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The night before his death he had been in rehearsals for his 50-date London comeback tour.
Brian Oxman, the family's lawyer and long-time friend, said Jackson's family had long been concerned about his use of prescription drugs and blamed "enablers" in his entourage for making the situation worse.
There were reports that the 50-year-old singer had been given a painkilling injection shortly before his death.
Mr Oxman likened Jackson's demise to the drug-related death of Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy model, and said it came as no surprise to those close to the singer.
His family believed his reliance on painkillers had become "extensive" as he struggled with injuries during rehearsals.
"This is a case of abuse of medications," Mr Oxman said. "This is not something which had been unexpected. Because of the medication that Michael was taking, his family had been trying for months and months and months to take care of Michael Jackson.
"The people who have surrounded him have been enabling him. If you think the case of Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it was nothing in comparison to what we have seen taking place in Michael Jackson's life."
Mr Oxman told CNN: "Michael had appeared at rehearsals a couple of time, he was very seriously trying to be able to do this. His use of medication had gotten in the way, his injuries which he had sustained performing - where he had broken a vertebrae and had broken his leg from a fall from the stage - had gotten in the way.
"I do not know the extent of the medications that he was taking, but the reports that we have been receiving in the family is that it was extensive and this is something which I feared and something which I warned about.
"I don't know the cause of all this so I can't tell you what the ultimate result of it is going to be, but I can tell you for sure when you warn people that this is what's going to happen and then it happens, where there is smoke there is fire."
Drug use can cause cardiac arrest and Jackson had a long-standing reliance on painkillers. There were reports that the singer was taking Demerol, a powerful medication similiar to morphine, and the opiate Dilaudid. Toxicology tests will be carried out on his body and an autopsy is likely to be undertaken today. His body was flown to the coroner's office by helicopter.
News of Jackson's death was confirmed by his brother, Jermaine, who gave a press conference at the hospital.
He said: "My brother, the legendary King of Pop, passed away on Thursday June 25 at 2.26pm. We believe he suffered a cardiac arrest at his home, however the cause of his death is unknown until the results of the autopsy are known. The personal physician who was with him at the time attempted to resuscitated him."
Stars from the world of showbusiness and politics united in tribute to the star who revolutionised pop music with albums such as Thriller, but whose later years were tainted by allegations of child abuse.
Sir Paul McCartney, who dueted with Jackson in the early 1980s on Say Say Say, said : "It's so sad and shocking. I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones."
Madonna said: "I can't stop crying over the sad news. I've always admired Michael Jackson – the world has lost one of its greats but his music will live on forever.
"My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family. God bless."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Jackson, saying: "This is very sad news for the millions of Michael Jackson fans in Britain and around the world."
Britney Spears said: "I was so excited to see his show in London. We were going to be on tour in Europe at the same time and I was going to fly in to see him. He has been an inspiration throughout my entire life and I'm devastated he's gone!"
The Rev Al Sharpton, the civil rights campaigner, described Jackson as a "historic figure", saying: "Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of colour way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama."
He added: "Many ridiculed him. It's amazing to see how many people are now praising him that wouldn't go near him in the last several years, and condemnde him. In our last conversation a couple of months ago when I was teasing him I was coming to England to see him perform again, he talked about how many people had let him down. I told him it didn't matter, he had never let the fans down. "
Quincy Jones, the music producer who worked with Jackson on Thriller, said: "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news."
Paying tribute to the singer's "talent, grace, professionalism and dedication", he added: "I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."
There was speculation that the pressure of his forthcoming London dates may have been too much for Jackson.
AEG Live, which organised the concerts at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, said Jackson had passed a lengthy physical exam in early 2009, but he last toured 12 years ago and looked markedly frail at the press conference to promote the shows.
Fears for his health emerged after he postponed the earliest dates, and his aides were forced to deny that he was fighting skin cancer.
Max Clifford, the publicist and friend of Jackson, said: "You wonder if the strain of getting fit for this major tour proved too much. In recent pictures he looked anything but healthy. He was always someone who seemed to find it difficult to cope with fame."
Another friend of Jackson, the illusionist Uri Geller, said there had been no indication that the singer was in a frail condition.
