In his new autobiography, pop-music icon Elton John says his longtime friend Michael Jackson appeared to have developed severe mental-health issues before the star's death in 2009, at age 50.
"I'd known Michael since he was 13 or 14," John recalls in an excerpt from "Me" in the U.K. newspaper The Independent. Fellow music megastar Jackson, who began his career as a child singer in the sibling group The Jackson 5 before going solo, "was just the most adorable kid you could imagine. But at some point in the intervening years, he started sequestering himself away from the world, and away from reality the way Elvis Presley did."
The Grammy, Tony and Oscar-winning John laments, "God knows what was going on in his head, and God knows what prescription drugs he was being pumped full of, but every time I saw him in his later years I came away thinking the poor guy had totally lost his marbles. I don't mean that in the light-hearted way. He was genuinely mentally ill, a disturbing person to be around."
John, 72, calls it "incredibly sad, but he was someone you couldn't help: he was just gone, off in a world of his own, surrounded by people who only told him what he wanted to hear."
He goes on to describe Jackson attending an undated dinner party thrown by John and future husband David Furnish. Jackson ate nothing and then, "After a while, he got up from the table without a word and disappeared. We finally found him, two hours later, in a cottage in the grounds of Woodside," John's country estate in England, "where my housekeeper lived: she was sitting there, watching Michael Jackson quietly playing video games with her 11-year-old son. For whatever reason, he couldn't seem to cope with adult company at all."
Neither of the late Jackson's two adult children, fashion-world figure Paris Jackson, 21, and Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson Jr., 22, have commented on social media about John's recollections, nor has Michael's Jackson's music-star sister Janet Jackson, 53. Michael Jackson also had a third child, Prince Michael "Blanket" Jackson II, 17.
"Me" was released Tuesday. John is scheduled to play NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on Nov. 16.