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History > 2009 > USA > Arts > Music (I)

 

 

 

Nate Beeler

The Washington Examiner        Washington, D.C.

Cagle

26 June 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Differing Sides of Physician

Who Tended to Jackson

 

September 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

 

HOUSTON — Dr. Conrad Murray, who became famous for treating Michael Jackson just before the star’s death, has been sued more than a dozen times for claims including breach of contract and unpaid child support. Yet he has never been sued for malpractice.

The court record highlights two often-contradictory sides of the man at the center of the controversy over Mr. Jackson’s death from an overdose of sedatives.

To many of his patients, he is an affable and sympathetic physician, who took extra time with them and found effective therapies when others had given up. At the same time, he led a stormy and at times racy personal life, playing fast and loose with his obligations and leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills and unwed mothers.

“It’s almost as if when I read the paper, I’m reading about another doctor,” said Michael Goyer, a retired city manager who was treated for heart disease by Dr. Murray in Las Vegas. “I thought he was beyond excellent.”

Dr. Murray, 56, is under investigation for his role in administering various sedatives to Mr. Jackson in the hours before he went into cardiac arrest on the morning of June 25.

This week, one of several women with whom Dr. Murray became romantically entangled testified before a Los Angeles County grand jury, law enforcement officials said. The woman, Nicole Alvarez, 27, an aspiring actress who gave birth to Dr. Murray’s child this spring, began dating him in late 2006, around the same time he met Mr. Jackson. She has first-hand knowledge of the doctor’s relationship with the singer, according to her close friend Ben Harris Jr., who says she told him she accompanied Dr. Murray on at least four visits to Mr. Jackson’s residence in 2007.

Ms. Alvarez has declined to talk with detectives without her lawyer present, and prosecutors are using the grand jury proceeding to compel her to testify, law enforcement officials said.

Dr. Murray worked as Mr. Jackson’s personal physician from May until the time of the singer’s death. He was promised a salary of $150,000 a month, but he was never fully paid, his spokeswoman, Miranda Sevcik, said.

He maintains he did nothing wrong. The Los Angeles County medical examiner has determined Mr. Jackson died of an overdose of propofol, a powerful sedative used during surgery, and another sedative, lorazepam; the police are trying to determine if Dr. Murray made mistakes, either through negligence or by consciously disregarding risks of the drugs, that would warrant a manslaughter or murder charge.

Dr. Murray has told the police he had been trying to wean Mr. Jackson off propofol when he died. That night he had given him three other sedatives, but finally relented to Mr. Jackson’s requests and gave him a dose of propofol in the morning to knock him out, according to a police affidavit. A few minutes later, while the doctor was taking a bathroom break, the singer’s heart stopped.

“He neither prescribed or administered anything to Michael Jackson that should have killed him,” Ms. Sevcik said.

The key question facing prosecutors and the grand jury is whether Dr. Murray was negligent, and if so, to what degree, legal experts said. For an involuntary manslaughter conviction, prosecutors would have to show only that Dr. Murray took a reckless action — one a reasonable doctor would not take — that created a risk of death or bodily injury. For second-degree murder, however, they would have to prove he knew the cocktail of medicines could cause death and ignored the risk, legal experts said.

With the investigation creeping along as the state looks into whether other doctors might have abused prescriptions for Mr. Jackson, Dr. Murray now finds himself at a low point in the tumultuous journey that began when he was a born to a poor single mother on a subsistence farm in Grenada. It continued in Trinidad, where he went to high school, then took him to college and medical school in Houston and Nashville, then on to Southern California, where he began practicing cardiology.

Finally, a personal crisis involving an extramarital affair drove him from San Diego to Nevada, where he met Mr. Jackson.

By all accounts, Dr. Murray has always had a charitable streak, a soft spot for poor people like the ones he grew up with. In June 2006, he founded a cardiology clinic in the impoverished neighborhood of Houston where his father, whom he did not know as a child, had been a doctor for years.

If he is charitable, however, he is also less than reliable in his personal affairs. Dr. Murray has been plagued with unpaid debts, delinquent taxes and lawsuits from creditors, legal records show.

He has fathered at least seven children with six women over the years, most of them out of wedlock, according to a deposition he gave in a 1998 paternity suit in San Diego and a California birth record for his youngest child, who was born in March. He has been sued several times for unpaid child support, and in his youth, he was arrested at least twice on charges brought by female companions, once for fraudulent breach of trust and once for domestic violence, though never convicted.

Dr. Murray declined to be interviewed for this article. His spokeswoman, Ms. Sevcik, said he did not regard his personal life and financial difficulties as germane to the investigation of Mr. Jackson’s death.

Dr. Murray met Mr. Jackson in 2006, when the singer’s daughter, Paris, became ill on a trip with Mr. Jackson to Las Vegas, Ms. Sevcik said. A member of the singer’s entourage knew Dr. Murray and called him in to treat her; he struck up a friendship with Mr. Jackson.

In May of this year, Mr. Jackson hired Dr. Murray to be his personal physician on a forthcoming world tour, at a salary of $150,000 a month. Before taking the job, Dr. Murray consulted with a friend and patient in Houston, the Rev. Floyd N. Williams, about whether it was a good idea. He would be forsaking his practice, he noted.

“I told him if he could make him some money, which he wasn’t making out here, then take it,” Mr. Williams recalled. “I shed a tear that I ever said yes.”

By all accounts, Dr. Murray was in dire financial condition when he took the job. He had fallen $100,000 behind on the mortgage payments on his 5,200-square-foot home in Las Vegas, and faced foreclosure, an official with Stewart Title Foreclosure told The Associated Press.

Since April 2008, his practices in Nevada and Texas have faced $634,000 in court judgments for unpaid rent on office space and medical equipment, court records in both states show. Among the judgments was an order to pay back more than $71,000 in loans he took out to go to Meharry Medical School in Nashville in the late 1980s.

He was also supporting Ms. Alvarez in Los Angeles, who had given birth to his son in March, a California birth certificate shows.

Mr. Harris, Ms. Alvarez’s friend and a Los Angeles novelist, said Dr. Murray became romantically involved with her four years ago in Las Vegas, where she was working as a dancer at the Crazy Horse Too club. They met at the club when Dr. Murray hired Ms. Alvarez for a private dance in the V.I.P. lounge, said Mr. Harris, who was present.

“I’ve hit the jackpot,” Ms. Alvarez told Mr. Harris later that night, showing him a check for $3,500 Dr. Murray had given her.

Mr. Harris said Dr. Murray supported Ms. Alvarez, paying the $2,700 rent on her Santa Monica apartment.

He visited Ms. Alvarez once or twice a month and took her on trips to the carnival in Trinidad, Mr. Harris said. Ms. Alvarez declined to comment through her agent, Karl Sanger.

Dr. Murray’s relationship with Ms. Alvarez is notable because he and his wife, Dr. Blanche Y. Bonnick, had left their practices in San Diego and moved to Las Vegas in part to escape a similar situation.

The doctor had fathered a child with Nenita Malibiran, a married nurse who lived near him in San Diego and worked at Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he was on the staff, her lawyer, Julie A. Brown, said. In 1999, Ms. Malibiran and Dr. Murray fought in court over child support, and the doctor acknowledged he had a history of fathering children and then leaving their mothers, Ms. Brown said.

During the trial, Dr. Murray wept on the stand about missing his newest child, though he had made little attempt to visit him, Ms. Brown recalled. She said the court had a hard time determining his income because he used a corporation to shield assets.

After winning the case, Ms. Malibiran had to sue Dr. Murray several times for failing to pay, most recently gaining a $10,893 lien against him on June 10, court records in California and Nevada show.

Since Mr. Jackson’s death, Dr. Murray has gone into hiding. He has rarely been spotted outside his large Las Vegas home, a $1.1 million house overlooking a golf course.

Despite the controversy over Mr. Jackson’s death, he has a clean history in his medical practice. He is licensed in four states, and has no blemishes on his record. Several patients in Las Vegas and Houston have come forward to vouch for him.

Art Flowers, 80, of Las Vegas, said he turned to Dr. Murray after another physician declined to perform an angioplasty following his second heart attack. Dr. Murray said he would operate.

“My own doctors told me to meditate and mortuate, and he said, ‘I don’t know what’s the matter with these people, we’ve done thousands of patients like you,’ ” Mr. Flowers recalled. “When the Michael Jackson story broke, I couldn’t believe it. Here’s a guy who is not only a very talented cardiologist, but who saved my life.”

    Differing Sides of Physician Who Tended to Jackson, NYT, 27.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/us/27murray.html

 

 

 

 

 

In a Private Service, Last Goodbyes for Jackson

 

September 4, 2009
The New York Times
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

 

GLENDALE, Calif. — More than two months after he died, and following a steady trickle of gossip over how and where he would be laid to rest, family members and friends gathered Thursday night for a private entombment of Michael Jackson at a highly guarded mausoleum in a Los Angeles suburb.

With closed streets, nervous guards and restricted airspace over the grounds, the proceedings were taking on the feel of a presidential visit at the cemetery, Forest Lawn Glendale, where guests began arriving for an evening service.

Only a smattering of fans of Mr. Jackson, one the biggest-selling entertainers of all time, gathered at blockaded streets around the cemetery, with one group unfurling a large white banner that read in part “Gone too Soon.”

Members of the news media — 460 people from the around the world received credentials — far outnumbered the fans, and they greeted every car turning into the gated grounds with a bouquet of camera flashes and quizzical looks. Was that Elizabeth Taylor? Joe Jackson?

The police had the streets and airspace around Forest Lawn virtually locked down, in keeping with the family’s wishes that the service be invitation only.

A memorial service attended by several thousand fans, family members and friends had already been held for Mr. Jackson, 50, who died June 25. The memorial, on July 7 at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, took place in the arena where he had been rehearsing for a series of London concerts expected to revive his career.

But the family never announced burial plans, and news station helicopters lost track of the hearse carrying his gleaming gold coffin after it left the arena.

Representatives of Mr. Jackson inquired about a burial at the Neverland Ranch he lived in for several years until after his acquittal on child molesting charges in 2005, but that proposal would entail months of red tape, local and state officials said.

A couple of weeks ago, his family announced he would be entombed at Forest Lawn Glendale, joining Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, W. C. Fields and many other famed Hollywood figures.

The cemetery, about eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles, covers 300 verdant acres and includes the statue-studded, castle-like Great Mausoleum that was chosen as Mr. Jackson’s final resting place.

The cemetery prides itself on a high level of security, with guards shooing away loiterers and restricting mausoleum visits largely to people authorized by the family of the deceased.

Mark Masek, who maintains cemeteryguide.com, which tracks entertainers’ graves, said that a couple of weeks ago guards stopped him from taking pictures outside the mausoleum and forced him to delete the images.

“They are not kidding,” he said, predicting fans would have trouble finding and documenting Mr. Jackson’s crypt.

“If they wanted to restrict access and keep people out, they could not have picked a better place,” he said.

William Martin, a spokesman for the cemetery, declined to discuss security arrangements for Mr. Jackson’s crypt or what steps might be taken to keep out unwanted visitors.

“We are very cognizant of what may happen in the near future, and we are taking the necessary steps,” he said.

The Glendale police have said the family will pay for the costs of security for the event. The police asked for and received a restriction on the airspace to safeguard helicopter patrols, a police spokesman said.

A judge Wednesday approved Mr. Jackson’s estate paying the costs, with the total described in court papers as “extraordinary,” but the actual amount blacked out. A Glendale police spokesman, Tom Lorenz, said police costs would be no more than $150,000.

The family bought a bloc of 12 spaces in the mausoleum as a single unit.

“Mrs. Jackson and her family wish to honor her son by a funeral that seeks to offer solace to his multitude of fans and by which the family also may be comforted,” Burt Levitch, a lawyer for the singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, wrote in a court declaration.

The investigation into Mr. Jackson’s death continues. The coroner has ruled he died from a mix of the anesthetic propofol and another sedative, injected by somebody.

Mr. Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has told investigators he gave Mr. Jackson a mix of drugs, including propofol, to help him sleep, but it is unclear whether he will face criminal charges. Dr. Murray’s lawyer has said he did not cause Mr. Jackson’s death.

    In a Private Service, Last Goodbyes for Jackson, NYT, 4.0.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/us/04jackson.html

 

 

 

 

 

Disputed Time in Jackson Case Could Be Key

 

August 26, 2009
Filed at 5:16 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A key point of contention has emerged in the case investigators are piecing together about the death of Michael Jackson: Exactly when did Dr. Conrad Murray realize that his patient had stopped breathing?

There are currently two accounts of that moment on June 25, and about an hour separates them.

According to police documents, Murray told detectives he put Jackson to sleep with drugs just minutes before he found the singer not breathing around 11 a.m., then let nearly 90 minutes go by -- much of that time on his cell phone -- before an ambulance was called.

But Murray's lawyer says the doctor didn't discover a stricken Jackson until around noon.

Investigators have ruled Jackson's death a homicide, based on tests showing he was killed by the combination of the anesthetic propofol with at least two sedatives, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the finding has not been publicly released.

The homicide designation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed, though it's a helpful starting point should prosecutors choose to seek criminal charges. Police have said Murray is the target of an investigation into manslaughter, defined as a homicide without malice or premeditation.

Murray told police he spent the morning of June 25 administering various sedatives to Jackson in an attempt to get him to sleep, according to an affidavit for a search warrant served last month on Murray's clinic in Houston. Unsuccessful in inducing rest, the doctor ultimately gave in to the singer's demands for a dose of propofol around 10:40 a.m.

By 11 a.m., after a short trip to the bathroom, Murray said he saw Jackson was not breathing and began trying to revive him, both with a ''rescue'' drug and by performing CPR, according to the documents. An ambulance was not called until 12:21 p.m. and Murray spent much of the intervening time making non-emergency cell phone calls, police say.

