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Photos: Life and career

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  1. Little boy Michael

    Michael Jackson was just 12 when this picture was taken in May 1971, but his career was already stratospheric. Berry Gordy had signed the Jackson 5 to Motown Records in 1968, and Michael and his brothers had already topped the charts with "ABC" and "I'll Be There." It was a bright start for the boy from Gary, Ind. (Henry Diltz / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Signs of success

    Michael Jackson, far left, and the rest of the Jackson Five in 1972. The five brothers from Indiana were signed to Berry Gordy's Motown record label. (Frank Barratt / Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. All in the family

    The Jackson 5 perform in Los Angeles on a 1970s Bob Hope TV special. Michael continued to front the band, but his solo career was already on the rise, starting with 1971's "Got to Be There." (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A wonderful Wiz

    Michael Jackson at the opening of "The Wiz." The 1978 movie musical was the first time the pop star worked with legendary producer Quincy Jones, who would soon produce Jackson's breakout solo album "Off the Wall," and eventually the "Thriller" album as well. Jackson's "Wiz" co-star was friend and mentor Diana Ross, who had introduced the world to the Jackson 5 back in 1969.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Wanna be startin' somethin'?

    Michael Jackson performs in concert during a 1981 tour with his brothers. During the tour, Michael began writing down ideas for a solo project that blossomed into the highest selling album of all time.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Susan Phillips / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A mentor

    Michael Jackson and Diana Ross hold their American Music Awards in L.A. Jackson won for favorite soul album and Ross won for favorite female soul vocalist. (Juynh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fright night

    Michael Jackson stands with a group of dancers dressed as zombies while filming his 1983 video "Thriller." "Thriller" was revolutionary in the music industry. The zombie-themed minimovie put MTV on the map and essentially confirmed music videos as an art form of their own. The album sold 25 million copies in the United States alone.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Corbis / Sygma) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Moment of stardom

    Michael Jackson performs the moonwalk during "Billie Jean" for the first time on television's "Motown 25," a tribute to Berry Gordy. The dance move that would become Michael's trademark stunned viewers and the crowd, and marked his imminent crowning as the King of Pop.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Handfuls of glory

    With Quincy Jones at his side, Michael Jackson holds six of the eight awards he won for "Thriller" at the 1984 Grammy Awards. His outfit, complete with epaulets, sequined glove and dark shades, became a quintessential Michael look. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Role model

    During a May 1984 ceremony at the White House, Michael Jackson accepts a Presidential Award from President Reagan as first lady Nancy Reagan looks on. Jackson was honored as a model for American youth, and for lending his hit song "Beat It" to a new campaign against drunk driving. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A scary day

    Michael Jackson, background, is seen with his hair on fire during a taping of a Pepsi TV commercial in Los Angeles on February 1984 as brother Jermaine Jackson, foreground, continues to perform, apparently unaware of the situation. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Gloved love

    In a newly released image, Michael Jackson is seen visiting burn victim Keith Perry in the burn center at Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 4, 1984. The pop star was recuperating in the hospital after suffering from a burn to his head while filming a commercial for Pepsi-Cola. (Carl Arrington / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Crowd control

    Michael Jackson is led through a crowd by police on a 1985 promotional tour of Great Britain. (Dave Hogan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. They were the world

    In January 1985, a who's who of the music and movie worlds came together to sing "We Are the World," written to benefit famine victims in Ethiopia. Michael Jackson can be seen front and center, along with Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor and dozens of other stars. Michael's sister Janet can be seen bottom right. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Victory lap

    Guitarist Eddie Van Halen, left, makes a July 1984 guest appearance during Michael Jackson's Victory Tour concert in Irving, Texas. Van Halen had recorded the now immortal guitar riff on "Beat It," to the displeasure of bandmate David Lee Roth, but to the delight of nearly everyone else.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Who's bad?

    Michael Jackson and his dancers in concert during a 1987 Tokyo concert on Jackson's "Bad" tour. The previous year, he had starred in the 3-D film "Captain EO," one of the most expensive short films ever. But Jackson had begun to draw more criticism as his albums and videos grew costlier and more infrequent. His next album, "Dangerous," wouldn't arrive until 1991. (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A difficult year

    A cameraman photographs Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey in January 1993. This was the year Jackson was first accused of child molestation, and he took an opportunity on a 90-minute Oprah TV special to address the charges. The criminal allegations eventually were dropped, but Jackson reportedly paid as much as $25 million to settle the claims. (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Black and white at the Super Bowl

    Michael Jackson gives a performance with 30,000 children during the Super Bowl XXVII halftime show on Jan. 31, 1993, in Pasadena, Calif. Despite allegations against him, Jackson's career had regained momentum with hits such as "Black or White" and "Remember the Time," and the "Dangerous" album was a multiplatinum seller. (Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Clowning around

