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Michael Jackson Remembered: The Tributes

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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