Elvis, JFK, John Lennon, Michael Jackson. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that these icons had been taken from us all too soon.
“I was at the local wine bar when I heard the news about Michael,” says Ben Bowman. “My agent rang me to tell me he had a heart attack and, following that phone call, I got a call from my brother a couple of minutes later to tell me that he had died.
“I just went home and did what a lot of people did and watched the news over and over again, not being able to believe it.”
Ben, it could be said, has taken fandom to a whole other level.
For the past nine years, the 26-year-old, who has been a Jackson fan for as long as he can remember, has made a living as a Michael Jackson impersonator and is set to bring his spectacular stage show to Preston’s Charter Theatre next month.
The self-taught singer and dancer used to watch videos of the pop star as a youngster to learn his dance moves but, without an inquisitive friend’s reaction to his voice, those moves might have stayed in Ben’s bedroom.
He says: “When I was about 15 or 16 I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school.
“I was with one of my friends one day when he asked me how Michael’s new song went so I sang a line, mucking about and he said, ‘My God, you really sound like him, you should do something with that, so it went from there.”
Ben started hiring out halls and selling tickets and now, nine years later, he is selling out theatres not only across the UK but the world.
That doesn’t mean Ben is resting on his laurels.
Jackson’s dance moves are synonymous with the man himself but Ben says he tends to need a bit more help than the master choreographer.
“I’m not a natural dancer so I do prefer the singing side more,” he says. “It takes me three sessions to learn what the dancers learn in one but it all needs to come together, I can’t get out of it.
The show, Jackson Live In Concert, is closely based on MJ’s three world tours – Bad, Dangerous and History – and includes concepts that were going to be used in the This Is It tour at London’s O2. Sadly, the tour that never was.
Alongside Ben for the year-long, 100-date, UK-wide tour are a seven-piece band and four dancers with countless technicians, lighting and sound directors and merchandisers.
“It’s a huge production,” he says. “Just recently there was an elderly couple at the show and they said to my manager that they had seen MJ on his world tours and my show was fantastic.
“To hear that is just such a compliment.
“Where the technology is available we always try to innovate. None of us are complacent, we all just strive for the best.
“My favourite part is the Billie Jean section. I don’t want to give too much away, but we do something pretty magical at one point during the performance.
Since his passing in 2009, Jackson fans have continued to support Ben and, if anything, their dedication has grown.
Ben says: “The only thing you feel on stage when you look out is that there is still a lot of love there for the man. People are just genuinely enthralled by the whole thing.
“When he died, I almost felt like a family member had been taken away because I’ve followed him all my life.
“I was lucky enough to see him live when I was seven or eight at Wembley Stadium and I haven’t seen anything since that has come close to what that experience was like.”
Ben, who hails from Kent, has spent almost a decade portraying the King of Pop and has developed quite a fan base with almost six thousand ‘likes’ on Facebook.
“When I go out and see people at the end of the show they come up and introduce themselves which is lovely. It’s a small taste of the life MJ had.
“My family ring me up and tell me they’re coming to four shows a month and I just shake my head and tell them it’s the same show,” Ben laughs.
Jackson was no stranger to controversy but, despite the headlines and sensational court cases, Ben has stayed a true fan.
He says: “I just always found him magical, I still do.
“I still watch footage of him now. There’s so much of it out there you could sit on YouTube forever and a day and you still wouldn’t get through it. I’m mesmerised by him. He just wasn’t of this planet, he was incredible.
“Michael was a cut above the rest and I don’t think there will ever be anybody who could reach him. He genuinely believed he could change the world with his music and that’s an amazing thing.”