    Michael Jackson and French mime Marcel Marceau clowning for the cameras at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Dec. 4, 1995. (Bob Strong / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Power marriage

    Michael Jackson and then wife Lisa Marie Presley are seen at Neverland Ranch in preparation of the Children's World Summit in April 1995. Presley would file for divorce less than a year later, prompting speculation about just what had inspired the relationship. (Steve Starr / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Golden man

    Michael Jackson performs on stage during his "HIStory" world tour concert at Ericsson Stadium in November 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Phil Walter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Marriage 2.0

    Just months after his divorce from Lisa Marie, Michael Jackson walked down the aisle with Debbie Rowe. This wedding photo was released by Jackson's publicist minutes after the Nov. 13, 1996, ceremony in Sydney, Australia. But the pairing was less about romance and more about bearing Jackson a child, and the two would divorce three years later, with Rowe eventually ceding parental rights to Jackson.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Reuters / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Best of friends

    Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor arrive at a Sept. 7, 2001, concert celebrating the 30 years of Jackson's career. The two stars had been longtime friends, and Taylor is godmother to two of Michael's children. (Jeff Christensen / Reuters / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Sharing his testimony

    Michael Jackson testifies on Nov. 13, 2002 in Santa Maria, Calif. Superior Court in a trial in which he is accused of cancelling concert appearances, costing the promoter several million dollars. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Not so invincible

    Michael Jackson poses for photographers during a November 2001 appearance in New York's Times Square. Jackson made his first ever in-store appearance to promote his new album "Invincible," which was released Oct. 30. "Invincible," at the time the most expensive album ever produced, fared better with critics and fans than 1995's "HIStory," but questions began to surface about the future of Jackson's career. (Brad Rickerby / Reuters/Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. One big mistake

    Michael Jackson holds a towel-covered Prince Michael II over the balcony of a Berlin hotel on Nov. 19, 2002. Jackson later called the incident a "terrible mistake," but the image of him dangling his baby son out a window shocked even many die-hard fans. And his reputation was to receive far worse damage just a few months later.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Arresting development

    Michael Jackson is pictured in this Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department mug shot from Nov. 20, 2003. In a February 2003 documentary, Jackson acknowledged letting boys sleep in his bed. Soon after, Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon launched a probe into allegations that Jackson had molested a teen boy who appeared in the program. Authorities raided Neverland Ranch in November, and Jackson surrended for arrest days later.

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's D / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Family support

    Michael, center, and sisters LaToya, left and Janet Jackson walk over to greet fans during a lunch break at a pretrial hearing in Santa Maria, Calif., in this Aug. 16, 2004, file photo. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. MJ's PJs

    Michael Jackson wears pajama pants and is aided by bodyguards after arriving more than an hour late to court on Mar. 10, 2005, during his trial on the 2003 molestation charges. Jackson appeared after Judge Rodney Melville threatened to revoke his bail. (Kimberly White / pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Singin' with the kids

    Michael Jackson sings with some of his young fans at the World Music Awards at Earls Court in London on Nov. 16, 2006. (Graham Jepson / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Fans in uniform

    Michael Jackson receives a letter of appreciation from Col. Robert M. Waltemeyer, the garrison commander of Camp Zama, on March 10, 2007, in Zama, Japan. Michael greeted thousands of U.S. troops and their family members at the U.S. Army base. (U.S. Army via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Father figure

    Michael Jackson walks with kids Prince and Paris through a studio parking lot in Los Angeles in March 2009. The singer had been spotted with his entourage going to a studio on a cold rainy day in the city. The pop star stayed at the studio for more than two hours, and there were many production people working around him, suggesting that the star was filming. (Splash News / Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Concert tour planned

    Fans take pictures of an electronic screen projecting a press conference by Michael Jackson at the O2 arena in London on March 5, 2009. The pop megastar announced he would play a series of comeback concerts in London in July, his first major shows in more than a decade. (Ben Stansall / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Reaching for redemption

    Jackson, center, is shown in Los Angeles on May 6 during rehearsals for his planned concert tour in London. (Courtesy of Michael Jackson via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Happy to perform

    In this handout photo provided by AEG, Jackson rehearses for his planned shows in London at the Staples Center on Tuesday, June 23, in Los Angeles. It's a tragic loss — and an accounting nightmare for the promoters of Jackson's doomed 50-night "This Is It" concert extravaganza. More than 750,000 fans are waiting for details on ticket refunds, and the British government's consumer protection board told them June 29 not to hold their breath -- complex legal issues need to be worked out first. (Kevin Mazur / AEG via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. All the world's a stage

    "He was on the eve of potentially redeeming his career a little bit," Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde said of Jackson, shown rehearsing in Los Angeles on June 23. "People might have started to think of him again in a different light."

