The Day Michael Jackson Died: A Look Back

One year ago tomorrow, one of the strangest, most volatile lives in American pop-culture history came to an end. Michael Jackson left this mortal coil on June 25, 2009, and in his wake we were left to not only deal with all of our conflicted and cherished memories of him, but also the public war of words surrounding his untimely death.

Rocks Off remembers tooling around on Twitter and seeing the first missive from TMZ saying that Jackson was being rushed to the hospital in grave condition. At first it seemed like just another wacked-out chapter in his life. We had already been smarting over the death of Farrah Fawcett that morning.

For the next hour, we watched as rumors swirled between news outlets, with conflicting reports getting retracted left and right. The head members of Rocks Off began assembling YouTube footage while half-expecting the very worst but hoping he would pull through.

It was sometime in the mid-afternoon, while we were spinning "Ben," that CNN reported Jackson was dead. Instantly we remembered every single point in our lives where his music was present and every person who was there. We did mist up a little; it was like a superhero dying. In those two hours, he officially became our generation's Elvis Presley, felled by his own excess and the enablers surrounding him.

Jackson passed away at a make-or-break point in his life, when things could have gone one of two ways. His farewell tour could have gone worldwide and reignited the love he lost in the '90s, or it would have gone down in flames like most things he did the last decade of his harried life. It sounds extremely uncaring, but a lot of people felt that they were cheated by him leaving us so relatively early so they couldn't see another trademark Jackson failure.

Only a few hours after the Gloved One passed on, strange tributes and rumors began popping up, all exasperated by social media. The jokes began flying, tempered with sadness and nostalgia. Driving home that night, every radio and television station was playing something MJ-related, and did for what seemed like a month. We watched the "Thriller" video maybe 16 times from June into July. We weren't immune to the hype ourselves.

Death Hoaxes

The rumors of death hoaxes began almost immediately after final confirmation came over the wire that Jackson was deceased. Web sites popped up like the extremely intricate and involved, complete with a forum and chat room that speculated on the possibility of him faking his death.

The accusations only grew more so with faked videos of what looked like Jackson jumping out of the back of a coroner's van, and the lurid rumor that Jackson wasn't even inside that gold casket at this televised funeral.

Then "someone" found what was purported to be Jackson's own death-hoax diary, which detailed his plans to leave and come back:

"I'll come back, but only when I'm ready. Bigger than Elvis in '69, maybe 2009 at Christmas. Or maybe the New Year is better."

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty