Michael Jackson may be gone, but that won't stop thousands of fans from around the world from celebrating the King of Pop on what would have been his 51st birthday.
Only a year ago, on the eve of his 50th birthday, Jackson was planning a much more low-key celebration of cake and cartoons with his three children when he spoke with ABC News' Chris Connelly exclusively by phone from his home in California.
In Jackson's final television interview before his death on June 25, the pop superstar dropped hints of a comeback in the works. He boasted about still having his signature moves – and showing off some new ones – saying his greatest achievements lay ahead.
Jackson died as he was mounting his comeback tour in London, doing what he told Connelly he loved the most: performing.
For Jackson's 51st birthday, ABCNews.com is republishing the original exclusive interview, including many passages that was left out of our story last year:
Connelly: Michael, happy birthday! How are you?
Jackson: God bless you. I am fine thank you.
Connelly: How do you feel turning 50?
Jackson: Oh, I don't feel any different. I am fine actually – I am just having a wonderful time. Just relaxing, I am just watching a little James Brown show right now.
Connelly: Is that right?
Jackson: I love James Brown, yes.
Connelly: As you look back on 50 years, when do you think you were the happiest?
Jackson: The happiest? Oh boy, probably the recording of "Thriller" and the "Off the Wall" albums. That meant very much to me and seemed to be received so beautifully by the public and the world, you know. It was a time I enjoyed it very much.
Connelly: What was the most special thing about that experience for you? What moment do you remember most happily?
Jackson: That I could compose and write music and get to share it with the masses and the people around the world and to have them to receive it so beautifully – I love that. That's what I spend a lot of time doing. I love composing and writing music and dancing and performing and conceptualizing creatively for visual mediums. I love to create.
Michael Jackson on His Success
Connelly: If you could pick one song, which one song is your greatest achievement?
Jackson: Oh boy, that's a hard one. I love 'We are the world' to 'Billie Jean,' to 'Thriller,' to so many different songs.
Connelly: As you look back on your career Michael, what would you have done differently?
Jackson: Differently? Oh boy, that's a hard one. I am still l looking forward to doing a lot of great things, so that's hard. I think the best is yet to come in my true humble opinion.
Connelly: Is there anything you sacrificed by having this amazing career, 40 years and counting?
Jackson: A lot of hard work, discipline and love and learning about the craft and loving it. Time -- sacrificing your time and your scheduling. Your childhood – giving up your life for the medium.
Connelly: If you had it to do over again, would you do it the same way or would you do anything differently? I think I would, I think I would. It is very much worth it – I have I always loved show business and have always enjoyed making people happy through that medium. I love the celebration of music and dance and art – I just love it.
Connelly: Are we going to see you tour any time soon?
Jackson: I don't have any dates set, but we are planning something soon. Yes we are.
Connelly: Any chance for another CD or recorded music in the near future.
Jackson: Oh yes, I am writing all the time. I love composing and the whole thing. But I am also raising my children and enjoying it and teaching them to ride bicycles and how to read. I love it.
Connelly: What do you want your children to know about what your 50 years has been? What will you tell them was the most important lesson you learned in your 50 years?
Jackson: What dedication and discipline and learning your craft, you know, the rewards it brings, to really know and understand your craft well.
Connelly: You know when most people turn 50, the AARP finds them and sends them an AARP card in the mail. Have you gotten an AARP card in the mail?
Jackson: Not that I know of! (laugh)
Connelly: You never know, they can find you wherever you are!
Connelly: Who do you wish could be here right now as you turn 50 to see what your career has become?
Michael Jackson's Exclusive Interview with ABC News' Chris Connelly
Jackson: Oh boy! Probably friends of mine who aren't alive anymore who I love and were close to me, you know, Fred Astaire. I loved Gene Kelly and I loved James Brown. These are people I feel very close to because it is very much the way I enjoy performing, and giving to the people – I give 101 percent when I go on stage, you know.
Connelly: Who do you see now who reminds you the most of you?
Jackson: Oh boy, wow. I see artists that kind of… I have been a great influence on their work and I think they are doing a wonderful job. Some of the younger newer artists – I think Chris Brown is doing a wonderful job and Timberlake and all these wonderful new artists. I really admire what they are doing. Very happy for them.
Connelly: How do you plan to celebrate your 50th birthday?
Jackson: Oh, I'll just have a little cake with my children and we'll probably watch some cartoons.
Connelly: Is there anything you are hoping to get as a present?
Jackson: Hmmm…Love and joy – peace for the world, that's what I want. Peace for the world and love, you know.
Connelly: Do your children understand what a big star you are? Have they listened to your music and do they enjoy it?
Jackson: They do. I try my best not to show them my stuff and play them a lot of it, because I know they will grow up to hear it. I don't want them to get too caught up. They see it when we go around the world. We go out and it's not so easy – you know the fans and the love and the adoration. But they ask me a lot of questions and I answer their questions.
Connelly: Would you like them to have the same sort of upbringing you had in terms of getting into show business at an early age? Or do you want to say whoa, take a minute, enjoy your childhood?
Jackson: I am letting them enjoy their childhood as much as possible. I really do. I let them go to the arcade and go to the movies and do things. I think that comes naturally. I want them to get to do the kind of things I didn't get to do. So I fill them with a lot of enjoyment that way – a lot of amusement you know.
Connelly: It must mean a lot to you to have your kids do the things you couldn't do.
Jackson: Yes – I get pretty emotional when I see them having a wonderful time. When they are on a ride and they are screaming and they are happy – it makes me emotional, cause I see they are having a real good time, you know?
Michael Jackson on Turning 50
Connelly: What kind of shape are you in at 50? Can you still do all the moves and hit all the notes that we remember?
Jackson: More! I can do more…because I am expanding a lot of the avenues that I was holding back and I am just going to share more of the gifts that God has given me and just let it all hang out. People see some of the things I do and say why don't you show this to the world, people don't know you do these things! And maybe I will.
Connelly: Does 50 feel like a big number to you? How old to do you feel you are?
Jackson: I feel very wise and sage but at the same time very young, so it's hard to say.
Connelly: You have a lot of fans out there who would like to come out with some way to celebrate your birthday – what would you like them to do, to commemorate your 50th?
Jackson: Oh, to think about our planet – seriously. I mean how to make it a better planet. The global warming issue is a concern to me very much. Just make the world a better, happier place. It's our home. I'd like to see us do a better job of taking care of it.
Connelly: Is that because you are a father and you look at your kids and worry about what we are leaving for them when we go away?
Jackson: That – and I have always felt compassion for the planet. Sometime I just start to get emotional. I cry because I can almost feel the pain in the air. So it makes me – I put it in words and in song and in dance I think that is what artistry is.
Connelly: Will you take the day off (for your birthday) or will you be working like you normally do on your music or dance?
Jackson: I will be working – love to work. I don't take too much time off.