The news, at first, was impossible to believe. After surviving a lifetime of tabloid scrutiny, a childhood lived in the spotlight, two allegations of child molestation, two failed marriages, rumors of serious health problems and nearly 20 years of futile attempts to recapture his pop glory, Michael Jackson was dead.
For months, fans had been scrambling to buy tickets to Jackson's triumphant comeback run of 50 shows at London's O2 arena, salivating at every morsel of information about the top-secret concerts, which the P.T. Barnum of Pop was planning behind closed doors on L.A. stages.
And then, without warning, it was all over. The dream of Jackson's resurrection and rebirth after years of struggle — both financial and personal — was dashed. Within hours of confirmation that the singer had died at age 50 as a result of cardiac arrest, the tributes began pouring in from his many musical collaborators and friends, his professional peers and family, his fans and new stars whose careers would not exist without Jackson's trailblazing groundwork.
We looked back at his amazing video legacy, which included such landmark clips as "Thriller" and "Billie Jean"; we remembered his musical track record with the Jackson 5 and as one of the most successful solo acts in pop history; and we watched as fans gathered all around the globe — many dressed in homemade silver gloves and MJ T-shirts — and massing outside Harlem's Apollo Theater to pay homage to the fallen King.
For millions of fans looking for answers, few would emerge, as autopsy results were delayed and the organizers of the London shows faced the daunting task of figuring out how to refund more than $85 million in tickets to the now-scotched concerts.
A day after his death, we heard the frantic details of the 911 call made from his rented Holmby Hills, California, mansion after his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, found the singer unresponsive in his bedroom. With the cause of death deferred, pending further investigation, Murray met with police detectives to describe his actions in the hours before the singer's death, and the Jackson family made its first statement about the tragedy.
Three days later, Jamie Foxx and New Edition paid tribute to Jackson at the BET Awards, and Joseph Jackson, Michael's father, expressed his first concerns about the circumstances surrounding his son's death.
By June 29, we learned that Jackson's final rehearsals had been filmed in high-definition video and could be bundled for possible release. That footage eventually became the highest-grossing concert film of all time, "Michael Jackson's This Is It." That same day, a judge granted Michael's mother, Katherine, temporary guardianship of the singer's three young children, and Time magazine released a rare off-cycle commemorative issue.
Not surprisingly, fans turned to his music to mourn and celebrate the King, causing a surge in his posthumous music sales that would eventually result in Jackson dominating the end-of-year sales tally with more than 8 million units shifted of his solo and Jackson 5 material in the U.S. since his death and 24 million worldwide. Within a week of his death, Jackson would once again smash Billboard records, thanks to the immediate rush of sales, filling the top nine positions on the Top Pop Catalog chart and eventually forcing a change in the way the trade magazine structures its album charts to include catalog titles in the mix.
Almost a week after his death, police confiscated more medical evidence from MJ's rented home, and concert promoter AEG Live announced that ticket refunds for the O2 shows would begin July 1. As confusion reigned over where Jackson would be buried, what caused his death and who would be the caretaker of his legacy, news emerged that a public viewing was being planned at Jackson's former estate, Neverland, an event that was eventually canceled, due to objections from some family members who felt the ranch was not an appropriate place for such an event, given Jackson's abandonment of his adult fantasyland in the wake of his 2005 acquittal on child-molestation charges.
A week after his death, the world began to hear about the drug propofol, a surgical anesthetic Jackson was allegedly using to combat his chronic insomnia. Months later, it would emerge that a toxic level of the drug — typically used in a clinical setting by trained professionals with access to life-saving measures — is what coroners believe killed the singer.
July 1 was also the day Jackson's will was filed in court, laying out his wishes for how his three children would be taken care of. By the next day, the Drug Enforcement Administration had joined in the investigation into Jackson's death, a sign that investigators believed prescription drugs were likely a major factor in his demise. Around that time, we also learned from MJ's former label boss, Tommy Mottola, that the pop wizard had left behind "dozens" of unreleased songs, some of which will see the light of day later this year when the label releases a compilation album of unheard tracks.
While fans gathered spontaneously in Tokyo, New York, Gary, Indiana (Jackson's hometown), and outside Neverland, they were still awaiting word on when they would be able to publicly mourn their fallen King. On July 2, AEG Live announced that a public memorial was being planned for July 7 at Los Angeles' Staples Center, where Jackson was rehearsing the night before he died. And even as those super-fans schemed on how to score a ticket in the memorial lottery, they got an unexpected gift that same day when the first few seconds of rehearsal footage emerged, depicting Jackson going through his paces for the This Is It shows.
Two weeks on, MTV rolled out a series of stories exploring Jackson's legacy and history:
1958-79, 1979-81, 1982-86, 1986-99 and 2000-09. Also, word emerged that the often-fractious Jackson family was embroiled in a battle over control of the singer's estate, valued at more than $500 million.
And that's how the first two weeks ended: In uncertainty about what killed the greatest pop star of his generation, confusion over who would uphold his legacy, scant details on what would take place at his memorial service and more questions than answers about what would become of the This Is It rehearsal footage and the music Jackson left behind. One year on, some of those same questions remain, as Murray faces an August preliminary hearing on involuntary-manslaughter charges and fans gather anew to say goodbye one more time to the King of Pop.
MTV will be remembering the life and music of Michael Jackson all weekend. Don't miss the one-hour special "Michael Jackson's Influence on Music," airing Friday at 6:30 p.m. on MTV.