Michael Jackson's Legacy

Michael Jackson filming the 1991 music video for "Black Or White."
AP Photo
Three days after the fact, the death of Michael Jackson remains very much under investigation. Our Cover Story is reported by Bill Whitaker:

He is considered one of the most talented, gifted, oddly compelling entertainers of all time. Now, even in death, Michael Jackson, the king of pop, is surrounded in mystery, and unanswered questions.

As moving vans were loaded with boxes from Jackson's rented Holmby Hills mansion, family members gathered at their suburban Los Angeles compound.

Family friend The Reverend Jesse Jackson said the family ordered a second, independent autopsy on the pop singer's body, seeking answers to troubling questions.

"Why did the doctor not communicate with the parents, or with the coroner?" Rev. Jackson said. "It raised questions that deserve answers, and we want those answers."

The man who may have answers, the doctor to whom Rev. Jackson referred, is Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal physician, who was with the entertainer when he collapsed, but disappeared soon after.

The cardiologist finally resurfaced in Los Angeles late yesterday to answer questions at LAPD headquarters.

Investigators increasingly are focusing on the role that prescription drugs may have played in his death.

"We are still actively trying to assess what the nature of Mr. Jackson's death is, and whether or not any prescriptions or other medications were involved," said LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

While the L.A. coroner says it'll take weeks to confirm the cause of death, tabloids and Jackson associates aren't waiting.

Banner headlines on the front pages of the tabloid London Sun and the New York Post, citing unnamed sources, declare that Jackson took a daily cocktail of narcotics. Demerol, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Zanax and Paxil were mentioned in the mix.

One pharmacy in Beverly Hills sued Jackson two years ago, claiming the entertainer owed more than $100,000 for prescription drugs.

His family and friends have long been concerned.

"This has been a long, ongoing problem and it's ebbed and flowed in different ways," said Jackson biographer and CBS News consultant J. Randy Tarborelli. "Sometimes it's been worse than other times."

Another unanswered question: The fate of Jackson's three young children, currently in the care of the singer's mother, Katherine.

Jackson's former wife, Debbie Rowe, the mother of the older two, recently had asked the courts to restore her parental rights. Jackson's business associate Al Malnik said the singer asked him to care for the youngest child.

"He asked me, if anything happened to him, if I would become godfather and parent to Prince Michael," said Malnik.

"Stop, the love you save may be your own.
Darling, take it slow, or someday you'll be all alone."

It is an end that no one would have predicted, looking back at the 12-year-old child with a powerhouse voice, a true icon of the '70s, and a superstar of the '80s with previously-unimaginable popularity.

But many observers look back at a pivotal event in Michael Jackson's life that led him to an addiction that he had trouble kicking . . . an event that may have triggered his increasingly strange and mercurial lifestyle, and maybe ultimately, his death.

In 1984, while filming a commercial for Pepsi, Jackson's hair caught on fire in a stage explosion, leading to an addiction to painkillers that went on and off (mostly on) for 25 years.

"From then on, Jackson became the real-life Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up," said Taraborrelli.

"There continued to be hit songs, although fewer in number, but the music was overshadowed by a tabloid lifestyle: a penchant for plastic surgery, turning Jackson's appearance not only younger, but also more ethereal, almost ghostly; two wives, three children, whose paternity has always been questioned, and whose father sometimes exercised some bad judgment.

Most alarmingly, said Taraborrelli, was Jackson's interest in hanging around younger children, most notably younger boys.

"Jackson settled a lawsuit with one boy's family in 1993, and was arrested again 10 years later on suspicion of child molestation," said Taraborrelli. "That followed a documentary where Jackson declared it was 'right' and 'loving' to share your bed with a child."

After five months of testimony, punctuated by celebrities and a circus-like environment, Jackson was acquitted, and went into a self-imposed exile for a while, wandering around the world before finally announcing a comeback earlier this year.

"This is it," said Jackson at the launch of the London "This Is It" tour. "When I say this is it, I mean it!"

The world will never see if Michael Jackson could make the comeback he promised, will never see if the promise of the little boy, the power of the young superstar, could be reincarnated once more.

Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Grammys, was invited to watch Jackson rehearse his upcoming stage show the night before Jackson died.

"Watching him rehearse these trademark dance moves that he created, that nobody did before, you could say James Brown, but he created [them], they belong to him. And then you've watched 25 years or more, 30 years or more people doing those moves, and remembering that they all came from him. That's his legacy."

More Michael Jackson coverage:

Lawyer: Cardiologist Is Not A Suspect
Focus Shifting To Drugs In Jackson's Death
Jackson Family Issues Statement To Fans
Jackson Family Wants Second Autopsy
Drug Use Worried Spiritual Teacher Chopra
Jackson Story Shows Speed Of Digital Age
Lisa Marie: Jackson Foresaw His End
Jackson Doctor Under Increased Scrutiny
Filipino Inmates Perform Jackson Tribute
Jackson Family Questions Promoter's Role
A Collection Of CBS Videos Of Michael Jackson
The Death Of Michael Jackson: Full Coverage