That timeline is flawed, said Murray's attorney, Edward Chernoff, who was present when investigators spent three hours interviewing the doctor June 27. Chernoff said Murray never told police he found Jackson not breathing at 11 a.m. -- instead, it was more like noon.

''Their theory is he came back and wasn't breathing. That's not what Dr. Murray told them,'' Chernoff said Tuesday. ''They are confusing the time Michael Jackson went to sleep with the time he stopped breathing.''

Chernoff did not provide additional detail about what Murray had told police.

Home use of propofol is virtually unheard of -- safe administration requires lifesaving equipment and a trained anesthesiologist monitoring the patient at all times. While the 25 mg dose Murray said he gave Jackson was relatively small, its combination with the sedatives lorazepam and midazolam proved deadly.

Even if Murray found Jackson around noon, he still waited too long to call an ambulance, said one medical expert, adding that anyone -- including doctors -- should make calling an ambulance their first priority.

''In a situation like that, time is life,'' said Dr. Douglas Zipes, an Indiana University heart specialist and past president of the American College of Cardiology. ''It's got to be immediate or you are going to lose the individual.''

Phone records show Murray spent 47 minutes between 11:18 and 12:05 making three personal calls. One of the calls was to one of Murray's offices, Chernoff said, adding that the doctor never told investigators about the calls because he wasn't asked about them.

At 12:13 p.m., Murray made a four-second call to Jackson's personal assistant, Michael Amir Williams, pleading for help, Williams' attorney Carl Douglas said. Within two minutes, Williams called Alberto Alvarez, Jackson's bodyguard, with a similar plea.

Douglas, who also represents Alvarez, said the bodyguard hurried to the top floor of Jackson's rented mansion, a private sanctum where staff were not normally allowed, and assisted a confused-looking Murray as he frantically tried to revive Jackson. It was Alvarez that placed the 911 call at 12:21 p.m.

Douglas said Alvarez might be able to shed some light on Murray's actions but, two months after the death, police investigators had still not formally interviewed his client and had only spoken fleetingly with him at the hospital immediately after Jackson was pronounced dead.

Douglas said he was ''dismayed at the seeming haphazard manner investigators have gone about obtaining information.''

Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck declined to comment, citing the continuing investigation.

Chernoff did not provide additional detail about what Murray had told police. Early on in the case, the lawyer released a statement saying his client didn't give any drugs that ''should have'' killed Jackson. Asked to elaborate on the statement, Chernoff said: ''I stand by that assertion and I believe that will be borne out in time.''

    Disputed Time in Jackson Case Could Be Key, NYT, 26.8.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/08/26/arts/AP-US-Michael-Jackson-Investigation.html

 

 

 

 

 

Court Papers Show Jackson Died of Propofol

 

August 25, 2009
The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE

 

LOS ANGELES — Lethal levels of a powerful anesthetic caused Michael Jackson’s death, according to preliminary coroner findings cited in Texas court documents unsealed Monday.

The documents, a pair of search warrants and affidavits filed by the police in July to search the Houston office and storage unit of Dr. Conrad Murray, Mr. Jackson’s private doctor, provide the most detailed evidence against Dr. Murray by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The police told judges in Texas and Nevada that they suspected Dr. Murray of manslaughter, according to documents filed there.

According to the warrants, Dr. Murray told investigators that he had administered an intravenous drip of 50 milligrams of propofol, an anesthetic, to Mr. Jackson nightly for six weeks before the singer’s death at his Holmby Hills home to help him sleep. Dr. Murray also administered lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug that can be addictive, and midazolam, a muscle relaxant, to treat Mr. Jackson’s insomnia.

The chief coroner for Los Angeles County, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, indicated that his preliminary assessment of the cause of death was due to a lethal dose of propofol, according to the court documents. They also describe how Dr. Murray administered propofol and other drugs, including Valium, on June 25, the day Mr. Jackson died.

“After approximately 10 minutes, Murray stated he left Jackson’s side to go to the restroom,” the documents show. “Murray stated he was out of the room for about two minutes maximum. Upon his return, Murray noticed that Jackson was no longer breathing.”

Dr. Murray said he tried to resuscitate Mr. Jackson and administered flumazenil, a drug to reverse the effects of the sedatives in his system, and then called Mr. Jackson’s personal assistant, Michael Amir Williams, for help. Dr. Murray asked the singer’s chef to send one of his sons upstairs to the bedroom as he continued cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Dr. Murray waited about 82 minutes before anyone called paramedics to the home, according to the court documents.

Investigators said Dr. Murray did not initially tell paramedics or doctors that he had given Mr. Jackson propofol.

Mr. Jackson was eventually taken to University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, where he died. Medical experts said Monday that the combination of drugs Mr. Jackson was given would have exacerbated the effect of the propofol.

Drugs like lorazepam and Valium have the effect of slowing a person’s breathing.

“If you are going to put on top of that some propofol, you are not only standing on thin ice, but starting to jump up and down on that ice,” said Dr. John F. Dombrowski, director of the Washington Pain Center. “If you don’t have someone who knows how to manage respiratory depression, you’re going to die.” He and others said because propofol acts so quickly to slow breathing and lower blood pressure, it is possible that Mr. Jackson could have stopped breathing in the short time Dr. Murray indicated he left his bedside to go to the restroom.

The documents indicate that Dr. Murray tried to revive Mr. Jackson with flumazenil, which reverses the effects of benzodiazepines like lorazepam. But “there’s no drug that reverses propofol per se,” said Dr. Robert R. Kirby, an anesthesiologist.

And waiting 82 minutes to call 911 was inexplicable, experts said. “Lord, no; you’d call right away,” Dr. Kirby said.

Investigators said they found numerous bottles of medications prescribed by various doctors at Mr. Jackson’s bedside and throughout his living quarters.

Dr. Murray said that he was not the first doctor to administer propofol to Mr. Jackson, that he suspected Mr. Jackson was addicted to the drug and that he tried to wean him off of it, the documents state. Dr. Murray told the police that the singer referred to propofol as his “milk.” On the day he died, Mr. Jackson was unable to sleep and, after repeated demands, the doctor administered propofol in an IV drip.

Investigators also interviewed Cherilyn Lee, a nurse who described how Mr. Jackson asked her to obtain propofol for him.

“He stated he would pay her or another doctor whatever they wanted for it,” according to the affidavit. Ms. Lee told investigators that she refused.

On June 1, Mr. Jackson’s bodyguard called to tell her Mr. Jackson was ill.

“She heard Jackson in the background saying, ‘One side of my body is hot, and the other side is cold,’ ” according to the affidavits. Ms. Lee told investigators that she told the bodyguard he should go to the hospital.

Dr. Murray was a cardiologist in Houston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles for 20 years. Earlier this year, AEG, an event promoter and stadium operator, hired him to be Mr. Jackson’s personal physician during a planned series of 50 concerts in London, for a monthly salary of $150,000.

An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which investigates prescription fraud, said records showed that despite the discovery of bottles of propofol at Mr. Jackson’s home, Dr. Murray “never ordered, purchased nor received any propofol.” Dr. Murray told investigators that Mr. Jackson obtained propofol from various sources, including two unidentified doctors in Germany and an anesthesiologist in Las Vegas.

