Find the video of Michael Jackson performing “Who’s Lovin’ You” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on YouTube. Eleven years old is the boy.

He is appearing on national television for the first time. He seems and sounds like an eleven-year-old with some acting chops in the introduction.

He begins by jokingly stating that children can relate to the blues since he once fell in love with a girl in the sandbox, celebrated their relationship during “milk break,” and then broke it off during finger painting.

He stumbles over his lines halfway through and stops, turning to his elder brothers for support. Only in the age of live television is such an extremely vulnerable situation feasible.

You pity the guy. A child being forced to perform live in front of the entire nation suddenly doesn’t feel right. However, he manages to get back and makes it.

We see completely different things as the music begins. He sings his first note with all the assurance, certainty, and purpose an adult could possibly have.

He changes from a shy kid at a talent show to the eternal image of longing. In addition to singing perfectly in tune, he also has the impression of singing from the bottom of his heart.

He mimics a 1960s soul guy well as he looks into the camera, shakes his head, and blinks back tears. Additionally, it briefly seems as though there are two distinct entities present.

One is a child—surely a cute and intelligent youngster, but no different from any other kid. Like all of us, he is subject to the same rules of life, including pain, aging, bewilderment, and terror.

The second entity resembles a kind of spirit that is solely familiar with how people truly express their emotions. And it appears that this spirit just happened to enter this specific human child’s body.

By doing this, it has condemned him to an eternity of unbearable enchantment and ultimate suffering. The specifics of that life are thoroughly covered in “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” by Steve Knopper.

Contributing editor Knopper approaches the story with a journalistic eye, charting M.J.’s journey from a working-class family in Gary, Indiana, to unparalleled fame and riches, and finally to a deformed, reclusive, and obsessive middle age, hemmed in by leeches and ne’er-do-wells.

The story follows the typical rock-biopic plotline—a man with a gift becomes a man with a burden—in broad strokes.

Jackson never finds redemption, in contrast to Hollywood’s rags-to-riches stories. The distance from the final performance to the adoring crowd chanting his name is not particularly long.

Instead, he continues to fall until death finally finds him, millions of dollars in debt, struggling with a crippling painkiller addiction, and being treated by a shady doctor who gave Jackson the insane doses of anesthesia he eventually came to rely on to sleep.

The mundaneness of his death is startling. All that really happened was that because of how great he was, people started to obsess over how much money he could make.

He handled his otherworldly power in a terrible way, having never learned how to be a responsible adult. Up until around 1990, according to Knopper, everyone who actually cared for the young, pre-“Thriller” Jackson had been forcibly denied entry to his life.

As he became greater, he shut out more people from it. Michael’s network of advisors started to dwindle dangerously. Perhaps Jackson’s more questionable activities were able to persist unchecked due to this particular mix of circumstances.

Everyone is aware of his pathological obsession with plastic surgery, which turned him into a plastic version of himself in front of our very eyes.

He reportedly underwent dozens of procedures, many of which were poor quality or botched. He lightened his skin, and over the years, he gave various justifications in public.

His autopsy supported his diagnosis of vitiligo, a disorder that causes areas of skin to lose their color. However, the black community had traditionally reacted skeptically to this explanation.

Jackson was undoubtedly influenced by an American perception that pale complexion, tiny lips, small noses, and straight hair are the pinnacle of beauty, whether or not the sickness was the cause of the significant shift in his skin tone.

Your blackness is a result of your experiences, not of your skin. It is intensified by witnessing Rodney King being brutally beaten by police on television, as Jackson and the rest of us undoubtedly did in March 1991.

It reawakens when you consider how many black artists who contributed to your employer’s prosperity passed away penniless and unremembered. He was unable to escape M.J.’s darkness.

This could be the reason why black people supported him despite what on the surface seemed to be his rejection of us.

No matter what he evolved into, we were aware of the pain and struggle that shaped him. We were aware of the father’s desperation and the racism of the mid-20th century.

We were aware of the whoopings, which had a variety of purposes, including training for a world that would try its best to inflict an even more brutal psychological beating, discipline, and aggressive and egotistical abuse.

Even Michael Jackson, who is twisted, strange, and difficult to understand, makes perfect sense in its context because of the wide variety of lunacy that American racism fosters among its victims.

