The first album I ever owned was by The Jackson 5.

My sister gave it to me for my birthday, and that was my introduction to Michael Jackson.

Over the years, I never really kept track of his career until he released the record "Thriller," and everyone in the world knew about him then.

It had been a long time since I had even given him a thought, but even so, Jackson's death last week seemed a little sad.

His life, since his career peaked in the 1980s and '90s, had been nothing short of a tragic circus. Not sure how anyone can think fame and fortune does not come without penalties that can outweigh the rewards.

In the end, Jackson was reportedly millions of dollars in debt, possibly drug-addled and had been shamed by child molestation allegations.

A far cry from the precocious boy who fronted the Jackson 5 and self-proclaimed King of Pop who owned the record charts in his prime.

Although he was planning a comeback with sold-out concerts planned in Europe, there was no certainty he would regain his credibility and selling power.

Jackson had become a freak show, his actions and appearance making him easy to ridicule.

Stories of past abuse by his father and spending a life in the spotlight are speculated to have contributed to the person he became.

Only those who have spent their lives in a fishbowl, followed by photographers and having their every action documented, can relate to the life Jackson led.

It seemed like his reign at the top of the charts was so long ago, it almost felt like it was someone else whose music was heard around the world.

It was not just that the hits stop coming, Jackson's looks changed and the child molestation case created the persona of a man-child who never grew up and never understood why people were outraged at his behavior.

He became the butt of jokes, and the same people who once adorned him and put him on a pedestal, tore him down with great satisfaction, acting as if it was their duty to dethrone the king.

The world had turned on Jackson, and I don't think he could ever comprehend why.

Now his life is over at 50. Maybe he is finally at peace.

The outpouring of emotion by fans around the world indicate it is safe again to say you liked him and his music. Forced to play his music quietly or not play it at all, fans converged on music stores to buy up what they could find.

It appears Jackson had to die to become popular again.

Like we do with all famous people who die, the controversy that surrounded them in life fades to some degree.

No life story about Jackson can leave out his changing appearance from cute child star, to young adult to the man whose skin lightened and facial structure was altered many times. Nor can any story leave out the allegation of child abuse and legal proceedings.

But now those are chapters in his life story, not the whole story. For years his musical success was pushed to the backburner, no longer the headline that his bizarre behavior created, but now, in death, that is changing.

And that change is probably fair. While we looked at him and wondered what happened to his looks and we heard about his improper relationships, it would be wrong to ignore his contributions to music.

Fan or not, there was a period of time when he was the biggest and best pop star this country had seen since Elvis and The Beatles.

Like we do with all stars who rise and fall, the public is now looking back at Jackson's life with a measure of forgiveness and maybe with a little more perspective.

He wasn't just a hit maker. He wasn't just an oddity. He wasn't just a sideshow. He was all of those and more.

Once the King of Pop, always the King of Pop. Long live the King.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.