Public records show that Dr. Murray was in serious financial trouble before he became Mr. Jackson’s doctor, facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts and liens and a Las Vegas home in foreclosure proceedings.

Ed Chernoff, a lawyer for Dr. Murray, said in a statement: “Much of what was in the search warrant affidavit is factual. However, unfortunately, much is police theory. Most egregiously, the timeline reported by law enforcement was not obtained through interviews with Dr. Murray.”

Lt. Fred Corral, an investigator at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, said the toxicology tests and a final autopsy report had been completed but were being kept confidential at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department, which continues to investigate Dr. Murray.

A spokesman for the police department said he had no official statement since the investigation was continuing.

 

Pam Belluck contributed reporting from Nantucket, Mass.

    Court Papers Show Jackson Died of Propofol, NYT, 25.8.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/us/25jackson.html

 

 

 

 

 

Manslaughter Inquiry Into Jackson’s Doctor

 

July 24, 2009
The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE

 

LOS ANGELES — The cardiologist who tried to revive Michael Jackson the day he died is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department on suspicion of manslaughter, according to two sealed search warrants filed Thursday.

The search warrants confirm that the inquiry into Mr. Jackson’s death last month has become a criminal investigation.

The warrants, filed in Harris County District Court in Texas, were executed by officers with the Los Angeles and Houston police and agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration during the raids Wednesday at an office and a self-storage unit in Houston of the cardiologist, Dr. Conrad Murray.

An inventory of evidence confiscated from the search of the office, at the Armstrong Medical Clinic, includes Rolodex cards, e-mail messages, letters, a phone receipt and two vials of medication — phentermine, an appetite suppressant, and clonazepam, an anti-anxiety drug. Investigators also took a forensic copy of Dr. Murray’s computer.

A list of evidence obtained at a rental storage unit included computer hard drives, compact discs and dozens of documents including a medical suspension notice from a local hospital.

Investigators searched the medical clinic at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday and found receipts for the storage unit, which they raided four hours later.

Charles Lyon, whose wife manages Eighteenth Street Self Storage, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that Dr. Murray rented unit No. 337 on April 1 under the name of Acres Home Heart Vascular Institute.

Mr. Lyon said a Los Angeles police officer and two officers with the Houston Police Department arrived Wednesday afternoon and asked to see the unit.

“Then they went and got a search warrant and I went up there and cut the lock,” he said.

Dr. Murray, who worked in California, Nevada and Texas, is among several doctors police investigators have interviewed in connection with Mr. Jackson’s death. Dr. Murray had been recently hired by Mr. Jackson to attend to him during a planned 50-concert tour.

Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner for Los Angeles County, said he expected his office to issue a final autopsy report next week.

Coroner officials confiscated several bags of medical supplies and drugs from Mr. Jackson’s Holmby Hills home after his death. The cause of his death has been listed as “deferred” pending a death investigation. A coroner’s official said this week that toxicology test results had been completed, but that the results were being analyzed.

Calls to Dr. Murray’s office and to his lawyer, Ed Chernoff, for interviews were not returned. A statement posted Wednesday on Mr. Chernoff’s Web site confirmed that the authorities were investigating his client on suspicion of manslaughter and that they had taken documents and other evidence from his office.

Dr. Murray was well known in Houston, where he practiced medicine in the predominantly black neighborhood of Acres Home, where his father, Dr. Rawle Andrews, had established himself as one the few black doctors serving the community before desegregation.

“Dr. Murray’s been my doctor five or six years,” said Cuney Williams, who had surgery performed by Dr. Murray. “He saved my life and my husband’s life.”

    Manslaughter Inquiry Into Jackson’s Doctor, NYT, 24.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/us/24jackson.html

 

 

 

 

 

Sky Saxon, Lead Singer and Bassist for the Seeds, Dies

 

June 27, 2009
The New York Times
By BRUCE WEBER

 

Sky Saxon, the mop-haired bass player and front man for the psychedelic protopunk band the Seeds, whose 1965 song “Pushin’ Too Hard” put a Los Angeles garage-band spin on the bad-boy rocker image personified by the Rolling Stones, died Thursday in Austin, Tex. He was thought to be 71.

His death was announced by his wife, Sabrina Smith Saxon, on her Facebook page. In a telephone interview on Thursday, she said the cause was heart failure.

Mr. Saxon, who had remained an active musician, played his final gig at an Austin club with a local backup band on Saturday night and was taken to the hospital on Monday, she said.

The Seeds, formed in 1965, were a short-lived but cultishly memorable band that melded primitive rock rhythms with the free-love message of the flower power generation. Both their look (mod fashions and bowl-cut hairdos) and their sound borrowed from British rockers. Critics gave them credit for helping to popularize psychedelic rock and for prefiguring the punk movement.

Mr. Saxon composed songs and played electric bass, but it was perhaps his sullen, stylized lead vocals that best characterized the band. Never as threatening as the Stones, they were, instead, rather sweetly dangerous, appearing on white-bread television music and dance shows like “American Bandstand” wearing tailored bellbottoms and velour shirts or shiny Nehru jackets. Mr. Saxon voiced the vaguely menacing lyrics to songs like “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine,” “Painted Doll” or “Pushin’ Too Hard,” a pulsing, anthemic warning to any girlfriend with ambitions to rein in her man.

The Seeds flamed out in the early 1970s, but they lingered in the annals of rock history as representatives of their time and place. Their songs have appeared in movies including “Cop Land” (1997) with Sylvester Stallone and “Secretary” (2002), the story of a dominant-submissive relationship, which starred James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Sky Sunlight Saxon was the name he used in later years, the middle name given to him in the 1970s as a member of the Source Family, a spiritual cult whose leader — known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha — started what has been described as the quintessential hippie commune; Mr. Saxon was also known within it as Arelich. He was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City in 1937, according to several online sources. Ms. Saxon said her husband’s birthday was Aug. 20 but would not confirm the year because he believed age was irrelevant, she said. He moved to Los Angeles to start a music career after high school.

Mr. Saxon’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, whom he married in 2007, his survivors include an unspecified number of siblings, several children and grandchildren.

After the Seeds dissolved, Mr. Saxon performed and recorded with numerous bands, including some he called the Seeds, and he occasionally played with the Source Family’s own band, known as Ya Ho Wha 13. In 1998, he arranged for a 13-CD boxed set of its music to be produced in Japan.

“Sky has passed over and Ya Ho Wha is waiting for him at the gate,” his wife wrote on Facebook. “He will soon be home with his Father.”

    Sky Saxon, Lead Singer and Bassist for the Seeds, Dies, NYT, 27.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/27/arts/music/27saxon.html?hpw

 

 

 

 

 

Shock and Grief Over Jackson’s Death

 

June 27, 2009
The New York Times
By SHARON OTTERMAN and LIZ ROBBINS

 

Around the country and the world Friday, legions of grief-stricken fans of the King of Pop mourned the sudden death of Michael Jackson with spontaneous flower-laden memorials and emotional tributes, as the autopsy to determine the cause of his mysterious death was scheduled to begin in Los Angeles.

