There’s a system of belief in which the idea is promoted that human beings, in-between our earthly existences, gather together with all the souls we are bound to encounter in our next corporeal adventure. The night of August 28th, 1958 must have been quite the event.

The subsequent day, Katherine Jackson gave birth to her eighth child. Another boy. Her mother suggested she named him ‘Ronald’.  Katherine – thankfully – ignored that, and opted for ‘Michael’ – after the patron saint of soldiers. A name that means “Who is like God”.

With typical tenacity, Katherine Jackson is refusing to bow to the injustice of the original verdict of the AEG Live Trial.

The trajectory fans followed in the preparation for the This Is It concerts was a familiar one: journeying as we did from the press conference, to the excitement of hearing reports from fans listening to rehearsals, to watching him starve with stress in front of our eyes, fans telling Michael it wasn’t worth it – to stop putting himself under all that pressure.

As had become the pattern, we accompanied the man on his rise to an angelic apex, before descending alongside him in his fall from grace.

And this time he died.

The trial was an attempt by Katherine and Michael’s children to uncover the truth as to why and how this happened. It saw Michael’s elderly mother having to once again defend her family from an onslaught of unwarranted abuse. She is a stoic woman. Not only is this a woman who has given birth ten times, she is also someone who has managed to cope with the grief of losing two of these children.

But the AEG trial was the first time the octogenarian had been in court every day as a plaintiff. The previous occasion in which Katherine had attended court every day was in 2005, as a supporter of her son the defendant: throughout which, she remained composed and gracious in her stolid knowledge of the truth. Yet the salacious details Katherine had to endure through the AEG trial put even the 2005 accusations in the shade. The pornographic details describing her son’s physical and mental demise towards death evoked painfully evident tears, both for justice and remorse. Her recounting the moment she learned Michael had died was nothing short of harrowing, “everything went dark, and I just heard screaming.”

Katherine regaled many intimate details to the AEG court – of which, she was the veritable queen – including such anecdotes as the sleeping arrangements of the poverty-stricken Jackson 5: a triple bunk bed – Jackie on his own in one, with the other four brothers sharing the other two. (Perhaps Jackie smelled a bit.)

In the opening of the AEG case, the defence threatened “we’re going to show some ugly stuff.” Katherine’s lawyer, Mr. Panish asked her, “And how does it make you feel to hear that they’re going to tell everyone that your son is a bad person?” To which she replied, “Makes me feel real bad, because I know my son was a very good person. He loved everybody. He gave to charity. He’s in the Guinness book of records for giving the most to charity of all the pop stars. I’m so nervous. I’m sorry.”

Panish also asked, “And why is it that you’re here to testify today?” Katherine replied, “Because I want to know what really happened to my son, and that’s why I’m here.”

Thirty years ago, on Katherine’s 54th birthday, Michael performed his mother’s favourite song for her:

Such immense love between a mother and son. The poetry Michael wrote for her; the album dedications; even the iconic song, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ – written for Katherine after she’d requested a song with a shuffling rhythm. As Michael himself said,

“All my success has been based on the fact that I wanted to make my mother proud, to win her smile and approval.”

Michael’s adoration of his own mother is well documented, but in the foreword he contributed to a recipe book, he reveals an appreciation for the magical nature of motherhood in general:

“Remember when you were little and your mother made a pie for you? When she cut a slice and put it on your plate, she was giving you a bit of herself, in the form of her love. She made you feel safe and wanted. She made your hunger go away, and when you were full and satisfied, everything seemed all right… You may think that your apple pie has only sugar and spice in it. A child is wiser… with the first bite, he knows that this special dish is the essence of your love.”

Maybe at that pre-terrestrial meeting the night before Michael’s birth, Michael signed up for a corporeal life of sacrifice: that he courageously adopted the responsibility of being a messenger to attempt to guide humanity along a more peaceful path. Mothers that have faith in their children ultimately see their faith qualified. Katherine had every faith in Michael, and the qualification is there for all to see.

Happy Mother’s Day, Katherine Jackson.

The world is forever indebted to your strength.


This article includes edited extracts from the First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

On March 11, I appeared on the King Jordan radio talk show to discuss the book. Here is the YouTube video edit of the interview: