08/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Michael Jackson -- Moonwalking through Milestones

Few music artists mark the coming of age for different generations. For example, there are the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson.

In 1969 the King of Pop was a pipsqueak when I heard the lead singer of The Jackson Five belt out "I Want You Back." I was 15 years old and he was 11. Even now the songs "ABC" and "I'll Be There" take me back to my teenage days in San Francisco.

Michael Jackson had staying power in people's lives.

As a fourth-grader, my daughter watched the premiere of the video "Beat It" on the Solid Gold show. In 1984 Star was ten and Michael Jackson was 26.

"I was completely mesmerized. He was the first person I ever had a crush on. He was so handsome," recalled my 35-year-old daughter.

In 2004, a 46-year-old Michael Jackson was jumping yet another generation to its feet and his appeal was worldwide.

"When I was stressed in college, I'd play "Pretty Young Thing" and dance around the room," said Esther Krofah, our 26-year-old friend, who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria. She knew of him even as a six year-old in her tiny hometown of Anyigba.

Michael Jackson pioneered the fusion of music and video. He forever changed the industry's landscape and then moonwalked over it.

On June 25, I was in Ventura, California at a conference when a friend passed me his Blackberry with the Twitter message, "Michael Jackson is dead."

It's like the day John Lennon died or when I heard about James Brown's passing. As long as they were alive, I am still an idealistic teenager, venturing onto the dance floor for the first time. The sudden grief I felt was for another vanishing piece of my childhood.

Many are disgusted with the tribute and attention given to Michael Jackson, typically in the news for plastic surgeries, eccentricities and lawsuits. His parenting was under suspicion because he veiled his children in public.

But he never wanted them hounded by the press. Their anonymity allowed them to go to amusement parks and places like normal kids, something he never had. Before breaking down in tears, Paris, his 11-year-old daughter, said, "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. I just want to say I love him so much."

His televised memorial showed another side of his life unknown to most because good stuff doesn't make great news. Jackson was in the Guinness Book of World Records for most charitable support by a star. Those who knew him best spoke only of his love, caring and gentleness, the paradox of his shy and softspoken self and his masterful stage presence.

His musical genius was healing, whether it was for energy ("Thriller") or introspection ("The Man in the Mirror") or to bring us together ("We Are the World"). Jackson built bridges with his music.

It was estimated that between 750 million to a billion people worldwide watched his tribute. And for most, it wasn't about celebrity rubbernecking. Millions recall personal milestones marked by a Michael Jackson hit. Because of him, we mourn the closing of momentous chapters of our own lives.

Suzette Martinez Standring is the award winning author of The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists. She is syndicated with GateHouse News Service.