"I really have no words. He was a young and terribly fit man and he was getting ready for performances in England. He was just fine, the last I heard."
Jackson lived as a virtual recluse following his 2005 acquittal on charges including child molestation and kidnap.
He repeatedly denied undergoing cosmetic surgery, despite very visible changes to his face and skin tone, and was criticised for forcing his children to wear veils whenever they were in public.
Born in 1958, Jackson made his musical debut with four of his older brothers in the Jackson Five before embarking on a solo career.
His 1982 album Thriller – which included the hits Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller – is still the best-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies sold. His lifetime sales tally is estimated at 750? million.
In 1994, he married Lisa Marie Presley, the 26-year-old daughter of Elvis Presley. The couple separated two years later and Jackson later married Debbie Rowe, a 37-year-old nurse he met while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997. They had two children, Prince Michael and Paris Michael Katherine, before divorcing in 1999.
Jackson had custody of the two children and of a third, Prince Michael II, whose mother's name has never been made public.
More news from http://www.telegraph.co.uk
"It doesn't matter where Jon and I are in our relationship," she continues. "My kids still matter the most to me."
Jon seemed to echo his wife's emotional sentiments, noting the strain on the couple’s relationship was not anything new.
"It just got worse and worse and worse,” Jon says in a separate confessional interview. "And with all the tabloids and all that, it just made it even worse."
Us Weekly has chronicled the couple's crumbling marriage as Jon had a three-month affair with 23-year-old Deanna Hummel, and Kate had an "inseparable" relationship with her bodyguard, Steve Neild.
Although Jon -- who went apartment hunting and looked at property at Trump Place in NYC this week -- doesn't address those reports in the latest promo, he does admit he's not the same man who married Kate.
"People think I’ve changed and I have changed," he says. "But I’m now the person I know I am."Join Us on Facebook and Twitter for even more up to the minute celebrity news and photos!
But the actress, who turned 34 last Thursday, isn't interviewed for the piece.
Instead, feminist author Naomi Wolf examines Jolie's appeal, concluding that "women both identify with her and desire her."
It's "more than simply a physical response," Wolf says.
For the first time in modern culture, Jolie "brings together almost every aspect of female empowerment and liberation," Wolf declares.
Above all, she says Jolie has proved that women can be viewed as a symbol of goodness, and also be seen as sexual.
She looks at the way Jolie has transformed from a wild child to a woman with it all.
Jolie initially made headlines for her "eccentric" behavior, which included "slightly icky" smooch sessions with Billy Bob Thornton (she famously wore a vial of his blood around her neck) and kissing her brother on the lips at the 2000 Oscars.
"At that point, Jolie seemed to be simply an attention-seeking, slightly Goth upstart," Wolf writes.
But after she adopted Maddox in 2002 and became a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, "she seemed more mature, more beautiful, and more serious," says Wolf.
At the time, "Jolie revealed a new, and fairly radical, vision of single motherhood..." Wolf says.
Even when scandal broke in her life -- Brad Pitt split from Jennifer Aniston in 2005 after getting close to Jolie on the Mr. and Mrs. Smith set -- "she managed the almost unheard-of task of turning the home-wrecker label into a wholesome, family-friendly triumph," says Wolf.
"There was little Maddox, who was growing up and clearly enjoying tossing footballs with his mother's new boyfriend," she explains. "Jolie had managed to head off the scarlet letter by giving a boy an ideal masculine counterpoint."
Jolie also broke barriers by learning to fly.
"Flying a private plane is the classic metaphor for choosing your own direction; usually, that is a guy thing to do, yet there was Jolie, with her aviator glasses on, taking flying lessons so she could blow the mind of her four-year-old son," writes Wolf.
As for the multiethnicity of her family, Wolf notes it's "a delicious in-your-face countermove against conventions about who we are to one another and what 'family' is expected to look like."
Says Wolf, "She seems, without breaking stride, to care for half a football team of children while the rest of us tread water with our own biological offspring."
So what's next for Jolie?
"No way to tell," Wolf says, "but I am certain, given the knack she has shown for tapping into this female collective unconscious, that we will watch with more than ordinary interest."