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Michael Jackson: the mystery starts here

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Sad news this morning. Jackson’s life had already gone beyond that of a precociously talented singer and dancer; like Jade Goody (albeit at completely the other end of the talent scale) he had become a metaphor, a symbol, a picture of fame and what it does to a person.

What he was, really, was a Prince. I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean, literally, that’s how he saw himself. Looking at pictures of his possessions you get the feeling that this was a man who took the title ‘The King of Pop’ seriously. The chess sets, the paintings, the ornate carvings – I was reminded of Ludwig of Bavaria – another fairytale prince who built a series of music-inspired castles and who, like Jackson, lived in a make believe world, insulated by wealth from the realities outside the gates.

Compare Jackson’s penchant for military-dictator chic, for paintings of himself being knighted, for the regalia of royalty. Like most members of royalty, from an early age he was set apart; he never really knew what an ordinary life was. His behaviour, weird and eccentric to us, fits perfectly into the insulated excesses of renaissance princes and Romanov Tsars (I’ll bet he owned at least one fabergé egg). This was a man, afer all, who sailed a thirty-foot statue of himself along the Thames. This was a man who had an arranged marriage with another member of rock aristocracy: Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll. This was the King of Pop; who named his son, Prince.

Like Ludwig, and like his ertswhile father-in-law, I suspect that his death will pretty soon be taken up by the conspiracy theorists. Whatever the reality, the facts will be eroded by speculation and internet-fuelled fantasies, by people desperate to believe that he’s still alive. He was bankrupt, after all. He needed to escape. A faked death – one of his lookalikes perhaps – and he’ll be off, sharing a burger with Presley in a remote diner somewhere. You heard it here first.

Before the fantasies ruin everything, before the sordid revelations and loonie conspiracy theories distort the view, we should remember the reality: the Off the Wall album which proved the soundtrack to all those parties I went to in the eighties; the astonishing grace on the dance floor; the anticipation of each new video.

He was a man who was damaged by fame to an almost inconceivable degree; who died at too young an age. But then, he had everything too young. Princes always do.