Pop Culture

Dancing machine

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.

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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