Home Music Music Lists

Michael Jackson Remembered: The Tributes

The King of Pop’s friends, fans and fellow artists celebrate the man and the music

michael jackson tribute

Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison

As one of pop's most respected performers, Michael Jackson was beloved by everyone from his heroes to his descendents. We've gathered a generation-spanning collection of tributes from R&B royalty to rock icons to the new school of chart-toppers inspired by his moves, pipes and unending compassion.

Araya Diaz/WireImage

John Singleton

When I first met him I didn't feel nervous because I kind of felt all my life was leading up to that moment. As a fan, he was always in my life. I was 15 years when I went to the Grammy Awards and saw him win all his Grammys at the Shrine. He asked me, "What songs do you like?" and if I wanted to do a video. And I said, "OK, well, can we put black people in the video?" [Laughs] I was challenging him. And he said, "Whatever you want." He was cool with me because I was straightforward with him, and I felt that everybody was always goose-stepping around him and never telling him the real deal. And this was from the perspective of a young black kid growing up admiring Michael Jackson, being inspired by the vision that he had not only in music but in his life. To be able to hang out with him and call him a friend was an honor for me.

On the set [of the "Remember the Time" video] he was mischievous. My choreographer in that video was Fatima Robinson, and the three of us got together and she did the routine with him. It was really a great vibe. Just seeing how he would get every little move, bit by bit by bit, the whole routine, like we were putting on a Broadway show. He said, "Whatever you want to make this as cool as possible, let's do it. Let's get Eddie Murphy. Let's get Magic Johnson." Magic Johnson was going through his thing where he'd just revealed he had HIV. Michael said, "We have to put Magic in this video." I'll always remember that.

He was a very visual guy. They weren't videos to him. They were short films — visualizing the funkiness of what he was trying to accomplish in the music. He was always trying to set the bar higher.

I was hoping he was going to finish his album. He's got umpteen tracks that he's done over the six or seven years. He was so meticulous about what he did. He had hit songs on reserve that he would never even let out, and he'd work with all these different producers. If you were somebody of any repute in the music business, Michael Jackson would call and ask to work with you. People would come. But he would never release any of the stuff.

I've eaten the Jackson 5 cereal, I've played the 45 records, I watched the cartoon when I was a little kid, I went to the concerts, I was at the Victory concert. I had a glitter tie, which I hate to admit. [Laughs] I will love him forever.

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Randy Jackson

Michael's death was the shock heard around the world. He was the biggest entertainer in the world, on par with Elvis.

I saw him live a bunch of times over the years with the Jackson 5, then on his own. They were the best shows I've seen in my life by anyone. Electrifying from downbeat one. He's grimacing, you can feel the pain, he's singing "She's outta my life," he's crying, you have the drama, you have the theater performance, and this incredible passion that shines through him with this unbelievable singing ability, and unbelievable dancing ability. All that singing and dancing, he was doing it for real. And all these people, all these pop stars today, they're not really singing onstage and they're kind of prancing around — there were no Pro Tools then, there were no singers prancing around with wireless mics, not singing. They're faking it, he was real. That's why it's a shock heard around the world: this is the real deal. This is no fake. We will never see anything like this again in our lifetime. The best performer in the world is Michael Jackson.

I met him backstage at a show, in my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was on tour with the Jacksons, and he was unbelievable. I was in awe, because I knew I'd met one of the greatest of our lifetime. He was really cool. Kinda shy, he said, "Oh, hey, ya know, I'm glad you liked the show."

Every artist I've ever worked with has been somehow been touched and inspired by Michael Jackson. You can't be a performer today, or any day, that sets foot onstage and didn't watch some of those performances, some of those videos, some of that magnetism, some of that whatever about him, and put that into your own show. If they're saying they aren't, then they're lying.

Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Wyclef Jean

My first meeting with Michael was when I was 22. Michael Jackson called me and said he was coming to see me — I was recording at the Hit Factory and he was working on an album and needed some music. He's the only person in my life where, when I saw him, my whole voice-box went. I didn't know what to say. My hands were trembling. He seemed a little shy, but very approachable. He talked about how he went to Jamaica when he was young and he said I reminded him of somebody there with the long hair. I was like, "Are you talking about Bob Marley?" And he was like, "Yeah!" He thought I was from Jamaica.