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Kevin Mazur / AEG via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Michael Jackson in a Butterfly Collar Shirt
    Henry Diltz / Corbis
    Above: Slideshow (36) Michael Jackson: 1958 - 2009 - Life and career
  2. Image: Michael Jackson fans embrace in New York on day of Jackson's memorial service
    Mike Segar / Reuters
    Slideshow (52) Michael Jackson: 1958 - 2009 - World reaction
    Slideshow (16) Michael Jackson: 1958 - 2009 - Face of change
updated 6/2/2005 9:40:47 PM ET 2005-06-03T01:40:47

We have our Michael Jackson memories , and so do many of you.

"Thriller" was a defining moment for many people — whether you bought it yourself, or had Mom or Dad get it for you ... or maybe discovered it one Christmas morning in your stocking.

Others went back, way back, remembering Michael on "American Bandstand" or even "The Ed Sullivan Show," singing his heart out as his brothers backed him up. And still others only know the recent Michael, for better or worse.

Some of your thoughts:

More 'Thriller' memories
"I was waiting to watch the Thriller premiere when my daughter was suddenly taken ill with 105 degree fever. She needed her kidney removed. She was only four years old. We were in a hospital room just minutes before the premiere of the video and I mentioned it to the nurse, who smiled and asked if my ... daughter liked Jackson. She said yes, and the nurse whispered, 'We have MTV' and she switched the channel. Seconds later, while nurses bathed my daughter's fevered body to bring her fever down before the surgery, we watched the Thriller video. We were thrilled. It was the most exciting thing we'd seen on MTV. As sick as she was, my daughter smiled and clapped." -Tonja, Springfield, Mo.

"We were all so envious of the girl who got to play Michael Jackson's girlfriend! The next day at school my girlfriends and I vowed that when we graduated high school that very day we were going to drive down to Los Angeles and find Michael Jackson's house. We were going to meet him and one of us was going to get to marry him, but we all promised who ever it was the others would be in the wedding!" -Michelle, Sacramento, Calif.

"The year: 1983. The music: Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,' playing on a four-year-old's headphones. Over and over and over. Teaching my canary how to bop to 'Beat It.' (He really did love that song.)" -Melissa, Roanoke, Va.

"I was in junior high school when Thriller was released. My friends and I planned a trip from San Diego to Magic Mountain in Los Angeles. My friend Randy and I listed to the tape for the entire day before the trip so we could memorize all the words. Once we were on our way, Randy's mom popped the tape in the deck and Randy and I sang our hearts out. Our other friends looked at us with amazement and jealousy. They hadn't learned any of the words yet and wished they'd known them. We listened to that tape the whole way up and the whole way back. It was the coolest of cool. And so was Michael ... then." -Shanna, San Diego, Calif.

An unforgettable date
"'Moonwalker.' The movie. My first date with the most beautiful girl in school on a Saturday in February. War in Lebanon was raging back then and to be able to catch a movie was something of an episode. Yet, here I was in the almost empty movie theatre in our "balcony seats" there we were - two teenagers mesmerized by what was going on. We didn't even flirt so much we were dazzled. When the end credits came by, we were too weak to even move." -Tarek, Beirut, Lebanon

Off the wall
"To me, the 'real' Michael, the BEST Michael was around the time of his 'Off the Wall' LP. His music was funky, he was a handsome young African-American man, and seemed to be proud of it. He had sung higher and stronger as a child (with a very traceable James Brown influence), yet in his early twenties, was beginning to forge his own identity." -Jon, Tulsa, Okla.

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Fans of all ages
“I am in my early teens, and can't remember a time when Michael Jackson was anything but a freak among the social circles of my generation. I confess that for the majority of my life, I have been in agreement. Then I saw a recording of Michael Jackson's performance at the 'Motown 25' concert in 1983, and was spellbound. I still get shivers every time the scintilating baseline of 'Billie Jean' hits my ears. I watched him slide across the stage and wondered how someone so talented, charismatic and beautiful could become the man we know today." -Dileadus

"I was born in the year 1989 which makes me 16. But the thing about Michael is that no matter what age you are, be it young or old, you can groove to his music. My best memories of him would be when I saw him in concert for his Dangerous World Tour. I was merely 6 years old.But that did not stop me from jumping and screaming." -Shane, Australia

"The 'Thriller' album came out in my senior year of high school. 'Pretty Young Thing' was my favorite song. The summer of '83 was filled with that wonderful album. I am now a 40-year-old mother and I have 'Thriller' on CD. My daughter is 10 and when we take long car rides we put it in the CD player and crank it up. She knows all the words." -Jackie, Baltimore, Md.

