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Michael Jackson, Through His Brother's Eyes

In the 1960s, five brothers — from a family of nine children — formed a music group in their living room in Gary, Ind. Their voices soon gained world stardom with songs such as "ABC," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "Boogie Man" and "I'll Be There." They were the Jackson 5: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson.

Their lives took different directions, but many of them stayed in the entertainment business. They pursued solo music careers, ran record companies and produced television series.

Michael Jackson, the group's youngest member and lead vocalist, ruled the pop and rhythm and blues charts throughout the 1980s with his own work. In his early 20s, he came out with Thriller, the album that earned him smashing success. But in the 1990s, the King of Pop's career took a downturn as he was accused of child abuse. In the 2000s, he was charged and arrested for child molestation, but was later acquitted. On June 25, 2009, he died in Los Angeles from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic, propofol. As a criminal trial continues to explore how he died, those who loved him are still grappling with why.

His older brother Jermaine Jackson is also trying to come to terms with the loss and has a new book titled You Are Not Alone: Michael: Through a Brother's Eyes. He joins Tell Me More host Michel Martin for an interview.

Interview Highlights

On his favorite story of Michael

"The one that sticks out in my mind all the time, and sticking on Michael's mind too, was singing, looking out the window — the snow was falling — and wanting Christmas. And we weren't allowed to [celebrate Christmas] because we were Jehovah's Witnesses. But that's when we were singing a lot of Christmas carols.

"Those were the moments and stories of just how we were just kids and on the road. Stories of me bringing girls in the room, and thinking Michael and Marlon were asleep, and they're not asleep. And Michael's just being a kid — very mischievous and just all over the place."

On Michael's upbringing, Neverland Ranch and advocacy for children

"You get so big, and then the media is looking for something to exploit and to create sensationalism. With Michael, it became his undying love for children, because of him not really having a childhood. So even when he became an adult, he was looking at children through a child's eyes, and the world looking at him through adult eyes, and the misleading things they were saying about him with children and all these things. What I've done with chapter 17, it's called 'Body of Lies,' shows you exactly what happened.

"When we grew up, there was nothing different about a stranger, about everybody. The neighbor's kids sleeping on the floor, making beds. The kids, little boys, little girls, friends, this and that ... we were watching TV and having fun. Nothing about abuse and none of this kind of stuff. Michael never left that. Even when we were growing up in our room, we were five boys in one little room. There were triple bunk beds: Tito and I at the top, Michael and Marlon in the middle and Jackie at the bottom. Psychologically, he never left that.

"Now, it's like growing up not having a childhood and then wanting to relive that. That's the whole purpose of Neverland. Neverland was lit up like a Christmas tree 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year. There were wheelchair ramps up going up to rides because he wanted children to have fun who were terminally ill of cancer. That's where his charity work came in. There were beds — a special suite in his theater — where kids that needed oxygen, where they can watch movies and things like that. And that was misunderstood and misinterpreted."

On Michael's personal physician Conrad Murray, and Michael's death

"He trusted the doctor. And every doctor takes an oath to take care of their client — not to take their life. And whatever the doctor was putting in him, which was propofol, it wasn't administered in a proper setting. Propofol is OK if it's in the right hands, meaning an anesthesiologist. But when it's given to someone and they're not that — he was a cardiologist — and it wasn't in the proper setting, then it becomes a weapon.

"When I wrote in the book about his body being half cold and half hot, him repeating himself all the time, him not knowing right from left ... these are signs of toxic poisoning. They're trying to say these were self-administered. The autopsy reported that was not the truth. Michael had a problem with sleeping, but he's never had these symptoms before. Michael had pain from the Pepsi burn [an injury he suffered while filming a 1984 commercial and subsequently took painkillers for] so there was the situation of Demerol in 2001 or 2002, but that didn't kill my brother. What killed my brother was propofol being in the wrong hands and negligence.

"We'll never get closure. When something like this ends ... you learn to live with it, but you'll never get over it. Because we lost a good brother. He was a good father. His daughter, Paris, said that during his memorial. My mother lost a great son. Nephews lost an uncle. And it's something ... he'll never come back, and you look who he was — he was a misunderstood person because of old-fashioned values."

On Murray's trial

"Put it like this — whether it's fair or not, I do believe they are going to paint my brother out to be the most horrible person. And that's why I documented who he was in this book. He's a wonderful human being.

"He was pure. He was real, and he cared. And when you look in his eyes, you could tell that this is a good, great human being. That's what I want people to remember him as — a human being. Yes, he had incredible success, and God knew who to bless with the success, because he knew he was going to give back to the people. He was doing God's work through his music and his songs."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff