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4 Fringe Benefits of “Thriller-Mania”

November 25, 2014

In 1984, Michael Jackson was so popular that LaToya Jackson scored a hit single.

Michael Jackson ThrillerFrom 1982 to 1984, the American public couldn’t get enough Michael Jackson. His Thriller album sold more than 20 million copies to become the bestselling album ever. His innovative music videos helped put the burgeoning MTV on the map (and integrated the channel, too). Hundreds of thousands bought their own spangled white glove.

Six of the nine songs on Thriller were released as singles, and they all reached the top 10. But it wasn’t enough for record-buyers. The appetite for all things Jackson was so big that music by even his lesser-known siblings and associates struck it big.

Rebbie Jackson

Maureen “Rebbie” Jackson was the oldest of the nine Jackson siblings. In 1984, she released her first album, Centipede, and the title track went to #24 on the pop chart and #4 on the R&B chart. The album went gold.

LaToya Jackson

Before she became a tabloid fixture, LaToya Jackson had a music career. She didn’t want to capitalize on her famous name, however; she attempted to release her first album in 1980 as just “LaToya,” but her father/manager, Joe Jackson, wouldn’t allow that. But in 1984, “Heart Don’t Lie” became her first and only song to hit the pop chart, reaching #56. The video, however, earned heavy rotation on MTV.

Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine was a fairly big star in his own right, particularly on R&B radio. He’s had 20 hits on the R&B chart, but two of his biggest came after Thriller gave his career a boost: “Do What You Do,” and “When the Rain Begins to Fall,” a duet with Pia Zadora. (The bizarre video was also all over MTV at the time.)

Rockwell

In 1984, 20-year-old Kenneth Gordy landed a record deal with Motown Records…a company that just so happened to be founded, owned, and run by his father, Berry Gordy. Under the stage name Rockwell, his first single “Somebody’s Watching Me” was a #2 smash hit. But that is almost all because of Michael Jackson. With its themes of ghosts and the occult, the song is quite similar to “Thriller.” Jackson, a former Motown act, sang the song’s hook uncredited, but there’s no mistaking it’s him.


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