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The final two decades of Michael Jackson’s life were fraught with controversy. His death in 2009, ruled an involuntary manslaughter at the hands of physician Conrad Murray, was equally shocking. The scandals that surrounded the singer often overshadowed his work making it easy to forget just how talented the troubled artist was, but regardless of your personal feelings about the King of Pop, it’s impossible to deny the mark he made on the music industry. On the anniversary of his death we look back at some of the reasons that made us love Michael in the first place.

Before he wowed us with Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, M.J. charmed us as the star of the Jackson Five. A shy, preteen Michael showed a tonne of potential as both a singer and a dancer, developing a reputation as a sweet kid who just happened to be growing up in a strange industry.

Jackson’s talent as a singer was unmatched. When today’s pop stars can’t hit a note, they just turn up the auto tune or bury their less-than-perfect vocals in the mix. Michael had no need for those kinds of technological tricks. Need proof? Listen to this:

Who among us hasn’t tried to master Michael’s trademark moonwalk? He made it look so easy that we thought we could do it, too. Most of us were disappointed in our own performances but watching Jackson do his backwards glide to the tune of ‘Billie Jean’ is still a thrill — much like Thriller itself, still the best-selling album of all time.

Michael had a sense of humour. His claims that he sang back up on the Doobie Brothers’ hit ‘What a Fool Believes’ are unsubstantiated, but this footage of him trying to convince his good friend Elizabeth Taylor that he did is adorable (not to mention further proof of his perfect pitch).

M.J. was a triple threat. Dancer, singer, incredible beat boxer — he could do it all. He was his own, one-man backing band, a creator who wrote not just melodies and lyrics, but laid down bass lines and beats with a voice that could imitate most instruments with uncanny accuracy.

Michael Jackson inspired hundreds of other artists including Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Pharell Williams, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber (please try to forgive him for that last one). He also inspired legions of fans.

All hail the King of Pop!