Tributes to Michael Jackson flow on 10th death anniversary

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s estate paid tribute to his artistry and charity Tuesday as fans began gathering to celebrate his memory on the 10th anniversary of the King of Pop’s death.

“Ten years ago today, the world lost a gifted artist and extraordinary humanitarian,” the Jackson estate said in a statement to The Associated Press. “A decade later, Michael Jackson is still with us, his influence embedded in dance, fashion, art and music of the moment. He is more important than ever.”

The estate has doggedly worked to protect and enhance Jackson’s legacy, a task made more challenging this year when two men accused Jackson of molesting them as boys in the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” sparking new scrutiny of years-old claims that Jackson preyed on children. Jackson was acquitted of abuse allegations in 2005 and always vehemently denied such allegations, and the estate and his family angrily refuted the men’s claims when the documentary was released in March, noting the men had at one time been among Jackson’s biggest defenders and one testified on his behalf at his criminal trial.

The estate is using the anniversary of Jackson’s death to celebrate and accentuate Jackson’s vast humanitarian work. It called on fans to honour Jackson’s memory by engaging in charitable acts “whether it’s planting a tree, volunteering at a shelter, cleaning up a public space or helping someone who is lost find their way. … This is how we honour Michael,” the statement read.

Mourners began to gather early Tuesday and placed elaborate flower arrangements and poster-sized pictures of Jackson, some featuring signed messages from dozens of fans, outside his mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

A florist delivered on arrangement from a client in Japan. A heart made from flowers in the colours of the Iranian flag featured the message “Iran (hearts) MJ.” Another flowered heart read “Love from Denmark.”

A fan from Las Vegas, dressed as Jackson in bright red shirt and one white glove, was among the first mourners to appear.

Fans also plan to gather at Jackson’s last home in the Holmby Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles, where the singer received a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol on the afternoon of June 25, 2009 from his doctor. Jackson was declared dead at a hospital at age 50.

Others planned to gather around Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One group planned a Hollywood rally Tuesday to declare his innocence of molestation allegations.

Thomas Mesereau, the attorney who successfully defended Jackson at his 2005 trial, issued a statement Tuesday saying “Jackson’s compassion, humanity, empathy and talent continues to inspire family, friends, supporters and fans across the globe. The legend of this great father, son, sibling and artist marches forward with characteristic brilliance and wonder. His legacy can be attacked by opportunists. But it will never be defeated. Michael Jackson was a great and kind man.”

John Branca and John McClain, both major figures in Jackson’s career when he was alive, as co-executors have taken his badly debt-ridden estate and grossed over $1.3 billion through various Jackson-related projects in the past decade, including the film “This Is It,” a pair of Cirque du Soleil shows and the sale of Jackson assets that included The Beatles catalogue.

Jackson left everything to his mother, his children and charity in his will.

The singer’s father, Joe, died last year and is buried in the same cemetery as his son, but Michael’s 89-year-old mother, five brothers, three sisters and three kids remain alive and well 10 years later .

The death of Jackson was a massive cultural phenomenon, bringing an outpouring of public affection and revival of his songs and largely erasing the taint that remained after his criminal trial, despite his acquittal.

It was one of the earliest instances of the mass mourning on social media that would soon become common, and a massive worldwide audience both on TV and online watched his July 27, 2009 public memorial that included touching tributes from family members including daughter Paris and performances from Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie.

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