We did not know all about Jackson, though. You can’t write about him without mentioning that he was allegedly a child molester; in fact, it sometimes seems like this is all that people under thirty know about him.

In spite of his best efforts, Knopper’s investigation of all available evidence leads him to the conclusion that Jackson’s innocence is more likely than not.

Knopper’s conclusion, however, is by no means firm. Any way you read it, this part of the story is vile and repulsive.

One of the parents who accused Jackson of wrongdoing demanded compensation and a three-picture screenwriting contract as a settlement.

Long after she claimed to have grown wary, the mother of the other child kept encouraging her son to stay with Jackson.

Of course, if Jackson was innocent, the public shitshow that followed is largely Jackson’s fault due to his own weirdness and total inability to understand normal social boundaries.

Jackson reveals, unprompted, that he enjoys sharing beds with kids in the now-famous Martin Bashir documentary “Living with Michael Jackson.”

He says, “I share a bed with all of them. Then we go in the hot-air balloon after waking up at like sunrise. Very well said. It is extremely lovable. Right now, the world needs that.

Additional affection extra heart the world needs a guy who is forty-four sleeping in a bed with kids? Sarcastically challenges Bashir.

No, you’re getting it all wrong, Jackson responds. That is incorrect, for what is wrong with sharing love? Who exactly is this? If he is a predator, then nothing else he did, no matter how noble, can be respected.

But what if he genuinely and fervently believes that love is the only thing that matters? This is what drives us to be so fixated on Michael Jackson’s heinousness.

We need to know if he’s an angel or a beast. We are persuaded that he is the former by his performances in front of countless people, the people who cry at the sight of his hand, and the way that his voice can calm even our most frightened and hardened parts.

However, given how mired we are in the muck of our human struggle, it’s possible that this version of him is simply too fantastical and naive for us.

Perhaps we are unable or unwilling to accept the existence of the pure love he purported to represent. We have a burning desire to grasp the divine and unite it with our human nature.

Jackson served as a vessel for something divine, so perhaps it pleases us to demonstrate that he is just as unkempt and vulgar as the rest of us.

What if he had come from a different family and location? Anywhere else. Consider a small Mexican fishing village.

This kid would be there. Incredibly talented and capable of moving people with his voice. A technique for singing about love and heartache. From an early age, he sang songs for audiences. They would adore him and rejoice over him.

He may receive particular consideration since he has the ability to bring moms to tears and dads to slowly shake their heads while fighting back tears.

He would, however, still be a child. With other kids, he would play and run. On each project the family undertook, he would participate.

In the company of the other young men on the fishing boat. In the traditional shop. Operating lodging for travelers, maybe.

He’d mature into a man. He could perform some guitar music. Perhaps females would adore him. Perhaps he would wed one.

He might perhaps struggle with loyalty. He could consume too much alcohol. If he had children, he might teach them the songs he knew as a child.

The light in his eyes might always have some effect on people, but as he grew, it would probably lessen. He might get older and a little heavier in the middle from beer and aging.

He might instruct his grandchildren in weaving fishing nets and singing songs. After learning about YouTube and Twitter, they might only be marginally interested, but their parents would reprimand the younger ones for not respecting their grandfather.

Perhaps only the elderly would recall that he had been a lovely vocalist in his youth when he passed away.

I wish Michael Jackson had experienced this. But only enough to make others happy, I wished he had more skill. Naturally, it would mean he never would have had us, but he would have had himself.

I now have my own son. Age twelve. He recently revealed to me that he can still clearly recall returning from school and finding the television on, blaring the news of Michael Jackson’s passing.

I can see my son at that age, with his wide eyes like dark moons, soft, simple skin, the smallest and most perfect hands, and a tiny voice with centuries of soul packed deep within it.

He actually reminded us of a young Michael Jackson. In some ways, a lot of kids resemble a young Michael Jackson.

My son recalls entering the kitchen and finding his parents, who were by this point grown, worn out, and elderly, crying as if they were infants. He didn’t know why.

I now believe that I do. We weren’t inconsolable over Michael Jackson’s passing because he was a pained, egocentric, and frail Plastic Freak. We were sobbing over the impending loss of our childhoods.