jermaine jackson talks michael: "i wish it was me"
today 8:45 am pdt by gina serpe
"Exactly one week after Michael Jackson's death, brother Jermaine Jackson became the first member of the still-mourning musical family to sit down for an in-depth interview about the late icon, speaking to the Today show this morning from the grounds of Neverland Ranch.
Describing himself as Michael's "backbone," an emotional and frequently tearful Jermaine paid tribute to his little brother, and revealed what his surprisingly preferred outcome to last week's tragedy would have been.
"He went too soon, he went too soon," he told Matt Lauer. "I don't know how people are gonna take this, but I wish it was me.
"I've always felt that I was his backbone. Someone to be there for him. I was there and he was sort of like Moses. The things he couldn't say, I would say them. During the trials and during everything, I knew he was 1,000 percent innocent. I knew. We all knew.
"Michael is a gift from Allah. And he has taken him back."
See how people are coping with the icon's death in our Mourning Michael Jackson gallery.
As for how Jermaine discovered the tragic news in the first place, he said he received a call from a friend, but, disbelieving that anything could have happened to his brother, phoned his mother, Katherine, for clarification. It was then he found out Michael had been declared dead.
"To hear my mother say Michael's dead…to feel and hear the tone in her voice to say her child is dead, is nothing that anyone can ever imagine," he said, adding that he rushed across town and could already see the helicopters circling over the hospital before his arrival.
After attempting to console his mother, Jermaine said a personal goodbye to his brother.
"I wanted to see Michael. I wanted to see my brother. Seeing him there lifeless and breathless was very emotional for me, but I held myself together because I know that he's very much alive, his spirit is. That was just a shell.
"I kissed him on his forehead, I hugged him and touched him and I said, 'Michael, I'll never leave you.' I felt really, really empty."
As for how his family is holding up, Jermaine said that the devastation has taken a toll, but they're doing their best to stay strong.
"It's tough. My family is being strong. We've always been a family and we're just holding together. But it's tough. It's very tough.
"We lost our brother, our hero. The world is mourning, we're mourning, the fans are mourning. It's unreal. It's unbelievable."
As for Jackson's three children, Prince Michael, Paris-Michael and the affectionately nicknamed Blanket, Jermaine said they're "fine now" and called them "very special" kids.
He confirmed that the trio saw Michael's body at the hospital at the suggestion of a therapist, a move Jermaine was initially opposed to.
"I know it's tough, but I think it was the best thing to do. At first I was against it, but what do you say if you don't show them?"
The children are currently spending time with their cousins, and Jermaine took time out to praise Michael's decision, revealed in his recently filed will, to have their mother take over guardianship of the trio.
"I thought it was a great will, because the children are fine—my mother's the right person to be there.
"She's capable, she's up to it, because she's always with all the grandchildren all the time. She loves the laughter and the crying and all the excitement. She'll have someone with her to make sure they're doing the right things."
While a Neverland burial has already been discounted as a viable option, Jermaine says it's still his top choice for his brother's interment.
"This is his home. He created this, why wouldn't he be here? I feel his presence, it's like he's on tour somewhere or he's out somewhere and it would always feel like that and I love that. He built this place with love and you can see it and feel it.
"Look at this place…This is his creation."
Jermaine also took time out to address, albeit not specifically, the unending speculation and rumors that have surfaced in regard to Michael's use and potential abuse of prescription medications.
"For people to come forth and say things that they don't have the facts to is very damaging to the family, to me, to us, because we don't know."
And while he admitted he couldn't say without a doubt that medication played no part in Michael's death, he did say that seeing an overflow of prescriptions on his still-pending toxicology report would be a surprise.
"I would be hurt. Michael has always been a person who has been against anything like that," he said, before adding, "In this business, the pressures and things that you go through, you never know what one turns to."
Still, Jermaine has no doubt that the enormous amount of pressure Michael was put under in the last decade or so of his life took a toll on his health.
"Michael was always concerned about everybody. And to have that weight on your shoulders and to have that kind of pressure…I don't know.
"The world didn't appreciate him. The world loved him, but certain people, certain industries didn't appreciate him.
"He became a victim of his own success. It was hard for him. The things that happened during his life and then the pressure, the pressure. He felt tremendous pressure. You work so hard to do good and it's perceived a different way."
Addressing Michael's 50-show London comeback and questions of whether the King of Pop was ever up to the challenge, Jermaine said his brother would have had no problem pulling it off.
"Fifty shows is a lot of shows, but I do believe and I know Michael's very strong. Mentally and physically. He's a dancer, he never stopped dancing. He was strong, he was ready. I think it had a lot to do with the mental tear and just the stress."
Finally, when asked about the legacy his iconic brother would leave behind, Jermaine unsurprisingly opted not to wax on about Michael's undisputed musical genius, but rather paid tribute to the less public side of the star.
"The legacy of Michael Jackson is Michael being a wonderful person, a wonderful father, a caring person, a humanitarian, a person who wanted good for everyone, a person who would give his last whatever just to make someone happy.
"What he's done for the world, not just the financial, but the happiness of people…What kind of price can you put on that? How do you value that? The joy…to make someone happy, to make someone smile through your actions, through what you're doing, there's no price for that." ~www.eonline.com
(Originally published on July 2, 2009 at 7:41 a.m. PT)