Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Michael Jackson

Induction Year: 2001

Induction Category: Performer

Inductee: Michael Jackson (vocals; born August 29, 1958)

Michael Jackson is a singer, songwriter, dancer and celebrity icon with a vast catalog of hit records and countless awards to his credit. Beyond that, he has transfixed the world like few entertainers before or since. As a solo performer, he has enjoyed a level of superstardom previously known only to , and Frank Sinatra.

Jackson became an instant star at age 11 as the cherubic frontman in Motown’s phenomenally successful family act, the . But that band of brothers, who kicked off their Motown tenure in 1969 with the unprecedented feat of four consecutive #1 singles, was just a prelude to the heights he would scale as a solo artist in the Eighties with the success of Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. Those three albums, and their accompanying videos, sent Jackson into a high celebrity orbit. He has been proclaimed “the biggest-selling artist of all time,” “the single most awarded entertainer the world has ever known,” “the most popular artist in the history of show business,” and, not so modestly, “the world’s most famous man.” He is also, by his own reckoning, the “King of Pop.”

Michael Jackson was groomed as a solo star while still a member of the . In 1971, having barely turned thirteen, Jackson released a successful string of solo singles that included “Got to Be There,” “Rockin’ Robin” and “Ben” (a #1 ballad sung to a rat). In 1978, Michael appeared in the film version of The Wiz, where he met musical director Quincy Jones, who would become the producer of his best-known albums. The first of these, Off the Wall (1979) introduced Michael Jackson to the world as a vibrant, poised young adult bursting with talent and ideas. It yielded chart-toppers in “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You.”

However, it was Thriller that broke all records, revitalizing and revolutionizing the music business. Released in November 1982, Thriller yielded a staggering seven hits: “The Girl Is Mine” (#2) “Billie Jean” (#1), “Beat It” (#1), “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” (#5), “Human Nature” (#7), “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (#10) and “Thriller” (#4). The album received sales boosts with Jackson’s electrifying performance on the May 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary Special, where he premiered his gravity-defying “Moonwalk,” and the year’s-end release of the 14-minute mini-movie based on the song “Thriller.” The latter is considered the most important video clip in music history. Jackson employed the burgeoning medium of music video to maximum advantage, as his revolutionary videos became fixtures on MTV, which was only a year old at the time of Thriller’s release.

Thriller topped the charts for nine months (37 weeks) and remained in Billboard’s album chart for more than two years (122 weeks). Jackson won eight Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards for Thriller. In 1985, it was proclaimed the Best Selling Album of All Time by the Guinness Book of Records. As of July 2001, Thriller has sold 26 million copies in the U.S., making it the second best-selling album in history behind the Eagles’ Greatest Hits (27 million). Worldwide, Thriller has sold 51 million copies. Beyond the numbers, how important was Jackson’s record-shattering feat? As producer Quincy Jones told Time magazine, “Black music had to play second fiddle for a long time, but its spirit is the whole motor of pop. Michael has connected with every soul in the world.”

In 1985, Jackson helped to topple another sales record. As the coauthor of and performer on “We Are the World” - a benefit single for the USA for Africa charity, recorded with a cast of music stars - Jackson had a big hand in what became the top-selling single up to that point in history.

Michael Jackson didn’t quit the , even at the height of his stardom, yet his solo career obviously took precedence. Still he showed family loyalty by joining his brothers for the Jacksons’ 1984 Victory album and tour. In fact, Michael never toured as a solo artist until after the release of Bad (1987), when he undertook a 15-country juggernaut that occupied much of 1988. Bad was #1 for eight weeks and launched another seven hits, including five that topped the charts: “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Dirty Diana.” Bad’s canny use of urban beats, smooth jazz-funk and rock guitar in the service of some of the sharpest black pop ever recorded reaffirmed Jackson’s peculiar genius and star quality. But some of its songs also hinted at the pressures that lay beneath the surface of his unfathomable superstardom.

Jackson’s every move was reported and analyzed by the media, and his quirks became headlines for a period of years. Some of his behavior engendered real controversy, driving him to exile abroad or behind the walls of the fantasy-filled Encino, California, estate he called “Neverland.” All the while, Jackson continued to make arresting music in the Nineties, working with cutting-edge artist-producers from the hip-hop arena. Dangerous appeared late in 1991 and was preceded by an extended video for its leadoff single, “Black or White.” Topping the charts for seven weeks, “Black or White” became Jackson’s biggest hit since “Billie Jean.” Dangerous, like Thriller and Bad, was the source of seven more hit singles. In addition to “Black or White,” they included “Remember the Time” (#3), “In the Closet (#6) and “Will You Be There” (#7).

In 1995, he issued HIStory: Past, Present and Future - Book I, a double album that paired 15 new songs with a greatest-hits disc. Its first single, “Scream,” was a duet with sister Janet Jackson set to a high-tech groove. He scored his thirteenth #1 hit in 1995 with “You Are Not Alone,” written and produced by urban R&B star R. Kelly. The album debuted at #1 and sold 7 million copies (15 million worldwide), maintaining the multi-platinum standard set by Bad (8 million U.S., 25 million worldwide) and Dangerous (7 million U.S., 27 million worldwide) - awesome numbers all, paling only next to Thriller’s historic and unbeatable figures.

