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"All I could think about him in that one moment was, 'I had abandoned him,' that we had abandoned him," Madonna said.
The pop icon wore all black as she spoke about Michael Jackson at the start of MTV's Video Music Awards and the guilt she felt when she learned of his stunning death because she felt the two were kindered spirits and it seemed the world had turned on him.
"All I could think about him in that one moment was, 'I had abandoned him,' that we had abandoned him," Madonna said on stage. "That we had allowed this magnificent creature that once set the world on fire somehow slip through the cracks. When he was trying to build a family and rebuild his career, we were all busy passing judgment."
"Most of us had turned our backs on him ... Sometimes, we have to lose things before we can truly appreciate them."
The singer said her two sons, Rocco, 9, and David, 4, both are "obsessed" with Michael Jackson.
"There's a whole lot of crotch grabbing and Moonwalking going on in my house," she said.
The 50-year-old singer drew many parallels between she and Jackson -- their birth year, number of siblings, where they grew up. But Madonna said one striking distinction was that she had a childhood and he did not.
As a result, she tried to befriend him and get to know him better during a dinner she arranged in 1991. She said she tried to get him to eat French fries, guzzle booze and say "bad words." When the two were watching a movie later on in the evening, he reached for her hand and she felt his vulnerability, she said.
"In that moment, he felt like a human being."
"Yes, Michael Jackson was a human being, but dammit, he was king," Madonna said. "Long live the king."