Although most of Seton Hall University's undergraduate students were still in diapers while Michael Jackson sang and moonwalked his way to success, the King of Pop left a lasting impression on our generation.
Jackson impacted not only the Billboard charts through his music, but his theatrical music videos, provocative and innovative dancing, electrifying performances, his ever-changing physical appearance, distressing scandals and peculiar manners and oddities all impacted pop culture and garner memories in the minds of SHU students.
"(I'll remember) the energy you get from watching him on TV or the energy you get by just listening to his music in general," senior Daniel Auguste said. "I will always remember him as the most talented solo artist the world has ever seen - talented, hardworking, a perfectionist."
Jackson died on June 25 after collapsing at his rented home, apparently due to cardiac arrest, in Los Angeles. He was 50 years old.
The news of his death sparked frenzy worldwide, with sites such as Google and Twitter almost crashing due to the high traffic of people scrambling to learn if the news was true.
"When I first heard about his death I didn't believe it, I thought it was fake," junior Kristina Lotz said. "I was just stunned and speechless and also a little sad too." Lotz, who said "The Way You Make Me Feel" is her most-listened-to Jackson song, explained her favorite memory of the King of Pop.
"I remember going to one of my friend's dance recitals and they did the ‘Thriller' dance and after that I remember going home and watching the music video trying to do the dance," she said.
In fact, one of Jackson's signature songs, "Thriller," instills many memories in SHU students.
"'Thriller' was one of the first music videos I saw when I was a kid," senior Mike Gettings said.
The epic 14-minute music video premiered on MTV in December 1983 and was the first of its kind. The mini-feature movie sold over nine million copies, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, and was named by MTV as the greatest music video of all time.
"My siblings and I had ‘The Making of Thriller' and we would try to reenact the video," said senior Onyi Ngobidi. "And then my parents still had their record player so we would dance to his album."
"Thriller" is the bestselling album ever recorded and spent 37 weeks at the top of the charts. Seven of its nine tracks were Top 10 Hits including "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean." During his career, Jackson sold over 750 million records worldwide, released 13 No. 1 hits, won 13 Grammy Awards, received the American Music Award's Artist of the Century Award and has been hailed The Most Successful Entertainer of All Time by the Guinness Book of World Records.
"He was the first person to really show and spread to the world pop music," said sophomore Robyn Tabernilla, who admits that the she would run and hide under her pillow whenever the "Thriller" music video played on TV.
"I'll remember Michael Jackson not only by his music but also how he impacted dancing, because as a dancer I have tried to attempt the many dances moves he has performed," she said. "And I completely failed at the moonwalk."
Senior Jesse Adu-Odei adds, "I always tried to imitate the moonwalk when I was a little kid. I thought that was the coolest dance move ever."
However, despite his success and superstar status, Jackson endured sexual abuse accusations during the early ‘90s and then again in 2003. The media continuously covered the trials and details of the cases, in which Jackson claimed his innocence and was later found not guilty and released of all charges. But the stress of the claims and trial took a toll on Jackson's mental and physical health and tarnished his reputation. However, since his death, he has been honored for his musical achievements.
"I think it's good that they're paying tribute to him because we get to remember him for what he should be remembered for and not all the bad things that have happened to him," Tabernilla said.
What is often not portrayed about Jackson is his tireless humanitarian efforts. He was a true philanthropist who constantly donated money to over 30 charities, regularly visited sick children at hospitals and was even invited to the White House in 1984 to receive an award from Ronald Reagan for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson donated $5 million from his 1984 Victory tour to various organizations and all profits from the single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity.
In 1985, Jackson teamed up with Lionel Ritchie to write the song "We Are the World" which was recorded by group of 45 popular musicians in order to raise awareness for the famine relief efforts in Africa. The charity single sold 7.5 million copies in the U.S. and ultimately, with revenue from the single, album, video and related merchandise, $63 million was raised for the famine relief.
"I will always remember the humanity side of Michael Jackson," Adu-Odei said. "Even though he was a musical genius, he was so giving and always willing to help others. I shall forever remember the song ‘We Are the World.' That was MJ's way of telling the world we need to come together and unite because there is power in unity."