THE KING OF POP has gone to Neverland.

Michael Jackson, age 50, died yesterday at a Los Angeles hospital yesterday after suffering a heart attack.

The prevailing sentiment from callers on the many radio stations playing tributes last night was that they grew up with Michael Jackson. And those callers spanned all ages, a testament to his career longevity and a relevance few artists could claim.

His death at such a young age is a shock; more complicated and more tragic is the death of someone who spent most of his life attempting to defy age and adulthood. The artist we all grew up with never grew up himself.

Since becoming a pop icon at age 11, Jackson enjoyed the spotlight of fame, but missed the chance for a regular childhood. His adult years seemed to be spent trying to reclaim it, often bizarrely, with very young friends, with a theme park at his home, with alterations to his appearance that removed most signs of race, age, or life on earth.

Maybe he learned that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But yesterday, we all learned that no one — not the rich, celebrated or talented — can escape mortality.