It's been 40 years since Michael Jackson's "Thriller" made Grammy history

This month marks 40 years since Michael Jackson made music history, sweeping the Grammys and the MTV VMAs in 1984 off the heels of his "Thriller" album. 

Jackson was nominated for a whopping 12 Grammy awards that night, tied with Babyface for the most nominations in one year. The Feb. 28, 1984 Grammy Awards show still holds the record for the most-watched ever, with 51.67 million viewers watching Jackson become the first artist to win eight Grammys in one night. Santana later tied that record in 2000 with his "Supernatural" album.  

Jackson released the "Thriller" album in November 1982, selling 32 million copies by the end of 1983. It remained the top-selling album of all time until 2018, when The Eagles' "Their Greatest Hits" album took the top spot. "Thriller" is now No. 2 on the list. 


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"I see little 4-year-olds coming in with allowance money, all the way up to moms and dads," a Detroit record store manager said at the height of "Thriller" mania. 

"Thriller" video

Although the album came out in 1982, the wildly popular "Thriller" music video didn’t debut until Dec. 2, 1983, just a few years after MTV’s first music video aired in August 1981. Directed by "An American Werewolf in London" director John Landis, it was 14 minutes long and cost $1 million to produce. 


People around the world lined up to watch the "Thriller" video, described as a "musical comedy horror show." It was like nothing they’d ever seen before. 

"I think it’s fantastic," a woman told a DC news reporter in 1983. "I’ve seen Thriller about four or five times on cable television, and I just like to see him dance."

If they weren’t in line to see the "Thriller" video – again – they were queued up at the mall for all the Michael Jackson merchandise they could get their hands on. 


The 26th Annual Grammy Awards, presented at Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Broadcast on CBS television on February 28, 1984. Pictured from left is Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

"I want the jacket," a teen girl told a news reporter a few weeks after Jackson’s big night at the Grammys. 

Jackson’s image became more clouded over the years amid allegations of child sexual assault that continued to surface even after his death in 2009, but his posthumous status as an icon in the music world remains

"Thriller" legacy


Michael Jackson on stage, performing Thriller - Bad Tour (Photo by George De Sota / Redferns via Getty Images)

"Thriller" spent 37 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard top 200 charts, and the album returned to the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2022 with its 40th-anniversary reissue, according to Billboard. 

The video lives on today in the form of flash mobs, in which people come together to perform the "Thriller" zombie dance in a typically crowded public place, making it appear "at random." 

On Aug. 29, 2009, a staggering 13,597 participated in a flash mob event organized by the Instituto de la Juventud del Gobierno del Distrito Federal at the Monumento a la Revolucion, in Mexico City, Mexico. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people to take part in the dance. 


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"The King of Pop" died June 25, 2009, from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol. At the time of his death, Jackson was rehearsing for a world tour meant to reignite his career and rehabilitate his image. 

"Regardless of whatever had been controversial in his life, he was still, for so many people, an amazing singer, an amazing dancer, an amazing performer, a guy who set style standards for so many different people," FOX 11 Los Angeles reporter Hal Eisner recalled. "And I think it was a shock to the collective system when he passed away. It was like Princess Diana, John Kennedy Jr."