“People around him didn’t care about the person,” says Jermaine Jackson, diagnosing the real reason for his brother Michael’s death two summers ago at age 50. “They only cared about whether he could produce and generate for them. It was all about the money.”
The trial of Michael Jackson’s former physician, which began on Sept. 27, has a much narrower focus: whether Dr. Conrad Murray is guilt of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star’s death. The prosecution so far has portrayed Murray as a man out of his depth, acting and failing to act in ways that directly contributed to the singer’s end.
“I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get all the answers,” says Jermaine, the middle brother of the Jackson Five. Even if some good comes from the trial, he won’t rush to read about it in the media. “You can’t believe the press today, because they don’t really report the truth,” he says.
The events leading up to Michael’s death dominate the final chapters of You Are Not Alone Michael: Through a Brother’s Eyes, Jackson’s book about the self-styled King of Pop. The book’s main aim, he says on the phone from Los Angeles, is to celebrate his brother’s life, from the early days in Gary, Ind., through the success of the Jackson Five and the even greater triumphs of the solo career.
But inevitably, perhaps, the book devotes large sections to perceived attacks, delivered by the police, the justice system and the press. The biggest injury of the lot is the charge of child molestation that landed Michael in court in 2005 (he was acquitted).
“There were a lot of wonderful things before all this happened,” Jackson says. “I wanted to show the human side of Michael. I want him to be remembered as a fine human being, regardless of all these false allegations and all this crap they put on him.”
Some of his defence is more notable for loyalty than logic. Jackson waxes indignant over media coverage of a famous 2002 incident in Berlin, during which Michael held his infant son Prince Michael II (known as “Blanket”) over the rails of a balcony, above a crowd of fans. “Michael always had the firmest grip on the baby,” Jermaine writes. “… His performance as a father was an example of what fatherhood should be.” On the same page, however, Jackson recalls how Michael left his son behind at a family gathering, returning in his chauffeured car five minutes later to say, “Oh, I forgot Blanket!” Michael was always forgetful, Jackson explains, “because, as an artist, he was preoccupied with creativity.”
Similarly, he claims that a photo of Michael in a wheelchair, pyjamas and a surgical mask that ran through the media in 2008 was essentially a practical joke engineered by the star.
“That was deliberate, absolutely,” Jackson says. “Look at that picture. He’s sitting with great posture. He’s not slouched over, like he’s weak or ill. He knew the press would say all these horrible things, and he would have the last laugh and make the greatest comeback ever. He was great at that.”
The greatest comeback was supposed to be the concert tour he was preparing for when he died. Jackson says his brother was in good health and high spirits when rehearsal began, and might have remained so if people around him hadn’t been preoccupied with putting the show on the road, regardless of the cost.
“He started to fall apart because of what they were putting into him,” he says. The Murray trial prosecutors seem to agree: Their case so far has focused heavily on drugs administered by the singer’s physician.
Much of the last section of the book is a detailed narrative of some of what ensued during rehearsals, including Michael’s precipitous weight loss and other signs of physical frailty. But in legal terms, it’s all hearsay: Neither Jermaine nor any of the other Jacksons saw Michael in the month before he died.
“We had people there who let us know what was going on,” Jackson says. The promoter, AEG, threw up a wall of security around the rehearsals, he says, and had only its own people inside, including Murray.
Jackson and his sister Janet boycotted an all-star tribute concert that took place in Wales on Oct. 8, though some other Jacksons, including the singer’s children, participated. “There’s nothing wrong with doing a tribute,” Jackson says. “But when the world is focused on getting justice for Michael – it’s not the right thing to do.”
He denies that his book, which came out last month, may capitalize on the courtroom drama, and the return of his brother’s name to the news pages. “The publisher decided we had a window before the trial,” he says.
“My family is not exploiting Michael. My family has nothing to do with the album that came out, with the Cirque du Soleil show [Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour] It’s the executors who are making these decisions. We lost a family member.”