The autopsy would take several hours Friday, but toxicology results could take six to eight weeks, the Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner Lt. Ed Winter told reporters.

Mr. Jackson’s brother Jermaine said on Thursday that the preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest. The singer, 50, had been rushed to the hospital, a six-minute drive from the rented Bel-Air home where he was living, shortly after noon local time by paramedics for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm.

The Los Angeles Police Department opened an investigation, as a formality and because of Mr. Jackson’s enormous celebrity, a police spokesman said, and detectives began their search of Mr. Jackson’s house Thursday.

Brian Oxman, a former lawyer of Mr. Jackson’s and a family friend, gave interviews expressing his concerns about Mr. Jackson’s health, and saying that prescription drugs might have been a factor in his death Thursday.

“I said one day, we’re going to have this experience,” Mr. Oxman said Friday on the Today Show. “And when Anna Nicole Smith passed away, I said we cannot have this kind of thing with Michael Jackson.”

Mr. Oxman told the Early Show on CBS: "I do not want to point fingers at anyone because I want to hear what the toxicology report says and the coroner says. But the plain fact of the matter is that Michael Jackson had prescription drugs at his disposal at all times.”

The Associated Press reported that in 2007, Mr. Jackson settled a lawsuit filed by a Beverly Hills pharmacy that claimed the singer owed more than $100,000 for prescription drugs over a two-year period.

Mr. Jackson was a global pop icon whose behavior and appearance turned more bizarre as his career went into decline and he appeared more frail in recent years. He was haunted by lawsuits, failed plastic surgery and, according to several reports, had debts of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But he was also preparing for a splashy comeback that was to begin in less than three weeks with the first of 50 concerts at London’s O2 Arena. The tour was named “This is It.”

Mr. Jackson’s brand of pop knew no borders and needed no translation, linking listeners around the world through the accessible corridors of rhythm, beat, and dance. As reaction to his sudden death began to pour in Friday, its extent underscored how far his influence had spread. In a way, it was as if his fans were embodying the spirit of Mr. Jackson’s mega-hit song, “We are the World.”

From Sydney to Hong Kong, China to Los Angeles, fans spoke of their shock and sadness. They gathered outside left flowers and a teddy bear outside his childhood home in Gary, Ind.

His music echoed from cafes and car speakers, and everyone from national leaders on down seemed to weigh in.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela called the star’s death “lamentable news,” though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Mr. Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of the world.”

In Paris, fans planned a memorial moonwalk at the Eiffel Tower for Sunday, and a ceremony in his honor is to be held at the 13th-century Notre Dame cathedral Friday night.

Fans lit candles at a spontaneous gathering in Hong Kong, while in the Philippines, a dance tribute was planned for a prison in Cebu, where Byron Garcia, a security consultant, had 1,500 inmates join in a synchronized dance to the “Thriller” video.

“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” he said. Online, the traffic was so thick with people sharing news of his death that the microblogging service Twitter crashed, and even Google, the search giant, believed it may have been under service attack, the BBC reported.

The former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, said she cried on hearing the news.

“Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy,” she said in a statement. “The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us.”

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.

The film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg also paid tribute. Mr. Scorsese told MTV.com: “Michael Jackson was extraordinary. When we worked together on “Bad,” I was in awe of his absolute mastery of movement on the one hand, and of the music on the other. Every step he took was absolutely precise and fluid at the same time. It was like watching quicksilver in motion.

“He was wonderful to work with, an absolute professional at all times, and — it really goes without saying — a true artist. It will be a while before I can get used to the idea that he’s no longer with us.”

Mr. Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly: “Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson. His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make him legend.”

Fellow singer Celine Dion said in a statement, “I am shocked. I am overwhelmed by this tragedy. Michael Jackson has been an idol for me all my life.”

In London, where the start of Mr. Jackson’s comeback tour had been pushed back to July 13 from July 8, and fans the culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw, issued a statement to announce his grief. He said he was “a long-time fan of Michael Jackson and had Billie Jean played as the first dance at his civil partnership,” the Guardian reported.

Bands playing at the open-air Glastonbury Festival in Scotland this weekend were expected to pay homage to Mr. Jackson’s musical achievements, and a tribute show, “Thriller Live,” featuring his songs, was to go forward as planned in London’s West End.

    Shock and Grief Over Jackson’s Death, NYT, 27.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/27/us/27Jackson.html

 

 

 

 

 


 

FACTBOX: Key facts about Michael Jackson

 

Fri Jun 26, 2009
7:11am EDT
Reuters

 

(Reuters) - Michael Jackson, 50, one of pop music's biggest stars, was rushed to a Los Angeles-area hospital by paramedics who found him not breathing when they arrived at his home, the Los Angeles Times said, quoting fire officials. The TMZ website reported later he had died.

There was no official confirmation of the reported death, and spokesmen for Jackson could not be reached for comment.

Here are some key facts about Jackson.



EARLY LIFE:

* Jackson was born on August 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.

* Their group later became The Jackson Five, and when it was signed by Motown Records in the late 1960s it underwent its final metamorphosis to become The Jackson 5. Jackson made his first solo album in 1972.



SUCCESS:

* Jackson released "Thriller" in 1982, which became a smash hit that yielded seven top-ten 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.

* Jackson's lifetime record sales tally is believed to be about 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he has received, makes him one of the most successful entertainers of all time.



ACCUSATIONS:

* In 1993, Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, and police raided his California ranch "Neverland."

* The same year, Jackson announced he had become addicted to painkillers and abruptly canceled a world tour to promote his album, "Dangerous."

* He reached a settlement in 1994, later reported to be $23 million, with the family of the boy he was accused of abusing.
 


MARRIAGE & FAMILY:

* 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.
 


MORE CONTROVERSY:

* A television documentary "Living with Michael Jackson" was aired in 2003, saying that Jackson still had sleepovers with young boys and had his third child with a surrogate mother. Jackson aired his own rebuttal.

* Jackson went on trial in 2005 on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 2003, as well as conspiring to abduct the boy. The singer faced nearly 20 years in prison if convicted.

* The four-month trial ended in June 2005 with his being acquitted of all charges. Jackson has spent time in Bahrain, Ireland and France since the child molestation case ended.



COMEBACK?

* After several false dawns, Jackson and music promoter AEG Live announced he would perform 50 concerts at London's O2 Arena. Jackson had been due to start the concerts on July 13. Jackson had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the London shows, which sold out within hours of within hours of going on sale in March.

    FACTBOX: Key facts about Michael Jackson, R, 26.6.2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUKTRE55O6HP20090626

 

 

 

 

 

The Pop Star and the Private Equity Firms

 

June 26, 2009
9:18 am
The New York Times > Dealbook
 

Michael Jackson delighted people around the world with his music, inspired countless amateur moonwalkers with his moves and had an untold, but surely huge, effect on the sales of individual white gloves.

