His erratic behavior, his alleged sexual abuse of children, his debts and mistakes won't be forgotten and can't be ignored.
But I have always felt that the story of Michael Jackson is the story of an American tragedy. This is a man who was physically and emotionally abused. A man who had no childhood. A man who maybe never grew into manhood, but was suspended in pre-adolescence. He had crippling insecurities and an obsessive hunger to be the first to do anything, the best to do anything. And that is why I think we are all, collectively, taking his untimely death so hard.
I think many of us hoped that one day he would have a breakthrough ... he would seek psychological help, he would offer credible explanations for so many of his odd tendencies, he would magically turn into the charming, afro'd boy in "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough." But that didn't happen. I would have liked to see a comeback, if that were possible.
Every time he released a new single, even up until 2001, I was always surprised at how in tune he seemed with R&B trends and how, if recorded by anyone else, his songs would be tremendous hits.
I used to watch MTV obsessively as a very young child and some of my earliest memories are of the "Thriller" and the "Billie Jean" videos. I, like every child of the 80s, tried to moonwalk. I tried to hit the high-pitched "Hee-hee" that appeared in all of his songs.
I have heard many people, especially people younger than me, question why exactly this is such a big deal. And I've given it a lot of thought. As the child of a dancer, I cannot overstate the influence of this one man. He combined the grace of Fred Astaire, the athleticism of Gene Kelly, the sexuality of James Brown and the smoothness of breakdancing.
My best friend Jamie and I have always had a guilty pleasure affinity for a TV movie called "Jacksons: An American Dream" that came out when we were in 4th grade. We can recite this movie, and though it's cheesy, it has always influenced my thinking about Michael. His life was never easy, and I think that's why I'm sad.