Just days before his death...
Jason Gregory

15:45 3rd July 2009

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On June 25 2009, Michael Jackson fans around the world plummeted into a state of shock and despair following the star's sudden death in Los Angeles. It was a tragic end to a unique pop career, as Jackson's final breathless moments were played out – like so much of his life – under the glare of the media's spotlight.

We still don't really know what happened, of course. Ever since his brother, Jermaine, announced that Jackson had died of a suspected heart attack, reports have claimed the star's death was altogether more sinister. Drugs, of the sort that aren't readily available over the counter, are said to have been found at the his rented home in Holmby Hills; doctors have been questioned; and, on Wednesday, the Drugs Enforcement Agency was brought in to add weight to the already high-profile investigation.

But poignantly, for a moment yesterday, this was all forgotten when footage of Jackson in rehearsals for his comeback shows, which were due to begin on July 13 in London, was released exactly seven days after his death.

If there's one thing Michael Jackson fans have come to learn over the course of the star's career, then it's that you should always expect the unexpected. And so was the case with Jackson's performance of 'They Don't Care About Us', which, over the course of the one-and-a-half minute exert, showed a King desperate to regain his crown.

In the footage - shot two days before his death at the Staples Centre - Jackson's dance routines, which have been imitated by choreographers around the world ever since the days of the Jackson 5, were back. The 50-year-old shifted, shimmed and strutted around the stage as an all-male troupe of eight backing dancers half his age struggled, at times, to keep up. Then there was some spontaneous interaction with his guitarist as she played the song's electrifying guitar riff and yelps of “woo-hoo” from the singer himself.

But most poignantly of all, as the song ended and the star stood waiting for applause, Michael Jackson smiled.

before yesterday, Jackson had been painted as a frail, balding, eight stone man who couldn't even climb onto the stage without the help of an aide. One website even suggested he had been photoshopped into pictures of his stage set which were released on Tuesday. But the rehearsal footage simply didn't show that.

One can't deny that it would have been hard for Jackson to sustain this performance level for 50 concerts. But if the footage tells us any thing, then it's that the King of Pop was more than ready to give it a go.

Michael Jackson - The Last Rehearsal

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Photo: Kevin Mazur/AEG/WireImage.com