The pop superstar, who died unexpectedly on Thursday, also kept a lot of people in high finance very busy. His wealth, and, later in his career, his expanding debt, became fodder for deals with private equity firms such as Fortress Investment Group and Colony Capital as well as big banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America.

In the process, his fantastical Neverland Ranch in California was nearly put on the auction block — saved only when one investment firm swooped in to buy the related debt from another firm, with hopes of backing, and profiting from, a revival of Mr. Jackson’s career.

A lot of Mr. Jackson’s monetary dealings have been conducted in private. But several of the pivotal moments have been described in media reports over the years.

Driving many of the deals was Mr. Jackson’s increasingly unmanageable debt load — something that private equity firms can probably relate to these days.

A 2006 article in The New York Times said the principal drains on Mr. Jackon’s finances may have been “monumentally unwise investments that apparently produced equally colossal losses” — and, later, the payments to service his debt.

A financial adviser to Mr. Jackson described how he might have frittered away $50 million on things like amusement-park ideas and “bizarre, global kinds of computerized Marvel comic-book characters bigger than life.”

In 2003, Fortress Investment, a private equity and hedge fund firm that has since gone public, bought some of Mr. Jackson’s loans from Bank of America after the pop singer missed some payments. Shortly before Christmas in 2005, Fortress threatened to call the loans because of his delinquency, The Times reported.

A few months later, a new deal was reached, as part of a $300 million refinancing structured by Citigroup.

Mr. Jackson’s financial problems continued, however, and in spring of 2008, it looked as if Fortress would foreclose on the Neverland Ranch. But Colony Capital, a private equity firm led by Thomas Barrack, stepped in to buy Mr. Jackson’s loan from Fortress, averting an auction.

A few months later, the deed to Neverland was transferred to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, a joint venture between Mr. Jackson and Colony.

Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Barrack expressed optimism about Mr. Jackson’s career and his plans for a concert series in London. “You are talking about a guy who could make $500 million a year if he puts his mind to it,” Mr. Barrack told The Los Angeles Times.

While the wrangling over Mr. Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was among the most visible signs of his financial troubles, the debt ran far deeper. Over the years, he amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in other loans to fund his lifestyle.

The collateral for those loans is not his real estate, but Mr. Jackson’s stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing. It’s a valuable asset: It holds a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

    The Pop Star and the Private Equity Firms, NYT, 26.6.2009, http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/the-pop-star-and-the-private-equity-firms/?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Jackson, Pop Icon, Is Dead at 50

 

June 26, 2009
The New York Times
By BROOKS BARNES

 

LOS ANGELES — For his legions of fans, he was the Peter Pan of pop music: the little boy who refused to grow up. But on the verge of another attempted comeback, he is suddenly gone, this time for good.

Michael Jackson, whose quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery, was pronounced dead on Thursday afternoon at U.C.L.A. Medical Center after arriving in a coma, a city official said. Mr. Jackson was 50, having spent 40 of those years in the public eye he loved.

The singer was rushed to the hospital, a six-minute drive from the rented Bel-Air home in which he was living, shortly after noon by paramedics for the Los Angeles Fire Department. A hospital spokesman would not confirm reports of cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm.

As with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full effect Mr. Jackson had on the world of music. At the height of his career, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which grew successful in part as a result of Mr. Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.

From his days as the youngest brother in the Jackson 5 to his solo career in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Jackson was responsible for a string of hits like “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” “Billie Jean” and “Black and White” that exploited his high voice, infectious energy and ear for irresistible hooks.

As a solo performer, Mr. Jackson ushered in the age of pop as a global product — not to mention an age of spectacle and pop culture celebrity. He became more character than singer: his sequined glove, his whitened face, his moonwalk dance move became embedded in the cultural firmament.

His entertainment career hit high-water marks with the release of “Thriller,” from 1982, which has been certified 28 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and with the “Victory” world tour that reunited him with his brothers in 1984.

But soon afterward, his career started a bizarre disintegration. His darkest moment undoubtedly came in 2003, when he was indicted on child molesting charges. A young cancer patient claimed the singer had befriended him and then groped him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif., but Mr. Jackson was acquitted on all charges.

Reaction to his death started trickling in from the entertainment community late Thursday.

“I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” the music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. “I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

Berry Gordy, the Motown founder who helped develop the Jackson 5, told CNN that Mr. Jackson, as a boy, “always wanted to be the best, and he was willing to work as hard as it took to be that. And we could all see that he was a winner at that age.

Tommy Mottola, a former head of Sony Music, called Mr. Jackson “the cornerstone to the entire music business.”

“He bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and pop music and made it into a global culture,” said Mr. Mottola, who worked with Mr. Jackson until the singer cut his ties with Sony in 2001.

Impromptu vigils broke out around the world, from Portland, Ore., where fans organized a one-gloved bike ride (“glittery costumes strongly encouraged”) to Hong Kong, where fans gathered with candles and sang his songs.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing the “Thriller” dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where he was staying.

Jeremy Vargas, 38, hoisted his wife, Erica Renaud, 38, on his shoulders and they danced and bopped to “Man in the Mirror” playing from an onlooker’s iPod connected to external speakers — the boom boxes of Mr. Jackson’s hey day long past their day.

“I am in shock and awe,” said Ms. Renaud, who was visiting from Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her family. “He was like a family member to me.”



Dreams of a Comeback

Mr. Jackson was an object of fascination for the news media since the Jackson 5’s first hit, “I Want You Back,” in 1969. His public image wavered between that of the musical naif, who wanted only to recapture his youth by riding on roller-coasters and having sleepovers with his friends, to the calculated mogul who carefully constructed his persona around his often-baffling public behavior.

Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform 50 concerts at the O2 arena in London beginning next month and continuing into 2010. The shows, which quickly sold out, were positioned as a comeback, with the potential to earn him up to $50 million, according to some reports.

But there had also been worry and speculation that Mr. Jackson was not physically ready for such an arduous run of concerts, and his postponement of the first of those shows to July 13 from July 8 fueled new rounds of gossip about his health. Nevertheless, he was rehearsing Wednesday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. “The primary reason for the concerts wasn’t so much that he was wanting to generate money as much as it was that he wanted to perform for his kids,” said J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography, “Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness,” was first published by Citadel in 1991. “They had never seen him perform before.”

Mr. Jackson’s brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy, have all had performing careers, with varying success, since they stopped performing together. (Randy, the youngest, replaced Jermaine when the Jackson 5 left Motown.) His sisters, Rebbie, La Toya and Janet, are also singers, and Janet Jackson has been a major star in her own right for two decades. They all survive him, as do his parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson, of Las Vegas, and three children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, born to Mr. Jackson’s second wife, Deborah Jeanne Rowe, and Prince Michael Jackson II, the son of a surrogate mother. Mr. Jackson was also briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the department assigned its robbery and homicide division to investigate the death, but the spokesman said that was because of Mr. Jackson’s celebrity.

“Don’t read into anything,” the spokesman told reporters gathered outside the Bel-Air house. He said the coroner had taken possession of the body and would conduct an investigation.