"I remember as a child, all I wanted was a Jackson Five record. I remember my first record was 'The Love You Save,' which is my all time favorite. I played that record out. My best memory is when my mother suprised my brothers and sister with a concert trip. I saw the Jackson Five at the Ampitheater here in Chicago, in the early 70's. The theater is since gone, but the memory of that night has been and always will be one of the best memories of my life." -Charlayne, Chicago, Ill.

"My sons were 6-7 years old. We all watched the Thriller video ... wow! ... it was so good! My son's were enthralled by it. ... About that time, I bought them 2 Michael Jackson dolls (same size as a Barbie doll) One was dressed in the red leather outfit, and the other was dressed in a fancy blue jacket, gold braids on the sleeves. They played with them for awhile, and then thought they might not should play with dolls ... ha! ha! So, I packed them away. Recently, I found the dolls in a box and showed them to my son's. They both freaked out about them ... so happy to know I still kept them." -Barbara, Grand Prairie, Texas

Coming to life
"I have soooo many memories. The first one that comes to mind is the first time I saw the 'Human Nature' video. I already had the poster of him in the white shirt and slacks with the yellow sweater vest on that he wears in the video ... I was just so excited that my poster actually could come to life on screen." -Seantae, Washington, D.C.

If they had a friend like Ben
"I go WAY back, to 1972 and I was 13, when I listened to 'Ben' over and over. It was such a sweet, touching song, and since I was the proud owner of a mouse, I felt an ode to a rat was totally appropriate. Being exactly Michael's age I really did grow up with him and I'm so sad now. I really try not to think about today and just remember the seventies when we where kids and he was a teenage heartthob in Tiger Beat Magazine." -Lori, Lakewood, Colo.

"I remember the Academy Awards when MJ sang 'Ben.' He was great. He was so young but very gifted and I thought, what a beautiful moment." -J. Smith, Los Angeles, Calif.

First moonwalk
"The most magical moment in his past 'illustrious' career was when the Jacksons appeared on the Motown special. It was like watching a human rocket taking off. You just felt it that nothing was going to stop this guy from becoming one of the biggest stars that ever lived. It made me giddy to watch his precise movements. I remember grinning and thinking how cool and then he all the sudden did the moonwalk and wondering how the hell did he do that?" -William Rosenlof, Anchorage, Alaska

Safe in a case?
"I bought his 'HIStory' CD set when it first came out and got one of the originals in plastic still never opened. That's where Michael is for me now in a case never opened where no one can hurt him anymore." -Corey, Little Rock, Ark.

"Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' throbbed through our new Pioneer speakers and my father was furious. 'Louder doesn't make it better!' He scolded us and we turned it down, Pop just doesn't get it, does he? This is Michael Jackson. Pop had his unintended revenge when I left MJ sitting on our radiator one frigid New York morning and that was the end of that. Melted, hot and steamy. At least we still had the cover to look at." -Tara, Miami Beach, Fla.

Healing jacket
"Reeling from being dumped by my girl, who had left for college while I finished my last year in high school, I managed to shake my dad down for some cash for a healing shopping spree. Among my major purchases was a nylon replica of MJ's red leather "Beat It" jacket. I had my hair Jeri-curled to complete the picture, and I did start feeling much better." -Mason, Chicago, Ill.

One glove
"During the Thriller stage, I sewed sequins onto a white glove so that I could be like Michael. After making my glove, I rode around the neighborhood on my bike like I was the coolest 10-year old ever! I still take out my Thriller album (yes, album!) from time to time. I will always love his music." -Tara, Tampa, Fla.

The enemy
"For those of us who carried the Heavy Metal or Punk flags in the 80s, Michael Jackson was the enemy. Our efforts to lobby radio stations and other listening audiences into sponsoring hard rock music were stunted by Michael's string of poppy dance hits (and BTW, Van Halen was a traitor to us for soloing in "Beat It.") Michael was everywhere. Everyone but us was moonwaking and wanted a piece of him." -John, Seattle, Wash.

Family outing
"My father died when I was very young but the most vivid memory I have of him is taking me and my 6 sisters (yes I said 6) to see the Jackson 5 at the Michigan State Fair .. and when him and his brothers reunited a few years back for his television special, those memories came back to me and for a second I was a fan again." -Faye, Houston, Texas

A first kiss
"It was 1985 and I was just about to finish middle school when we had our graduation dance. I was a shy kid, a little awkward like most teenagers and I had the biggest crush in the world on Allison K. Allison loved to dance and loved Michael Jackson. I spent weeks beforehand watching his videos over and over on MTV so I could pick up his moves. From the moonwalk to his dance in Beat It, I tried to learn them all. The DJ at the dance begins to play Michael Jackson and I gather my courage and ask Allison to dance. He ends up playing a whole medley of his tunes and I am a dancing fool - whirling, spinning, clapping - all like MJ. When the songs ended she looked at me and gave me my first kiss. That is a moment I will always treasure." -Matthew, New York, NY

Comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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