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Katherine Jackson remembers her ‘sweet little boy’

Michael Jackson would have been 55 today

CNN News Wire | 8/29/2013, 2:12 p.m.
Michael Jackson’s life began on August 29, 1958, as the seventh child in a family crowded into a tiny home ...
Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s life began on August 29, 1958, as the seventh child in a family crowded into a tiny home in Gary, Indiana.

His mother remembers “a sweet little child” who showed unusual empathy for others and who was born to sing and dance.

Katherine Jackson, 83, shared intimate stories about her son’s early days when she testified earlier in the trial of her lawsuit against AEG Live, the concert promoter she accuses of liability in his death four years ago.

Her lawyers are asking a juror to award Jackson’s mother and three children at least $1.6 billion to replace the lost income they argue he would have earned touring the world if he had not died while preparing for his comeback concerts on June 25, 2009.

Jackson would have just completed a world tour of his “This Is It” shows and likely would have begun making movies with his children Prince, Paris and Blanket if he had lived to see this 55th birthday Thursday, according to testimony in the trial.

Michael Jackson’s humble start as the son of a steel mill worker in a large family is a remarkable contrast to the pop icon who spent lavishly, but also set world records for giving to charity.

Their first home had just two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a small utility room for the washing machine and freezer. Michael and his four older brothers slept in stacked bunk beds in one bedroom, the parents in the other, while the daughters slept in the living room, the Jackson matriarch testified in an earlier court session.

The mother made some of their clothes, watched newspapers ads for sales and visited the Salvation Army store for shoes. “We made it that way,” living pay day to pay day, she said.

When father Joe Jackson was laid off from his steel mill job he would go out of the city to farms to pick vegetables that his wife would can and store. “Every year we would buy a quarter of a cow or half of a cow and keep it in the freezer,” she said. “And that’s how we survived.”

Young Michael saved his “little pennies and nickels” to buy candy and cookies, but he wouldn’t eat it all, his mother said. “He liked to play ‘store man.’ He would take it and put it and set up a little store, and all the kids in the neighborhood would come and buy from him, and he felt like he was the store man.”

When older brother Marlon became ill, 3-year-old Michael held his hand and cried, she said.

Michael’s musical talents were obvious at a very early age. “He was born that way,” she said. “When all the kids were dancing around, he was in my arms, and he couldn’t be still. He was dancing, too, to the music. And when he started to walk, he would still dance.”

She’s told the story of Michael’s interaction to her “old, rickety washing machine, a Maytag.”