At a news conference at the hospital, Jermaine Jackson spoke to reporters about his brother. “It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest at his home,” he said softly. A personal physician first tried to resuscitate Michael Jackson at his home before paramedics arrived. A team of doctors then tried to resuscitate him for more than an hour, his brother said.

“May our love be with you always,” Jermaine Jackson concluded, his gaze aloft.

In Gary, Ind., hundreds of people descended upon the squat clapboard house were Mr. Jackson spent his earliest years. There were tears, loud wails, and quiet prayers as old neighbors joined hands with people who had driven in from Chicago and other nearby towns to pay their respects.

“Just continue to glorify the man, Lord,” said Ida Boyd-King, a local pastor who led the crowd in prayer. “Let’s give God praise for Michael.”

Shelletta Hinton, 40, drove to Gary from Chicago with her two young children. She said they had met Mr. Jackson in Gary a couple of years ago when he received a key to the city. “We felt like we were close to Michael,” she said. “This is a sad day.”

As dusk set in, mourners lighted candles and placed them on the concrete doorstep. Some left teddy bears and personal notes. Doris Darrington, 77, said she remembered seeing the Jackson 5 so many times around Gary that she got sick of them. But she, too, was feeling hurt by the sudden news of Mr. Jackson’s death.

“He has always been a source of pride for Gary, even though he wasn’t around much,” she said. “The older person, that’s not the Michael we knew. We knew the little bitty boy with the big Afro and the brown skin. That’s how I’ll always remember Michael.”

Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary on Aug. 29, 1958. The second youngest of six brothers, he began performing professionally with four of them at the age of 5 in a group that their father, Joe, a steelworker, had organized the previous year. In 1968, the group, originally called the Jackson Brothers, was signed by Motown Records. The Jackson 5 was an instant phenomenon. The group’s first four singles — “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” — all reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1970, a feat no group had accomplished before. And young Michael was the center of attention: he handled virtually all the lead vocals, danced with energy and finesse, and displayed a degree of showmanship rare in a performer of any age.

In 1971, Mr. Jackson began recording under his own name, while continuing to perform with his brothers. His recording of “Ben,” the title song from a movie about a boy and his homicidal pet rat, was a No. 1 hit in 1972.

The brothers (minus Michael’s older brother Jermaine, who was married to the daughter of Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder and chief executive) left Motown in 1975 and, rechristened the Jacksons, signed to Epic, a unit of CBS Records. Three years later, Michael made his movie debut as the Scarecrow in the screen version of the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz.” But movie stardom proved not to be his destiny.



A Solo Sensation

Music stardom on an unprecedented level, however, was. Mr. Jackson’s first solo album for Epic, “Off the Wall,” released in 1979, yielded four No. 1 singles and sold seven million copies, but it was a mere prologue to what came next. His follow-up, “Thriller,” released in 1982, became the best-selling album of all time and helped usher in the music video age. The video for title track, directed by John Landis, was an elaborate horror-movie pastiche that was more of a mini-movie than a promotional clip.

Seven of the nine tracks on “Thriller” were released as singles and reached the Top 10. The album spent two years on the Billboard album chart and sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide. It also won eight Grammy Awards.

The choreographer and director Vincent Paterson, who directed Mr. Jackson in several videos recalled watching him rehearse a dance sequence for four hours in front of a mirror until it felt like second nature.

“That’s how he developed the moonwalk, working on it for days if not weeks until it was organic,” he said. “He took an idea that he had seen some street kids doing and perfected it.”

Mr. Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” released in 1987, sold eight million copies and produced five No. 1 singles and another state-of-the-art video, this one directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a huge hit by almost anyone else’s standards, but an inevitable letdown after “Thriller.”

It was at this point that Mr. Jackson’s bizarre private life began to overshadow his music. He would go on to release several more albums and, from time to time, to stage elaborate concert tours. And he would never be too far from the public eye. But it would never again be his music that kept him there.

Even with the millions Mr. Jackson earned, his eccentric lifestyle took a severe financial toll. In 1988 Mr. Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it Neverland after the mythical island of Peter Pan, he outfitted the property with amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million, according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum.

But Neverland, and Mr. Jackson’s lifestyle, were expensive to maintain. A forensic accountant who testified at Mr. Jackson’s molesting trial in 2005 said Mr. Jackson’s annual budget in 1999 included $7.5 million for personal expenses and $5 million to maintain Neverland. By at least the late 1990s, he began to take out huge loans to support himself and pay debts. In 1998, he took out a loan for $140 million from Bank of America, which two years later was increased to $200 million. Further loans of hundreds of millions followed.

The collateral for the loans was Mr. Jackson’s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, considered some of the most valuable properties in music.

In 1985, Mr. Jackson paid $47.5 million for ATV, which included the Beatles songs — a move that estranged him from Mr. McCartney, who had advised him to invest in music rights — and 10 years later, Mr. Jackson sold 50 percent of his interest to Sony for $90 million, creating a joint venture, Sony/ATV. Estimates of the catalog’s value exceed $1 billion.

Last year, Neverland narrowly escaped foreclosure after Mr. Jackson defaulted on $24.5 million he owed on the property. A Los Angeles real estate investment company, Colony Capital L.L.C., bought the note, and put the title for the property into a joint venture with Mr. Jackson.



A Scandal’s Heavy Toll

In many ways, Mr. Jackson never recovered from the child molesting trial, a lurid affair that attracted media from around the world to watch as Mr. Jackson, wearing a different costume each day, appeared in a small courtroom in Santa Maria, Calif., to listen as a parade of witnesses spun a sometimes-incredible tale.

The case ultimately turned on the credibility of Mr. Jackson’s accuser, a 15-year-old cancer survivor who said the defendant had gotten him drunk and molested him several times. The boy’s younger brother testified that he had seen Mr. Jackson groping his brother on two other occasions.

After 14 weeks of such testimony and seven days of deliberations, the jury returned not-guilty verdicts on all 14 counts against Mr. Jackson: four charges of child molesting, one charge of attempted child molesting, one conspiracy charge and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. Conviction could have brought Mr. Jackson 20 years in prison. Instead, he walked away a free man to try to reclaim a career that at the time had already been in decline for years.

After his trial, Mr. Jackson largely left the United States for Bahrain, the island nation in the Persian Gulf, where he was the guest of Sheik Abdullah, a son of the ruler of the country, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Mr. Jackson would never return to live at his ranch. Instead he remained in Bahrain, Dubai and Ireland for the next several years, managing his increasingly unstable finances. He remained an avid shopper, however, and was spotted at shopping malls in the black robes and veils traditionally worn by Bahraini women.

Despite the public relations blow of his trial, Mr. Jackson and his ever-changing retinue of managers, lawyers and advisers never stopped plotting his return.

By early this year, Mr. Jackson was living in a $100,000-a-month mansion in Bel-Air, to be closer to “where all the action is” in the entertainment business, his manager at the time, Tohme Tohme, told The Los Angeles Times. He was also preparing for his upcoming London shows.

”He was just so excited about having an opportunity to come back,” said Mr. Paterson, the director and choreographer.

Despite his troubles, the press and the public never abandoned the star. A crowd of paparazzi and onlookers lined the street outside Mr. Jackson’s home as the ambulance took him to the hospital.