Mike Marsland/WireImage

Adam Lambert

I have memories of dancing around my house to his music. There's video of me somewhere lip-synching "Beat It" when I was probably seven, with a flashlight on my face. The first time I saw the "Thriller" video, I was so excited. I have such a fascination with Halloween and he was tapping into the whole Halloween zombie vibe. For one Halloween I had to be a werewolf. I remember going to Disneyland to see Captain Eo, which was the coolest thing in the world. His imagination was leaps and bounds beyond most of the other artists around. A lot of kids of my generation really connected with him because he was so magical in that way. He was like a big kid in the way he wanted to play dress up and create.

"Rock With You" was my first audition song [for American Idol]. It's cool, it's dancey, it has a great vocal, it's really dynamic in the range. I had actually never performed a Michael Jackson song before. Paula was really grooving out to it. When we had to do our Michael Jackson show this year, I was thinking, "What song should I choose?" They're all so good. It was either "Black or White" or "Thriller," but I wanted to make more of a statement the first time out, and "Black or White" comments on culture and racial harmony in a very eloquent way. It also means a lot of other things. To me, personally, it was it doesn't matter if you're straight or gay, either. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. I loved the sentiment there. What was really cool about Michael is that he straddled a really fine line of race and sexuality. There was something very androgynous about him, and very race neutral. People criticized him for lightening his skin or whatever, but he was like his own race. A lot of people saw it as bad, but it was kind of fascinating. And very original.

For the Idol finale, we were rehearsing at his space in Burbank and so were the Michael Jackson dancers. And I happen to know their choreographer, and he pulled me over into the rehearsal space and I watched a number. They were rehearsing "Jam," and it looked incredible. The dancers were amazing. I was really excited for Michael: I thought, good, he's got a chance to do a comeback. I was told he was really interested in meeting me and I'm really disappointed that we never made it happen.

We were in the middle of rehearsing the tour when we heard the sad news. I was singing "Whole Lotta Love" and Lil Rounds ran into the room and whispered something into the producer's ear. And we were all like, "What's going on?" I kept singing and looked over at them with a confused look on my face and one of the producers mouthed to me, "Michael Jackson just died." I went, "What?" and stopped singing. Everybody just stopped. We canceled rehearsals for the rest of the day. No one could really believe it. He affected us through entertainment. What he was capable of as a showman, and what he brought to the world, outshone any controversy.

Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Adam Levine

I never met him, but he was probably the single most important musical influence for me. I would say even before I got into the Beatles, I was into Michael Jackson. If you were living in 1984 and you were five years old, that was your world. Wearing the glove, dancing around the living room. That was your life. He was so all-consuming at the time. That was probably the biggest he ever was. His death has launched a lot of retrospectives and people are celebrating his music, but, I haven't stopped celebrating Michael Jackson since 1984. I've been blasting since the '80s. He was a very rhythmic kind of singer and writer, so his melodies were all very rhythm based. He played off of the drums a lot and I learned how to do that from Michael Jackson. There's no way it could have been from anyone else. He started that whole type of writing.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Glen Ballard

I'd been producing for Quincy [Jones], and I had tried to write something for Bad but it hadn't been accepted. We were closing out the record, and Quincy said, "Don't you have anything for us?" So [singer] Siedah Garrett wrote "Man in the Mirror" on a Saturday night at my house in Encino. We didn't have a chance to dress it up, so I didn't feel like it had a chance, but Quincy played it for Michael, and he said, "Make a track." The song was this really magical moment, and it had everything to do with Michael's vocal interpretation. In the last two minutes, Michael started doing these incantations: all the "shamons" and "oohs." He went to that place on his own. We certainly couldn't have written that.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Avakian

Akon

Mike and I met a couple of years ago through a friend. We recorded at his home studio, and his kids were always there. He was always monitoring them – making sure they were doing their homework, eating right. He would personally cook for them, always healthy stuff. They were the main focus of his life – we could be in the middle of recording, and he'd drop everything to make sure they were good.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Ne-Yo

About two years ago, Michaelcalled my cellphone, and I hung up on him, because I thought somebody was playing. Michael Jackson don't call your damn cellphone. A couple of minutes later, he called back, and I was like, "Oh, damn." I lied and told him I was going through a tunnel and we got disconnected. He wanted to meet somewhere secluded, so we met at Lyor Cohen's house because they're good friends. I don't get star-struck, because people are people, but Michael was an energy. I felt his presence when I walked into the room. We talked about working together, where he wanted to go musically. I'd submit three or four songs a couple of times a month, and he'd tell me what he liked or didn't like: "Take this part and change it; make the hook stronger." He was being very selective – this was either going to be his comeback album or a very sad attempt, and he didn't want the latter.

Show Comments