Michael Jackson hadn't had a hit in years when he died unexpectedly on Thursday at the age of 50. But his fans in the Bay Area remained devoted to him, through thick and thin.
Even those who weren't Jackson devotees know all the words to his hot songs.
Many people on the streets of Berkeley, Calif. hadn't heard the news of Jackson's death yet -- and this reporter ended up breaking it to them. To say they were stunned by the news is putting it mildly.
"He's an icon," said Donna Ozawa. "I listened to his music since I was a kid and even had posters, watched his cartoons, saw him growing up with his brothers, all that stuff. He was part of the culture. He contributed a lot. He made a lot of people happy with his music."
Some say they knew Jackson had been looking frail over the last few years. But his spirit and boundless energy as a performer made them think he'd be around forever. Jackson had been rehearsing for a run of 50 concerts in London that would have attracted 750,000 fans.
"I'm shocked," said Beverly Chickering, who doesn't consider herself a Jackson fan but still admires him as a musician. "This is a fellow who had so much talent and somehow he got a little off track but his talent will live forever."
"I grew up with him," said Gladys gray. "He was like a part of my family and it's a sad feeling because he was a magnificent artist."
One woman was listening to Michael Jackson songs on a boombox in her vehicle as I spoke to her. She said hearing the songs right now made her want to smile and cry at the same time.
How do you feel when you hear a Michael Jackson song? Leave your thoughts in the comments.