Michael Jackson was born 60 years ago today. Ten years ago, in advance of turning 50, Jackson gave a brief but revealing interview to Good Morning America‘s Chris Connelly, in which he discussed his favorite career moments, his parenting style, his thoughts on younger artists and more.
The 2008 conversation starts off innocuously. When asked how he’ll be celebrating his 50th, the soft-spoken Jackson, speaking via a crackly phone line, replies, “Oh, I’ll just have a little cake with my children and we’ll probably watch some cartoons.” Then he says he’s taking the time to remember one of his idols, who had died less than two years prior: “I’m just watching, you know, a little James Brown show right now.”
Connelly then asks Jackson to pinpoint the happiest moment in his career. “The happiest?” Jackson asks, as though surprised by the question, before answering: “The recording of Thriller and Off the Wall… that meant very much to me, and seeing it received so beautifully by the public and the world, I enjoyed it very much.”
He also speaks vaguely about future plans, saying he’s “expanding a lot of the avenues” of his work, and gives props to a couple of younger artists (“I think Chris Brown is doing wonderful and Timberlake — I really admire what they’re doing”).
The most insightful moments of the interview come when Connelly asks Jackson to reflect on his childhood, and how it influenced his own parenting style. When queried about what he’s sacrificed for his art, Jackson replies, “A lot of hard work, sacrificing your time and your scheduling. Your childhood — giving up your life for the medium.”
The singer goes on to say that he’s making sure his own kids get to enjoy their childhood to the fullest. “I’m letting them enjoy their childhood as much as possible,” he explains. “I really do — I let them go to the arcade and to the movies and do things. I think that comes naturally. I want them to get to do the things I didn’t get to do.”
He elaborates, offering an uncommon glimpse into his inner life: “Yeah, I get pretty emotional when I see them having a wonderful time, when they’re on a ride and they’re screaming and they’re happy and they’re running. It makes me emotional.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the interview did not touch on the allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson.
At the time of the interview, Jackson had just released his King of Pop compilation, a greatest-hits album that had a varying track list in different countries based on fan polls. In March 2009, he would announce his historic This Is It comeback concerts, set to begin in July of that year. But Jackson would not live to perform those shows, or to see his 51st birthday. The singer died on June 25th, 2009.