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World mourns Michael Jackson, hails 'heir to Elvis'

MICHAEL Jackson's death dominated news bulletins, radio airwaves and social networking sites the world over today as tributes poured in for a man called the "King of Pop" and "natural heir to Elvis".

The 50-year-old, whose towering musical legacy was tarnished by often bizarre behaviour and sex scandals, was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm PDT (2126 GMT) yesterday after arriving at a Los Angeles hospital in full cardiac arrest.

"King of pop is dead. Black day for music," was the simple message on the Twitter messaging site left by johnyvergosa.

Other contributors expressed disbelief at the suddenness of Jackson's death, which came less than three weeks before he was due to launch a series of comeback concerts in London.

The singer's lasting appeal, despite life as a virtual recluse since his acquittal of child abuse charges at a sensational 2005 trial, was underlined when 750,000 fans of all ages snapped up tickets for the sellout gigs.

From "Thriller" to "Billie Jean" and "Rock With You" to "The Way You Make Me Feel", Jackson's hits filled the airwaves.

Local politics and global affairs were bumped off the front pages of newspapers, trading rooms across Asia were abuzz with the news and entertainment websites saw a surge in traffic.

"The King of Pop is Dead" read the main headline of Britain's Independent newspaper, below a full-page portrait.

Rina Masaoka, a 21-year-old college student in Japan, said: "This will probably be as shocking as Princess Diana's death."

On Thursday, dozens of fans gathered near Jackson's modest boyhood home in Gary, to pay their respects to the entertainer who left the city long ago.


Commentators reflecting on Jackson's life focused on his flaws as well as his global fame and musical flare.

"For all his tragic flaws as a human being, Jackson could legitimately be seen as the greatest entertainer of his generation, the natural successor to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley," Richard Williams wrote in the Guardian newspaper.

Jackson sold an estimated 750 million records, a figure that is likely to rise with the expected posthumous re-release of his hits. "Thriller", which came out in 1982, remains the best-selling album of all time.

Jackson also won 13 Grammy Awards, made boundary-breaking music videos and his slick dance moves were imitated by legions of fans, and fellow pop stars, around the world.

But his preference for the company of children, high-pitched voice, numerous plastic surgeries and life as a virtual recluse earned him many critics and the nickname "Wacko Jacko."

When he came to London to announce his residency at the O2 Arena starting on July 13, bookmakers immediately took bets on whether he would turn up for the first show, amid concerns and rumours over his physical and mental health.

His sudden death, nevertheless, came as a surprise.

"I spoke to Michael only a few days ago and he was absolutely on top of everything, working hard and really excited about (the) forthcoming shows," said Mark Lester, a former child actor and godfather to Jackson's children.

"It is just unbelievable," he told Sky News.

Quincy Jones, who worked closely with Jackson on some of his most successful recordings, led tributes from the music world.

"I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news," he said of one of the first black entertainers of the MTV generation to gain a big crossover following.

Pop star Madonna said: "I can't stop crying over the sad news ... I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of the greats but his music will live on forever."

Germany's Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, speaking in front of the Adlon Hotel where in 2002 Jackson caused a stir by dangling his baby from a top floor window in front of adoring fans, described Jackson as a truly great artist.

"But his life was also rather tragic in the end...That's why I hope his whole life is taken into account when reflecting upon his death and not only the last few years."


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