Inside The Tragic Final Months Of Michael Jackson

The King of Pop rode a tsunami of success for 40 years, electrifying audiences with solo performances and stealing hearts as the pint-sized front man of The Jackson 5. Michael Jackson's untimely 2009 death shocked the world, leaving devastated fans and curious looky-loos wondering what happened. While his blessings were apparent, dark shadows followed Jackson. To some of the entertainer's associates, news of his death came as a great surprise, but it was far less shocking to those in his inner circle. 

Working with Jackson was viewed by many as a ticket to fame and/or fortune. Everyone wanted a piece of the MJ pie, including his extended family. Rolling Stone wrote he was "most comfortable with those who, like himself, have grown up with fame" and understood the isolation of never knowing whether someone genuinely cares or sees you as the means to an end. The most famous person in the world was imprisoned by his own celebrity.

From "Wacko Jacko" headlines about peculiar behavior to criminal charges, Jackson was consistently under fire. Regardless of one's perspective on his alleged crimes and idiosyncrasies, it's impossible to deny his profound impact on pop music and pop culture. The final months of Michael Jackson's life were a mixture of sweetness and sorrow. 

Michael Jackson spent time at home with his children

Fans had difficulty fathoming Michael Jackson's death, but imagine if he were your parent! MJ was the major breadwinner for his extended family and the sole guardian of his three children, Prince Jackson, Paris Jackson, and Blanket Jackson. While Michael's parents and siblings depended on him for financial support, his kids relied on him for everything.

Michael was a protective dad, rarely allowing his children to be seen in public without disguises. He was also doting, loving, and adored by his children. A year after their father's death, Prince and Paris were interviewed on Oprah. Paris said, "I kind of felt like no one understood what a good father he was. He was the best cook ever. He was just a normal dad." The day their father died, amid the chaos, the kids reportedly ran to chef Kai Chase for comfort, who described the scene to ABC News. "We stood in a circle and we held hands together, feel helpless." 

Michael's mother, Katherine Jackson, told Oprah Winfrey, "You know what broke my heart more than anything else in this world? When people at the hospital told us, 'You can leave now,' and Paris said, 'Grandma, where are we going?'" The kids went to live with Katherine, and youngest child Blanket (who now prefers to be called Bigi) was adopted by his uncle, Tito Jackson, when Katherine grew too frail to care for him full time.

Michael Jackson announced an upcoming concert series in London

Michael Jackson knew how to put on a show, and when Jackson started something, fans eagerly jumped in line to take part. In March 2009, he announced plans for a summer residency: a series of concerts called This is It at the 02 Arena in London. The limited engagement was ultimately expanded to 50 concerts, and The Guardian reported all of the shows—one million tickets—sold out "in a matter of hours." As Billboard noted, Jackson promised in a press conference that he would perform "the songs my fans want." These concerts were not meant to be. 

Jackson worked day and night staging and rehearsing the show. Choreographer Travis Payne recalled to ABC News that Jackson "was not going to settle” for less than perfection from anyone involved in the show. Jackson's former manager Frank DiLeo echoed this sentiment, telling ABC News, "He wanted to do it right. And he was strong enough...If he wasn't healthy, if there was something wrong, I would have stopped him. No. There was nothing to stop." 

But Jackson did grow frail and thin as the year went on. This is It promoter Randy Phillips told ABC News that he "hired someone whose job it was to be sure that he eats," and even then, show director Kenny Ortega "would cut Jackson's chicken breast for him, and say, 'Eat! Eat!'"

The This Is It rehearsals were caught on camera

Michael Jackson recorded rehearsals as part of perfecting the staging and choreography of a show, but he never released rehearsal footage to the public. Hours of This Is It run-throughs were all that remained of the entertainer's ill-fated swan song. Concert promoters AEG Live decided to release that footage in the form of a documentary. Members of the Jackson family fought against production of the film, but the Jackson Estate, AEG Live, and Sony Pictures ultimately came to an agreement, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Following his death, Jackson's three children and his mother sued AEG Live for negligence, asking for $1.5 billion in damages

The main question during the trial was whether AEG Live or Jackson himself pressured Jackson's personal physician to administer risky medications to enable Jackson to sleep. University of Southern California law professor Jody David Armour told Rolling Stone, "There were two strong narratives here, and this jury was most persuaded by the personal-responsibility narrative. There was evidence that Michael Jackson wanted Dr. Murray — personal choice. He's a big boy."

The jury ultimately ruled in favor of AEG Live in October 2013.

Michael Jackson had intense insomnia

Burning the candle at both ends during the This Is It rehearsal period left Michael Jackson exhausted. On top of that, he battled chronic insomnia. His former manager Frank DiLeo told ABC News Jackson said he couldn't sleep because he was "all wound up" about the performances.

Cherilyn Lee, a registered nurse in Jackson's employ as a nutritionist, told ABC News Jackson was intent on bringing in a doctor who could administer the general anesthesia drug propofol as a sleep aid in the spring of 2009, no matter the price. Lee says she told him, "This is not a safe medicine. Please don't take might not wake up the next morning." He assured her his doctor said it would be okay provided "somebody is here to monitor me and wake me up." Patients who have been administered propofol are to be monitored closely to avoid potentially fatal complications.

Former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Vesna Maras told ABC News using propofol in this manner is "way off the chart." Maras went on to say that the product "is not even FDA-approved for insomnia," adding, "So in other words, it would be like using a hammer to kill an ant."