 

Reporting was contributed by John M. Broder from Washington; Randal C. Archibold from Los Angeles; Susan Saulny from Gary, Ind.; and Melena Ryzik, Ben Sisario, Brian Stelter and Peter Keepnews from New York.

    Michael Jackson, Pop Icon, Is Dead at 50, NYT, 26.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/arts/music/26jackson.html

 

 

 

 

 

Music Review

Grizzly Bear

A Night When Harmony Reigns

 

May 30, 2009
The New York Times
By BEN RATLIFF

 

Music moves; it can’t do anything else. Grizzly Bear’s songs rev without going anywhere. With broad vocal harmonies and harmonic motion built from unusual guitar tunings, the band gives you beauty until you can’t stand it. I found myself lost in a few bright, bursting moments of its show at Town Hall on Thursday. They felt like static pleasures, though. The concert sits in my memory like a slide show.

There is a nearly suffocating fussiness in this band. It can’t be altered: it’s the life force of the music, which is full and tense, and extremely cold. (On Grizzly Bear’s new album, “Veckatimest,” on the Warp label, the band has gotten colder still, even as its pop melodies start to beckon.)

On Thursday nothing in these orchestrations was free to wriggle, but sometimes it seemed that the drummer, Christopher Bear, could have reduced his kit down to a bass drum and a cymbal without violating the heart of the songs. Rhythm is a frozen concern here, several orders less important than harmony.

The set began with precise four-part vocals in “Southern Point” and then expanded when the Brooklyn Youth Chorus joined the band for “Cheerleader” and “Fine for Now.” There’s occasionally a churchly minor-key ambience in Grizzly Bear, signifying the sublime. It’s an artier cousin to the early ’60s records produced by Phil Spector and arranged by Jack Nitzsche — and the band borrowed from that team directly in its take on the Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss),” the show’s encore. But the throaty yelling of Darlene Love or the Ronettes or the Crystals served as a streetwise release valve for the tension of those old records. Grizzly Bear has no release valve.

The band has two songwriting powers, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, who both sing. Grizzly Bear prefers full-band songwriting credits, so it’s not clear who’s responsible for what.

But when Mr. Droste sings lead, the harmonies seem to come from the natural properties of the voice; when Mr. Rossen sings lead, the songs get browner, based in the harmony of his unusual guitar tunings.

I found myself wanting more Rossen. His voice is grainy, with some modesty, opposed to Mr. Droste’s brassy swoon. But Mr. Rossen’s guitar harmonies are so rich, and his echoing strums so carefully applied, that those songs took on an oppressively ascetic fragility.

This was especially true live — he, like the rest of the band, has almost zero body language — and especially in Town Hall, during a two-night stand that seems to represent this Brooklyn indie band’s ascendance to a kind of highbrow mainstream.

Burdened with murky sound for a band that has fairly high audio needs, Thursday’s show was mostly studied, intellectual tension. I respect Grizzly Bear for echoing unlikely moments in the history of sound: little bits and pieces in the arrangements of its songs variously suggest, besides Phil Spector, the Partridge Family, Dr. Dre and the ’70s folk band America.

But wow, these songs are precious, and they occasionally came spangled with extras that made them even more so. The chorus was one of those elements, sorry to say. Otherwise, in “Knife,” the bassist Chris Taylor ran his high vocal harmony through a kind of Doppler effect on his microphone; elsewhere he played single notes on the flute and clarinet on his knees through another tone-alterer. I left Town Hall grinding my teeth.

 

Grizzly Bear performs on Sunday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North Sixth Street, Brooklyn, (718) 486-5400. The concert is sold out.

    A Night When Harmony Reigns, NYT, 30.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/30/arts/music/30griz.html

 

 

 

 

 

Music Review

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Another Sold-Out Show for Hard-Bitten Times

 

May 23, 2009
By NATE CHINEN
The New York Times

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Reclaiming the Izod Center stage for his encore on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen paused for what seemed at first like a spontaneous reflection. “We’ve played here at the Meadowlands many, many times,” he said. High above the crowd, directly within his sightline, a banner provided specifics: “56 Sell-Outs.”

Then, without missing a beat, Mr. Springsteen struck a pitchman’s tone: he and the E Street Band would return to the complex in the fall “to say goodbye to old Giants Stadium.” (Those dates are Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 and 3; tickets will go on sale June 1.) “Before they bring the wrecking ball,” he crowed, “the wrecking crew is coming back!”

It was a plainly triumphant declaration, if a mildly awkward one, coming as it did before “Hard Times Come Again No More,” the Stephen Foster song that has led off every encore on the E Street Band’s current tour. “There are many, many people truly struggling in these times,” Mr. Springsteen said by way of introduction, even as some in the audience were no doubt still making mental adjustments to their fall concert budgets.

But the song, which began in something approaching an a cappella gospel style, got the show back on track. The sober solicitation of its lyrics — “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,” as one line goes — echoed the evening’s staunchest theme.

Mr. Springsteen has long been a champion chronicler of the hard-bitten and the luckless, and the self-directed spokesman for an idealized American conscience. Here, when it was time to charge through “Working on a Dream,” the title track from his most recent album, he literally sermonized, adopting a revivalist preacher’s tone. “We’re going to build a house!” he barked, soon adding: “We can’t do it by ourselves!”

Then came a segue into “Seeds,” an old song that found new life on this tour, probably for topical reasons. Its lyrics depict an oilman brought to ruin, but Mr. Springsteen slyly widened his scope. “The banker man said, ‘Sorry son, it’s all gone,’” he sang, naming a previously unspecified villain. The next song, “Johnny 99,” felt even more resonant, opening on the image of a shuttered auto plant and building up to this pitiful cry: “The bank was holding my mortgage, they’re coming to take my house away.”

The band worked admirably on these and other tough-minded songs, with a fine chugging fury. And there was news in that regard: as on some other recent shows, the drum chair was occupied not by Max Weinberg but by his 18-year-old son, Jay. The substitution went off without much of a hitch, even if the younger Mr. Weinberg has yet to find the deeper currents of the group. At times he got carried away by his own fills, landing slightly late on a downbeat crash. But his pounding energy was the right sort of fit.

And perhaps unintentionally, he helped nudge the band toward a renewed set of priorities: grittiness over glossiness, looseness over exactitude, vitality over just about everything else. Strikingly, as a consequence, there were a few flubbed parts and missed cues. But the general impression was arresting and potent, beginning with the example of Mr. Springsteen. He gave his usual force-of-nature performance, barreling through some tunes and savoring others, with strategic pockets of space cleared for crowd sing-alongs.

This leg of Mr. Springsteen’s tour ends here on Saturday, before a two-month stretch in Europe and eventually his Meadowlands return. At that point the band will be sending off a structure destined for rubble, a hulk with glorious history but no future. A character, in other words, right out of a song.

 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform on Saturday at the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, N.J.; sold out.

Another Sold-Out Show for Hard-Bitten Times, NYT, 23.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/arts/music/23springsteen.html