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YouTube Gold: Young Michael Jackson

When the Jackson Five was new and fresh

Photo of JACKSON FIVE and Tito JACKSON and Marlon JACKSON and Jermaine JACKSON and Michael JACKSON and Jackie JACKSON
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of JACKSON FIVE and Tito JACKSON and Marlon JACKSON and Jermaine JACKSON and Michael JACKSON and Jackie JACKSON; Posed studio group portrait L-R Tito, Marlon (front), Jermaine, Michael and Jackie Jackson
Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns

We all know now of the tragic and vile arc of Michael Jackson’s life as an adult, the bizarre behavior, the accusations of pedophilia and the slow disintegration of a man who once thrilled millions.

As a boy though, Jackson and his brothers were the Jackson Five and even when he was just 11, as he was when the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the talent was blinding.

Even at that age, he had that indefinable star quality.

It’s impossible to know what happened to Jackson although you can reasonably guess that his father’s harsh micro-management of his life and career took a toll. Jackson said two things that really stuck; first, that he never had a childhood and second that he would sleep on stage if he could, meaning in front of an audience. You have to believe he was desperate for love and approval. His sense of loneliness must have been terrifying.

When he died at 50, he was clearly a warped soul in desperate need of help that, like Elvis, he would never get, at least partly because he surrounded himself with people who would never say no even though they knew his darkest secrets.

But before his life went off the rails, Jackson was a sweet, exuberant kid exploring his massive, once-in-a-lifetime talent. He was clearly special and, before the dark things that haunted him brought him down, it was impossible to dislike him. If only someone could have helped him then.