My interest for western music started (& faded) with his rise(& fall!). In the late 80s and early 90s, 3 of us friends used to sit glued to the radio sets (rarely together but mostly in our own homes) on Saturday nights to listen to the one and only western music program on Madras B and discuss the songs the following sunday morning. It used to be a competition to learn the lyrics of the songs! MJ's was a particular favourite. Screaming 'Ambey... Ambey' for 'Bad' or feeling goosebumps listening to 'Man in the mirror' or giggling to the 'Girl is mine' seems like yesterday! When cable TV entered and brought MTV home, watching the videos of Thriller, The smooth criminal, Black or white were so awesome!
A (US return)friend of mine in college sort of gave me the idea that MJ wasn't as popular in the US as in India. So, the first time in the US, when someone asked me whose or what kind of music I liked, I wasn't sure whether to say Michael Jackson or not. Then he himself added, "George Michael? My sister used to be crazy about him"! I was about to blurt, 'George Michael, Michael Jackson, I guess all Michaels' and gulped it at the last minute and saved my face for the person talking to me was a Michael too!!
Like most celebrities, once again, in the manipulation contest between the media and the celebrity, the media wins!
P.S. - And bye, bye Chandrayaan! Some consolation!