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"I feel compelled to give people some sense of escapism.... I think it's the reason I'm here," Jackson (in '84) said.

"I don't force [songwriting]; I let nature take its course," Jackson (in 1984) said.

"I began performing at the tender age of 5, and ever since then I haven't stopped," said Jackson (at Westlake Studios in California).

Jackson (ca. 1980) said the hardest part of growing up in the public eye was when "you're not the cute and charming child that you were."

"I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy," said Jackson (at home ca. 1973).

"Fun inspires me," said Jackson (in 1983). "Out of bliss comes magic, wonderment and creativity."

WIDE WORLD

He danced, sang and socialized with everyone who was anyone in the stratosphere of celebrity

With Princess Diana in attendance, Jackson sang "Dirty Diana" at an '88 London show. (She smiled.)

Palling around with Paul McCartney in 1982—three years before he bought the rights to the Beatles' catalogue.

In his 1988 autobiography Moonwalk, Jackson called Tatum O'Neal (in '79) "my first real date."

Who better to rock out with than Slash? The pair teamed up at the 1995 VMAs and again at a show in Munich (pictured) four years later.

Cher (in 1975) told Larry King that as a boy, Jackson adored her beaded socks—a gift from Bob Mackie.

He took longtime pal Brooke Shields (leaving a Soul Train afterparty in 1987) to the 1984 Grammys (along with Webster star Emmanuel Lewis).

Liza Minnelli (in 1983) called Jackson "the most interesting person I know."

He exchanged warm "I love yous" with Britney Spears after performing in N.Y.C. in 2001.

The young star compared groovy suit stylings with Al Green in 1975.

When the Gloved One met with President and Nancy Reagan in 1984, an aide called the starstruck White House staff "really kind of embarrassing."

"The way you move, I think martians have invaded your body!" Elizabeth Taylor (with Macaulay Culkin in 2001) once told him.

Madonna and Michael met a week before the 1991 Academy Awards to coordinate this Oscar night date.

Rubbing elbows with John Travolta at a Jane Fonda charity event in 1979.

Striking a pose with Diana Ross at the 1984 American Music Awards.

Sheryl Crow (in 1992) was a Jackson backup singer.

"What do I love the most about him? Everything," Lisa Marie Presley said of her then-husband (together in '94).

"I'm this big kid," said Jackson (in his bedroom at Neverland in 1997).

Jackson (with Prince and Paris in 2001) once said, "I always tell my children, 'Be who you want to be.'"

"I enjoy taking care of my children myself," said Jackson (feeding Prince in '97).

PRIVATE TREASURES

With Neverland facing foreclosure, Jackson put 1,390 items up for auction in April 2009, then sued to cancel the sale. The items are now part of his estate

BELTING IT OUT
This rhinestone belt is very similar to the ones from his 1979 Destiny tour wardrobe.

MILITARY JACKET
The opening bid was to be set at $20,000 for the beaded jacket he wore to the 1984 American Music Awards.

ROCK WITH YOU
Jackson loved rhinestones, like those on his Capezio dance shoe, says Michael Bush, one of his costumers for the last 25 years. "Your eye will go to the light."

A JACKSON TRADEMARK
"I felt that one glove was cool," said Jackson. "Wearing two gloves seemed so ordinary."

FIT FOR A ...
He was pictured holding similar mink-trimmed crowns in several portraits.

THE BOY WHO NEVER WANTED TO GROW UP
His 1911 copy of Peter Pan and Wendy by James M. Barrie.

THE MASKED MAN
He wore this helmet (and matching armor) during his 1996-1997 HIStory tour.

"PLEASE ORDER ME A SPY HAT"
Jackson said when asking for a "cool fedora," which became part of his signature look.

THE ESSENTIAL MJ

Want to know why he was the King of Pop? Listen, watch, be thrilled

5 MUST-HAVE ALBUMS

JACKSON 5, THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION
(1996)
From "ABC" to "I'll Be There," this set shows why they were the best boy band this planet's ever seen.

OFF THE WALL
(1979)
The disc that announced Jackson's arrival as a solo phenom with dance-floor classics such as "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."

THE JACKSONS, TRIUMPH
(1980)
Captured both the new maturity and vision of Michael the solo superstar and the still-potent chemistry with his brothers.

THRILLER
(1982)
The biggest-selling album of all time and an eight-time Grammy winner, it broke new musical ground with its killer hybrid of R&B, pop and rock.

BAD
(1987)
Following up Thriller was no easy task. But Jackson was still in top form on songs like "Man in the Mirror" and "The Way You Make Me Feel."

"SCREAM"
(1995)
A futuristic B&W stunner with sister Janet.

THE 5 BEST VIDEOS

"BEAT IT"
(1983)
Inspired by West Side Story, it spawned that iconic red leather jacket.

"THRILLER"
(1983)
Still the grand pooh-bah of all videos, it defined the MTV generation.

"SMOOTH CRIMINAL"
(1988)
He did his gravity-defying lean in this gangster-themed clip.

"REMEMBER THE TIME"
(1992)
Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson added to the glitz.

THE MAKING OF THRILLER

"It was passion," says producer Quincy Jones (left, with Jackson in the '80s). "Michael sang his booty off. We'd stay up five days with no sleep because we were so excited. We went through 700 or 800 songs to pick nine. But never would we have guessed it would be that big."

"There's a lot of wonderment in being famous," said Jackson (in '02). But "you have to put in a lot of your time, give a lot of yourself."

"I just love working hard on something, putting it together, sweating over it and then sharing it with people," said Jackson (at the 1993 Super Bowl).

"I give my all in my work because I want it to live" even after death, Jackson (in '91) once said.

For more on Michael Jackson, get the PEOPLE Tribute book, Thriller: Remembering Michael Jackson, available on newsstands July 10, or order now at people.com/michaeljacksonbook