘Off the Wall' supplied a dignified coda for the disco era.
“With Jackson's new maturity as a vocalist, ‘Off the Wall' generated a perfect storm of pop,” wrote Lang in March.
Brown said Jackson has been one of his biggest musical influences.
“(Crocodile is) totally guilty of having ‘Off the Wall' in the control room, trying to make sure the snare and kick drum sound the exact same way or as close as possible to that we could get it to some of that stuff on ‘Off the Wall'.”
Jackson's 1982 album “Thriller” — which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” — remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies.