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Image: Hong Kong reaction to Michael Jackson's death
Kin Cheung  /  AP
Shoppers in Hong Kong pass beneath screens Friday showing the news of the death of pop legend Michael Jackson.
updated 6/26/2009 10:13:27 AM ET 2009-06-26T14:13:27

Michael Jackson was due to make his triumphant return to the stage in London next month — but instead his sudden death has left millions of fans feeling they’ve lost a lifelong friend.

The dramatic death of the brilliant singer seemed to obscure his recent controversies and kindle warmer memories of Jackson the child star and Jackson the show-stopping, moonwalking headliner.

The worldwide chorus of grief united the famous — statesmen and superstars alike — and the legions of ordinary people who grew up with “Thriller” and “Beat It.”

Word of Jackson’s death jolted nearly everyone, from a young man in Colombia who was named after the King of Pop, to Malaysians who named a soy drink for him, to a generation of people around the world who have tried, in vain, to moonwalk.

“It’s horrible news, so unexpected,” the Italian actress Sophia Loren told The Associated Press by telephone. “The world has lost an icon and music has lost treasures. He wrote songs that generations of yesterday, today and tomorrow will all keep on singing. What he wrote was amazing.”

Loren and her children had been frequent visitors to Jackson at his Neverland ranch in California, developing an enduring friendship.

“I hope that Michael will find that peace that maybe he did not have in the last 15 years.”

A lifetime of musicIn London, shocked fans gathered at the Lyric Theatre, where a live show based on Jackson’s record-selling album “Thriller” is being performed, and waited for news about refunds for some 750,000 tickets to his sold-out, 50-night run.

A spokeswoman for AEG Live — the promoters for the London concerts — declined to say how ticket refunds would be handled. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she was not authorized to speak to the media.

There were poignant memories of his final public appearance when he came to London for a March news conference to announce his “This is it” concerts, which he said would mark his farewell to the London stage. A candlelight vigil at London’s Trafalgar Square was planned to honor the singer.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela issued a message through his foundation saying Jackson’s loss would be felt worldwide.

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Jackson sang at a birthday concert for Mandela in 1998. In 1999, according to local media reports at the time, he lunched with Mandela at a small gathering at which the South African anti-apartheid leader celebrated both his 81st birthday and his and wife Graca Machel’s first wedding anniversary.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, UNESCO and the Red Cross were given proceeds from a huge benefit concert in Germany in 1999 that featured Jackson and other international stars.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who recorded with Jackson before they had a falling out over ownership of the Beatles catalogue, said his prayers went to Jackson’s family and fans.

“It’s so sad and shocking,” he said. “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.”

In Ireland, where Jackson made his temporary home in a castle south of Dublin in 2007, people remembered him as a kind and loving man. Eugene Lambert, Ireland’s best-known puppeteer, recalled his son’s puppet performance at a birthday party for Jackson attended by the singer’s three children.

Slideshow: Jackson and famous friends “Michael and the kids seemed to enjoy the show equally,” he said. “My son sang happy birthday to Michael, who seemed genuinely touched by the attention. Michael rang me that night to thank me for the show. He said he hoped he’d be as happy at his work as I am at my age, and of course I’m 80.”

Former British child star Mark Lester, who is godfather to Jackson’s children, said he had visited with Jackson several weeks ago and believed the star was ready for the rigors of performing 50 live gigs.

Slideshow: The face of change “He was absolutely fine,” said Lester. “I can’t believe this, it’s such a shock. I’ll always remember him as being a very sweet, kind and loving man.”

Rocker Lenny Kravitz recalled working with Jackson in the studio on an unreleased track and finding the man far different from the eccentric recluse often portrayed in the media.

“It was the most amazing experience I’ve had in the studio,” Kravitz said. “He was funny. Very funny and we laughed the whole time. I also saw what a beautiful father he was. He was a beautiful human being. If not for him, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. He gave me joy as a child and showed me the way to go.”

Slideshow: Michael Jackson: 1958 - 2009 Jackson’s death prompted broadcasters from Sydney to Seoul — where the news came early Friday — to interrupt morning programs, while fans remembered a “tortured genius” whose squeals and sliding moves captivated a generation and who sparked global trends in music, dance and fashion.

Several world leaders weighed in. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it “lamentable news,” though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of the world.”

In Romania, where a tumultuous Jackson concert in 1992 helped mark the country’s new freedoms after the fall of the Soviet bloc, singer Lucian Viziru said he was stunned by the tragedy.

“I feel like crying,” he told the AP, rubbing his eyes. “I grew up with him, I learned his dances, his songs, everything. My first ever cassette was ‘Thriller.”’

FirstPerson: Are you at memorials for Michael Jackson? A condolence board went up in downtown Bucharest. Radio and TV stations played his music and broadcast clips from the concert.

“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates doing a synchronized dance to “Thriller.” The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.

Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their “Thriller” dance and a minute of prayer.

The flamboyant former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, who cheered Jackson’s acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005, said she cried on hearing the news.

“Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy,” she said. “The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us.”

Slideshow: Jackson memorabilia auction in 2009 In Bogota, Colombia, a 24-year-old tattoo artist named Michael Tarquino said his parents named him after Jackson. He recalled growing up with electricity rationing for hours at a time and waiting for the power to return.

“When the light came back on I would play my Michael Jackson LP, and I’d stand at the window and sing along,” he said.

Japanese fans were always among Jackson’s most passionate supporters, and news of his death came as a huge shock. Michiko Suzuki, a music critic who met Jackson several times in the 1980s, said the country was likely to be mourning for some time.

“Everyone was imitating his moonwalk when it was a hit. He was a true superstar,” she said.

Jackson also had a huge fan base in Seoul, South Korea, where his style and dance moves were widely emulated by Korean pop stars.

“He is my master and the prime mover to make me dance,” pop star Rain told the South Korean sports and entertainment daily Ilgan Sports. “Even though he is dead, he is an eternal performer.”

Aaron Kwok, one of Chinese pop’s most accomplished singer-dancers, said he was deeply saddened by the news.

“It’s so sudden,” Kwok said in a statement. “No one can replace Michael Jackson’s contributions to pop music.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: World reaction