Michael Jackson 'was crying out' days before his death

Speaking with the AP (via Rolling Stone), Cherilyn Lee said one of Michael Jackson's aids reached out to her four days before his death, saying the King of Pop needed to see her immediately. "He was in trouble...and he was crying out," she told the outlet. Something was off, and she knew he needed help.

Lee told ABC News, "I could hear Michael in the background: 'Tell her. Tell her that one side of my body is hot, is hot, and one side of my body is cold, it's very cold." Lee said she knew "somebody had given him something that hit that central nervous system" and insisted Jackson go to the hospital.

According to ABC News, he never went. Lee's fear was that he had been administered Diprivan, the brand name for propofol. Those fears would soon be confirmed by the Los Angeles coroner's report, which revealed Jackson officially died of acute propofol intoxication with benzodiazepine effect and ruled his death a homicide.

Dr. Conrad Murray provided Michael Jackson with propofol

Concert promoters onboarded cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray as Michael Jackson's personal physician in 2009. Jackson insisted Murray be hired to treat his insomnia and other medical issues, and, as the AP reported, the doctor was earning $150,000 per month. As noted by ABC News, Murray said he administered "the drugs propofol, Lidocaine, Ativan and Versed" to Jackson the morning he died. CNN reported Murray told investigators that, for six weeks prior to Jackson's death, he had administered "50 milligrams of the sedative propofol diluted with the local anesthetic lidocaine every night via an intravenous drip." This was apparently Murray's attempt to ease Jackson off of the anesthesia.

The Jackson family desperately sought accountability from anyone involved in their superstar relative's death. According to ABC News, La Toya Jackson told Barbara Walters, "I simply want justice. What's ever right. In the court of law. I want justice. They've taken a life away from us, from all of us."

In February 2010, Murray was hit with an involuntary manslaughter charge. As BBC noted, he pleaded not guilty but was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in November 2011.

A doctor called Michael Jackson's addiction 'extensive'

In January 1984, Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire on the set of a Pepsi commercial. As Biography noted, Jackson was given sedatives and painkillers to treat this injury. Jackson's friend Miko Brando told Good Morning America it was "hard to say" if this prescribed treatment was the catalyst for what followed.

Nine years later, The New York Times reported Jackson truncated his Dangerous tour to enter rehab for his painkiller addiction, and as the Los Angeles Times noted, Elizabeth Taylor played a part in his intervention. According to CNNaddiction expert Dr. Petros Levounis testified that the pop star's "addiction was quite extensive." Levounis also said that a "friendship between an addicted patient and a doctor is problematic" and told the court that he found that Jackson did not take more than prescribed.

According to Billboard, Detective Orlando Martinez said during the AEG Live wrongful death trial that Jackson's mother admitted their family had attempted to stage many interventions over the years, but "he would have nothing to do with it." When Robin Roberts asked about the interventions in 2009, Janet Jackson said she "felt that he was in denial" about all of it. She went on to add, "It's something you can't do for them. Something they have to do for themselves."

As noted by USA Today, Jackson gave the $1.5 million settlement he won from PepsiCo following the incident to the hospital where he was treated for his burns. 

Accusations of child molestation plagued Michael Jackson

Although Michael Jackson was acquitted on all charges of child molestation, repeated accusations of sexual misconduct with young boys tarnished the entertainer's reputation. To date, five individuals have publicly accused Jackson of molesting them: Jordie Chandler, Jason Francia, Gavin Arvizo, Wade Robson, and Jimmy Safechuck. Their stories are eerily similar.

According to Metro, Jackson had a history of "[manipulating] the press" in order to remain an enigma in his fans' eyes. Former bodyguard Matt Fiddes told the outlet that Jackson's efforts to maintain a mysterious image "backfired on him" when the molestation accusations became public. In a statement obtained by The Guardian, Jackson said he was "devastated" by a 2003 Martin Bashir documentary that strongly implied Jackson was abusing young boys.

In 2019, HBO released Leaving Neverland, a documentary that follows the stories of two men, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who waited until after Jackson's death to come forward with allegations of abuse. In a statement provided to People, Jackson's estate said that "both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them" in the past. However, as 2005 Jackson trial prosecutor Ron Zonen told Vanity Fair, it is normal for male victims to wait to report abuse "on their terms."

The Jackson family filed a $100 million lawsuit in an attempt to stop production of Leaving Neverland. It didn't work. However, as Variety noted in 2020, the estate won an appeal and the case will go to arbitration. 

This Is It was supposed to be Michael Jackson's final tour

Michael Jackson loved the stage as much as the stage loved him, and the London concert series would have been a thriller for fans. This Is It vocal director Dorian Holley described Jackson's final rehearsal to TIME, saying, "He was just glowing, and you could see it, that he was finally seeing it all come together...for the first time. It was a big moment."

According to ABC Newschoreographer Travis Payne said Jackson was "happier than he'd been in years" while rehearsing for the This Is It concert series and was "excited and ecstatic" after his last rehearsal. Promoter Randy Phillips also recalled the positive energy behind the scenes, telling ABC News, "We all had goose bumps. I had never seen such exultation in the cast and crew."

This Is It was intended to be both a comeback and one last hurrah for Jackson. As Independent reported, when he announced the residency at the 02 Arena in London, Jackson said, "When I say this is it, it really means this is it." And it was it.