Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine Jackson has spoken about his brother's death as tributes flow from across the entertainment world.
The superstar, whose 1982 album Thriller yielded seven top-ten singles and sold 21 million copies, reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead by doctors after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma.
Across the United States, people reacted in stunned disbelief as word spread.
Within minutes of Jackson's arrival by ambulance at UCLA Medical Centre people began arriving by the hundreds, the crowd quickly filling a grassy entrance outside the hospital.
As word spread that Jackson had been pronounced dead, several people burst into tears. Others simply stood in disbelief. Still others whipped out cell phones and began calling or texting friends.
A spokesman for the LA Coroner, Fred Corral, told CNN that the LA police department was told Jackson had been unresponsive to resuscitation attempts. He was pronounced dead at 2.26pm local time (9.26am NZ time).
He said an autopsy would be carried out tomorrow. A helicopter has reportedly flown the superstar's body from the LA hospital as the police launch an investigation into his death.
Jermaine Jackson said paramedics had attempted to resuscitate the pop star while they took him to the hospital.
"Upon arriving at the hospital ...a team of doctors including emergency physicians and cardiologists attempted to resuscitate him for a period of more than one hour. They were unsuccessful."
"Our family request that the media please respect our privacy during this tough time and may all love be with you Michael always. Love you."
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.
Jackson, who fought long-running battles with prescription medication throughout his career, was taking the drugs after suffering injuries during training for his comeback, lawyer and spokesman Brian Oxman said.
Mr Oxman told CNN that he had harboured 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 centrefold Anna-Nicole Smith.
"This is not something that has been unexpected... because of the medications which Michael was under," Mr Oxman said from the hospital where Jackson's family members had gathered.
Jackson's former wife Lisa Marie Presley said she was shocked at Jackson's death. "I'm heart broken for his children who were everything to him, and his family," the daughter of Elvis Presley said.
"This is such a massive loss on all levels. Words fail me," she told CNN.
Music producer Quincy Jones, who collaborated with Jackson on three of his best-selling albums, Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, said in a statement: "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic an unexpected news. For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at this young age, I just don't have the words."
Actress Brooke Shields, a longtime friend of the King of Pop, said: "My heart is overcome with sadness for the devastating loss of my true friend Michael. He was an extraordinary friend, artist and contributor to the world. I join his family and his fans in celebrating his incredible life and mourning his untimely passing.''
Pop star Madonna told People magazine: "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. My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family. God bless.''
Representatives for actress Elizabeth Taylor, another of the singer's long-time friends, said she was "too devastated by the passing of her dear friend Michael Jackson to issue a statement at this time.''
At Times Square in New York, where people had begun gathering as word spread that Jackson had fallen ill, a collective groan went up from the crowd as the words announcing his death flashed across a giant TV screen.
During Los Angeles' notoriously slow-paced rush-hour commute, Jackson's music could be heard blaring from several cars along busy Wilshire Boulevard.
"I'm in shock. He's gone. The legend of music,'' Becky Williams said in disbelief as she stood outside Jackson's home in Los Angeles, Holmby Hills.
Another neighbor, Roxana Radnia, was driving past Jackson's home when she saw an ambulance.
''I was just listening to his music, to 'Thriller,' yesterday on my iPod,'' said Radnia, 21. ''And now this. It's surreal.''
IN NEW ZEALAND
Music stores throughout the country are reporting noticeable increases in Michael Jackson CD and DVD sales.
Ryan Munro, sales assistant at Auckland's Newmarket CD and DVD Store, said the store had sold "a lot more" than usual.
"We've pretty much sold out - we've got one left."
Eve Benson, sales assistant at Wellington's Slow Boat Records, said customers were after "old-school" Michael Jackson records.
"We've had people phoning up up trying to get vinyl ... there's been a lot of talk in the store."
While the small independent store usually sells about one Michael Jackson record a week, today they had sold at least half a dozen by 2pm.
Meanwhile Sir Howard Morrison and Sony Music boss Paul Ellis have paid tribute to Michael Jackson, describing him as a musical genius.
Ellis, a former New Zealand Idol judge, said it was "an incredibly sad day for music worldwide".
Jackson knew the lyrics to all the great songs from the 1920s right through to today, he said.
"This is the thing I knew from working with him," Mr Ellis said.
"He was a walking, human jukebox."
Sir Howard, who met Jackson when he toured New Zealand in 1996, called his death a "great shock".
"You can't put him in a little pocket and explain how good he is ... the man is a genius in dance form, in choreography, voice, arrangements and dedication," Sir Howard said.
Jackson had been due to start a series of comeback concerts in London on July 13 running until March 2010. The singer, whose hits include "Thriller" and "Billie Jean," had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the past two months.
The shows for the 50 London concerts sold out within hours of going on sale in March.
Jackson started out as a child star in the band The Jackson 5 more than 40 years ago.
He has lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation.
There have been 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.
CHILD STAR TO MEGASTAR
Jackson was born on Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children. Five Jackson boys - Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael - first performed together at a talent show when Michael was 6. They walked off with first prize and went on to become a best-selling band, The Jackson Five, and then The Jackson 5.
Jackson made his first solo album in 1972, and released ''Thriller'' in 1982, which became a smash hit that yielded seven top-10 singles. The album sold 21 million copies in the United States and at least 27 million worldwide.
The next year, he unveiled his signature ''moonwalk'' dance move while performing ''Billie Jean'' during an NBC special.
In 1994, Jackson married Elvis Presley's only child, Lisa Marie, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1996. Jackson married Debbie Rowe the same year and had two children, before splitting in 1999. The couple never lived together.
Jackson has three children named Prince Michael I, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II, known for his brief public appearance when his father held him over the railing of a hotel balcony, causing widespread criticism.
A look at the career of Michael Jackson:
- Aug. 29, 1958: Michael Joseph Jackson is born in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children.
- 1963: After several years of training, The Jackson 5 begin to perform in public.
- Dec. 14, 1969: The Jackson 5 appear on the ''The Ed Sullivan Show.''
- 1970: Their first album, ''Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5,'' includes the hit singles ''I Want You Back'' and ''I'll Be There,'' which go to No. 1.
- 1972: While still singing with the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson puts out his first solo album, ''Got to Be There.''
- 1979: Jackson's first solo album as an adult, ''Off the Wall,'' is released. He becomes the first solo artist to place four singles from the same record in the top 10.
- 1982: His album ''Thriller'' wins a record eight Grammys and becomes the world's biggest selling record of all time. Along with the title track, it includes the songs ''Billie Jean'' and ''Beat It.''
- 1983: Jackson electrifies the 50 million viewers of the ''Motown 25'' television special by singing and dancing to ''Billie Jean'' while wearing a black fedora, one white glove, and pants that end above his ankles.
- 1984: During production of a Pepsi-Cola commercial, Jackson's scalp sustains burns when an explosion sets his hair on fire.
- 1985: Jackson and Lionel Richie write what becomes one of the fastest-selling singles ever with ''We Are the World.'' The song was produced to raise money for victims of the Ethiopian famine.
- 1987: His album ''Bad'' produces five No. 1 singles and sells at least 22 million copies worldwide.
- 1995: Releases the album ''HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I.'' In August, the song ''You Are Not Alone'' becomes the first single in pop music history to enter the Billboard chart at No. 1.
- 1997: The album, ''Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix,'' sells in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, disappointing numbers for Jackson.
- Reuters, AP, and Stuff.co.nz