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Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' Video Turns 30

Stacy M. Brown | 12/19/2013, 10:51 a.m.
Thirty years ago, Michael Jackson forever changed the way people viewed music videos.

Ultimately, the finished product hit record stores and a year later, thanks to a deal Jackson struck with MTV and Showtime Television, the 14-minute "Thriller" video hit the airwaves, creating excitement rarely before seen in the industry.

"That's what did it," Michael's brother Jermaine said in a interview. "Timing was everything and when he did 'Thriller,' and you take that with Michael's performance of 'Billie Jean,' which took place earlier in 1983 on the Motown anniversary television special, you've got yourself the biggest superstar in the world."

Every song released from "Thriller" became a Top 10 hit, including the title track, "Beat It," "Billie Jean," "Human Nature," "Wanna Be Startin' Something," "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" and "The Girl is Mine."

Jackson, who died in 2009, won 8 Grammy Awards for "Thriller" and the album also became the first to sell the most copies in two separate years (1983 and 1984).

The success of "Thriller" and the fact that Jackson went on to become music's biggest superstar remains among the most inspirational stories in the history of the industry, considering the obstacles which stood in the singer's path.

Jackson had famously been snubbed by the Grammy Awards after releasing another groundbreaking album, "Off the Wall," which preceded "Thriller."

Some in the industry labeled the record as, "too disco," music that had run its course in popular culture.

Despite some of his songs containing a rock sound, powerful white radio stations such as New York City's WPLJ reportedly refused to play Jackson's music because of his race.

WPLJ officials reluctantly agreed to play "Beat It" because it contained a guitar solo by rock star Eddie Van Halen.

MTV, television's flagship music video station, steadfastly passed over black artists before finally agreeing to air Jackson's "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Thriller" videos, all of which brought a multitude of new viewers and a near endless stream of revenue to the station.

"Michael always wanted to make movies, "Swedien said. "Michael wanted to make a video that was a complete story, like a mini-movie… and that is what he did. 'Thriller' was the perfect vehicle for that."