Fans around the world grieved for Michael Jackson on Friday, as his star friends in Hollywood declared themselves devastated by the sudden death of the "King of Pop."
Madonna said she could not stop crying. Elizabeth Taylor, one of the singer's closest friends, was too stunned to comment. Many tributes put Jackson into the pantheon of tragic stars alongside Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Fan clubs around the world from Paris to Beijing planned candlelit vigils for the 50-year-old superstar. At the Glastonbury pop festival in Britain, thousands danced to Jackson's iconic songs such as "Thriller" and "Billie Jean."
But the recriminations also started over the treatment of the singer who made the world's biggest selling album "Thriller" and was planning comeback shows in London next month after being dragged through the courts on paedophilia charges.
As fans gathered outside the Los Angeles hospital where the troubled star was pronounced dead after apparently suffering a heart attack, some of the biggest names in entertainment paid their own tributes.
Pop diva Madonna called Jackson "one of the greats" of modern music.
"I can't stop crying over the sad news," she told celebrity website People.com. "I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever."
Beatle Paul McCartney hailed Jackson as a "massively talented boy man with a gentle soul".
Actress Taylor, one of Jackson's longstanding friends, was "too devastated" to issue a statement, her spokesperson said.
Quincy Jones who produced the "Thriller" album said: "To this day, that music is played in every corner of the world, and the reason is because he had it all -- talent, grace and professionalism."
The star's first wife Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, said: "I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible. I am heartbroken for his children, who I know were everything to him, and for his family."
Jackson's influence was also highlighted by the new generation of pop stars.
Justin Timberlake -- who like Jackson is known for both his singing and dancing -- said in a statement that the world had "lost a genius and a true ambassador of not only pop music, but of all music."
Singer Beyonce said: "The incomparable Michael Jackson has made a bigger impact on music than any other artist in the history of music."
Jackson has immediately been put among the all-time entertainment greats.
"Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson," film director Steven Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly.
"His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make him a legend."
But many lamented the pressures of his eccentric private life, financial troubles and his planned comeback.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Jackson "one of the most influential and iconic figures in the music industry" but said there were "serious questions" about Jackson's personal life.
Jackson was a "universal star" whose "tragic" destiny places him alongside Monroe, Dean and Elvis, France's culture minister Frederic Mitterrand said.
All "ended (their lives) in a manner not very different to his, devoured by medication in great solitude," he told Europe 1 radio.
Jackson represented "this idea of a perpetual adolescence that one must try to preserve all one's life until the end. He did it but at such a price that he died from it."
Uri Geller, the psychic and friend of Jackson, blamed the preparations for his London comeback shows for Jackson's death.
Geller, who lives in Britain, said Jackson was desperate to prove to the world that he was still a superstar despite child abuse allegations which had tainted his career.
"He wanted to prove to the world that he is number one, that he is still Michael Jackson, that he can still deliver a thriller," Geller told BBC radio.
"The anticipation, the stress levels, the anxiety for what was coming up in London was so huge... I believe that that stopped his heart".
Jackson's former producer and friend Tarak Ben Ammar denounced the pop icon's doctors as "criminals" and "charlatans" who had taken advantage of his hypochondria.
"It's clear that the criminals in this affair are the doctors who treated him throughout his career, who destroyed his face, who gave him medicine to ease his pain," he told French radio.
"He was a hypochondriac and one never really knew if he was sick because he had become surrounded by charlatan doctors who were billing him thousands and thousands of dollars worth of drugs, vitamins," said the Tunisian producer.
"He ate badly, he didn't have a very healthy life, he couldn't do sport," said Ben Ammar.
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