One day after Michael Jackson’s sudden death, speculation was already turning on Friday to what killed the 50-year-old “King of Pop” just weeks before his long-awaited series of comeback concerts.
Jackson, a former child star who became one of the best-selling pop artists of all time before a descending into a strange and reclusive lifestyle, died on Thursday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been rushed in full cardiac arrest after collapsing at his nearby rental home.
Few details were known early on Friday about the circumstances surrounding his death, but the entertainer was reportedly unconscious and not breathing by the time he arrived at UCLA Medical Center, and doctors were unable to revive him.
His body was flown by helicopter from the hospital to the coroner’s office late on Thursday.
Brian Oxman, a spokesman for the Jackson family, told CNN on Thursday that the family had been concerned about his health and had tried in vain to take care of him for months.
“Michael appeared at rehearsals a couple of times, he was very seriously trying to be able to do those rehearsals,” Oxman said of Jackson’s preparations for a series of 50 concerts that were scheduled to begin in London in July.
“His use of medications had gotten in the way, his injuries which he had sustained performing, where he had broken a vertebrae and he had broken his leg from a fall on the stage, were getting in the way,” Oxman told CNN.
Authorities have scheduled an autopsy for Friday. But they cautioned that it could take weeks to determine a cause of death, which will likely have to wait for the return of toxicology tests. Those tests will determine if Jackson had any drugs, alcohol or prescription medications in his system.
Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery Homicide division searched Jackson’s home in the upscale Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles at the behest of Chief William Bratton. But they called the investigation an “every day” event.
The London concert swing was billed as a comeback for Jackson, who dominated the pop charts during the 1980s with such hits as “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” and was credited with turning music videos into a costly and cinematic art form.
Facing a battered reputation and mountain of debts that the Wall Street Journal reported ran to $500 million, Jackson had spent the last two months rehearsing for the London concerts, including Wednesday night at the huge Staples Center arena, home to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.
Despite reports of Jackson’s ill-health, 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.