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Top of the Charts: Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Tuesday, February 26: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Shelby Morrison
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" remains among the biggest albums of all time.

On February 26, 1983, Michael Jackson’s Thriller hit Number One on the Billboard 200 chart. The 1982 release was revolutionary, a watershed moment in the history of rock and roll. It earned a record-breaking number of Grammy awards, sold in record numbers, resulted in music videos that changed promotional possibilities, broke down racial barriers and left a legacy of influence that continues to this day. 

Thriller was recorded with a production budget of $750,000 in 1982 and was produced by 2013 Hall of Fame Inductee Quincy Jones. Jackson and Jones combed through more than 700 demos – some Jackson had committed to a voice recorder – to find songs for his new album, eventually settling on a handful of tracks that included Jackson originals “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “The Girl is Mine,” “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” All four of the songs that Jackson composed were reflections of both personal and social issues surrounding the "King of Pop": In “Billie Jean,” Jackson speaks about an obsessive fan who alleges that Jackson has fathered a child with her; “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was a rebuttal against gossip surrounding his life and the media; “The Girl is Mine,”was a song ...


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Sharing the Charts: Pop, R&B and Rock and Roll's Meteoric Rise

Tuesday, May 1: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Little Richard

When the May 12, 1956 issue of Billboard magazine hit newsstands, its pages cataloged a monumental shift in the charts. The issue reported the chart positions for the week ending May 2, 1956, with the usual suspects of the era holding steady positions in the Top 10 of the pop charts: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and the Platters, among them. More telling, however, was the fact that each of those five artists also had singles in the Top 10 of the R&B charts. The chart positions reflected greater sociological movements in the United States, to wit the burgeoning civil rights movement, and an emerging respect for African American culture and identity as being truly American, but there would be a backlash. 

Presley had signed with RCA Victor in 1956, and his first release under his new label was "Heartbreak Hotel." Producer Steve Sholes had worked to recapture the "Sun sound" for "Heartbreak," enlisting guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, drummer DJ Fontana, guitarist Chet Atkins, pianist Floyd Kramer and three members of the Jordanaires on backing vocals. On May 2, 1956, the song was at Number One on the Billboard pop ...


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