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  1. Michael Jackson fans cry as they embrace during a public gathering to watch Jackson's memorial service on a giant television screen along 125th street in the Harlem section of New York on Tuesday, July 7. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Residents walk past a graffiti depicting late U.S. pop star Michael Jackson in Port-au-Prince, Tuesday, July 7. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Michael Jackson fans gather to pay tribute to the late pop legend at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on Tuesday, July 7. (Kin Cheung / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A Michael Jackson look-alike dances during a tribute to the late pop icon in Mexico City's main square Zocalo on Tuesday, July 7. (Eliana Aponte / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Images and messages to singer Michael Jackson are displayed on the wall outside the Lyric Theatre in London, on Tuesday, July 7. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Swiss fans of Jackson attend a memorial ceremony at the Rathausbrucke bridge in Zurich, Switzerland, on Saturday, July 4. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Mackenzie Houck, right, visits a makeshift memorial for Jackson that has sprung up outside the Jackson family home in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino on Wednesday, July 1. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Michael Townes holds a portrait of a young Michael Jackson as he and other people wait in line for a public memorial for the pop star at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday, June 30. Fans began converging on the Apollo soon after Jackson died Thursday in Los Angeles. It has continued to serve as an impromptu memorial site in the days since. Jackson's ties to the theater go back to 1967, when The Jackson 5 won the Apollo’s Amateur Night contest. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A hat, sunglasses and a single white glove are displayed on stage at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday, June 30, in New York. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Bronx resident Conchita Jones, right, comforts her crying daughter Essence, 13, during a tribute to Jackson at Harlem's Apollo Theater in New York on Tuesday, June 30. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Kena Patterson of Los Angeles writes out "MJ" with lit candles at a makeshift memorial outside the family home of late pop star Michael Jackson in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles early Monday, June 29. (Gus Ruelas / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Graffiti depicting the young Michael Jackson on the walls of an undergound passage in Stuttgart, Germany. The painting was created over the past weekend during a legal graffiti session at Stuttgart's "Hall of Fame." (Marijan Murat / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pakistan's Sindh provincial Minister for Culture Sassui Palijo, left, lays a flower bouquet beside a huge poster of Michael Jackson during a ceremony to pay tribute to the late entertainer Monday in Hyderabad, Pakistan. (Pervez Masih / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Singer Janet Jackson, sister of the late singer Michael Jackson, speaks at the 2009 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on Tuesday, June 28, in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A poster board containing greetings from fans of the late Michael Jackson was on hand during a candlelight vigil in front of Hitsville, the Motown Records Museum in Detroit, Mich., on Sunday, June 28. (Gary Malerba / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Michael Jackson fan mourns the death of the "King of Pop" at the U.S. embassy in Moscow on Sunday, June 28. (Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A fan of Michael Jackson shouts before a candlelight vigil held in tribute to the pop music icon in the city of Lima, Peru, on Sunday, June 28. (Enrique Castro-Mendivil / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Michael Jackson's fans gather for a commemoration in Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy, on June 27. (Vince Paolo Gerace / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Filipino inmates perform in front of a portrait of Pop star Michael Jackson inside the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the central Philippines on Saturday. Around 1,581 orange-clad Filipino inmates who gained worldwide attention for an impressive "Thriller" performance on YouTube paid their last respects to the late "King of Pop." (Dennis M. Sabangan / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A member of Michael Jackson's Fan Club in Vietnam poses with a portrait during a memorial tribute at a cafe in Hanoi on June 27. Jackson's death dominated news bulletins, radio airwaves and Web sites the world over on June 26 as tributes poured in for a man called the "King of Pop" and "natural heir to Elvis." (Kham / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Taiwanese Michael Jackson impersonators Wang Chi-wei, 31, right, and Lee Yen-ting dance Jackson-stylized moves in Taipei, Taiwan on June 27. In 1993, Wang was voted as best impersonator of Michael Jackson in an island-wide contest allowing him to meet with the pop star. (Wally Santana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Fans dance to celebrate the life of pop icon Michael Jackson at Washington Square Park in New York on Friday, June 26. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Fans read a banner hanging near the Jackson family home in Encino, Calif., on Friday. (Joshua Lott / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Michael Jackson fans react during a vigil in Santiago, Chile, on Friday, June 26. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Fans sing as they pay respects to the late pop star Michael Jackson near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Friday, June 26.


    Are you at memorials for Michael Jackson? How are you remembering him?

    Did you take photos or video of public outpourings of grief or tributes to Michael Jackson? Share them here. (Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Michael Jackson's fans gather to mark his death in Paris, on Friday, June 26.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Thibault Camus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Two women sob at a sidewalk shrine at the star of Michael Jackson on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles on Friday, June 26.


    Are you at memorials for Michael Jackson? How are you remembering him?

    Did you take photos or video of public outpourings of grief or tributes to Michael Jackson? Share them here. (Reed Saxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Russians lay flowers in memory of late pop star Michael Jackson at the U.S. embassy in Moscow on Friday, June 26. Fans around the world grieved for Michael Jackson while his star friends in Hollywood and music declared themselves devastated by the sudden death of the "King of Pop." (Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Fans hold up a sea of single-gloved hands in an impromptu celebration of the life of Michael Jackson. They gathered outside UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after he was pronounced dead on Thursday, June 25.
    (Reed Saxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Young fans of Michael Jackson take part in a candlelight memorial to commemorate him in Karachi, Pakistan, on Friday, June 26. (Shakil Adil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A fan sits after laying a tribute to Michael Jackson at the O2 Arena in London on Friday, June 26. The 50-year-old superstar was preparing for what would be a series of 50 concerts starting July 13 at London's famed 02 arena. (Nigel Roddis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Sand sculptures of Michael Jackson, a guitar and his fedora hat, made by Sudarshan Pattnaik, are seen at the Golden Sea Beach for the fans to pay floral tribute at Puri, India, on Friday, June 26. (Biswaranjan Rout / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. An Indonesian painter puts out a painting of the late U.S. pop star Michael Jackson in front of his booth for sale on the street in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday, June 26. The pop star Michael Jackson died June 25, collapsing after a cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles, officials said.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Adi Weda / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A Japanese fan reacts as she looks at a commemorative stand for Michael Jackson at a music shop in Tokyo, Friday. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Michael Jackson look-a-like Wu Di, who has been performing as Michael Jackson in local bars for two years, dances as he poses for pictures in the street in Beijing, Friday. (Reinhard Krause / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A woman checks the breaking news of Michael Jackson's death at an electronic store in Hsintien, Taipei county on Friday. (Sam Yeh / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. A fan of Michael Jackson attends a vigil in Mexico City on Thursday.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A pedestrian in Times Square holds up a sign while a silhouette of Michael Jackson is displayed on a billboard in New York on Thursday, June 25. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Jermaine Jackson, brother of late pop star Michael Jackson, speaks at a news conference at UCLA hospital in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25. (Gene Blevins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Fans mourn the death of pop icon Michael Jackson on Thursday, June 25, in Los Angeles.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Gerard Burkhart / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Fans gather outside of the Apollo Theater in New York to remember pop star Michael Jackson on Thursday, June 25.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Cory Schwartz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, pauses for a moment before a news conference held after the death of Michael Jackson, Thursday, June 25. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Tyson Stevens, center, joins other fans on Thursday to remember Michael Jackson at the star they believe belongs to the pop star, but actually belongs to a radio personality of the same name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. (Philip Scott Andrews / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A woman cries on the phone as she tells a friend that Michael Jackson has passed away on Thursday, June 25, in Los Angeles. The iconic pop star, 50, was rushed to the hospital after going into cardiac arrest, according to reports. (Ann Johansson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks in front of the Apollo Theater to the media on Thursday, June 25, about the death of Michael Jackson. (Louis Lanzano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Curator Curtis Huber, left, and curator assistant Eric Valencia lift a wax figure of Michael Jackson to put in the front display at the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco on Thursday, June 25. (Jeff Chiu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Lana Brown, a tourist from Dallas, cries as she hugs her 10-year-old son Tovre as they mourn the death of pop star Michael Jackson outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Police tape hangs across the street near the emergency room dock outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Fans of Michael Jackson gather at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. People watch the news about Michael Jackson in New York's Times Square on Thursday, June 25.


    Are you at memorials for Michael Jackson? How are you remembering him?

    Did you take photos or video of public outpourings of grief or tributes to Michael Jackson? Share them here. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. TJ Thomas and Marie Bouchard remember Michael Jackson at what they believe to be the singer's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25. Jackson's star was covered by the red carpet for Sascha Baron Cohen's premiere of the movie "Bruno" when the news broke. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. A Michael Jackson fan reacts to the news about the "King of Pop" outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Michael Jackson fans embrace in New York on day of Jackson's memorial service
    Mike Segar / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (52) Fans react to loss - World reaction
  2. Michael Jackson in a Butterfly Collar Shirt
    Henry Diltz / Corbis
    Slideshow (36) Fans react to loss - Life and career
  3. MICHAEL JACKSON
    AP
    Slideshow (16) Fans react to loss - The face of change
  4. 6th Annual RFK Tennis Tournament Party
    Ron Galella / WireImage
    Slideshow (13) Fans react to loss - Famous friends
  5. Courtesy of the Malnik family
    Slideshow (12) Fans react to loss - Jackson’s children unveiled

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