In recent years, he has toured abroad and attended to his charitable foundation, Heal the World. His first album of the new millennium, Invincible, will be released in September 2001.


August 29, 1958: Michael Jackson is born in Gary, Indiana.

November 6, 1971: Michael Jackson’s first solo single, “Got to Be There” (#4 pop, #4 R&B), is released. Already he’s had eight Top Forty hits with the , including four consecutive chart-toppers.

October 14, 1972: “Ben,” the title song from a film about a beloved rat, becomes 14-year-old Michael Jackson’s first #1 single.

August 5, 1979: ‘Off the Wall,’ the first album by the “adult” Michael Jackson (who turned 21 this very month), is released. It produces four hit singles and spends eight months in the Top Ten.

October 16, 1982: Diana Ross’ single “Muscles,” written and produced by Michael Jackson, enters the Top Forty. Inspired by Jackson’s snake of the same name, the song peaks at #10.

November 9, 1982: A storybook album for ‘E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,’ is released. Featuring narration by and a new song from Michael Jackson, it earns him a Grammy for Best Children’s Recording.

December 1, 1982: Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is released.

February 21, 1983: ‘Thriller’ tops the album charts for the first of 37 weeks.

March 5, 1983: “Billie Jean,” the second single from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’ tops the singles charts for the first of seven weeks.

March 25, 1983: The TV special ‘Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever’ is taped. The perform a medley of their hits, then Michael sings “Billie Jean” (from ‘Thriller’) by himself, premiering his “moonwalk” dance move. The show airs on May 16, and Jackson’s’ segment is a highlight.

March 31, 1983: “Beat It,” by Michael Jackson - which features a blistering Eddie guitar solo - is premiered on MTV. Its high-energy fusion of rock and soul drives it to the top of the charts.

December 2, 1983: MTV debuts Michael Jackson’s 14-minute “Thriller” film. ‘The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller,’ released in time for Christmas, becomes the largest-selling music home video ever.

February 27, 1984: MTV world premieres the Jackson’s Pepsi commercial and presents an interview with director Bob Giraldi.

August 8, 1987: “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” a duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret, is released in advance of the album ‘Bad.’ It is the seventh #1 single of his solo career.

August 31, 1987: ‘Bad,’ by Michael Jackson - the followup to Thriller and therefore the most hotly anticipated album in history - is released. It tops the charts for eight weeks and yields seven hit singles.

December 23, 1989: MTV CEO Tom Freston and MTV VJ Adam Curry present Michael Jackson with “Video Vanguard Artist of the Decade” award in Los Angeles.

November 14, 1991: Michael Jackson’s controversial 11-minute “Black or White” video debuts on television. It is a teaser for ‘Dangerous,’ his third #1 album in a row and the source of seven more hit singles.

February 10, 1992: MTV kicks-off its first global sweepstakes with “My Dinner with Michael.” Winners from around the world attended a dinner party hosted by Michael Jackson on the set of his music video “In the Closet.”

January 31, 1993: Michael Jackson’s halftime performance at Superbowl XXVII draws the largest viewing audience in the history of American television.

February 24, 1993: Michael Jackson receives the Living Legend Award at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, and 1.2 million people worldwide view his performance and acceptance.

September 15, 1993: Lawyers for a 13-year-old boy file a civil suit against Michael Jackson for seduction and sexual abuse. On December 22, Jackson responds to the allegations via satellite from his Neverland compound: “I am totally innocent of any wrongdoing.” On January 25, 1994, he settles out of court with his accuser for an undisclosed sum, estimated at $20 million.

June 3, 1995: Michael Jackson’s ‘HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book 1,’ a double CD pairing one disc of new music with one of greatest hits, is released.

September 7, 1995: “The 1995 MTV Video Music Awards” is held live from New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The show is hosted by Dennis Miller. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson win three awards for “Scream” and TLC win three awards for “Waterfalls.”

May 11, 1997: ‘Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix,’ by Michael Jackson, is released. Containing eight remixes from 1995’s ‘HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book 1’ and five new songs, it sells only one million copies.

October 30, 2000: Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ receives its 26th platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing 26 million copies sold in the U.S. It remains the second best-selling album in music history.

March 19, 2001: Michael Jackson is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the sixteenth annual induction dinner. N’Sync are his presenters.

July 30, 2001: “Rock My World,” the premiere single from Michael Jackson’s forthcoming album ‘Invincible,’ is debuted.

September 25, 2001: ‘Invincible,’ Michael Jackson’s first album in four years, is released. Featured guests include Carlos , Will Smith and Missy Elliott.

Essential Songs

Billie Jean
Beat It
Black or White
Rock With You
Wanna Be Startin' Something
Man in the Mirror
Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

Recommended Reading

Michael Jackson Unauthorized
Christopher P. Anderson. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Michael Jackson: The King of Pop
Lisa D. Campbell. Wellesley, MA: Branden Books, 1993.

Michael Jackson. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Michael Jackson: The Music and the Madness
J. Randy Taraborrelli. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1991.

Eldon Shamblin's (Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys) Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Photo by Design Photography
Anonymous Texas Collector