40 Years Ago, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Album Made History at the Grammys


February 28, 2024

It changed the course of music forever!

When it comes to the history of Black music, few albums have left as much of a mark on the cultural landscape quite like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Released in November 1982, this iconic album not only revolutionized the music industry but also set new standards for creativity, production, and cultural impact. As we approach the 40th anniversary of “Thriller’s,” historic Grammy sweep, it is fitting to revisit Jackson’s magnum opus and the award night that solidified its status as a masterpiece.

“Thriller” emerged during a pivotal moment in Jackson’s career. Already hailed as the King of Pop, Jackson sought to create an album that transcended genres and appealed to a global audience. Collaborating with legendary producer Quincy Jones, the duo crafted a musical odyssey that seamlessly blended pop, R&B, and rock, producing a sonic masterpiece that defied convention.


The album’s impact on audiences was immediate and profound. The music videos, particularly the groundbreaking one for the title track “Thriller,” became a cultural phenomena and an affirmation of Jackson’s already larger than life status. Directed by “An American Werewolf in London’s” John Landis, the “Thriller” video showcased Jackson’s unparalleled dance moves, special effects, and a narrative that blurred the lines between horror and entertainment, Live Now Fox reports. The iconic dance sequence, featuring Jackson and others as dancing zombies, became a global sensation and solidified Jackson’s reputation as a trailblazing entertainer.

Although the album was released in November 1982, the “Thriller” video didn’t debut until a year later in December 1983,  the album selling 32 million copies by the end of that year. It remained the top selling album of all time for 36 years until 2018 when The Eagles “Greatest Hits” album took the top spot. “Thriller” is still No. 2. Released at a time when MTV was still in its infancy, “Thriller” became a catalyst for breaking racial barriers in the music industry and the video’s widespread success forced the predominantly white MTV to feature Jackson’s work, opening doors for other Black artists and transforming the landscape of music television.

When the 26th Annual Grammy Awards came around on February 28, 1984, it marked a historic night for Michael Jackson and “Thriller.” The album earned a record-breaking 12 nominations, ultimately securing an unprecedented eight Grammy wins in major categories, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for “Beat It.” The album’s success not only solidified Jackson’s status as a musical genius but also shattered racial barriers, making him the first Black artist to receive such recognition from the Recording Academy. To date, the 1984 Awards remains the most-watched Grammys  show ever, with 51.67 million viewers tuned in as Jackson became the first artist to win eight Grammys in one night.


The cultural impact of “Thriller” extended beyond music and into fashion, dance, and even holiday celebrations. The red jacket worn by Jackson in the “Thriller” video became an iconic symbol, and the dance moves from the video continue to be imitated and celebrated worldwide more than four decades later. The album’s title track remains a cultural anthem, and shows the enduring impact of Jackson’s work, long after his passing.

As we reflect on the 40th anniversary of “Thriller’s” historic Grammy wins, it’s clear that Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking work continues to resonate with audiences of all ages, marking a shift in artistry and new avenues for Black artists. The album marked a pivotal moment in the history of the music industry, solidified Jackson’s legacy, and changed the face of popular culture forever. 

Take a look back at a clip from the historic night below. 


Cover photo: 40 Years Ago, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Album Made History at the Grammys/Michael Jackson with producer Quincy Jones at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, February 28, 1984 in Los Angeles/Photo by CBS/Getty Images

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