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Michael Jackson, one of the most consummate entertainers ever to enter the American pop culture lexicon, died a little over eight years ago. It is worth taking a moment to contemplate why this man, who would be only 59 years old today had he lived, died as he did, when he did.

Most immediately, Michael died because he was administered the equivalent of surgical anesthesia on an almost daily basis, just to be able to fall asleep at night and peaceably remain so. The doctor who did the administering was consequently convicted of a crime, stripped of his license, and imprisoned.

But why did Michael so often require such strong measures just to achieve a good night sleep? Well, because he had insomnia, born from old aches which made him feel under attack from his own physiology —- aches which existed because of how hard he pushed himself. Intensely and on an unending pace. And, in so pushing himself, he acquired over the course of his life a range of injuries. In one of the earliest video shoot of his career, preceding his greater fame, he suffered a broken nose. Some would shrug from such an injury and move on, but he could not. It affected his singing. So he had plastic surgery. I’m satisfied with its outcome, he had another. And then another, and then a range of others to other facial features. He famously received burns to the scalp from a pyrotechnic mishap while filming a Pepsi commercial after achieving the height of fame, another injury requiring surgical attention.

But preceding all of this, Michael had a childhood which drove him to become the person who would push himself that intensely. His father Joe was stern, some called it abusive, and forced his children to rehearse their musical numbers from an early age, sitting and watching with the folded belt, ready to punish poor performance. And here we find the route. Here we find why Michael Jackson would perform day in and day out, night in and night out, seeking surgeries out of a combination of desire to maximize his ability as a performer and to run away from life of his childhood self (and to manufacture a new childhood through his toy-and-ride filled Neverland estate). And so, although it was a physician who administered the daily dose, the first push of that needle came decades before under the thumb of Joe Jackson.



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