Robert Hilburn, the former L.A. Times pop music critic, lives not far from the Jackson family compound in Encino and knew Michael — and wrote about his music — for many years. For awhile they also contemplated collaborating on a book. Hilburn's appreciation leads the Times website right now. Excerpt:
I'll always regret that the last conversation I had with Michael Jackson ended with him angrily hanging up the phone -- at least I've long thought of Michael's mood that day more than a decade ago as angry. I now realize the more accurate description would be "wounded."
Michael was at times among the sweetest and most talented people I met during my 35 years of covering pop music for the Los Angeles Times.
Hilburn said he watched with sadness as Jackson's music "went from the wonderful self-affirmation and endearing spirit of 'Thriller' to something increasingly calculated and soulless," and they had a falling out when Hilburn wrote what he observed. Hilburn's memoir, "Corn Flakes With John Lennon, and Other Tales From a Rock 'n' Roll Life," will be published in October.