Michael Jackson died six years ago, on June 25, 2009.
The other-worldly grace of the Moonwalk. The fierce, focused energy of “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” The dance-floor urgency of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
The good intentions of “We Are the World” (which he co-wrote) and “Man In the Mirror.”
In a better world, we would remember Michael Jackson only for these unforgettable accomplishments.
Yet we will also remember the tabloid Jackson: the stories of the Elephant Man’s bones, the hyperbaric chamber, and Bubbles the chimp. The short marriage to Lisa Marie Presley.
The 1993 civil suit accusing him of child molestation, settled out of court with a payment whose amount was never revealed, but was believed to be more than $10 million.
When the world first heard Michael Jackson — the once triumphant, then disgraced King of Pop, who died yesterday at the age of 50 — it heard a voice so confident and commanding it seemed impossible that it was coming from a boy.
Years later, the world marveled at how childish he could be.
Born into a working class family in Gary, Ind., Jackson soared to Motown Era glory with his family group the Jackson 5 and, as a solo artist, released an album, “Thriller,” that was as captivating as any in pop history.
But his last two decades were filled with tragedy and scandal. In addition to the accusations of child molestation, there were career choices that were beyond bizarre, and an obsession with plastic surgery that ultimately left him looking inhuman.
He made a fortune, then squandered much of it.
At the time of his death, he was plotting a comeback via a series of shows in London’s O2 Arena. His 50 shows there were sold out.
There are few, if any, stars who could move as many tickets. Even in the relatively rare public appearances of the last 10 years, Jackson had a charisma that made him seem larger than life, and any project of his immediately became an event.
Jackson “had it all — talent, grace, professionalism and dedication,” said Quincy Jones, who produced some of his best albums. “I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”
“We’ve lost a giant,” said Jersey-based concert promoter John Scher, who produced three Jackson family “Victory Tour” concerts at Giants Stadium in 1984, as well as other Jackson concerts. “He was really part of the fabric of modern American pop. And we all saw him grow up in front of our eyes: It’s rare that you see a child actor or, in this case, a child performer, grow up and then take the enormous leap he took, when he went solo.”
Scher said that he, like many in the music industry, never got to know Jackson personally.
“It was always very secretive, whenever you dealt with him,” says Scher. “You couldn’t get anywhere near Michael Jackson or, to a large degree, any of his family, any of the inner sanctum.”
For many fans, the last opportunity to see Jackson perform was the 2001 concert at Madison Square Garden, where he reunited with the Jackson 5.
Whitney Houston, Marlon Brando, Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, Slash and Liza Minnelli were also among the show’s cast of characters: Jackson, at his best, could bridge the gaps between pop and rock, and between old-school entertainment and state-of-the-art pop.
He walked onto the stage holding a suitcase. He placed it on a spotlighted stool, opened it, and withdrew the symbols of his stardom. The black sequined jacket. The black hat. The single white glove.
He put them on, one by one, and “Billie Jean” started playing.
He lip-synched it, but the magic was still there. And the crowd went wild.
For fans, the London shows represented an opportunity for another rebirth. But like many things in Jackson’s sometimes glorious, sometimes tragic life, this was not to be.